From X-Men: rEvolution
Dramatis Personae

Hive, Melinda, Jackson, Micah

23 September 2013

Business news from Hive and (accidentally) Melinda


<NYC> 303 {Lighthaus} - Village Lofts - East Village

This apartment is cheerful, in its way -- bright and airy, its floor plan open and a plethora of windows providing it with an abundance of light. The tiny entrance hall opens into a living room, small, though its sparse furniture and lack of clutter give it a more open feel. The decor is subdued and minimalist; black and white is the dominant theme, with occasional splashes of deep crimson to offset the monochrome, though of late myriad bright-coloured dragonflies swarm across the living room wall. The couch and armchair are upholstered in black corduroy, the low wide coffee table central is black wood and glass-topped, and a few large pillowy beanbags provide additional seating by the large windows that dominate the back wall. Towards the back, a couple of doors lead off into bedrooms and bathroom, and to the right, the kitchen's tile is separated from the living room's dark hardwood floors by black countertops. Above the bedroom to one side, there is higher space; a ladder climbs up to a lofted area looking down on the living room. Standing in front of the partition between living and cooking area is a large fish tank: one lone Betta, blood-red, swims regally among several species of black and silver fish. A hallway beyond the kitchen leads further into the apartment. Another bathroom stands just into the hall and the farthest door leads to the apartment's final bedroom, the door usually kept shut to hold in the acrid fumes of turpentine and paints from within.

KNOCK KNOCK KNOCK. It's just sort of a formality (for all Hive's thudding bang on the door counts as 'formal'), because immediately thereafter his key is turning in the lock. He has a large paper takeout bag in one hand, a backpack hanging off his shoulder; he's dressed in typical shabby fashion, faded jeans and workboots and his favorite brown blue-painted-hedgehog t-shirt. "You aren't cooking yet, are you? I brought food."

It must be visit Jackson and Micah day, because Melinda is coming out of the elevator just as Hive starts banging loudly against the door. She pauses her steps and walks a little slower, highly amused by the man's behavior. She continues walking over, appearing at his shoulder when he opens the door. She's wearing thick purple tights under an orange skirt, with a blue tunic over the top. She's got a knit wrap jacket over one arm in cabled brown. She is wearing brown clogs that make her a couple inches taller, and has a purse over one shoulder, hanging down near her hip. "Hey, Hive," she announces herself quietly. "Anyone home?"

Jackson is not, in fact, cooking yet. He is perched on his stool in front of his easel, a chaotic swirl of light in hues of pinks and reds and smoky black tendrils of shadow clouding the air around him; the colours match the current palette he balances on his right arm. The painting on his canvas is half-finished, a woman with large black wings though her features are not yet defined; she's crouched over a bloodstained gurney, though the patient strapped onto it is currently also only a featureless silhouette. On the windows beyond his easel there are photographs stuck to the glass; Rachel, tall and dark and black-winged, sometimes alone, sometimes with Ines.

Jax is far more colourful than Hive, unsurprisingly, in purple yoga pants and a grey t-shirt striped in rainbow strips of fabric. His hair has grown back to a short scruff of fuzz, currently dyed to a deep purple shade that does not match the dark scruff of fuzz that also shadows his jaw. In his mind, right now, there is mostly just a riot of colour shifting thoughtfully through various incarnations of a finished portrait, though somewhere beneath that there are a host of memories of Rachel quietly informing the choices he makes. "-- Huh?" It takes him a significant delay before he even seems to /notice/ the new presences in the room, the questions going unanswered mostly because they did not really register in his mind. "Whoa hi you're -- people." Most of the shift of illusion that accompanies actually /noticing/ visitors is subtle, small touch-ups to hide the fading stippled scars along his face and arm, though the addition of glittery purple eyeshadow and nailpolish is brighter. "Hi! Sorry uhm -- I was -- you're -- what time is it what's in your bag hiiii, Mel."

Micah is settled on the couch, already in after-work attire of faded jeans and a powder blue smiling Totoro face T-shirt. Beside him sits a ball of multicolour yarn that fades repeatedly along its length from yellow to blue, with shades of green blending between. Several inches of rectangular fabric hang from his wooden knitting needles, which are clacking away steadily until the knocking at the door. Counts of stitches scatter out of his surface thoughts as he pauses at the end of a row and jabs the knitting needles into the yarn ball. This whole is tucked into a bag to keep it safe from the threat of playful catpaws. Micah looks up from the discarded crafting with a wave. “Hihi, Hive! And also Mel! What's up? Other than food; that smells amazing. Come in! Let me get drinks an'...plates? What dishes do we need?” He is already on his feet and moving toward the kitchen.

Hive shrugs at the question of time. "Dinnertime," he answers unhelpfully, pausing to give Mel a quick one-armed hug before he shucks off his shoes and heads inside. "Nobody's home," he adds to her, setting down the bag on the kitchen counter. "And it's from that Taiwanese place down near his studio. What're you knitting? -- Who the hell needs dishes? Grab some chopsticks, s'all good. I brought my own." He pulls a pair out of his pocket, clicking them together indicatively. "That gonna be Rachel? Couldn't you do her like. Cheerful, what's with you and blood?"

Melinda squeezes Hive back when he hugs her and follows him in, slipping out of her shoes at the door and closing it behind her. "Hi Jax, Hi Micah." She lifts a hand to wave, pausing to stare at the picture on the easel. Her cheeks grow a little red and she turns away. "I'm fine with water, Micah, if you're getting drinks." She moves in to where Hive is pulling out the food and takes a whiff of the air as she starts pulling out cartons. "Mmmm. Did you bring more than just chopsticks for you?" She peeks inside the bag for the restaurant's version of disposable, bamboo eating utensils.

"Juice, maybe, hon? Whatever -- whatever kind we got." Jax is for the moment returning his attention to his easel, putting on a few more touches though his split attention now means the drift of colour around him has faded away. "Cheerful, what's more positive than savin' a life? I'm doin' her in her element." << Think I got bloodstains on my /brain/ by now, >> answers Hive more wryly. "S'gonna be Rachel. I'm starting a -- s'a project for school but m'hopin' to put on a show later on in the year. Portraits'a mutants -- can't quite think of a good name though." His words come with a touch of distraction as he works. "How y'been, Mel?"

“This is why I asked what we needed. Got plenty of chopsticks in the silverware drawer.” Micah pulls out three sets of not-disposable bamboo eating utensils before troubling a cabinet for four glasses. “Got limeade in the pitcher right now,” he answers Jax, the statement serving double duty as an offer to Hive. He fills a glass with water and two more with juice before looking back to the telepath for a request. “It'll prob'ly be less creepy when the people have /faces/. S'always a little uncanny when they're still,” his hand waves in front of his own face, “all blurry smudges.”

"Did bring a second pair in case Micah wanted shrimp," Hive admits, "you can have it instead, if you're in a carnivorous mood." He draws another pair out of his pocket; his own are steel, long and plain and silver that he offers out to Melinda. "Name? Depends what kind of angle you're going for, I guess." He starts pulling containers out of the bag; scallion pancakes and cartons of rice and plastic-lidded tubs of garlicky eggplant, bitter melon, ma po tofu, one of chicken and shrimp in some gingery sauce. "Limeade sounds delicious." He unslings his backpack from his shoulder, dropping it onto a stool at the counter. "Human Nature," he suggests to Jax, and then, "s'funny I came here to ask you for help with a name, too. If I started a company what should I name it?"

"Oh, I've been okay. Everyone's getting sick and I'm just fighting it off as much as I can. Lots of tea and juice and all that, you know. Plenty of rest too." Melinda takes the water and takes a long sip, a small pleased sound in the back of her throat. She then accepts the pair of of chopsticks Hive offers her, brows rising. << Hey, I have to do that... >> she considers unconsciously as she looks over at him, prying open the chicken and shrimp. "Well, it depends on what kind of company it would be. I'm kind of a fan of name... puns." Terrible name puns.

Jackson looks away from his easel to Hive, a bright smile flashing across his face. "Huh. Could be. I like that'n." He straightens with a widening of his eye in abrupt surprise, lowering his brush slowly. "Whoa, hey! Are you startin' your own company? That's excitin'! -- That's excitin', right?" He bites down on his lip, looking at Micah for confirmation of this. "... maybe it's scary. Is it excitin' or scary?"

Micah pours a third glass of limeade (handily emptying the pitcher) and tucks the extra pair of chopsticks back into the drawer before carrying the lot over to the table. “Is that ma po tofu?” he asks with some eagerness. “Mel can totally claim the meat-things if there's ma po tofu.” His eyebrows bounce upward at Hive's request for company names. “Y'thinkin' of joinin' the ranks of us small businessmen, Hive? I think...don't most architectural firms just use the last names or combine the first letters of the last names of the architects? Seems like most of 'em have boring names like that that I can think of.” He settles into a chair once drinks and utensils are distributed, chuckling at Jax's question. “Yes? I'm gonna go with 'yes'.”

"Ma po tofu, eggplant with -- garlic sauce. Bitter melon in -- whateverthefuck. I don't know. some other sauce. Black bean? Flicker said you like it." Hive ambles to the table to take a glass, not yet sitting down. "Yeah but come on that's -- boring as fuck. Plus I'm the only architect and I don't even have initials. H doesn't stand so well on its own." And then, in case that didn't give it away: "An architecture firm," he answers Melinda. "And I don't know I seem to have started a company without fucking knowing it." There's a distinctly /irritated/ tone to his voice, here. "Gorram Io took care of all the legal shit /for/ me. Even leased me a fucking /office/. All I have to do is fill in a name and sign the fucking paperwork. I don't know the /first/ fucking thing about running a business though. Micah how the fuck do you run a business?" He wears a dark scowl as he taps the rim of the limeade glass against his mouth. "Nobody's sick here. Yet. Do you come bearing plague?" He looks Melinda over scrutinizingly, as if this could be seen in her clothing. << Do -- what? >> cracks sharply into Melinda's mind.

Melinda jumps a little, as she normally does when not expecting a telepathic response. << Fuck, no. Not talking about that. You just threw some huge news out there. I'm not going to distract anyone with talk of a satellite branch of some other thing I might name. >> "A firm of your own? That's pretty amazing. Don't you think that if you started it without knowing it that you'll be able to maintain it? I suppose you'll need to hire an accountant to make sure you don't fuck with the government and get shut down that way." Melinda picks at the chicken in the open container and chews quietly and thoughtfully. << Name it something simple in Thai. It'll sound impressive in an English speaking country. Well, if it's something we don't butcher in pronunciation. >> "I don't have the plague. I just... have this continuing almost sick feeling. Don't worry. I'm taking care of myself."

"Io -- got you a company?" Jax has been lifting his brush to canvas again, but he lowers his hand with a lift of his eyebrows. "Did -- did you /want/ a company?" His teeth scrape against his lower lip again, wiggling at a lipring. "Y'don't /sound/ a lot like you wanted a company. Did y'have plans for what t'do with the clinic done?" He sets his palette down on his stool, looking over Melinda. "That ain't fun. Y'want some tea? Ginger, maybe?"

“Oh, garlic eggplant, too. Good on Flicker for food ordering perfection. I've never quite worked out gettin' the sorta silky-melty texture t'eggplant the way they do at Asian restaurants.” Micah claims one of the rice cartons for sharing with Jax, immediately snagging a chunk of eggplant with his chopsticks afterward. “Io...set up a company /for/ you? Like, as a surprise? He does.../really/ like you.” He can't help but smirk at this last assertion, popping the eggplant into his mouth a little too late to hide his amusement. “Um... A /lot/ of legal nonsense. Bless the man if he handled all that for you in advance. Other than that, yeah. Y'wanna have a good accountant an' lawyer on hand t'keep your nose clean. An' then you end up purchasin' more kinds of insurance an' havin' more kinds of inspections done than you ever knew existed. Eventually y'get t'do what it is y'started the business for, though. An' that's pretty amazin'. /Did/ y'want this?” He looks a little concerned at Hive's tone, as well. “Oh, Jax, hon. We've got that new thing of ginger-mint in the cabinet. Could make a whole pot if everyone is in a tea mood? It's definitely hot tea weather again.”

"Yeah, trust me," Hive replies with a grimace to the mention of Io liking him, "I fucking know. But the man's goddamn fucking crazy of course I don't want a fucking company." His hand scrubs through his hair, lingering at the side of his head to trace his fingers against his skull. "I didn't have plans for after. I don't fucking know. I hadn't had an actual gig since --" His teeth clench, grinding briefly together. "Not really a ton of firms looking to hire someone like me. Between the Clinic and the Hellfire jobs though I have enough saved up to live off a while."

His smile cuts thinly across his face. "Or enough to sink into a business for a while while I try to get it solvent. But I didn't -- fucking -- who just /gets/ someone a fucking /company/?" His head shakes sharply. "Got a job lined up for me, too, if I do this. One of the clinic's donors, some -- fucking -- tech company's new office upstate. I just --" He leans back against a kitchen wall, his eyes closing. "Ngh." He takes a slow sip of limeade, voice cutting back to Melinda as he drinks. << What? No. Look I'm already distracted, satellite branch of what-the-fuck-are-you-talking-about? >>

<< Fine. Hanna and I are going to open sort of a coffee shop, speak easy cafe where mutants, physical or otherwise, will be free to relax and enjoy life like normal. Like they should. Not going to advertise, not going to draw attention, but just let word of mouth work its magic. >> Melinda looks over at the other two as they start talking tea. "Oh, now that you mention tea, that sounds lovely. Ginger-Mint? Do you want me to make it? I can, you know." She sets down her chopsticks carefully and heads into the kitchen quietly. "Hive, I think you're being crotchety because you don't like how this whole thing came about. I can't even tell if you've made up your mind about whether or not you want this thing. Why don't you pretend someone has only suggested it and hasn't really forced it and see if it appeals?" << It'd be a satellite of Happy Cakes and perhaps Montagues - but well, I don't actually want to talk to the owner about that just yet. >>

"Ginger-mint /does/ sound kinda great." Jackson answers this first, as the subject requiring the least amount of thought. He watches Hive's posture, still worrying restlessly at his lip ring. "It -- is kinda a huge leap t'take without askin' you," he agrees, and then tips his brush towards Melinda in acknowledgment of her suggestion. "Mel's right. Might be hard t'even tell if you're overwhelmed cuz this ain't a step y'want to take, or overwhelmed cuz'a how y'got shoved into it." He's leaving the others to the tea-and-food business, picking up his palette to return -- slowly -- to his painting. He does manage a crooked smile. "He's already got you a office an' everything? Guess that cuts out goin' the workin' outta a van route."

Micah mixes some tofu into the top bit of his rice, shovelling the resultant combination into his mouth. "Y'might wanna take some time t'figure out what y'want before y'sign the paperwork on this thing. If y'don't /want/ it, you're not obligated t'/do/ it. Gonna hate life tryin' t'run a business if it weren't what y'wanted. Hard enough gettin' started when it's your own stupid plan." His grin goes a bit wry at the van comment. "Though it might be nice t'get somethin' steady goin'. Like I said...should just think about it a bit." He /almost/ gets up to stop Mel from making the tea, but decides against it. "Top shelf of the tea cabinet, right in front since it just got put in there," he directs instead, well aware that Mel knows where the rest of the tea accoutrements live. "/Anythin'/ sounds great there, Mr. Artist-man. Y'actually need t'eat a thing." He uses the newly-emptied top portion of the rice container to gather small amounts of tofu, eggplant, and melon. Fetching the untouched glass of limeade, he carries the whole bunch over to Jax and sets the glass on a table near him. "Seriously. Food. Face." His chopsticks scoop out a mouthful of rice and veggies, offering it out to Jax.

"I don't know." Hive just sounds tired, now. "The clinic holds the office lease, anyway, next -- fucking. Year. So I won't have to work out of a van till after that." He pushes himself away from the wall, heading over to pluck out a shrimp from the meat dish, biting off half of it. "It's just a huge fucking commitment and I -- wasn't really planning to be --" This trails off as he eats the other half of the shrimp.

His eyes cut over to Melinda, eyebrows raising for a moment. << Seriously? That sounds -- >> He exhales a sharp breath. << Fucking suicidal, the hell is wrong with you people? Evolve stayed quiet, just relied on word of mouth, too, and look what happened there. This still a secret or you planning on telling them this crazy idea? >>

Melinda freezes up at the tea cabinet, hand wrapped around the tin, before slowly setting it down in front of her. << I planned on telling them at some point. >> She moves over and fills the tea pot with water before putting it on the stove. << I don't know what to say. It sounded like a good idea. We were also not going to have a thumping club with music and lights that draw attention. It was actually supposed to be a secret, low key thing. >> She starts getting out mugs and selects a pot. "Guys, tell Hive not to change the subject. We're commiserating with him about his new business venture."

"Oh -- sorry, I just --" Jackson blushes, setting his palette back down on the stool and leaning in to take the mouthful of food off Micah's chopsticks. "Food. Yes. Thank you." << Sir, >> doesn't actually make it into his words, though it's there in his tone as he takes the makeshift plate and pecks Micah lightly on the cheek. "Sometimes I get a little --" He gestures to his canvas. "Lost." He looks back to Hive as he takes his next bite. "Weren't plannin' to be what?" He blinks at Melinda's statement, tilting his head in puzzlement. "Change the subject?"

“Cuttin' out rent really /does/ help for startin' things quite a bit,” Micah admits with a somewhat sheepish expression. “Change the...weren't we still talkin' about that?” He looks confused for a moment, but gets near completely distracted by Jax. He doesn't say as much, but it is probably clear in the blush that times itself precisely with a widening grin. “Y'don't gotta take the 'starvin' artist' thing /literally/, y'know. 'Specially considerin' how many calories y'need t'go through. An' the days're gettin' shorter again.”

"Yeah it -- kind of feels like a pretty ridiculous gift except really it's actually saving them a bit of money," Hive admits with a snort. "It'd be more traditional to get a bonus when I finish a job like this but instead I'm getting --" He shrugs stiffly. The scowl that's been on his face eases, not quite a smile but definitely /gentler/ at Jax's reaction to Micah. He looks away from them, briefly, looking down to the floor instead. "You take good care of him." This is softer, almost to himself. "And I wasn't planning -- I don't know. Starting a business just kind of means -- putting down pretty solid roots for --" He is shoving food around with his chopsticks, not really picking up any. "I changed the subject in my /head/," he explains. "Sorry. Only Mel was in the loop." << I mean, fuck, it's a great idea. /Need/ a place to take over for what Evolve was. Just, uh. A great idea for /someone/ to do. Someone I don't know so I don't give a fuck when they get /killed/ for it. >>

"Sorry, guys. I didn't mean to be confusing." Melinda exhales moodily and loads up a basket with the tea of the evening and then heats the pot with water from the tap. "I guess I got a little flustered." She turns back to the room while she waits for the kettle to boil. "I'm probably harping on the subject, but if this business isn't what you want or isn't what you want right now, don't let this gift draw you in. Hell, if a guy offered me all the money in the world to have sex with him just for a couple weeks... well, it wouldn't necessarily be an easier decision to make, but at least it'd be a clear situation. -- and I'm not trying to say Iolaus is just trying to sleep with you. I just... Maybe I should just... stay out of it." << I have some pretty lousy role models in life. Everyone is always risking life and limb for the betterment of others in much more dangerous situations. It's only natural that I begin to think of this as safer. >> There is sarcasm in her tone, but it's affectionate and laced with concern.

"The days are gettin' shorter again," Jackson agrees with a faint furrow of brow and brief glance towards the window; this reminder comes with a sudden sick clench of worry that briefly clouds his thoughts, a flutter of stress over his already-packed schedule and how to maintain it with a reduced energy source and higher sleep need. He takes another bite of food, focusing on the flavourful eggplant for a moment to table worry-thoughts out of his mind for later. "So they gave you a company -- /as/ a bonus?" His blush returns at Hive's words, and he flicks a glance sidelong to Micah. "He does," is his softer warmer answer, though even /here/ there is a return of worry over not taking good enough care of /Micah/ in return, though this worry he makes a more conscious attempt to reject as maybe-untrue.

"-- Puttin' down roots? Here?" Jax's brows crease again. "But -- were you. Is that bad, were you plannin' on --" << dying oh God was he planning on dying >> "-- moving somewhere else?" His brain is not doing a good job at staying away from the worry, at the moment. "Wait, Io wouldn't -- uh. Would he? I mean I think he's probably just --" His nose wrinkles uncertainly and he shakes his head. "S'true though if it /ain't/ what you want you shouldn't feel obligated just cuz it's there. Maybe sit with it for a while? Don't make a decision on it till you've had a bit t'think."

The frown smoothes out as he looks between Melinda and Hive. "Oh? What's flusterin', s'this a new subject we should all be hearin' or -- wait we're not supposed to change it right. Um. But do you want to change it?"

“I’d say it’s pretty mutual,” Micah replies to Hive’s comment, letting his forehead bonk gently against Jax’s shoulder in a sort of lazy-comfortable gesture. “But definitely don’t go into this lightly. You’ve always got the right t’say no.” He raises an eyebrow at Mel, looking back and forth between her and Hive. “You guys havin’ a whole brain-chat over there? Need t’share with the class, or is this a private thing? I think we can handle two whole topics of conversation without gettin’ too lost, provided everybody’s talkin’ an’ not just mindin’ things at people.” He settles into a spot on the floor to side-sit, leaning up against Jax’s leg where it rests on the stool.

“It’s not like that,” Hive assures Melinda. “I mean, Io wants to fuck me but he’s not, uh, a giant tool this isn’t -- like that. It’s just a --” He nods at Jax. “Bonus, really. The clinic can’t really afford to just straight-up shell out the -- twenty grand or so that’d be customary. They have lawyers and accountants already working for them, though, and get a steep discount on rent because the landlord gets to write it off on taxes since they’re a nonprofit and -- then I end up with an office that’d be twice as expensive if it was in /my/ name, and a whole mess of paperwork I don’t have to pay lawyers to deal with because they took care of it for me. So it’s kind of a good deal for everyone? If --” His smile is small and wry. “If I want it.”

The smile fades at Jax’s overheard worry, and very faintly color drains from his complexion. His eyes flick to Jax through this snippet of thought -- but then drop away sharply to his food, guiltily. His external silence is, at least, handily explained by digging into the food again, taking a small container of the rice to pair with the meat. << I’m sorry, >> thuds hard and heavy into Jax’s mind, the same guilt weighing down the words. But externally, once he’s swallowed his chicken, a twitch of shrug and a crooked smile. “Pfft, dude, I barely ever know what I’m doing next weekend let alone next fucking year. I hadn’t planned that far ahead. But now I’d have to. You’re all right, though. Just need some time to think this over. But if I say yes, you motherfuckers have to help me think of a good name.”

He waves his hand towards Mel after this. “S’a secret but I don’t think it’s a secret from all of /you/. Up to Mel, though.” His mouth twitches, smile quick and crooked. “You’re right though. You do have shitty role models.”

"Hive managed to catch a stray thought," Mel begins turning back to dump out the tea pot when the kettle starts whistling. She fills the pot when everything is ready. "I've been trying to squash his curiosity ever since, not really share a private conversation." She takes a deep breath and walks the pot out to the table, heading back into the kitchen, and returning with cups. "But I might as well tell you, as you will hear about it eventually. I have been talking with Hanna and Jayna about branching out. Jayna's gotten into bean roasting and I've wanted to get in on that. We're going to open a roasting wholesaler somewhere in the city where we can roast to the clientel's specifications locally, to give the freshest cup of coffee. The shop will also have some kitchen capabilities so that we can do tastings with food - given all of our backgrounds." She pauses and looks to Hive for a moment. "But all of that is a legitimate business to be as used for a front for a new coffee house for mutants, with a secret speakeasy set up."

Jax’s smile warms, again, at Micah’s answer, /one/ worry at least briefly quelled; the warmth continues through his next bites of food. He drops his other hand when Micah sits, fingers scritching absently in the other man’s hair.

His fingers freeze, though, stilling against Micah’s scalp, other hand pausing halfway to delivering a slice of bitter melon to his mouth. << Oh. >> For a brief moment there is not much in his mind but worry and guilt, at Hive’s answer; it takes a deep breath and a conscious push to shove these things aside in order to focus on Hive rather than his own guilt. << You don’t gotta be sorry for feeling how you feel. Do you want to talk about this? With -- me? Or Flicker? Or -- a therapist. >>

He shakes his head, a smile curving tentatively back onto his face at Melinda’s explanation. “Oh. Oh, wow. Everyone’s startin’ businesses, looks like. A -- A coffeehouse for -- like Evolve?” His brows raise questioningly, though this just comes mentally with flickers of memory, Dusk and Sebastian’s burns in the wake of the Evolve attack. “Wow, that’s -- huge, that’s.” His teeth scrape against his lip briefly. “S’there anything we can do to help? That’s gonna take --” He hesitates. “-- what is it gonna take? Oh -- gosh, sorry, this was. You didn’t even really want to talk about this.” His cheeks flush darker, gaze dropping to his food.

“That is a pretty good deal, honestly. But the ‘if’ attached is also a really /big/ ‘if’.” Micah smiles back at Hive, once that grin appears. “You figure out what you’re doin’. Then we worry about all the pretty names an’ fonts an’ logos. One step at a time, man. But, yeah, feel free t’pick my brain on this one. Been there...more than been there, kinda livin’ there.” He waits with visible curiosity through Hive and Mel’s descriptions of their conversation, to hear what the big to-do is actually about. “Huh. Secret coffee...I /guess/ that’s slightly less dangerous than just bein’ open an’ caterin’ to that particular crowd in the way that Evolve did, or to a lesser extent, the way Hanna’s place does now. Maybe? I dunno how all this clandestine drink-servin’ really works.”

Micah nuzzles against Jax’s hand with the petting, but looks up with concern as the other man freezes in both that /and/ eating. The prolonged silence has him looking between /Jax/ and Hive this time, suspecting more silent conversation but not going so far as to comment on it. He sets his fingertips to tracing idly along Jax’s shin, speaking to Mel, instead. “You an’ Hanna an’ Jayna still at the talkin’ about it phase, or you actually pullin’ together the resources t’do this thing?”

“Imagine I probably will,” Hive answers Micah with a nod, “cuz fuck if I know anything about -- anything.” He finally takes a seat at the table, setting his glass down and staring at the dish of food without actually taking any. << Man, I’ve tried. Do you know what you really /don’t/ want to hear during therapy? Anything your therapist is thinking. >> He takes a sip of his drink, now, rocking back to tip his chair onto its back legs. << Can we talk. Later? >>

“Evolve didn’t exactly advertise. Just not possible to actually /keep/ a secret like that for long. Either you’re secret enough the people you /want/ to target don’t ever know about you, or -- eventually word gets out way too far. And then you get Evolve. Might be good for a while but then -- Sorry,” he adds abruptly to Melinda, scrubbing a hand through his hair with an exhausted droop of his shoulders, “if you didn’t want to talk about -- I mean, if you’re going to put this together you’re not gonna /find/ many people better connected to the community around here than --” He waves a hand towards where Jax and Micah sit, but then shakes his head, grinding the heel of his hand in against his temple. “Sorry, I shouldn’t have --” His chair thunks back down heavily onto all four legs, and scrapes against the floor as he pushes it back and stands. “Fuck. Sorry. I gotta -- I should --” He shakes his head, grabbing his chopsticks and starting towards the door.

"Hive..." Melinda reaches out and takes Hive's hand, squeezing it a little as he tries to leave. "I only said I didn't want to talk about it because I didn't want to walk all over your news, as what is going on with you is very important as well." She smiles bashfully as Jackson and Micah before turning her attention more fully to Hive once more, biting gently as her lip as she does. There are no words bubbling to the surface in her mind, aside from the gentle encouragement to << stay. >> There is only a quiet concern and appreciation of his concern for her. "We can talk about if you want, but I don't want to shut you down or make you feel like you're upsetting anyone."

The nuzzling seems to prompt Jax back into motion, fingers rubbing against Micah’s head again. << Of course. Y’can always talk to me, honey-honey. Whenever you’re ready. >> He shakes his head, drawing in a breath as he looks down at his food. “Don’t got a lot by way of money-resources but s’true that if y’need any -- outreach done I --” He crinkles up his nose, a little self-conscious as he finishes, “-- know people.”

He leans forward to grab his limeade, drinking deep. “Stay, hon.” << If you’re okay to stay? >> “S’is pretty important too, though, Mel. What /do/ y’all need on the path t’buildin’ this thing? /Will/ be dangerous, but --” He tips his wrist up, for a moment glancing down at the cuff that circles it. “Well. S’a lot that’s dangerous, lately. Danger, we can plan for.”

“Maybe. Sounds like they’ve got an aim t’bein’ quiet-like, though. Not quite the same...hopefully better outcome.” Micah’s brow creases with concern at Hive’s series of apologies. “Y’don’t have t’go unless that’s what you really /want/ t’do, Hive. Nobody is upset with you.” He gestures toward Mel when she voices a similar sentiment. “We want you t’stay, okay?”

Micah nods agreement with Jax, as well. “Yeah, I mean. We know a lot of people as a start that would show up. An’ that’d start a pretty good chain of people-who-know-people. Don’t think that findin’ folks t’show is gonna be a problem at all. The other stuff...I dunno. Further outside of my particular realm of expertise.”

“You think Evolve didn’t have that same aim, at first? But running a business like that -- it’s not like our team. You don’t just handpick people you know and trust you -- you get the word out as much as possible and all it takes is /one/ wrong person finding out before --” Hive’s teeth grind together, his knuckles pressing against his eye. “Fuck. This is --” His other hand squeezes Mel’s back, gripping tight as his jaw clenches. << I don’t remember what the fuck ‘okay’ is, >> he answers Jax in a hard whipcrack of voice, << I can’t -- have a fucking conversation without -- fuck. It’s loud and I hear things I shouldn’t and half the time I forget to pay attention to which is which and I don’t /want/ everyone’s fucking secrets I just want to fucking -- >>

By the end of this the sharp snap of voice is more of a /bore/, sharp and steadily deepening like a /drill/ piercing down into Jax’s skull. “-- oh fuck,” Hive jerks his hand back from Melinda, eyes widening on Jax with a sudden horror, “... fuck, I’m sorry, I need a -- air. Smoke. Fff --” He moves away into the living room, almost reaching for Jax’s shoulder in passing but then drawing his hand back instead, and heading out the window to the fire escape.

"I... what?" Melinda just looks confused as Hive grows more unsteady and disjointed. "I... okay, Hive." She presses her lips together when she releases his hand. She exhales and turns back toward the pair who remain, frowning. "I... will get back to you when we have a little more set in stone. There will be a security system and a false entry. I just don't have the lay out and things." She settles in her chair and picks at her food. "Yes. This is important and it's going to get talked about, but we didn't need to talk about it right now. I... I'm worried about Hive."

“Yeah, but -- what’s the alternative? Just never -- do anything, for fear the wrong person’ll --” Jax’s words cut off abruptly, with a sudden sharp hiss of pain. The palette slides from his lap, tray of food tipping out of his grip as his hand flies to his temple, posture doubling over. “Oh --” It’s a quiet small gasp of word; it takes Jackson a moment afterwards to straighten again. “I’m -- sorry,” he says to Micah and Melinda, “I --” His other hand has clenched tight around his glass; he sips from it, slowly.

“D’you have a place for it yet?” he finally asks. “Cuz -- after doin’ the clinic, I think Hive -- knows a thing or two about buildin’ security.” He still presses hand to his temple, his voice a little bit tight. “S’been rough lately,” he adds, quieter, to Melinda’s worries. “But I think he’ll talk about it when he wants to talk about it.”

“I dunno. It didn't sound like y'needed t'know a secret entrance an' password or whatever t'go to Evolve that I ever knew of. They were just kinda...there.” Then, suddenly, Micah catches the escaped palette...with his lap. He fares slightly better with the food container, as his attention has been called to things-falling-from-above, managing to snag it with both hands and avoid spilling. He barely pays any attention to the items, however, setting the food aside on the floor and just sliding the palette over to sit face-up next to it, ignoring the small splotches of paint that are now decorating his jeans. “Hey, hon. Are you okay? What was that?” He pops up onto his knees to better assess what is going on with Jax. Hive's clear upset and hasty exit also earn a concerned look. “What was that?” he repeats as he turns back to those remaining in the room.

"Did he...?" Melinda turns her chair to look at Jax when he doubles over, letting Micah tend to him, but her posture definitely showing her desire to get up. Her gaze drifts to the fire escape, lips pursing. It takes her a moment to fall back in with conversation. "I don't know if he wants to be involved. Or, rather, he doesn't want me involved. Yes, this whole thing is quite possibly going to blow up in our faces. I don't think anyone is completely oblivious to that. I am hoping we can help for a while, inspire people to create their own speakeasies, rather than over crowd the one that exists... and try to create an underground feeling of solidarity than to try to fill the entire void of one club that met a terrible end. We've narrowed it down to a handful of possible locations. We have a backer or two, but it would be better to have more than one to keep things balanced." She lets her chin sink to her chest for a moment before turning to the pot of tea on the table, pulling out the basket, letting it drain and then settling into one of the cups. She pours one and rises, bringing it over to Jax, offering it to him silently.

“Sorry,” Jackson whispers again, frowning down at the toppled palette as Micah puts it aside. He lowers his hand slowly, curling it also around his glass. “It was -- nothin’, just Hive -- ain’ havin’ a good -- I’m fine.” He shoots a worried glance to the fire escape, biting down on his lip. “Doubt he wants you involved, but when do anyone want their friends involved with dangerous business? We all do it anyway an’ that’s your choice to make. I don’t doubt he’ll want to help, if you’re goin’ through with it. A -- backer?” He lifts his brows, curious. “A lotta small places’d be best, for sure, but in the end that’s really --” He hesitates, looking down at his glass. He only looks up again when Melinda arrives with the tea, taking it with a nod of thanks. “Never imagined you was oblivious t’the danger.”

“You sure you're okay?” Micah's concerned-face isn't going anywhere, his hand resting on the other man's knee as he watches his expression closely. He relaxes slightly when Jax assures that all is well, reaching for the discarded food container to pass it back up to him. “You'd have t'have a lot of people in on this thing t'be runnin' multiple locations. An' multiple /locations/ t'be runnin' multiple locations. Would need a lot of backin' t'pull alla that off...” He nods agreement with Jax's assessment. “He'd wanna help if you were set on doin' it, I think. Discourage you from doin' it...but help if it was already a thing.” He only manages to keep quiet on his other thoughts for a few beats before they spill out. “Ain't there anyone who can help 'im at all? S'posed t'be some big-shot telepaths at the kids' school. Can't they even help 'im get some quiet temporarily? There's gotta be...somethin'.”

Melinda returns to the table and pours another cup, returning to give it to Micah. "I'm not intending to run multiple locations. People have to do this on their own. I'm only going to do one site, see how it goes, help where I can. I'm not trying to perform a miracle." She draws in a deep breath and glances toward the fire escape again. "I appreciate the interest. I just… am not ready to talk logistics right now."

Jackson nods, at Melinda’s demurral, looking down into his tea. “OK.” His fingers tighten around the mug. “Actually,” he admits with a soft chuff of tired laughter, “I know a telepath who /is/ a psychiatrist. But he doesn’t like -- doesn’t want --” He glances out towards the fire escape again with a shake of his head. “He’s had so many people in his head. And he doesn’t shield real -- mmnh. Depending on what’s the topic, being around stronger telepaths is -- he doesn’t really like the risk of giving away /other/ people’s secrets. He’s got -- so many of them.” His jaw tightens, a frown creasing his brow. “He needs it, though. He can’t. Keep this us. I --” He shakes his head again. “Sorry. Let’s, um. We should just. Eat.”

Micah takes the cup with a quiet thanks, cradling his fingers around it to sap warmth into them while its contents cool enough to drink. “That seems the wiser choice, Mel. An' we can...hold off on all the discussions, that's fine.” He blows over the surface of his tea to cool it faster. “I guess I can understand where he's skittish. I just don't know what /else/ could possibly...short of craftin' him a fancy anti-telepath helmet. Or sendin' 'im off t'live in deserted Appalachia or somethin'.” He settles back into his seat on the floor, head resting on Jax's leg again. “Food is good. So's tea.”

"Thanks, guys. I promise I'll keep you in the loop. I just wasn't prepared tonight." Melinda moves to pour herself some tea and settles back at the table. She looks at the food with disinterest, but grabs a box of rice and starts moving some of the meaty bits and sauce on top, eating in a slow and quiet fashion. "I'd rather we didn't offer to send him away if he's not interested in it. I rather… like him - having him around. But if that's what he wants and needs..." She exhales and frowns. She reaches out and grabs the bitter melon next and pours some of that on her rice. "You guys take care of each other. Just… Let me know if I can help." Then, she continues pulling out chunks of mixed up goodness to nom upon. "S'good food." The rest of the meal is quiet, but pleasant, some nice shrimps saved for Hive when he gets back in.