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Revision as of 17:31, 28 June 2020

The Fluffy Ones
Dramatis Personae

Hive, Melinda, Sarah

2020-06-23


"Do you... know any scumbags to point him towards?"

Location

<NYC> Montagues - Soho


Montagues harkens back to the day when SoHo was filled to the brim with artists, with its mismatched furniture, all plush and decorated heavily with carved wood, but remains trendy enough to keep its newer patrons by making sure that furniture is clean, in good repair and inviting. The antique tables all have been reinforced to seem less creaky. The real draw of the cafe is the smell: fresh roasted coffee mingles with perfectly steeped teas. Spices from crisp pastries mingle with the tang of clotted cream but don't overwhelm too much the scent of chalk on the menu boards.

It has been a complicated time around the city as it returns to some semblance of normal -- with so many stores and restaurants gone permanently out of business during lockdown and plenty still out of work, it's been a mixed bag for places still open. Less competition, but fewer people with spending money; the morning rush at Montagues is more of a morning pool. People flowing in, lingering, less of a hectic bustle to hasten off to other places.

Though plenty of the tables are occupied, Hive is, as is his wont, taking up an entire corner window table all to himself. Does he need all this space? Probably not. Does he care that other people could use it? Almost certainly not. He has a very large mug of coffee but as yet no food. A small holo-projector is providing his workspace, half-finished building schematics that he is wholly and completely ignoring in favor, currently, of staring out the window, sipping slowly at his drink. He's dressed more smartly than his usual everyday jeans-and-t-shirt casual, crisp button-down, neatly pressed grey slacks, tie in a prosaic half-Windsor.

Sarah is… not supposed to be here today! Yet she still emerges from the back in black pants and shirt, an apron thrown over her shoulders like a towel. Though she seems as chipper as ever while saying bye to her coworkers, there are distinct circles beneath her eyes that are inexpertly covered with concealer. Noticeable only to Hive is the exhaustion that clutches at the ankles of her thoughts and slows them down.

She gives a short wave and a peace sign to the person behind the register before picking up the most recently prepared order—a plate of eggs benedict—and heading Hive’s way. As sluggish as her thoughts are, they are also busy. <<If I take the bus instead of walk, I’ll get home twice as fast. Then I can sleep some more. But the protest at Washington Square is at four, and I have to get ready for that...>>

The smile she gives Hive as she delivers his food comes with an internal debate about sleep being worth it, and a side order of a mental image of a zombiefied Care Bear. "Here you go! I hope you enjoy it."

Hive's thanks is gruff, muttered around the large swallow of coffee he is taking. He is slow to turn from the window, slouching down in his comfy armchair and squinting over at Sarah. "Swear to god," he says -- perhaps by way of greeting! "every one of you has some kind of fuckin. Brainworms." A sharp bat of his hand collapses the project he's been working on down into a miniature glowing nub on the table.

Somewhere underneath the debate and zombified Care Bear and exhaustion, what little brain power Sarah has left is trying to remember the closest bus schedule. Because of this, Hive’s statement doesn’t receive any sort of immediate reaction beyond the Zombie Bear now having a few new friends in his head. “I’m sorry,” she says after a beat too long, blinking slowly. “What?”

Hive tips his coffee mug towards Sarah. Pointedly, as though this will elucidate. It is the only immediate explanation forthcoming; he's taking another swallow of coffee, plucking up a potato from the home fries scattered around his muffin. Only after he's licked the hollandaise sauce from his fingertip does he contribute further: "All you goddamn. Caretaker types. Revolution's not gonna fall apart if you get some sleep, you know."

Politeness makes Sarah stick around for a response. Or maybe the thought to walk away never occurred to her sleepy, sleepy brain. Hive is probably the only person that knows! “Oh!” Blushing faintly, Sarah lightly touches at her makeup. <> “Yeah. Probably not. I just…” She trails off, turning her hand over and shrugging a shoulder. “I don’t know,” she says with an embarrassed laugh. “What if someone doesn’t have food or water, and I could be there to give them some?” With this comes memory more than thought, old and frayed around the edges, of emptiness and fear and sharp stomach pains.

"I read minds. Your makeup's fine." Hive sets his mug down, head tipping back against the armchair. His eyes close, hands lacing against his stomach. "Kinda arrogant, isn't it?" His brows hitch up. "If you aren't there, there's an entire horde of other Care Bears and medics who will be. Why's it your specific responsibility?" He cracks one eye open, peering over at Sarah. "You eaten, yet?"

Melinda finishes a phone call and walks out from the back, checking messages on her phone as she walks. She glances up in enough time to notice a cup of coffee being lifted in her direction. She only looks confused momentarily before accepting it.

"Honestly, until I am back in front of an audience, I don't really need the constant cup," her words are mildly dismissive, but her face is grateful. She sets down the cup long enough to dump a little hazelnut milk in it, then cradles the warm mug in her AC chilled fingers. Her attention snaps up to the sound of one of her favorite grumps, grumping. She exits the serving area and heads over, sliding into a seat to observe, eyes practically twinkling.

Sarah rocks back on her heels, arms crossing over her chest as an array of different emotions passes through her expression. “Um.” <<Read minds? The guy upstairs?>> What comes next is a whirl of thoughts, none quite separate. <<What do minds sound like? Don’t let Angie find out. Paranoid. What does my mind sound like? Oh no what does Angie’s mind sound like?>> Her imagination fills with the buzz of angry bees and screeching metal. She doesn’t know what to say; she’s pretty sure she wouldn’t know what to say even if she was well rested. It seems easier to focus on everything else. “I guess you’re right about that,” she answers, tone uncertain. “And no, but I have food at home, so—Oh! Hi, boss!” Straightening, Sarah lets her arms drop and smiles at Mel, nervousness raking through her thoughts. Did she do something wrong? “How’s it going?”

"Loud, mostly. Aggravating. It's not, like, a secret, I don't give a fuck if that --" Hive seems to cut himself off here, teeth clicking together sharp and a brief complicated twitch crossing his expression. "If he finds out," he settles on instead. "All I mean is there's a real common fucking problem with all you --" One of his hands unfurls, waves vaguely in Sarah's directions. "Fluffy types. Want to take care of everyone else and never yourselves. It's dumb as shit, you know. Your brain sounds half dead already. Mel," His eye has slipped back closed with this greeting, "you should feed this person. I'll buy."

"Fine, fine," Melinda mutters quickly, just to pass off the question of how she's doing with an answer. She's far too invested in how the other two are doing. << I'd say, 'pot' and 'kettle,' but I know it's not quite appropriate. She's definitely a pot, but Hive? what is some kitchen adjacent metaphor for someone who appears to not take care of himself and instead attracts the fluffy ones?>> She turns and actually looks at Hive when he settles into his proclamation. "Well, sure. I'm part fluffy, probably would have anyway, but it is nice that you're buying. What do you want, Sarah?"

The corners of Sarah’s mouth twitch. “I know he’s an asshole. It’s okay if you say it.” <<Most people do...>> Tentatively, she takes her own seat, perching on the edge and hooking her ankles around the legs. “I guess, um. A french toast plate sounds good?” She glances at Hive, judging his reaction to see if she’s crossed some budgetary line. “Thank you. I really appreciate it. And thanks for the service, boss.” This, said to Mel with a crooked grin.

<< Please. >> Hive's voice slams into Mel's mind like a sledgehammer, wry amusement overlying its blunt weight. << I'm the goddamn burner. >> There's no real reaction from Hive; if French toast is gonna break his bank, it doesn't seem to bother him, anyway. "Got no doubt you would've. Can't imagine the business hurts, though, after --" His teeth grit, a slow creak of sound. "Everything." He sits up just a little straighter, picking up his fork to actually cut a small wedge off his food. "Just so you know," he tells Sarah, "the food is a trap. You might have food at home, but if you eat here you gotta. Like. Sit. Chill. Not just grab it and dash out the door on your way to more -- whatever."

Melinda's face betrays the dull ache that accompanies unexpected telepathic communication, but her mood remains positive. "One french toast plate coming up." And she's back on her feet again.

<< Gone through most of my business savings keeping this place from going under. Helps that the apartment is upstairs...>> Finances have definitely been on her mind as of late and the casual reference sends her back into the corner of her mind that deals with numbers, spreadsheets, and accounts. She pulls herself out of it as soon as she remembers she has an audience in range and figures are rather dry conversation. "You better plant yourself, my dear. Hive is rather stubborn when he sets his mind to it." She then disappears into the back to grab the food... with a quiet ask if Hive wants anything.

Mel is not the only one whose mind goes to numbers when they are brought up. Worries about rent and hours do their best to cover an invasive thought that Angie can probably—Sarah cuts said thought short. “If you both think it’s worth trapping me, I guess I can’t argue.” She tries to sound cheerful, but the glance she sends Hive’s way is shamefaced. Still, she unhooks her ankles from the chair and relaxes against the back of it. Plants herself. “I’ve never seen one of those in person,” she says, nodding to the holo-projector. “What do you use it for?”

"What, just steal from more people?" Hive sounds dry, but then, he's sounded dry this whole time. He spears another bite of his muffin, washes it down with a swallow of coffee. "What I think is that this shit's a marathon, not a fucking sprint. The hell good's it going to do anyone if you all don't sleep for a month straight and then, you know, die. Some revolution that'll be." He leans forward, forefinger and thumb tweaking at the small glowing nub lingering on the tabletop. Blowing it up bigger -- a skeleton of an apartment-type complex, rotating slowly on the table between them with myriad small measurements and notations marked tiny along its bones. "Work. I grow buildings."

Sarah ducks her head, her face burning as shame churns in her chest. She can’t defend her sister as much as she wishes she could. <> Disapproval of his actions doesn’t weigh out the fact that she’s too much of a coward to bring it up to his face; that she accepts money to pay rent and bills without asking where it comes from. “I take naps,” she weakly pipes up, thinking of Chimaera’s couches. The projection is at least enough to get her to look up again, and her green eyes widen. She leans forward herself, head tilting to catch different details. A sense of wonder is starting to cloak so many negative (truthful) thoughts. “That’s so cool.”

"There's like. Thousands of genuine scumbag assholes in this city who deserve a good fleecing," the corner of Hive's mouth twitches slightly. "You could at least try to aim him a little more judiciously, you know? We all gotta survive. Lord knows most of us have done our share of shit to stay alive." His shoulder lifts in a very small twitch as well. His eyes open a little wider, head tilting as he looks at the half-formed building. Looks at Sarah through its glowing skeletal structure. "Huh. Guess it is." His smile has grown just a little bit. "Mostly people think architecture is kind of boring but -- I like to think it makes people's lives a little better, if I do my job right."

“Architecture is just art we live in!” Sarah insists. “Look at Grand Central, or the Flatiron.” A dozen other examples, a mix of snapshot-memories and crosshatched sketches, quickly flip through her thoughts: the Church of Saint Mary the Virgin, Rockefeller Center, the Chrysler Building, and more. “I think people are just so used to being inside all the time that they forget that.” <<Especially after lockdown.>> Able to look at Hive again now, relief obvious in her mind, her grin seems easier. Her tone when she speaks next is aiming at breezy, but some hesitation peeks through. “Do you... know any scumbags to point him towards?”

"It is. There's too much of it lately that kind of. Forgets that part. People just build boxes to work and sleep in and forget this shit is supposed to be beautiful. Supposed to fill people's lives not just --" Hive shakes his head, eyes lowering as he draws his fork through the sauce on his plate. When he looks back up it's with a crooked grin. "I'm a telepath in the city. I know plenty, but I guess that's cheating. Feel like if rent's a worry, starting with the fucking landlord's probably not a bad idea, though."

“Not just hold people’s lives,” Sarah finishes, nodding. She knows the difference well. There is nothing emotionally filling about living from motel room to motel room, but she would have slept in her kitchen if it meant she got to have the blue oven that came with her apartment. A long yawn breaks her answering smile, but it easily returns after as she rubs one eyes with the back of her hand. “Yeah. That’s not a bad idea at all. Thanks, Hive.”