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Revision as of 18:38, 30 June 2020

Running Up That Hill
Dramatis Personae

Joy, Noah

2020-05-22


"Met a guy who... said he knows someone like you. A few someones."

Location

<PRV> Joy and Noah's Apartment - Harlem


This is a second-story walkup in an aging historic building which, while not entirely crumbling, has a certain worn and shabby look, its plumbing and fixtures often in need of repair. The apartment has three bedrooms--one large master suite with its own bathroom on one side of the common spaces and two smaller ones on the other, another bath in between. A single long space serves as living room and dining room combined, semi-open to the kitchen. Tall, drafty windows let out onto the fire escape from the living room and both bedrooms, and let in excellent light from the southern exposure.

The art deco motif of the original molding and fixtures meshes well with the distressed wood of the antique furniture. A long, simple brown couch that brackets a coffee table with matching loveseat and armchair is the centerpiece of the living room, though there's a reading nook by the window comprised of a recliner and shaded lamp. The dining table is smallish and round, but a seam down its center suggests a leaf can be inserted to accommodate more guests if need be. The kitchen is generously stocked, a wide variety of pots and pans hanging from an overhead rack.

The master bedroom is a bit on the messy side at the moment. There's a queen-sized bed heaped high with blankets and pillows, small writing desk beneath one of the windows, an antique wardrobe in the corner to supplement the smallish closet and a luxurious vanity populated with well-loved makeup and makeup tools. The larger of the two other bedrooms has recently been converted to a nursery, its floor covered with brightly colored foam tiles, the walls papered over with a lush fantasy forest. The last room, so small that it was likely intended as an office or reading room at one point, is mostly bare as yet but for a sturdy dancing pole and a rack of costumes that stretches across one entire wall.

Afternoon clouds have made good on their promise of rain for a few hours now, leading into a drizzly, dreary evening. Noah does his best to stomp the dirt-now-mud from his boots before entering the lobby of the building a good twelve hours after he left it. The way water drips from his jeans and t-shirt possibly makes that a pointless gesture. The dust from his hours in the park, and whatever dirt he picked up working on machines once the rain started after that, has mixed together with the damp rest of him to leave him feeling grimy. More than feeling. He is grimy, and the triple bagged sack of still warm Chinese food he carries in one hand doesn’t exactly feel safe from his touch.

Neither does the mail he gets from the mailbox before he goes up, but he isn’t coming back down until tomorrow morning. He certainly ain’t gonna make Joy come get it. The walk up feels a bit longer than usual, but he’s unlocking the front door and stepping through soon enough.

Joy feels better than she has in months. Alex is nursing, her little eyelids drooping further and further with each suck; she'll be asleep soon. The Bold and the Beautiful somehow hasn't been canceled yet-- God willing it never will be. Joy knows it's a terrible show, but she likes her terrible shows sometimes, and anyway a little guilty pleasure never hurt anyone. The rain dripping softly down the windowpane lulls her to a half-doze. And Noah will be home any minute.

She hears the door open and looks up with a smile, though she doesn't get up. She knows better than to wake a sleeping baby, even one who's only mostly asleep.

"Welcome home, hon."

Noah sighs as the comfort and relief of being *home* washes over him, amplified by the sight of Joy and Alex. He knows the smile he gives them is tired, but it's easy and genuine he thinks all the same. "Hey." The food and his keys get set on the coffee table, before he quickly kisses Joy, aborting a movement to stroke Alex's cheek. Not in the state he's in. "How was your day, darlin'?"

"Okay," Joy says, and smiles up at him. It wasn't really okay- she was inside all day, she feels out of shape and easily exhausted, she hasn't spoken to another adult in a week and hasn't been face to face with one in more than two months. But she's promised herself that she's not going to drag Noah down, she's not going to make him feel shitty when she's already--

But she also promised him she wouldn't think about that too much.

"How was yours?" she asks, carefully shifting Alex in her arms so she can sit up without accidentally knocking the baby off her nipple. She isn't wearing a bra to make nursing easier, which is fine, but the dirty t-shirt about to be covered in baby spit-up is not flattering, and Alex at least covers most of it. "Dig any holes?"

“Some. Cut some grass. Fixed some machines.” The conversation from lunchtime looms in Noah’s mind. He doesn’t know how to approach it yet, but he knows he doesn’t want to approach it like this. “I’mma go take a fast shower so I can give you a break.” He drops another quick kiss against her forehead. “Don’t have to wait on me to eat. Just leave some lo mein for me.”

"Okay," Joy says again, but she probably is going to wait for him, if only because she's not hungry enough to make eating around the baby worth it. Or because she'd rather concentrate on her child, the one purely incredible and amazing thing she's ever done-- and she always believes that, even during the midnight screaming when she wishes she'd never had a baby at all. Right now, with her daughter slipping toward an adorable sleep, it's the cornerstone of her world.

She burps Alex then rocks her until she falls asleep, her little hands curling into fists, her absurd eyelashes like silk threads on her skin. When Noah comes back it seems like it's been seconds.

"Hi again," Joy says, softly. "Look at her."

Noah is able to forget about his anxiety and hunger when he does just that. Now dressed in sleep pants and barefoot, he carries another t-shirt in one hand. His hair is still damp, pushed back from his face, a towel draped over his shoulders to catch any errant drops. “Hey.” Gingerly, he sits down next to Joy, as much as his exhaustion makes him want to fall back onto the couch. “Mind if I take her while we eat?” Skin to skin time has a chance of pulling him right into sleep, but Noah’s hoping to find some kind of bravery in it, too. Alex doesn’t even know how brave she is, to be a baby in today’s world.

"Not at all." She does mind, a little bit, but she minds any time anyone takes her child from her, it's just instinct, and it's only a little bit anyway. "She's asleep."

Joy hands Alex over carefully, drops a kiss on Noah's cheek, then gets some watermelon juice from the kitchen for both of them and settles herself in to wolf down lo mein. She still can't use chopsticks with any kind of skill, but the Chinese place was kind enough to send some forks.

She swallows a bite, sighs, and leans against Noah, heedless of any stray water droplets. "So, details. Did you meet anyone interesting today? Any hilarious sights?" Not that Joy's living vicariously through him or anything.

Noah is just as careful when he takes Alex, making sure he’s supporting her head before he lays her against his chest. He’s amazed all over again, at both how big she’s gotten and how small she still is. His hand can still cover her entire back and then some. Alex wiggles around some, her little eyebrows furrowing. He holds his breath, hoping he hasn’t woke her up, but Alex seems to find a spot that makes her comfortable. She relaxes, sighing, a tiny perfect hand uncurling over his sternum.

Noah thinks he might break in two for how much he loves her. It’s greater than anything else in him. It presses inside his ribs, too large to hold. He slowly relaxes against the couch, his tension siphoning away with every little press of Alex’s breastbone against his skin, as she breathes in and out.

He’s in a semi-doze when Joy leans against him. He doesn’t open his eyes, only tilts his head to press against hers. “Mm. Got caught arguin’ with squirrels again this morning.” As if he’s the crazy one for wanting to eat his breakfast in peace without a bunch of beady eyes staring at him. “Had a lady take a cookie outta her jacket pocket an’ offer it to me at lunch. Didn’t take it.” He hesitates a moment. It’s more than just a pause where he thinks of something to tell her about the Outside World. “Met a guy who... said he knows someone like you. A few someones.”

She giggles against his shoulder, and turns her head to kiss his cheek. "City folk don't understand squirrels," she says, trying to imitate his accent. "And yeah, you should never take food from strangers. I'll make you cookies if you want them."

Then he hesitates. And then he says it.

Joy sits sharply upright to look Noah in the face. Like you. There's only one reason he'd say "someone like you."

"Really?" she asks. "There are... I could... really?"

“I ain’t promisin’ it’ll lead to something,” Noah cautions, keeping his voice low to keep from waking Alex. He can’t stand to raise Joy’s hopes too much if this doesn’t work out, though he’s already been praying to God it does. “But he said he’d see if one of ‘em might want to talk to you. And... if someone might talk to me too. About...” He falls into an awkward silence, before wagging a finger between them.

Right. Baby sleeping. Never wake a sleeping baby. Joy takes a deep breath and forces herself to calm. "Right. Yes. Of course. But it's... it's something." And it's been so long since she had anything.

He motions between the two of them and her stomach sinks a little. She's been afraid of this all along. Yes, he said it's probably fine, and she's almost sure she can't affect anyone if she's not right next to them, but what if she's wrong? What if she can? What if all of this...

No. She gives herself a little mental shake. She won't do this, not now, not to him. If she's done something to him, really, then they'll deal with it when it's obvious. If not, no point in making him worry about her more.

So she nods, as calmly as she can. "Yeah. That's a good idea, I think. For both of us to talk to them."

Noah finds a smile to give her, as small as it is, and nods. His free hand seeks out hers, lacing their fingers together. If he can help get her to a place comfortable enough to leave the apartment again, he’ll do whatever it takes.