Author's Note: A short thing with Elwood and an OC. Hope people enjoy! Please review. :)
She caught his eye from across the room.
It was the shock of color in the sea of leather jackets and cigarette smoke that drew his mind to her seat at the bar. Eleven quick strides lead him to the seat next to hers.
He had seen better venues. The Palace Hotel, for example. But, as Elwood Blues knew so well, you can't always get what you want. A man's gotta eat. The place reminded him slightly of Bob's Country Bunker, except smaller, and darker, with plenty of corners to slink off to with a women in a tight skirt. Several intoxicated men had taken this opportunity.
This particular Irish pub was off Main Street in a town Elwood had never heard of. It was open till four in the morning and served a wicked good Shepherd's pie. It also had a fine selection of local microbrews. It was past midnight, and Elwood had arrived at ten thirty to play his set. He had intended to be gone by now. Way gone. Like out of the city, skipping out on the motel bill gone. But there was something about this pub he liked, not just the food or the booze.
Maybe it was just the amount of constant activity. There was always something to watch, to speculate about in the dim lighting. He was a quiet guy. He had a knack for observing things. And seeing as he was there alone, he was perfectly content to watch the world from behind the protective barriers of his Ray Bans, beer in hand.
He saw the crowd of very drunk/high college kids crammed into a booth, appearing to laughing raucously about absolutely nothing. He saw the lone guy at the bar, drinking a cheap beer and pretending to cough so no one would think twice about the wetness in his eyes. He saw the blonde woman with the low cut shirt hanging on to the much more sober guy in shirt sleeves, who clearly wasn't sure what to do with the wasted women clinging to him. He saw the skinny woman at the bar with the crimson-dyed hair, sullenly drinking a Bloody Mary.
It was the women he'd crossed the room for.
She'd sung after him, in the eleven thirty to whenever slot. She sung the blues, like him. It was a melancholy night at the pub. Elwood had wondered, watching her, did she have something to sing about, too? It seemed anyone who sang the blues like they did had a reason. Elwood sure as hell knew he did.
She'd wandered off the stage at quarter till one. He didn't see her for several minutes, and assuming she'd left turned his attention to two frat boys just walking in the door, each with a fistful of fireworks. Elwood could already see the collateral damage forming. He wondered if the pubs in this city were always so fascinating.
He had seen her again in his peripheral vision, that shock of unnaturally red hair was hard to miss. She sat down at the bar, guitar case at her feet, and settled in for a drink. The bar tender smiled and told her it was on the house, because the musician always gets one free drink, Elwood lip read.
And now he was sitting next to her. Upon closer inspection, she wore a frayed black t-shirt and jeans in similar condition. The only thing she wore that looked as if they didn't come from a thrift store were a pair of bright, sunshine yellow, Doc Martens. Her hair was stringy and had a slight curl to it, and was pinned up in a messy bun. She wore black eye make up, and couldn't have weighed more than a hundred pounds. She looked to maybe hit 5'4", but had no fat or muscle to speak of, as well as not much of a feminine form. She looked close to his age, despite her small stature it was clear of her years on this Earth in the way she maneuvered herself.
Elwood was indeed interested.
"Can I buy you a drink?" He asked.
"You can fuck off." She replied without looking at him, her voice venomous.
"Okay." He signaled to the bar tender, refreshing his own beer. "You sure? If I were you, I'd take free alcohol wherever I could get it, after the dirt they just paid us."
She sighed, and gave a long, impatient blink. "Fine."
A new Bloody Mary was set in front of her, a long stalk of celery sticking out the top.
"So," Elwood began nonchalantly. "You sing the blues, too."
"So are you."
Approval was something Elwood worried more about these days. Now that it was just him, no one was there to veto whatever stupid crap came out of his mouth.
"What's your name?"
She hesitated. He cursed himself. She was clearly a private person. He took the questions too far too fast.
"Vera." She said, and Elwood let his breath out. "Vera Cataldo."
"I'm Elwood Blues."
"Really? That's your last name?" For the first time in their entire conversation. She turned her face toward his. "What kind of fucking name is that?"
He shrugged. "I'm an orphan. I knew what I was gonna do when I grew up, so I fitted my name to my profession."
"Fair enough." She relented, and went back to her stooping posture. She had unremarkable blue eyes, and her eyebrows were blonde.
"So, what brings you to...um..." Elwood started and couldn't finish.
"Durham." The bartender, a skinny blonde man, reminded Elwood.
"Durham." Said Elwood.
She shrugged. "I happen to be coming through. I take a job where I can find it."
She turned all the way around in her chair to look him straight in the eyes. She looked him up and down, his black suit, shoes, hat and sunglasses. He suddenly felt vulnerable, like her intense gaze was looking straight through to his soul. He met few people who he couldn't stare at, but after a moment he couldn't meet her eyes.
"What makes you sing the blues?" She asked straight out.
"I suppose...what makes us all sing the blues. Loss. Grief. In other words, life." Elwood didn't know where the words came from. Maybe he was more philosophical then he though.
Then she gave her first smile of the night. At least, he thought it was a smile. It might have been a grimace, judging by the curve if her lips, but her eyes showed a glimmer he hadn't seen since meeting her. It was infectious. He felt his own smile creep up on him.
m m m
At four am, the bartender told Elwood and Vera to get the hell out of his bar.
They separated at the door, and he smiled as he watched her wander around the side of the building, presumably to her car. The smile stayed on his face as he meandered to his new cop car, a faded Dodge Monaco.
He thought about Vera as he fumbled with his keys. They's talked the rest of the night, and he'd seen her weird crooked smile more than once. But somehow, in all their conversation, she had revealed little to nothing about her personal life. They'd talked about music mostly, of which she was passionate. They'd inspired each other, their ideas meshing together as though it was meant to be.
Elwood turned the key, and the unmuffled engine roared to life with its usual vigor. He made sure he had everything before he put it in gear and headed out of the parking lot.
As always, it was the shock of crimson that caught his eye. It seemed undaunted by his dark tinted sunglasses—her hair was still bright as ever.
She was loping along down the street, guitar case slung over her back, shoulders curled against the cold, smoking a cigarette half heartedly. It was freezing this time of night. All she seemed to have was a thin black coat.
He stopped before he realized what he was doing.
"Need a ride?"
She eyed him skeptically, then shivered. "Sure."
She climbed into the passenger seat, throwing her guitar case in the backseat. He started off again, cruising down the smooth road. "Where were you headed?" He asked.
She looked pained to say it, but did not hesitate too long. "Nowhere."
"Why is that?" He asked, having never been one for tact. "You just got paid, right?"
"As you said, they paid me exactly dick. I mean, like sixty-five dollars." Her face had an angry cast. "Sexist fucking pigs. How much did they pay you?"
Elwood suddenly felt very uncomfortable. "Hundred and fifty." He said quietly, guiltily.
She scowled at the road ahead of them. "Typical."
Elwood wasn't sure whether the last comment was directed at him, or the owners of the pub. "At least they gave you a free drink."
She snorted sarcastically. "Yep, that makes up for it." Her shoulders slumped. It appeared to be a regular posture. "You can drop me here. I'll make my own way."
He pulled over, and she opened the door, swinging her short legs out onto the street.
"Hey, wait." He called before she had her guitar case. "You don't have to, I mean...I have a place to stay, a hotel room, if you need it."
She gave him a look that said pretty clearly, there's no fucking way I'm sleeping with you tonight, and then grabbed her stuff, beginning to walk off. He urged the car forward slightly to follow her.
"No, no! I didn't mean it like that! I meant, you could have it and I'd find some place else to stay."
She glared at him. Two burly guys had stopped slightly farther ahead on the sidewalk, and now they walked back toward her.
"Is this guy bothering you, miss?" One of them asked, glancing at Elwood.
She thought about it. "No, he's not."
They nodded at her, and then walked on.
Vera leaned on the open window, to look him straight in the eyes. "You give me your room for the night, no strings attached?"
"Of course." What he did not add was, anything for another blues musician.
m m m
It was not a nice room, but neither really cared. They had seen worse.
A layer of dust covered mush of the furniture, and the bathroom was better left unseen. But there was a bed, and Vera was a person who took what she could get, despite her suspicion of all strangers, and people in general.
She dropped her guitar, and let her hair out as she removed her yellow boots.
"I'll just, uh, go then." Elwood made his way back toward the door, grabbing his duffel bag as he went. He'd slept in this room last night, but apparently house cleaning had come by since then, because the bed was made. He opened the door, and stepped out into the night. If they had any other rooms available, he would crash there, otherwise he'd just settle the tab and head on to the next town he came across.
"Hey, wait." Vera moved with surprising speed to catch his arm. She should stood on the threshold, he was out on the balcony that served as a walkway between the rooms on the second floor. "I just wanted to say thank you."
He smiled. "No problem."
She gave her weird crooked grin.
Elwood turned and left. The walkway had puddles of dirty water, where the floor was sagging.
Then he stopped. It was almost not of his own will, but something made him turn around and walk back the way he had come. She was leaning on the door frame.
"You came back." Vera said.
"I can't believe I managed to leave."
He was about a foot taller than her, and so with one arm, she pulled him down to her until there lips were level. He slipped an arm around her waist, and leaned into a long, mellow kiss.