Takes place simultaneously with hiving Dusk.
<NYC> BoM Safehouse - Lower East Side
Tucked away off a little-used side street in the Lower East Side, sandwiched between a youth drop-in center and a taqueria, this narrow three-story townhouse has very little to catch the eye. Boarded-up windows, a door peeling its paint, shabby grubby brickface; from the outside it does not look like much.
Inside someone has gone to great lengths to renovate the building into something more habitable. It isn't glamorous but it is comfortable, old furniture dragged in, the place generally swept clean. The first floor holds a large living room, a smaller dining room, a spacious kitchen, a half-bathroom. There are three bedrooms and a full bathroom on the second floor; the attic is just a large empty space crammed full of boxes with a window out to the large flat roof.
The basement, much like the attic, consists of a lot of empty space. A bare concrete floor, no windows, occasional poles running up to the ceiling. A tiny half-bathroom down here, too. Not a whole lot else.
The safehouse is relatively quiet, as morning edges up towards lunchtime around the safehouse, many people snuck off -- perhaps to work or school or whatever tasks may occupy their days; perhaps just to enjoy the beautiful weather that's taken over the city, lately.
They're getting a pair of visitors, now. Flicker and Hive are familiar faces around here -- Flicker's moreso on Friday nights, but Hive's a lot more since Melinda moved in and especially the past few days, frequently /hoversome/ around the new baby. The telepath is leaning very heavily on his best friend as he's escorted up the stairs towards Mel's room, deposited just outside the door before Flicker promptly -- vanishes. Blip-blip-blip to continue away up the stairs further. Ignoring the attic sign entirely as he disappears.
Hive's knock comes mentally rather than audibly, a shiver of touch out of care for potentially-sleeping infants, pressing up against Melinda's in heavy squeezing. << Yo. >>
The mind on the other side of the door - well, the adult mind anyway - is torn between being grump and wonderment at the little mind beside her, the child's secrets locked away for the time being. Mel stiffens a little at the squeeze, but the familiar touch is becoming more and more welcome and expected... and appreciated. There's only a moment or two of pause before the door opens carefully, admitting Hive inside.
The small green one is swaddled in a mint blanket with blue dots, laying in the cosleeper as it allows for people to get in and out of the bed that dominates the room without shaking her too much. A small yellow jersey knit cap covers her head. She is asleep at the moment, her mind swimming through the luscious darkness of the room she left behind, but now it's mingled with smells of the outside world in mostly pleasant ways.
Melinda is trying for dressed and alert today, tinged with tired as she is getting up throughout the night to pull the child over for a nursing and then push her aside for more sleep - never mind the inevitable diaper changing. She's dressed, face washed and wearing a blue and red plaid button down shirt that seems like it is hanging in there through sheer effort. It is a maternity shirt, but with her belly diminishing and her breasts engorged (the nursing bra is not helping), the poor thing is a bit tight on top. She's wearing loose cotton pants, given everything on her lower torso is just a bit sore still. She reaches out and pulls Hive in for a hug, before turning and giving him an arm to lean on as she guides him to the bed. << hey. >>
Hive is looking away as the door opens, down the hall and up towards the attic stairs. There's quiet from there, at least, but worry still written into his expression regardless -- something else, too, a distance, a concentration that narrows his eyes until he turns to curl a bony arm around Melinda and squeeze tight. He's finally been making headway in utilizing the internet to replenish his wardrobe; the blue-painted hedgehog t-shirt he's wearing is familiar though this one is bright and newer than his old worn favorite one had been.
He leans against Mel as he continues into the room, eyes only barely glancing towards the infant although his /mind/ brushes out to touch hers, feel hers, take habitual (protective) stock of her presence there.
<< Found some spring outside. >> Hive sounds pleased about this, though there's an odd strain to his mental voice somewhere beneath the sledgehammering and beneath the /pleased/. << Lot of it, really. >>
<< It's about time, >> Mel replies, a small smile tugging at her lips. << I can't wait until (the kid) is old enough to go out and enjoy some of it. >> The child's unofficial name is less 'kid' these days, slowly growing more to incorporate her face, her little hands, her lovely petals, her smell (both good and bad), but also grows less tangible. 'Kid' is slowly becoming a pronoun and less and less a word. She presses a quick kiss to the side of his head as she helps him sit down, then kneels at his feet to start removing his shoes. She stops though, looking up at him. << You okay? >> She settles into a sitting position from her squat, letting one leg stretch out in front of her again.
<< Should see the Commons. >> Hive shares it in mental imagery, though, from just this morning, foundations set and the skeletons of buildings starting to rise. It -- admittedly doesn't actually look like much that's inspiring, a lot of barebones framing, a lot of equipment, a lot of machinery, nothing that is remotely close to being /houses/ yet. But. Here, too, he's happy with the progress, a mental /feeling/ that it is on track and as it should be.
He helps where he can with the shoe-removal, toeing his boots off once they're loosened and pulling his legs up onto the bed. His eyes close, a small shiver briefly tightening his shoulders. << Okay, >> he agrees, after a -- delay. << Yeah. We're okay. >> The sledgehammer-thud of his voice has been softened, blunted somewhat by some quiet background /addition/ that is layered, softly, beneath his own words; his focused /strain/ is gone and replaced instead by a new voice layered in quiet growl underneath his own.
His hand rests on Mel's shoulder, fingers squeezing in gently. "... should be quieter," he murmurs softly, eyes opening to turn up to the ceiling. "Around here. Now. A little easier on all of you. Think he's -- needed some. Company."
"Oh, Dusk," Melinda replies quietly, a note of sadness in her tone. There's so much desire - a strong want to be with him - she's got someone else to think of now. "I'm glad you're going to keep him company." She gets up to move to the bed, sitting beside Hive and looking up toward the ceiling. There's some regret that her child's cries have been causing so many problems. Responsibility for making things bad. She looks over toward the sleeping babe and sighs quietly. She takes the time to refocus, to reexamine what she remembers of what Hive showed her of the Commons, moistening her lips and closing her eyes. "The Commons look wonderful." There's praise in her thoughts.
Hive's hand slides from one of Mel's shoulders to the other, looping around behind her back as he leans in against her. His cheek presses against the side of her head, his fingers unsteady where they curl against her shoulder. "Kids cry. S'kinda how they do. /You/'re not making things bad. Kid's not making things bad. Dusk's just -- bad. Hope it'll be better when he's got someone to be a /person/ with again."
His head turns, lips pressing in against the side of Melinda's head. They can be felt curling up into a smile. "S'getting there. Be good to have an actual home where --" This trails off, his hand slowly dropping, fingers brushing down the back of her shoulder, down against her back. "... fucking hard for everyone. Stuck in here."
"Yeah, I know," Melinda whispers in reply, bringing an arm around to hold Hive to her, inhaling the scent of his hair while they are cheek to cheek. Her eyes remain closed for the kiss, her lips pulling back into a brighter smile seconds after she feels his do so. Her head turns just a little closer, very aware of where his mouth is. "Stuck is unfortunately the best way to put it. I am intensely grateful that I am allowed to stay here, but I'm living on charity and I know it. I'm the houseguest that won't leave - And Dusk - I can't even imagine how hard it's been for him." She clenches her jaw and exhales through flared nostrils, tamping down the feelings to try to relax again. "But soon. We'll have homes of our own again."
"Been hard." Hive's voice is tired with this acknowledgment. He quiets, after this, and there's a slow press of his mind up against hers, strong and steady; it's stable counterpoint to the weaker exhausted wilt of his body where it sags in at her side. His eyes tip up towards the ceiling. "Trying to find him again," he finally says, "but it's -- he's not. I mean, he's /in/ there but --" He swallows, pushing this thought down with a slow deep breath.
Then quiet again, arm just curled around her. His head turns, eyes flicking over towards the co-sleeper to watch the child sleep, for a while. "Could get you unstuck, till then. Find an arrangement less stressful for everyone. It's really just -- what, a month and a half till your house'll be ready. Do better putting you and the kid in a -- jesus. Somewhere you can just not worry about it."
<< Your kept woman? >> The thought is not accusatory, but amused, her mind drifting to harlequin romances and gilded cages. Not her style. Joking fades as a notion grows in seconds later, the idea that none of this is really about her. Melinda's mind is starting to adjust, incorporating the second life and her needs into her own basic needs. No longer is she a single entity, free to take risks and struggle however she pleases. She's a mother. A stable home life is needed - a new apartment, a different place to live, where everyone who lives there /wants/ to be living with an infant, despite how they may regret that decision around 3 and 4 am.
Melinda nods slowly, then a little quicker, "yeah, we probably should. But you've got to move in, too, you and Flicker. I don't want to take an apartment from you if you're still going to be in your office. It will be... unbalanced. I'm sure you can find a two or three bedroom place. I'll chip in, too, however I can. Maybe I'll just cook for Flicker."
<< I /am/ building you a house, >> Hive answers with a return teasing amusement, and in this answered thought the designs of the house they'd worked on together are extravagantly plated over in gold leafing, draped in velvets, crusted in jewels. "But it's just a -- fucking. Month and change, I could." He scrunches up his face, frowning. Eventually shifting to dig his phone out of his pocket and switch it on. "Cuz shitty as a lot of things have been, /business/ has been decent."
His brows furrow at her insistence they move in, too, but his eyes shift back over to the co-sleeper. He swipes at his phone's screen, poking his tongue up beneath his upper lip. "... be good to be around, the trip's. Rough and Flicker can't bring me all the time, he's got. Shit to do. And," he admits with a crooked smile. "Be good to have somewhere with. A shower. And. Actual food cooked in an actual kitchen."
<< If it were just me, I might actually think you were. >> Melinda counters Hive's thoughts of Mel's luxury apartment with the notion of Jim, tastefully naked in the velvet, dripping with diamonds. She is not, however, suggesting Jim move in at this time. There is a large flowerpot in the back of her mind where she keeps him when he's not around. "Yeah? Okay. A month and a half where you pick up the tab will be fine. By that time, whether the Commons are done or not," she knows some delays in supplies could hold things up, "I'll at least be back to work. I'll have to to talk to Tove about it, too." Her former roommate and nanny-to-be is another factor. Mel bends a leg and slides back a little on the mattress before shuffling over to get behind Hive, wrapping her arms around his waist as he starts playing with his phone. "mmm. yes. And if you can find a place with a huge bathtub and on site laundry, I'll love you forever."
<< Yeesh. >> Hive's mental image shudders, changes; now the diamonds dripping from Jim are fruits, jewel-bright pomegranate arils shedding onto the floor. He settles back into her arms, shifting to get as comfortable -- for her -- as his bone-thin form can manage with all its sharp angles. Paging through airbnb listings for what apartments might be picked up lease-free and immediately rentable. "... how do you feel about Brooklyn," he wonders absently thoughtful. "Or maybe East Harlem? S'laundry in all these places." He's turning his phone to show her pictures as he shifts through images.
Melinda is still extra padded in the front, so Hive's boniness doesn't bother her much. She hooks her chin around to the other side of his shoulder and watches as he flips through ads. "Is that half a canoe? Yes. that's half a canoe. How ridiculous." She's amused though, her mind noting the pros and cons of each place. Fireplace will be terrible once there's a mobile baby, but as she's not even rolling over, that's not an issue. The big open space will be good. Does that spiral staircase really go nowhere? What's the point of that? Ugh. The last one has terrible pictures. What is the photographer trying to show here? The corner of the wall? The fact that there are hallways? It just feels so cramped. "Well, the place in Brooklyn would be the most kid friendly, but I don't think that's going to work for anyone who isn't sedentary. The first one would be my second choice. The Half Canoe."
"Brooklyn --" Hive flips back, lips pursed. "Kensington or Greenpoint?" He scrolls through the pictures for each again, lowering his hand once his fingers start to shake. "Wouldn't be so bad if we just rented Flicker a car for the month. But yeah East Harlem'd be a good -- good." His eyes scrunch up, head briefly bowing. "-- Good. With school. Easier for him to just take me by the site when he's on his way to work after class." His forefinger is tapping quickly at the side of his phone. "We could have it by tomorrow." His eyes fall back to the screen of the phone. "... wonder what they did with the other half of the canoe."
"Shark attack, I'd wager. Ask the twins." Melinda grins and closes her eyes. "Is it terrible that the idea of actually moving again has me feeling like crawling under a rock and hiding?" She's also feeling guilt at the idea of telling Kay thank you very much for the help, but she's going to go somewhere better now. At least that blonde woman will be slightly more at ease. And Jim. What the fuck to do with Jim? He did say that he wanted them (Mel and Hive) to cling to each other (ugh, phrasing) to support their child and to name her, but will he feel slighted if they move in together? Jim does still have a home of his own and a roommate, poor kid. "I feel like I'm running away from my parents' house."
"Only going to do it /again/ in a month and a half, too." Look at Hive pointing out all the CHEER. "Better not sit in the canoe or anything. Never know when sharks might attack. Had one in my office just yesterday. Kid was mad as a fucking --" He frowns. "Mad. Thing. Flicker'll help you move." He's just volunteering this.
His shoulders clench up hard at the mention of Jim, a prickle-ripple of mental tension coiling against Mel's mind. << /Is/ it a good idea? >> His words are uncomfortable, now. "Us moving in, too?" He's halfway through the rental options, shifting to take his wallet out of his pocket so he can get his credit card. But just staring at the numbers without keying them in. "What if he's --" His teeth grind, slowly. "I mean, /you/ really need a fucking place. And the kid. Somewhere away from here. But I --" << have my office. I don't even know -- >>
Melinda squeezes her eyes shut against the pressure and holds him a little tighter, taking a moment before speaking. "Yes. I'm sure it's a good idea. He's worried about you." She shares part of the conversation from yesterday, the desire to keep him in their family, the way he spoke of when he saw the four of them together for the first time. SHe lets out a quiet breath and turns to press a kiss to Hive's neck. "I don't think anyone's especially pleased you're living in your office." She's not. He's not as close to a bathroom as he needs, let alone a shower. And food? Take out and order in food just doesn't settle on a unsettled stomach like something prepared by hand. Less fried, more baked or cooked on a stove top. "He'll be over all the time, just like he is now. From his point of view, he'll be able to check on both of us... all three of us at once." There's a stubborn part of her that she doesn't quite voice, but Hive hears anyway, clear as day, << I'm not taking the place without you. >>
"It's a /gorgeous/ fucking office," Hive protests, but there's wry amusement in it. His head tips back against her shoulder, neck bared to the kiss and his shoulders relaxing again. His fingers curl tighter around his phone, other hand wrapping to rest over Mel's arm. "He's just. Been pissed before about --" << us, >> ripples through her mind with a vague conceptual uncertainty about what that word even /covers/. "And then he fucking -- nearly /died/ and I just came in and --" His eyes are sliding sideways again; his voice grows /softer/ even as it grows more agitated, quiet as the baby sleeps. "And I don't even gorram know where I belong here. I've never known. I just /love/ you. And her. And everything was chaos and I wanted something to be not-chaos for you. And that's fucking -- stupid because /jesus/ it's not like /I'm/ exactly --" He exhales sharply. "He was gone. And now he's back. And I don't know where I -- fit. Into. Any of this."
"You belong right here," Melinda replies, pressing another kiss to his neck, holding him close and not letting go. There's a churning of thoughts, a mixed up slurring of past events, how what might have been between them was interrupted by Jim, by Shelby, how things fell apart between her and Jim anyway, how things were never right and how she can barely speak around him without him getting angry -- or used to. "He's going to be part of this because he's part of her," thoughts turning to their little sapling. "You..." precious kisses in a kitchen now gone, the way he came and sat with her at work, the way he is there, solid in her mind and how he shares their child's thoughts, "are a part of her too. You've been there from the beginning and you're going to continue to be there - be here with her as long as you can." She wants him around a long time, but she doesn't care if it's short. This - everything about this moment right here - is important.
She pauses for a while, her thoughts returning and snagging on the fact that he just said he loves her, dwelling on it, unable to push past it into rational thought. Not just yet. At length, she takes a deep breath and stirs herself back to the point of the conversation and the pressing moment at hand. "I love you and I'm not letting this go by again. Not this time. I think he understands that - but if you need to talk to him about how to maintain your friendship with him, then that's what you have to do."
Hive breathes in deep, and looks down at his phone again. He flips his wallet open, pulling out his credit card to sit it on his leg, finishing the rest of his reservation in silence. "Okay. Should hear back from the guy about if he's accepting our reservation within -- probably the hour. Can move in tomorrow if he does." His eyes tip up towards the ceiling, briefly. "All of us. I'll tell Flicker to get a -- fucking. Van. For. Moving." His head turns, pressing in for a moment against Melinda's neck. << (belong here.) >> He echoes this concept in soft consideration, turning it over to finally accept it, agree with it. << Guess we're doing this, then. >>
"We don't have to move much. Just the kid's supplies, minimal clothes. Majority of my stuff is in storage and the place is furnished. I'll let Tove decide if he wants to upgrade to my bed or not." Mel's head shifts as she makes more room for Hive against her neck. << I guess so, >> she replies, amusement filling the background of her thoughts. Still, as they sit there in the quiet, other thoughts start to swirl and merge, some small hope connecting him with home.
Hive tucks his credit card and wallet away. Shuts off his phone to set it on the bed beside them. He's quiet, too, just leaning back into Mel in the stillness of the room, eyes closed and his breathing slow. << Well, home. >> This comes with another drifting thought of the rising skeleton of the Commons. << We're, >> comes tired, if rather pleased, << going to build that. >>
<< and it's going to be glorious. >> Mel replies, melting against him a little more.
And like most quiet moments for new parents, this one is interrupted by a soft noise that heralds wakefulness. It's a half noise, a cry that might have been, a thought that was in a dream pushed forward as the body begins to wake. She takes a moment letting her senses take stock to really see what the issue is, then a little breath, and then a longer sob. She's wet. Oh, that isn't pleasant. Why does this wet thing exist! Someone make it go away! Where is the warm dry feeling? Where?
"Mmm." Hive's smile is quick and -- interrupted by a brief glance over towards the formerly-sleeping child. Then up towards the ceiling. His eyes close. "Gloriously full of soggy diapers." He stretches out his legs like he is testing them, caaautiously. Hmm. Gauging their ability to actually stand up. It takes him a thoughtful moment of uncertain assessment to decide, "I think I can actually get this one this time."
"I shall watch a master at work then." Melinda grins and moves further back on the mattress, flopping backwards to watch. "All the stuff is in the nightstand."
"Master. /Shit/." Hive just snorts as he struggles to his feet, heading slowly for the nightstand. "M'I getting scored, I should've studied more. Guess I'll be getting plenty of practice now, though."
"Master of shit, eh? You don't say." Melinda eyebrow waggles. "You've probably done more diaper changing, but I'm in training. I'll kick your ass in another month or two."
"I /am/ Asian," Hive muses, "if movies have taught me anything it's that that qualifies me to train white people in all /kinds/ of stuff. S'gotta be a montage at some point though. But you're not gonna become the master until at least the third installment in the series."
"Fine, fine, but can I request some outrageous hair metal for the background?" Melinda rolls onto her side, smiling.
Hive just snorts, at this. Runs his hand over his very short crop of black hair. "Mmhmm. But all actual having of hair is on you." Digging out supplies from the nightstand, he turns aside to get to work.
"Okay, you change diapers, I'll headbang."