<NYC> Strand Books - East Village
The Strand manages to pack a whole lot of character into one bookstore, but they have a lot of space to fit it in. They advertise themselves as having eighteen miles of books, and whether or not that is true, it certainly is true that they have an enormous number of shelves packed into their rows and rows and rows of books. A book-lover's haven, this East Village landmark boasts an enormous collection of volumes of all types among their stacks, crammed into the narrow aisles. Well-known for their rare and out-of-print collection, they have many hard to find volumes tucked away in their labyrinth of shelves as well.
It is wearing on around dinnertime, dark outside in the snowy city but warmly lit here inside the Strand. Hive has tucked himself away in the rows of Fantasy and Sci-fi books, surrounded by a small pile of various volumes he's pulled down off the shelves. He's dressed in his usual Grumpy Bear hoodie, faded old jeans, sturdy warm boots, a fleecy red cap pulled down low over his head with the letter Theta Tau embroidered on it in gold. He has a copy of Larry Niven's /The Burning City/ in his hands, eyes fixed rather blankly down on it.
Ash enters, not especially directed, but more wandering. There's a fleeting thought about some book Jim mentioned at some point - something about a science fiction detective in those books about world discs? He doesn't remember. He's just sort of glad to be inside, however, when the shop's heat hits him, dispelling some of the chill from outside. He smiles pleasantly to the woman who offers to help him and makes her laugh at his description of what he is looking for and is soon sent down the aisles to where Hive is camped out. He doesn't really recognize him at first, approaching him from behind, but does stop and peek at him after a moment, when he catches his profile. Oh! Wait. Probably shouldn't interrupted someone deeply engrossed in a book, right? Well. "Just saying hi," he offers, out loud, less to himself. "It'd be weird if I didn't, right?"
Maya cuts a warmly colourful figure as she flits her way through the store, oversized tote draped over her bag (it's decorated with some elaborate artwork of a very bright multicoloured bird.) Dressed in purple and green salwar suit with a green dupatta draped over her head, inlaid mirrorwork at its hem, she twinkles and shines as she trots down the aisle, stopping short of actually tripping over any of Hive's books. "Oh! Dusk-roommate -- wait, wait, give me a -- I /know/ this one." She purses her lips, glancing only belatedly between Hive and Ash with a quick cheery smile. "Hello! /You/ I don't know for sure."
Hive's shoulders tighten within his sweatshirt, his eyes slowly lifting from the page of his book. "Not engrossed," he says gruffly. "I don't even remember what fucking book this is. You looking for Discworld?" He waves the book in his hand a little ways down the shelves, towards Pratchett. Then frowns up at Maya. "You're too smiley," he accuses her. "And I'm still Hive. That's Ash. He used to work for me. I don't know what he does now."
"I'm Ash," the aforementioned individual replies, reaching out a hand to greet Maya. "And yes. Discworld. Oh, man. I had it backwards. That must be why she laughed." He grins, sheepishly, his gaze dropping to the floor. << Still waiting to hear back from my union. Kind of pioneering the whole acceptance thing from them. Grievances take time and some members are totally supportive and others are - well, you know people. But they're salt of the earth types. I think half of the opposition are afraid I'll work too good at my .. mutant thing and put them out of jobs, because, you know, carrying dirt around in some excavations keeps them busy. >> "Oh, Kind of looking for work. Kind of doing the odd handyman job here and there, hoping to get employed again soon. You don't know of any work I can do, do ya Hive? I mean, you probably have your ear to the ground in places."
"Oh. I love those books, they're hilarious." This puts a small bounce in Maya's posture; she rocks up onto her toes as she leans in to take Ash's hand in a brief light press of contact. "Maya. Hi. Work for you? What do you do? -- Oh right," a small blush flushes into her cheeks as Ash kind-of-answers the question almost as soon as she's asked it. "Honestly how can I be /too/ smiley, Hive, there's no such thing as too much happiness. That's what the Discworld books are for, by the way," she confides to Ash. "An excess of mirth."
"I'm allergic." Hive pulls his legs in against his chest, scowling at Maya's comments on happiness. He's seated on the floor in the Fantasy/Sci-fi section, propped up against a bookshelf half surrounded by a small pile of amassed volumes he has collected like a small defensive barrier between him and anyone who might venture down the aisle. Which at the moment is Ash and Maya, held at BAY -- if only slightly -- by his paperback-wall fortifications. He hunches himself behind his tiny wall-o'-books and glowers at the world. "Fuck work. Barely have any work /I/ can do. You can excavate the Commons. I can't promise anyone will pay you." His teeth grind slowly. "But we'll probably pay you." He props his elbow on his knee, hand clamping down to the top of his head. "Have a college friend putting up a set of condos in the Bronx. Could probably get you in on that crew."
"He kind of is - allergic, I mean. He doesn't exactly break out in hives, but he does get a bit uncomfortable and fidgety." Ash gives a little shrug and glances between Maya and Hive. "But it hasn't proven fatal yet, so I wouldn't worry about too much exposure." He turns toward the books for a moment, finger running along the spines of the Discworld books. "So they're pretty cheerful? See, I wouldn't have gotten that from the guy who recommended them to me. He's a touch surly. But he's got a thing for this detective and totally recommended him as a really tough guy, so I thought I'd check it out." << Thanks for the recommendation. I will definitely talk to this guy about work. >> "Oh? The Commons? You know I'd do that for free. It's going to be home, you know, as long as Jim'll keep me."
Getting in the door takes a little coordinating as Micah switches over from using his neon orange crutches outdoors to /not/ indoors. After wiping his damp hiking boots on the mat, he takes a few steps out of the entryway to lash the crutches together with their holster, leaning them against a wall while he removes Jayne hat and green striped gloves and olive puffy coat, piling these all together in one arm before situating the crutch holster crosswise over his torso. The strap cuts a black mark across the Batsignal on the front of his zipped-up hoodie. Encumbrance sufficiently adjusted, he makes his way into the stacks, a good guess bringing him to the appropriate section to find Hive. Unexpectedly with other people. "Hey, Hive," he offers first with a little wave, before adding, "Ash, Maya. It's a regular bookstore party over here."
"Allergic?" Maya looks a touch confused at this, glancing downwards first at the books and then up and around the store before it suddenly dawns on her -- with no /less/ confusion, mind -- "-- to /happiness/? That isn't an allergy that's just grump. Usually the cure for it is more happiness. Though maybe not always," she allows, "more /cheer/." Her fingertips touch to her /own/ jaw with a faint wince when Hive's teeth grind. "But I should maybe leave you be if you're not in the mood for company, mm? Good luck," she says to Ash, "with the job search." Micah's arrival draws an abruptly deeper blush from her, dark eyes opening suddenly wider. "Oh! At least I'm leaving you in good hands. He has a happiness allergy though," she confides to Micah. "So be gentle."
"Pff. I think you mean home as long as you and Jim manage to scrape together fucking consistent rent month to month, this place isn't gonna be the Sunrise." Hive's eyes screw shut, teeth grinding again and his hands both clamping down against his head, palms pressing in at his temples and fingers kneading against his cap. "They're comedy, yeah. Comedy-fantasy. Mirth up to your fucking eyeballs. Ghhhh." His shoulders tighten harder when Micah approaches, though in contrast to this flinching of posture his mind instinctively reaches out, claws pressing hard up against the other man's mind. Sinking sharply in in /hungry/ desperate grasping. "Didn't ask for a party who knew people like to read."
Ash's smiles after Maya, nodding appreciatively to her well wishes, his attention shifting toward Micah when he arrives, but his smile fades when Hive begins to cover his face and grind his teeth. His brow furrows and he lowers himself to his knee, examining the sitting man with intent eyes and a mostly quiet mind. His eyes switch quickly to Micah, examining his reaction and using the newcomer as a gauge on how he should react.
"Ain't allergic. S'just a grump. His happy can /look/ like grump at the same time. S'a talent," Micah reports to Maya with a grin...and his own faint blush for no other reason than echoing the woman's. "Oh, you're leavin' already? Well...was good t'see you anyhow. Be safe; it's still slick out." He reaches out when Hive does, mentally, a softer touch over the telepath's grasping claws like warm hands encircling his. Stopping just outside Hive's book-fortifications, he crouches down at the other man's level. "How're y'doin', hon?" He has little direction to offer Ash before an answer comes to the question.
"He does have the shirt to match." Maya wiggles fingers towards Hive's Grumpy Bear sweatshirt. "Be well, all of you." And then she is flitting back off down the aisle, the inlaid mirrorwork in her dupatta twinkling as she disappears around the corner.
Hive cracks open an eye to glance down at his hoodie, snorting quietly. "Guess I do, at that." His fingers press in harder against his cap, his teeth grinding again. His claws sink in further, hard and vice-like, needy-hungry-desperate in their clawing-digging push into Micah's mind. Grabbing, /holding/, leaking trails of sick-worried-uncertain-lost where they push further in and start to slowly take root.
His eyes slowly open the rest of the way, shoulders starting gradually to unknot their tightly corded tension as his mental claws flex out. "Got books. Life can't be all that shitty with books, right? You into fantasy usually?" He squints up at Ash, head tipped back against the shelf he leans against. "Stop staring dude s'a fucking headache I'm not going to break."
"I... don't read much." Thoughts start filtering back through that moment, trying to remember books he's read before and things he's expressed an interest. "I am kind of trying this whole fiction for fun thing. I mean, I read shit in school because it was assigned, but people say books are like little doorways into other worlds where you can focus on other stuff, and they can be cheaper than tv shows and that's pretty good." He is still concerned, but it's muted, like limbs under a blanket, not really ready to stir from the warmth. "Hey Micah. How are you? I ... uh," he looks toward the direction Maya left in, just realizing she was really gone and he probably should have said something nice like good bye, or 'I like your mirrors, they're pretty.' Oops. Too late now.
"You, too," Micah answers Maya with another little wave. He lets Hive in to a certain extent, but keeps him nudged back away from taking over, like guiding plants over a trellis in a vegetable garden so they don't grow too unruly. Moving out of his crouch, he sits next to Hive, reaching over to wrap an arm around his shoulders if he doesn't flinch away. He frowns at the lack of real answer, instead changing his question to, "Are you okay?" He nods at Ash when he is addressed directly. "Oh...I'm alright. Just stopped by here after work an' a quick trip home t'change. Y'know how it goes."
"Everything about her is always pretty." Hive sounds grouchy about this as Ash realizes Maya has headed off, eyes narrowing and his chin sinking to his knees. He slouches over sideways against Micah, leaning into the arm the other man curls around him. His shoulders tense hard again, mind pulling back reflexively at the nudging but then sinking sharply in again in an almost petulant /squeeze/ of grip, harder, tighter, clenching possessively with soft undertone-feeling: << (mine) >> that might as well already be saying << (ours). >> Pushing back /harder/ against the nudging like he's testing it.
"Kinda are. Like getting away from this shitty world into someone else's. Or just /forgetting/ everything for a while. Nice sometimes. Just -- not think. About any of this. Be somewhere else. I read like a fucking junkie though. So it's not really cheap for me. Netflix is cheap. Books are like my fucking crack." Hive's lips twitch slightly as he gestures to the pile around him. "And you don't want to see how much I put on my Nook every month it's disgusting."
His hand drops to rest on the cover of one of the books in his pile, Scott Lynch's /The Lies of Locke Lamora/. His fingers trace absently against the top edge of the cover, brushing down against the pages. << I guess? >> It doesn't thud into Micah's mind so much as wrench into it, twist into it along the digging-clawing connection his mind is still trying to establish. << Not even sure how to tell. Toure did all my. Test. Shit. >>
"I was told of this magical place where they give you books for free, so long as you return them. I think I'll go there more often and just keep the Discworld books in the apartment for Jim." Ash smiles quietly, his voice dropping to softer levels as he watches Hive curl into Micah - at least the visible parts. "Pretty is nice. Very pleasant to remember on a warm summer day. Or in front of a fire on a cold winter's night." << Oh, I wonder if any of the apartments will have fire places. Probably gas. Gas is dumb because it's barely live fire and you can't toast anything over it because it'll taste disgusting. Well, not like wood fire anyway. >> He doesn't project so much as get lost in the idea of toasting marshmallows over a blaze in Kay's hand, his mouth practically tasting the chocolate melting onto graham cracker. "Do you guys need a hand with anything, or should I just leave you be? Hate to be interrupting anything."
"You can put a lotta things on an e-reader pretty reasonable if y'aren't bein' too specific about what t'add at any given point. S'usually a lotta things on sale for $1.99 or the like. An' yeah, library's nice. S'where I get my graphic novels. They're the only things I'm fussy 'bout readin' in hard copy. Keeps y'from havin' t'keep things on shelves, too." Micah continues to press back against Hive's incursions, the gentle guiding of plant-growth threatened with a sharper pruning if necessary...but /wanting/ to stay softer than that. His arm wraps around the telepath tighter. "You aren't interruptin' me, honey. Y'were here 'fore I was," he reassures Ash with a little smile. << The results are in already? He must've rushed it personally. That's...unheard-of fast. Are you...? D'you /want/ t'talk about it or..? >> His expression turns a little more shadowed and worried, brows lowering.
"Wonder? Ash, I'm fucking /custom-building/ every single one of the goddamn fucking places if you want something just fucking ask for it." This answer comes with a sharp /blaze/ of fire flaring with the crackle-pop of burning wood logs and the scent of burning oak searing into Micah and Ash's minds. Hive presses his palm to his temple again, fingers scrunching back against his cap. "I'm sitting in the middle of the aisle in a bookstore I don't think I have any call to. Tell people not to -- not to -- fff." He trails off with a small shake of his head, words faltering as his eyes close.
<< Think he -- think he -- did -- himself -- all the -- >> But here his words trail off, too. His digging-clawing does continue, roots sinking-twining up until the point they /are/ pruned, only withdrawing if a firmer hand is taken. The heavy weight of his mind finally just settles up against Micah's in a solid crush of weight, words haltingly thudding back in. << Yes -- just don't. Know. How. How do you. Even -- fuck. >>
"Oh. Ask for things. Right. I should get on that. Or you know, figure out if I want anything." Ash gives a small laugh, and shrugs, peeking at the books once more. "Kind of weird thinking that I can just ask for things. I've been a bit shy on account of not really having a job and money, but maybe everyone'll take my construction help and some how balance that as currency and then i'll just have to pay rent like normal people and I'll get work again when this thing... Ah. I may be rambling." He turns a little, eyeing the books not quite in reach given his kneeling position. "Do you know which one of these I should start with? There... are a lot." He does pause when his mind is filled with delightful camp fires and then when Hive cringes again. << Thanks, brainbuddy, but you don't gotta do that if it is hurting ya. >>
Micah's eyes go wide and he gasps at the sudden impression of fire coming without warning into his mind. It takes him a moment to realise there /is/ no fire, at which point he settles back with a sheepish look dusted over with pale pink blush. "Oh! Oh. Were y'thinkin' of fireplaces? An'...goodness, once the place is /actually/ under construction, I'm sure /that/ could be a job for you, too." << That was good of 'im. >> Trimming back at the clawing proving effective enough, Micah just accepts and holds the weight of the press in against his mind. << Y'can tell me as soon as y'want. However y'want. Or wait until we get home if that's easier, honey. I can take...whatever it is, okay? Whatever's best for you. >>
"Think a lot of people are fond of fireplaces. In apartments they're harder but in houses that's. Can -- in duplexes. Or triplexes. The real kind. Not the gas kind. The Color of Magic's the first one in the --" Hive waves towards the shelves. "Man I don't even have a fucking. Job. Or money." << Home. Maybe -- home would be best. Can we -- home. Please. Now. >>
Ash nods and gets to his feet, selecting the book off the shelf. "Okay. Thanks, guys." He draws in a deep breath, sparing the pair another look before starting to back away. "I'll let you know? You want an email? I can totally do those on my phone these days. I'll see you around." He gives a little bow and turns to head for the register with his chosen literature.
"You've got your own business with a real-live client an' everythin', Hive. Think that counts as a job." Micah's arm squeezes briefly at Hive's shoulders. "Yeah, an' if y'come up with any ideas for the common areas, send 'em out t'the e-mail group! Still in the stage where ideas can make their way in easily." He waves to Ash as the other man heads off. "Have a good night an' enjoy the book!" << We can go home, sure. I'll drive you. Did y'wanna buy any of these first? >>
"I mean, eventually I'm going to have to actually sit down with you and figure out what you want. Dunno when you have time for that. Some time soon I guess." Hive jerks his chin upwards at Ash, and struggles up to his feet." << Want to buy all of these. Dying anyway, I get to have more vices now and make stupid decisions, right? >> He starts collecting his small fortress of books into his arms, eventually using his sweatshirt to bundle them into.
"Okay, Hive, sure. I'll set up a time. My schedule's pretty free if I don't get work in the morning. I'll text ya. And thanks, Micah. I'll do that. Promise." Ash gives another nod and a half hearted smile and turns to continue on.
Another little wave accompanies Ash's exit. << Here, let me carry those. >> Micah reaches for the sweatshirt bundle with intent to bring the books to the register. While he manages to squash it enough that it isn't a direct speaking sort of thought, << Actually dying? >> echoes sickly in his mind at Hive's words. << Of all the things y'can splurge on, I think books're one of the least bad. >>
"See you." Hive relinquishes his bundle to Micah, just shrugging at the mental question. << Just. Want to go home. >>
Micah just nods, gathering the heavy bundle of books closer for the walk to the register. << Okay. Okay, hon. When you're ready. We'll just get you home. >>