A/N: This is in response to a request on my Facebook page. I asked people to give me prompts, and Vivien asked for a modern story where Richard was a business man and Rachel a dancer. I should say I have no intention of continuing this – that doesn't mean it might not someday happen, it just means, from where I stand now, it's done.
Although I thought of this scenario for a few days, this was actually written in one sitting with no betas, late at night. So, please forgive any typos, and feel free to point out any grammar issues or other problems if you're so inclined.
Such Infinitesimal Possibilities
"It's all a series of serendipities / with no beginnings and no ends. / Such infinitesimal possibilities / Through which love transcends."
- Ana Claudia Antunes, The Tao of Physical and Spiritual
Richard typically preferred walking from the office to the subway – it was only a few blocks – twelve or so- and he was always glad of the alone time to think and just be. When his assistant tried to press an umbrella on him, he refused it.
"Have you looked outside, Dick?" his assistant asked skeptically as they walked to the elevator. "It's going to rain."
Richard patted his assistant on the back as he slipped the strap of his briefcase bag across his chest and shrugged on the black trench coat. "You worry too much, Nate," he grinned. "A little spring rain never hurt anyone."
Nate knew his boss too well to argue. He shook his head but handed him a file rather than comment. "All the notes you'll need for your call with the Osaka firm at midnight are in here."
"Thanks," Richard said, taking the folder and slipped it into his briefcase while Nate pressed the call button for the elevator.
"Anything else you need from me before I pack it in for the night?" Nate asked as the doors to the elevator opened.
Richard shook his head as he entered the elevator. "Nope, go on home, enjoy your weekend," he said, waving as the doors closed.
When Richard stepped onto the sidewalk outside his office, the slight breeze that blew through made him lift the collar of his trench coat and grin a little. Whether it rained or not, it would be a pleasant walk, he mused. The breeze would be a welcome change from the sweltering summer months that had finally started to loosen their hold on the city, and he doubted that any rain that fell would be the stinging cold kind that would come in the winter.
He was still about seven blocks shy of the train station when the skies opened suddenly and without warning. He walked about another two blocks before realizing that rather than being a quick shower, this downpour was not going to stop anytime soon and he was already drenched, despite the protective layers of his trench coat. He stopped under an awning he had passed by a thousand times before, and considered his options, shaking out his coat a little. He really didn't mind the water itself, and if it was only about the fact that his clothes were getting wet, he would've kept going without any further consideration, but the fact was his shoes were not meant for walking in while being drowned in rain and they were already chafing. If he were closer, he would've just made a run for it, but seven blocks was quite a bit to run in waterlogged Italian loafers.
He was considering reaching into his inside pocket and pulling out his phone to call for a car when a door slammed opened next to him, the sounds of music and people escaping as a man walked out of the place and ran across the street without even noticing him standing there. Curious, because he'd never realized that there was some underground club there despite having walked by it thousands of times, Richard approached the door and held it open when it would've closed on its springs. All he saw by looking in was a dimly lit entryway with stone steps leading down to where the music and the people obviously were. The music was modern and loud, but it didn't sound like a live performance and although there were the obvious sounds of people, it was more like a restaurant than a club with the clinking of glassware and the soft murmuring of people in striking contrast to the loud sounds of people dancing and yelling to be heard that was common for clubs.
"In or out, sweetcheeks?"
Richard turned to the side where a ticket window of sorts was recessed into the side and a woman in her forties or fifties leaned on the counter.
"You can't hold the door open all night, ya know?" she said to him. "So, in or out?"
Richard stepped fully into the entryway, letting the door close behind him and approached the window. "Is this a club or a restaurant?" he asked.
She laughed. "Tonight, like every Friday, it's the friggin' Lincoln Center," she said.
Richard frowned, because that did nothing to answer his question.
The woman took pity on him. "The owners are friends with the main teacher at the fancy dance school uptown," she explained. "They let the students take this place over one Friday a month as a kind of informal recital," she shrugged. "Sometimes they're kinda out there, but they're usually pretty good," she jerked her head toward the stairs. "Go on down and check it out if you want, it's free."
Richard nodded and started for the stairs, but stopped when she called him back.
"Your coat," she told him, motioning with her hand. "You're dripping everywhere," she prodded.
He removed his coat and handed it over, taking a claim ticket in return. He smiled his thanks and walked down the stairs to find a rather intimate space with a smallish stage taking up the entirety of the front, round tables for two or three people scattered about the middle and a decent bar along the side.
A waitress in a simple black shirt and slacks approached him as he was watching a male and female dancer move in complicated and graceful shapes and asked if he wanted a table or the bar.
"Table, please," he told her.
She motioned to the scattering of free tables near the middle and sides. "Take your pick," she said. "You want something to drink?"
"Macallan rocks," he told her. "And a towel if you can spare it," he said with a grin.
She smiled at him. "You got it, hun," she walked off and let him find a table.
He found a table along the side with an unobstructed view of the stage, but not close enough to call attention to himself. When the waitress brought his drink and a clean bar towel to him, he gave her his card and asked her to open up a tab. He took a sip of his scotch before using the towel to dry some of the wet from his hair, his attention only loosely on the performance on the stage.
It had taken him only a few moments to recognize the dancing taking place as modern or contemporary dance routines, and although some of it was interesting, it wasn't long before his attention was drawn instead to looking around at the venue, noting the exposed ducts along the ceiling and unfinished air of the place. The scotch was good and the service decent, though, so as the scotch warmed his insides as he drank, he figured there were worse ways to ride out the downpour outside.
By the time he was almost done with his first drink and his hair had dried off enough that it was no longer dripping, he told the waitress to close out his tab and had pulled out his phone, looking at the time and considering calling for a car, when the music changed.
The melancholy feel of the opening bars drew his attention to where a girl was moving on the stage. She was small and her movements graceful as she twisted this way and that with the rhythm of the music, somehow transferring the sorrow and longing in the music to him through her hands, the arch of her back, the turn of her hip and neck. She ebbed and flowed, one moment gliding across the floor on bare feet, the next her knee had dipped and she was twirling on her knees, sitting on the floor, then with what appeared nothing more than a thought, her leg was in the air and the momentum was bringing her to her feet again.
Richard was enthralled – he hadn't seen movement like that since his days training with Bruce in Brazil – and when her movement brought her face into the spotlight, he caught his breath. She was beautiful, eyes almost purple in the light, heart shaped face, pale skin, cupid's bow lips, high cheekbones and those eyes…shining likes jewels, filled with some emotion that resonated in him, but he couldn't quite name.
Before he realized it, before he was really ready for it to, the song was done and she had stopped moving.
His eyes followed her as she walked off the stage, the applause of the people around him doing nothing to break him of his concentration. He watched as she disappeared behind a curtain near the stage, and he knew that was probably the dressing rooms.
"Change your mind?" the waitress asked, standing next to his table, tray in hand as she took the empty glass from the table in front of him and noticed that he had ignored the tab she'd brought him for his signature.
"No," he said, his instinct wanting him to stand up and follow her, then he remembered what the woman at the door had said about these dancers being here regularly, and he stopped the waitress from walking away. "That dancer, the one that was just on—" he started, and stopped at the look of amusement on the waitress' face.
"Oh boy," she said. "There goes another one," the waitress shook her head. "I swear we should set out a warning before she performs warning people they might lose their hearts if they watch."
Richard blinked at her. "Will she perform again?" he asked rather than respond to the waitresses' comments.
The woman shrugged her shoulders. "Who knows?" she said. "Rachel's a bit mercurial," she explained. "Might come back out if she feels inspired to, might come out and have a few drinks with her friends, might just pack up and go home."
"Rachel," he echoed.
"Yeah," the waitress grinned again. "You really should save your effort, though," she said, not unkindly. "The one thing Rachel doesn't do is let herself be picked up," she explained.
Richard grinned at her, scrawling his signature along the bottom of the bill and adding a generous tip on the appropriate line. "I promise I'm not a psycho," he told her. "I just want a chance to talk to her," he explained. "If she tells me to buzz off, that's it."
The waitress resisted for a few moments, then succumbed to the smile. "I don't see any of her friends hanging out at the bar, so she'll probably leave," she said.
Richard upped the wattage of his smile. "Thanks," he said, standing and hurrying up the stairs, handing his ticket to the woman at the window, not bothering to pull on his coat as he stepped onto the street. He looked both ways for a few moments, but although the rain had finally stopped, he saw no sign of her.
He considered waiting around, but in the cool night air, he doubted himself. He was being crazy, he thought. She hadn't even looked at him, and the waitress said she didn't let any of the guys pick her up, so what was he going to do? What did he hope to accomplish?
Maybe he'd come back the following month, and hope she came out to have a drink then? Maybe he could buy her a drink and talk to her.
He wasn't sure exactly why he felt such a draw to her – sure, he didn't have a girlfriend, and hadn't had a girlfriend or a lover in almost a year since Kori and he had broken it off when she had to return to her country to take over her father's business. He hadn't really felt the need to go find another girl in all that time. Not that he was heartbroken over Kori – he had liked her and all, and they had gotten along, but he had never felt with her the whole time they'd been together the connection he'd felt in just a few minutes of watching Rachel dance.
Maybe Rachel wouldn't feel the same, and that was fine, but he couldn't just let it go without trying, could he?
It occurred to him suddenly that if he hadn't left without an umbrella – if it hadn't started raining – if he hadn't decided to stop under the awning at this particular moment – hell, if he had taken an extra twenty minutes to finish up his work that night, he might never have seen her. He walked by this place countless times, countless times when she was probably in there dancing, and he might've kept walking by if all of these series of events hadn't colluded to let him be there at just that moment.
Richard wasn't particularly superstitious and he had never thought that he believed in fate or destiny, but this…this had been entirely too much like serendipity for him to ignore.
Just ten more minutes that he had delayed in any one of a series of choices and actions he'd made and he'd never—
He trailed off and looked at his watch, cursing under his breath. It was already ten. If he waited much longer, he would be cutting it awfully close to making the scheduled call with Osaka.
He shook his head and started down the street toward the subway. Afterall, if it really was serendipity that had him see her, he'd see her again…and if he didn't, he could always just make sure to be back here next month and try again.
It didn't take him long to walk the remaining blocks to the subway and to step down into the underground, using his pass to get past the turnstyles and onto the platform heading west toward his apartment. He did this half on autopilot, looking at his phone where an email had come in from the Osaka contact's assistant had sent with the details of the conference call, and he didn't look up until he was standing on the platform next to the tracks to look at the digital screen on the wall that would tell him how far away the next train was.
He almost dropped his phone, however, when he noticed the shortish figure standing about three feet from where he'd stopped. She was dressed in distressed skinny jeans tucked into black combat boots and a deep purple peacoat, her dark black hair looked almost like silk with shoots of purple through it in the overhead fluorescent lights.
For what seemed like forever, he just stared at her until she must have felt his gaze and looked up. Seeing her eyes on him jarred him out of his surprise and he smiled. She didn't return the gesture, but looked at him a curiously for a few moments before slowly looking away.
He came up to her slowly and she glanced up at him again as he did so, her gaze measuring him.
"Sorry for staring," he said. "But I think I just saw you dancing," he told her. "That club on 5th, a few blocks back."
She narrowed her eyes at him. "Okay," she said, turning away from him again, clearly dismissing him.
"You were very good," he continued.
"Thank you," she said, her tone carefully unemotional.
"Look, you must get this all the time, but I promise I'm not a stalker or a psycho or anything," he told her. "I live on West 45th, so I take this train all the time, but today it was raining so I went into the club to get out of the rain, because my assistant told me to take an umbrella, but I didn't listen, so I saw you, and now I'm taking this train later than normal."
She turned to look at him, her lips pursed in confusion, but before she could say anything, the train arrived with a soft whoosh of air, the doors opening and a handful of people exited and walking on their way. Rachel stepped forward onto the train and he followed her, taking the seat across from her, even though the one next to her was open.
"I'm not a weirdo," he insisted as the train took off. "I can give you a dozen references if you want," he said on a laugh, running his hand through his still damp hair.
Her lips quirked a bit, but she didn't smile as people usually did when he grinned at them. "You may not be a psycho or a stalker," she allowed, her tone slightly warmer than it had been and almost amused. "But I think you are a bit weird."
He laughed. "Yeah, okay, maybe," he allowed. "Although I never felt so much like a spaz as I do trying to talk to you," he allowed.
She did smile a little at that.
"So, do you think there's any way I can ask you to dinner or drinks without renewing your concern that I'm a psycho stalker?"
She smirked a little at that. "No, I don't think so," she allowed. "Rule number one of being a woman in the big city is don't trust strangers, you know."
He nodded. "Yes, you're quite right," he admitted. "I'm Richard," he said, extending a hand.
She raised a brow, but took it, and her palm was warm and dry and soft, her handshake firm. "Rachel," she offered.
He grinned. "Lovely to meet you, Rachel," he said, holding her hand for just a brief moment, before letting it go.
"Likewise," she replied, almost automatically.
"A Gotham native?" he asked.
She shook her head. "No," she allowed. "Moved here a few years ago after high school to attend dance school."
"I'm a native," he said, straightening his coat that was still in his arms. "Well, I was born somewhere between Topeka and Kansas City," he said. "My parents never really kept track of where we were when my mom actually gave birth, but the birth certificate says Kansas City, since that's the hospital we went to after I was born," he said. She looked at him in that careful measuring way she had and he grinned. "Parents were with the circus," he said.
She raised a brow and his grin widened. "Yeah, I know," he said, raising a hand. "But it's the honest truth," he assured her. "They were trapeze artists," he said.
"And they settled in Gotham?" she asked, almost despite herself.
He shook his head. "No," he said, smiling again, but not so careful. "They died while doing a show here," he said. "I was five," he explained. After a few moments, he spoke again. "I was adopted almost right away by a Gotham native, though," he said, his tone lighter now. "And I've lived here ever since," he spread his hands out in front of him. "So, I think I can claim native status, don't you?"
She nodded slowly, considering. "I'm sorry for your loss," she said after a few moments.
He shrugged, an automatic smile on his face. "I never tell that story," he said, surprised. "It's such a downer," he laughed a little. "See what I mean about being a bit of a spaz in front of you?" he joked.
"I was raised by my aunt," she admitted. He looked at her. "My father left before I was born and my mother was a runaway – she would've given me up for adoption, but my aunt took me instead."
He thought about saying he was sorry, but it had never done much for him, so he didn't. The train stopped at one and then two stops before he spoke again.
"So, how about now?" he asked. She looked at him, eyebrows raised in surprise. "Dinner?" he tried. "Since we're not strangers anymore?"
She shook her head, but he watched as the sadness faded to amusement. She stood up and shouldered the gym bag she had been carrying. "You live on 45th?" she asked, walking toward the door. He nodded. "Do you know the coffee shop near the park on 40th?" she asked.
He thought for a moment and nodded. It was a little out of his way, so he rarely went there except during dire caffeine emergencies.
"I'm usually there on Sundays around 11 am or so," she said. She turned toward the doors as they opened at the 37th Street station, but turned back to look at him over her shoulder. "Maybe I'll see you around there sometime," she said, stepping off the train before he could say a word. He stood up and watched her walk away through the glass as the train moved off.
Slowly, he grinned.
End Note: If you're curious, the song Rachel is dancing to, for me, was "Unsteady" by X Ambassadors. It's the one I had on repeat as I wrote that scene, and the one I could visualize her dancing a modern dance to.