The French guy is pretty much the last person Coby expects to find at his door.
"I've worked out the routing issues that were driving me crazy, and I've got the bar nearly finished. I wanted to show it to you," Rainier explains.
Rainier doesn't wait for Coby response, and heads directly towards his console. "SSX, Tony Hawk, Shaun White," Rainier reads off the game titles in Coby's collection, "You certainly are my target audience. Burnout Paradise, Forza, Need for Speed...Do you ever race yourself? I mean, in real life? If I had more time, I'd go out to Buttonwillow more often. Your freeways here are like parking lots, I can never get up to a decent speed while driving."
"I'm not really a car guy," Coby answers, wondering how he ended up being buds with the French guy all of a sudden.
"That's too bad," Rainier says, "I'd like someone to race with. Dag is afraid to go above the speed limit here."
"Okay. So this bar is one of the places you can hang out between events," Rainier explains as he gets his demo started. "Here, I have your character set at about mid-career. Your career and reputation levels will determine which girls will talk to you at the bar. And, in turn, the girls you romance will impact your reputation, so as you move up in levels, you'll need to associate with a higher level girl."
"What if I like that one," Coby says, pointing at a mid-level girl, "You're saying I'd have to dump her when I level up? What if I like her better than the high level chick?"
"This wasn't really supposed to be about developing relationships," Rainier says, "It was meant to be more of a diversion between surfing events, not to be taken seriously."
"Sorry," Coby says, "I just thought it would be cool if I could pick my own girl instead of having the game equip me with one when I level up."
"Don't apologize," Rainier says, "I didn't expect this to be a focus group, but you are my target audience, and if trading in girls when you level up like you'll trade in equipment doesn't work for you, that's something will have to look into. Developing relationships with the NPCs might be a deeper life simulation than we were after, but I'll take this up with Dag. Maybe we could implement some kind of upgrade system so if you choose not to trade in your current girlfriend, you could bring her up to your level as you level up."
"Upgrade my girlfriend?" Coby laughs, "Like, get her implants or something?"
"Well, let's not turn this into My Bimbo," Rainier laughs, "I'll have to think more about this. Do it wrong and we have a very politically sensitive situation."
"Becky," Coby says, greeting Rebecca as she comes in, "This is...uh..." He can't remember the French guy's name. Reindeer? No, that's stupid...
"Rainier," Rainier introduces himself, "Sheffield just calls me dick."
"Oh, you're the French guy," Rebecca says, siting down on the other couch. She got that story out of Coby the first night she spent here, "I'm Rebecca."
"Belgian, actually," Rainier says, "Listen, I'm meeting Stina for drinks at the Cobra Room. Why don't you two join us?'
"We'd love to," Rebecca says before Coby can refuse.
"Becky, I'm not really in the mood..." Coby tries to get out of it.
"C'mon," Rebecca says, "I'm tired of hanging out here all the time. Let's get out for once."
Coby thinks about suggesting they go out on their own, but that would be rude t this point. "Fine," he says.
Rebecca smiles, "Great. I'll go get dressed."
So the two couples meet at the Cobra Room. Rebecca and Rainier make small talk while Coby and Stina staring at each other while trying to look like they haven't noticed the other is even there."
"You know this wasn't my idea," Coby says quietly when they go to the bar for drinks.
"Of course not," Stina hisses, "You made it very clear you never wanted to see me again."
"I never said that," Coby protests, "Don't make everything into such a drama. I just couldn't have you coming over and fucking me while you're with him."
Rainier doesn't hear what they're saying to each other, but he notices how their shoulders touch while they argue in hushed voices. Anyone walking into this bar would assume they were a couple.
The quartet divides up into pairs, but even across the room from each other, Coby can't stop looking over at Ti.
And Stina dies a little every time Rebecca flirts with Coby. Rainier is very aware of what's happening here. It was an impromptu decision to invite Coby and Rebecca out with them, and he did think it might go something like this. He had to know for sure, and now he does.
"Let's go," he suggests.
"Yes, please," Stina answers with a frustrated sigh.
"Why did you do that?" Stina demands when they are back in Rainier's apartment, "That was excruciating."
"Only because you're still in love with him," Rainier says.
"I'm not!" Stina protests.
"Are you lying to yourself as well as to me?" he asks, "I saw the way you look at each other. You get in room together and you pine for each other. It actually broke my heart just watching you."
Stina sobs, "It's your fault!"
"Indeed," he says, "Though I didn't exactly have to toss you over my shoulder and drag you away from him. Still, I inserted myself where I don't belong, and it's a situation neither of us is happy in."
"Wait, are you breaking up with me?" Stina asks, seeing where this is heading.
"I like a challenge, Stina, and I'm happy to play a game where the chances of winning are incredibly slim. But there does have to be that chance. With you, I'll always be in second place. Even when I have the prize, I still haven't won. It's galling. So, I'm releasing you to go back to your true love."
"My 'true love' has moved on, in case you didn't notice," Stina moans bitterly.
"She's not even competition for you, Stina," Rainier reassures her, "Sheffield will drop her in a second if you ask him to."
"You think?" Stina brightens.
"I know it. And you know it, too."