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The blond slipped in as the most recent class was just starting to wrap up, rather like she'd timed it that way. Talya had paused outside to admire the facade and the rather bold sign choice. Of course, she really hadn't expected anything less. Letting the door shut behind her, she glanced at the front desk before slipping between the students currently filtering out towards the entrance. Crowds were really always the best cover one could ask for and old habits died hard. Although, Talya really wasn't up to any nefarious purpose today. 

The students didn't spare her a second glance, really, not beyond the occasional appreciative glance an attractive twenty-something blond might usually garner. Perhaps her boots fell a little too softly on the ground as she skirted the training area, working her way around to the professor. 

"Uh, Mr. Espadas?" She pitched her voice higher, the accent soft and vaguely mid-western. Hesitant, apologetic. "I was wondering if you might have an opening in one of these classes?"

The woman asking the question was blond, pretty - certainly, but Talya was well aware that with softer, subtler makeup and her hair pulled back up into a loose ponytail, she presented a very different picture than her normal attire. That, really, was the point. Gone was the tailored 40's clothing in exchange for a soft turtleneck and a pleated skirt and tights that would have looked entirely normal on a woman her apparent age. The only real give away was Talya's laughing blue eyes, which crinkled around the corners as she added, still in the softer American drawl as there were still students about, "Hullo, Erik."

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Wiping his hands on a short white towel, Erik at least had the good grace to look like he'd just finished a workout even if he was only a fraction as fatigued as any of his students and the sweat seemed to glisten on the toned arms exposed by his sleeveless top more than gather in unsightly splotches. "Donnie, you've got a ride home worked out? Alright, I'll see you guys next week. Good work today." At the voice behind him he turned around with the welcoming smile of a business' proprietor which wavered for a second in confusion before breaking into a redoubled grin, easier and more genuine. "Talya! Hey, look at you! Give me a minute, we're just packing up."

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Talya was hardly immune to sweaty, muscular men and her gaze travelled down for a moment in a appreciation before she sighed and agreed, her tone rueful as the false American accent fell away to something more like her natural voice, "Well, I suppose we can look at me instead."

The words were light, teasing and she relaxed her posture as the last of the students began to break up. A smile turned up the corner of her mouth, "Do you really think that I stroll the supermarket in pencil skirts and stilettos? I suppose I could but it would take much, much longer. Besides, I thought subtle might be more appreciated since it appears to be both mundane home and work. Take whatever time you need. Lord knows I have enough to spare."

The words were light, easy. But they usually were when it came to Talya and she turned away to examine the dojo as Erik finished up.

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"Ha, I have a tough time imagining you in a supermarket period," the fencer laughed, tossing a duffel bag full of equipment into over corner of the room and bending over to scoop up a pair of practice foils from the mats that covered the floor as the last of his students filtered outside. Almost the entire first floor, aside from the initial area the blonde woman had entered through, was taken up by the single room they were standing in, with racks of free weights sitting side by side with practice weapon stands along the far wall and what looked to be a collapsible set of gymnastic bars stored in the opposite corner. The wall that divided the entrance from the main room was lined with mirrors not unlike a dance studio, making the already sizable space feel even roomier. "I mostly assume you eat exclusively at fancy Parisian cafes and from hotel room service. Probably while ignoring a conspicuous nearby explosion." Erik finished putting away the foils safely and turned his attention back to his guest with a lopsided grin. "What brings you to the West End?"

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"A girl's got to eat and there's not always a handy explosion at hand to sit blithely in front of," Talya said with her usual dry humor before she tipped her head to the side, the gesture familiar even if her current look was less so. She wasn't bothering to mute her habits and mannerisms as she would have if she were keeping up a true disguise, "Honestly, I grew up in the 1930s. Of course I know how to cook."

Her amusement shifted then and she turned slightly, watching Erik's reflection in the mirrors before her gaze shifted back to the actual man, "Can't I stop in to say hello to a friend? I didn't really get to say a proper hello. Nor a thank you, once again, for coaxing those nice officers to assume that I might still be on the side of the angels."

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"Well, I don't know from the 1930s," Erik admitted with a soft snort, rolling one shoulder and pushing it backward with his opposite palm until there was a quiet popping sound, "I just figured you were usually too busy for social calls." He repeated the motion on his other should, using the time to study Talya's face a little more closely. She wasn't in her full 'stage' persona which was fine but something seemed a little off beyond that. "Anyway, I'm being a crap host. Min took the girls to the park but I think I remember where we put the box of tea bags and there's not another class until the evening. C'mon up." Waving with one hand he headed for the door on the left side of the room that led to the stairwell.

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"Yes, well, shocking as it might be. I was, at one very distant point, much like any other middle-class girl expected to don an apron and make some fat merchant very happy with the requisite cigar and Sunday dinner on tap," Talya's tone was bemused, "Thankfully, fate took a different turn." 

"Busy? Hardly," Talya said as she turned to follow, her boots still falling softly on the floor in a way her heels never did. She may have procured them from whatever manufacturer supplied her 'working boots' so to speak. "Well, if by 'busy' you mean 'agreed to help Ace Danger with a 'small' favor' and ended up entangled in nonsense and antics for a few years. Then, certainly, I've been busy. I swear. That man."

The aggravation that laced Talya's tone was genuine, although some of it was self directed. She knew well enough by now that things quickly spiraled out of control when Ace was involved. She dismissed her frustrations with a negligent wave of her hand, "But, no, apparently its twenty-fifteen now. Elena is full on in the midst of one of her internally focused bursts of contemplation. Ace is off still getting fed grapes by Amazons. And time, it seems, has marched steadily on. You, apparently, got married. And procreated! Mazel tov."

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"Oof, one of those, huh?" Erik commiserated as he held open the door to the second floor for Talya. The short hallway on the other side itself split off into two doors on the right and one on the left, which the stairwell continued up to the rooftop. A couple of children's toys sat discarded by their feet and Erik's stooped to scoop them up with a chagrined look, evidently not having expected to be entertaining company. "..we did try tracking you down, you know. Vince and everybody, I mean, but things got... well, they got real bad there for a bit right after you disappeared and by the time we had our feet back under us we kinda figured you were doing some spy stuff and could take care of yourself." He grimaced as he fished a key out of his pocket and opened the door on the left. "Should have kept trying."

The apartment itself was warm, almost greenhouse-like with the number of pots and planters Talya could see just from the entrance. It was just barely big enough to be comfortable for two adults and two children while still being cozy, one room clearly the nursery while the kitchen opened up directly to one side of the door to the hallway. "But yeah! I did! Jeeze, I guess you never actually met Min, did you? You'll like her for sure. She's immortal, too, just in more of a 'predates recorded history' sort of way." He gestured Talya to one of the chairs around the kitchen table while he went rifling through the cabinets, trying to remember where he'd last seen the mentioned teabags. The sharper corners of the furniture all had towels or bubblewrap taped firmly around them and anything remotely dangerous was kept pointedly on the higher shelves. "Ha, yeah, Eden's in a 'run at full speed in random directions' phase."

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"I have not yet had the pleasure," Talya confirmed, leaning over to eye the bubble wrap with some bemusement. She pushed her ponytail back from her shoulder as she straightened up, flicking the hair back with elegant fingertips, "You DO know they make foam padding for just such an issue? Although it takes forever to get the sticky residue off afterwords so I wouldn't go tacking it to anything you're not willing to scrub paint off of eventually."

She turned back then to eye one of the plants with genuine interest, although even without her usual makeup and stylings the nuances of her expressions remained subdued. "I look forward to meeting her. I always enjoy ageless immortals. They look at me like I'm an utter child. It's most refreshing," Talya's smile turned briefly flirtatious then as she glanced over her shoulder, "I've always had a weakness for being the younger one in a relationship and it grows ever more difficult as I soldier on."

She was teasing and she turned full towards Erik once more to rest her hip against the bubble wrapped corner of the table, her smile faded without ever turning to laughter, "Don't be absurd. It's hardly your fault and I'm not worth worrying about. Given enough time, I always turn up alright. Like a bad penny, really. If there was something that could actually kill me, I'd have stumbled into ages ago with my habits. It wasn't anything worth talking about save for the unfortunate fact that when one is with someone who has lost sense of time's passing it becomes very easy to pick up that bad habit."

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"Hey, I'm made of abs and poor self-preservation instincts, not money," Erik objected as he flipped on one of the stove top's elements and plunked a filled kettle on top of it to start boiling. "We had a bunch of bubblewrap left over from when they delivered the parallel bars, so. Sounds like you know more about child-proofing than I would have expected, though!"

That line of banter was abandoned as he set down a pair of mugs and turned back around to frown at Talya. "Alright, when I do the self-deprecation thing it's broody and alluring, on you it's just worrying," he interjected, folding his arms and giving the British woman a searching look. "Obviously everything's not alright. Talk to me. What's going on?"

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"And they're very nice abs. We could talk about those instead, you know," Talya deflected. It was a very good deflection, her tone remained light and flirtatious and the look she sent him was genuinely appreciative. When it failed to draw his attention, though, Talya made a face like he was suggesting eating cold brussel sprouts. "Orrr... anything else. What about the little ones? Parents can usually go on and on for hours about their little ones. Go ahead, tell me about the first time your offspring whacked someone with a cardboard tube and how proud you were. I will be most enthralled, I promise you."

Her blond brows arched towards her hairline and she clasped her hands in front of her, in rapt attention, eyes wide. With the pleated skirt and tights, it was really a very good impression of an enraptured college student. Talya held the pose for a moment before sighing, "It's nothing. I am bored. I am lonely. Do you know who shows up to visit me? Dimitri. Everyone else is dead or busy. And it is tiresome."

Talya paused for a moment before adding, "Or I am still cross at them. There is a small number of people that I am too cross to spend time with. Regardless, I am upset that I am starting to lose track of time like that ninnyhammer, Ace, and I am cross that I genuinely look forward to the Russian showing up on my doorstep with vodka. It is a sad state of affairs but nothing world ending, for mercy's sake. I also had to attend a veteran's thing which never puts me in the best of moods. It's all very banal, dearest. Have you found the tea?"

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"Well hell, Talya, you're only talking to the world's leading expert on keeping occupied," Erik exclaimed, ratcheting the amount of energy he was projecting up in proportion to hos guest's somber explanation. "First off you're staying for dinner, obviously. I was serious about you and Min getting along and Eden loves meeting new people once she gets over her little bouts of shyness." He finally tracked down the tea bags he's been looking for and draped one over the edge of each mug just as the kettle began to whistle. "You can wow me with you 1930s culinary skills. Here, take this." Pouring in the steaming water he handed the largely former cat burglar one mug and picked up the other for himself. "C'mon, we're going to the roof. Have you thought about getting a job? Something part-time?"

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"I hope you like potatoes," Talya said, the words dry but at least sounding a bit more herself as she accepted the mug and only gave the tea bag he popped into it with a brief side-long look. "I could teach you how to make a proper cup of tea sometime. It really isn't all that difficult. It makes a world of difference, I assure you. No wonder you are all so fond of coffee."

As complaints went, it was a relatively mild one and she didn't turn that aristocratic nose up at the tea bag even if she did dunk it up and down a few time as if that might coax more flavor out of the sad little packet as she turned to follow. "I will have to go either forwards or backwards in time to wow anyone with culinary skills. In the thirties, it was about doing something with very little. An awful lot of boiling was involved, you know. Dreary time, really, though not if you were rich. The upper class did alright during the thirties. Terrible time for anyone else, though. Not, actually, all that unlike today's current wealth distribution, oddly enough."

She cupped her hands around the mug's warmth and then glanced up, amusement in her eyes, "What? Gainful employment? I'm a felon, Erik. There aren't that many places that have use of my skill set, are willing to overlook that I spent twenty five years in prison - give or take. Most of the people willing to make use of me, are generally looking to commit a crime and I am trying so very hard to be good at the moment. Which, I will have you know, is most taxing and also less fun."

Edited by alderwitch
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Erik led them back out of the apartment to the stairwell then onward upward. "Aw, drink you hot leaf water," he admonished as they reached yet another door and exited out onto the rooftop. The sun was still high enough in the sky and and weather hadn't turned enough toward the cooler seasons yet to make it uncomfortably cool and the lattices covered with greenery were a sight to behold. Flowering plants that certainly should have lost their blooms by that point in the year wove lush tapestries along with all sort of other plants in an impressive garden. Looking outward the West End street stretched out in either direction, high enough up to give perspective without losing sight of the people moving from storefront to storefront.

"Frankly I think we both know the idea that any place that let you in for an interview wouldn't hire you on the spot is a little ridiculous," Erik continued, leaning against the brick half-wall that circled the rooftop. "But forget that. The burglary stuff is what you're the best at, sure, but it's not the only thing you can do, Talya, come on. Like you can keep up with me hand-to-hand and despite what my usually humble attitude might suggest that's not nothing. And hey, if you knew somebody who could really use an instructor for women's self-defense, you'd be set, right?" The fencer waggled his eyebrows with his usual amount of subtlety.

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"Always love a good rooftop. This one is nicer than most. Do you think your lady wife wants to come and see if she can help undo the damage of four years of neglect on my gardens? The roses, surprisingly, have weathered winters without pruning but everything else is rubbish now." Talya said as she turned slightly away to touch one of the blossoms with delicate fingertips. She took a sip of the tea and did so without pulling faces at the instant tea. 

Talya finally laughed then, somewhere between Erik referring to himself as humble and the waggled eyebrows. She turned towards him with a grin, "Tell the truth, you just want to show off all the tricks you've learned in my absence." Her grin turned briefly wicked, "Or perhaps you just want an excuse to go a round or two?"

She let the question hang in the air for a second before she smiled, cupping her mug once more in her hands, "Regardless, yes, thank you. I think that would be a lovely way to spend the time. You know what they say about idle hands and it would be nice to have something to do and a reason to come visit with friends. How's your mother?"

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"Hey, I've fought off multiple alien invasions while you've been making time with Amazons!" Erik exclaimed, setting down his mug on the brick wall long enough to gesture dramatically with both arms. Strictly speaking it was even true, though the amount of credit he could honestly claim for any of those victories was debatable. "I've got some pretty good new tricks! Decapitated zombie robot armor from space in one shot! Beat up a whole forest full of ninjas! Even saved the day with the power of love one time, no joke! Like to see Ace Danger try that one!"

Toning it down a bit but still grinning her added, "Seriously, though, it'll be good to have you on board for however long you feel like it. Some of the self-defense courses don't really work right with a guy leading the class, y'know? Plus there's the teenage boys would get all surly after I toss them around a couple of times. For you I could see them sticking around!" Picking up his mug again he took a sip and took on a forlorn expression. "Man, I don't even like tea. She's doing good. Likes having all the kids around, I think. Not sure what she's going to do whenever mi hermanita decides to move out but that's a ways off, probably."

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"I wasn't making time. That would have been a far more pleasant four years. So, are you going to show me these new tricks or do I have to ask very nicely," Talya shot back with a small smile playing about her lips. She set her mug down, having drank a good third of it before she laughed at his expression, "Darling, no one likes tea that comes out of an instant bag. It tastes like the color grey. Depression in cup form."

"I don't know, some teenage boys never enjoy having a lady take them down. Though, really, that's one of the better lessons there is. I tell you, my job would have been much, much harder if people weren't willing to fall for a pretty face and a nice pair of legs in a short skirt." Talya added with a chuckle. She reached up to brush back her bangs with a flick of her fingertips, "I'm glad to hear it. I've always liked your mother. She's a class act. Maybe she'll spend her time here helping you with your brood though I think it might be a tight fit."

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"If I promise not to make you sit through any proud dad stories can you not call them 'my brood'...?" Erik requested with a good-natured sigh and a melodramatic eyeroll. With his sister acting as Yolanda's de facto mother, Steve turning out to be weirdly good with kids and even Chris having mused aloud once or twice about starting a family - and immediately and loudly denying it - he didn't get too many jokes at the expense of his family man status. At some point his single, non-parent friends had become the distinct minority. "You make it sound like they're nesting in the walls! But since there's a pretty firm upper limit on how nicely women can ask me things these days I guess I'd better be polite and just run circles around you like a gentleman." With that challenge he set aside his cup again and cracked his neck in either direction, sloughing off some of the soreness from the class Talya had walked in on. He gave her a teasing smirk. "Think you can manage avoiding all the plants? I'll understand if you're feeling rusty."

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"Which is such a pity. I have so very many nicer ways to ask than 'please'," Talya fired back with a wicked grin that promised a great many things. She rose slowly from her seat, the gesture graceful as she went to collect the mugs and set them out of the way. Talya reached up to pull her pony tail out, running her fingers through her hair once to fluff out the worst of it. One might think that Talya'd prefer her hair up rather than down for a fight but with it gathered into a pony tail it made far too good a handle to grab if one was willing to fight dirty enough to do so and while Erik was usually above that sort of thing, she planned on giving him at least one good shot for the crack about being rusty. Talya wasn't willing to stake her scalp on whether Erik would or wouldn't sink to her level given enough impetus.

Talya turned then, her hands at her sides and her posture relaxed, her eyes twinkling with humor and challenge, "Rusty? Sweetheart, like you've even scratched the surface of all of my tricks," Talya retorted in kind. She finally brought her hands lightly up in front of her, hands curled but not fully fisted. "Though I suppose we're sticking to the basics. No cheating?"

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"Scratching seems like it would be cheating," Erik commented with a half-smile as he slipped into a loose and ready fighting stance with the sort of thoughtless grace that came from having performed an action thousands of times under all conceivable conditions. The banter was reflexive more than anything; Talya wasn't about to be distracted by the goofball routine but there was a zen mantra element to it, a clearing of the mind to focus solely on the physicality of the moment. "C'mon, supermarket model, show me what you got."

Before she could respond he was sweeping toward her with a low kick from his right leg. Talya hopped over the telegraphed move easily enough but Erik used the split second of hang time to sidestep around to her side and launch a rabbit punch combination toward her ribs. The British woman was already twisting in the air, however and caught the blows on her raised forearms, letting the fencer overextend an arm used to the additional reach of a blade by just enough to let her grab under his shoulder in the first step in a lock. She didn't get the chance to move onto the next step before Erik was stooping low and cracking his frame like a whip to yank her off of her feet and rolling over his back. A lesser opponent might have stumbled as they hit the rooftop but Talya made it look like it had been part of her plan all along, getting her feet back under her and twisting his arm where she still had a grip.

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If Erik's flaw was being overused to a sword in hand, Talya's was that most of her opening moves relied on an element of surprise that she straight up lacked in sparring. She was used to taking the first shot, not recovering from it.

"Darling, they don't make any models like me these days," her voice was a throaty hum, wicked promise implicit which - in its own way - was just as pat a defense mechanism as Erik's jokes. There was nothing in her movements, however, but serious lethal intent as she reversed the hold. Bending in ways a woman should not be able to bend, Talya twisted at the waist, one leg scissoring up towards Erik's undefended nose as she left her arm locked around his shoulder. The agile swordsman twisted back to avoid a boot to the face but Talya took advantage of the moment to twist around on top of him in an effort to lock the pin.

"Who's rusty now?" Talya was not above taking the moment to gloat, nose to nose, with Erik as she was well aware it was only a momentary victory. 

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Both swordsman and spy heard a quiet chuckle.

"This is the part where you kiss her, my husband," suggested Minerva Espadas, a smile gracing the subtly angled features she leaned against the door frame.  There was mirth and something a little more in the bronze skinned woman's amber eyes as she watched the two sparring partners.  Min's smiled turned impish and she encouragingly added, "Show her how you saved the world."

If Erik wondered how she knew to make that reference he need only remember the plants.

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Craning his neck until he could see Min clearly, Erik gave her an upside down grin. "Hey, love. Welcome home." He probably should have been more worried about the compromising position she'd found them in but at some point they'd realized that the statement 'I know this looks bad' permeated enough of his day-to-day life so as to generally be assumed and left unsaid. He grunted softly, finding that between the position of the leg wrapped around him and the slender blonde's weight pinning him against the rooftop he really was pretty effectively pinned, unable to get much leverage without tossing his guest about unceremoniously. Covering with a small cough and trying to look casual despite everything he added, "If I get too fresh I think Talya might really kick my ass, ha. You remember me talking about Bombshell, yeah?" He shifted his weight again without much better success and finally turned his head back toward Talya, close enough to feel the heavy breath of her exertion against his cheek. "We should probably get you off. Of me, I mean. Hoo boy." How his cheeks were starting to colour a shade or two darker, bounteous aplomb or no.

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Talya turned her head to the side as well to look at Erik's lovely wife with a smile. As Talya had made a career, really, of being caught in compromising positions, she'd seen the gamut of reactions and Minerva Espadas had none of the hallmarks of 'might in the very near future blast her right off the roof'. Which was why she commented to Erik, "I don't know. I'm comfortable here. Unless you want to say uncle?" She grinned, the expression briefly wicked as she added, "You could admit I have you dead to rights. I can be graceful in victory."

Despite her teasing, however, Talya unwrapped her leg from Erik's waist at his urging and rose to her feet in one smooth motion, offering one slender hand to the lady of the household. "I've been trying to get him to kiss me for years, I'm afraid, to little avail. I could kiss your wife instead, Erik. She's lovely. You're lovely, you know. I have the worst weak spots for ancient immortals, I'm afraid." Talya added with a sidelong smile, "It's a pleasure to meet you."

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"I remember, my love," the ancient guardian answered her husband, "though words did not do her justice."

Min detached herself from the door frame and sashayed over to Erik and Talya, taking the offered hand and stepping close to the pale blond.  Brushing a stray strand of hair from the other immortal's cheek, the ancient guardian leaned in to Talya's on the lips, her own slightly parted.

The dark bronze skin next to pale white made for an interesting study in contrasts, one Min was only too happy to not only explore but to educate her husband on.  The demonstration carried on for several heartbeats before the white haired woman broke lip contact, though by this time she had one hand wrapped around Talya's waist holding her close.

"I am Min," she murmured.  "And it is a pleasure to meet you as well, Talya."

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