"Often apropos, around here."
<NYC> Tick-Tock - Greenwich Village
The quiet sound of soft music and softly running water greets the entrants to this tea house, playing from speakers hidden and trickling waterfalls cascading down the rocky fountains by the entryway. The ambiance here is subdued, a quiet escape from the bustle and noise of the city, focused on only one thing: tea. Tea of very good quality. They serve it in over eighty varieties, black and white, green and oolong, rooibos and herbals and mate, flavored and straight up. The seating here comes on cushions or kneeling chairs around low tables, the decorations in earth tones, and the knowledgeable wait staff is always helpful with a recommendation or a snack suggestion to pair with your drink. Behind the long counter along one side is an entire wall of bins of loose-leaf teas, available for purchase by weight.
It's a blazing bright afternoon outside, but in here it is cool in both temperature and ambiance. In the lull between lunch and dinner rushes, most of the patrons here look like weary tourists or extremely frequent regulars. Among the latter, Matt sits alone in a booth. He's wearing a hunter green short-sleeve button-up and dark gray linen trousers, rather dressy by his standards if not those of the establishment. An attache case occupies the bench beside him. He seems largely oblivious to his surroundings, absorbed as he is by the library book cradled in one arm, his face bent over it rapt with adoration that most people reserve for lovers or newborn offspring. The fingers of his other hand play absently over the handle of a teacup half full of rich, dark reddish brew.
Rasheed, too, is in a short-sleeved button down -- pale blue -- and grey trousers, though contrastingly for him this is among the more casual his wardrobe has to offer. He heads for the counter, at first, to put his order in, evidently meaning to take it to go; a brief sweep of gaze around the room catches sight of Matt, though. A quiet word to the cashier, a nod to Matt's table, and he slips across the room to the side of Matt's bench. Long fingers unfurl to gesture to the otherwise empty table, the bench opposite, a warmth in his dark eyes. "I feel almost like I'm interrupting something intimate."
Matt does not seem to take note of Rasheed until he speaks, but when he does, he certainly *reacts* as though he had been interrupted doing something intimate. His shoulders hunch in and he clutches the book to his chest as if to conceal what he had been reading. Doing so actually bares the spine to view, though: '1Q84' by Haruki Murakami. He relaxes momentarily, though his eyes remain wide and his pupils dilated. "Oh, hi. You ah, surprised me. I was..." He looks down at the book, still clinging to it like a safety blanket. "..absorbed." It's another long pause before he finally seems to put together that he needed to make some reply to Rasheed's implied request. "Um, would you like to sit?" The words come out a touch faint, a touch stilted. He licks his lips and glances at his tea, pulling it a little closer but not picking it up to drink.
"Forgive me. It has just been a while. I've wanted to catch up." Rasheed inclines his head -- thanks, perhaps, for the invitation, because he does sit, sliding into the bench opposite the younger man. "Absorbed. I can see that." His eyes flick from the spine of the book to Matt's cup of tea, and then up to his face. "Is it good?"
"Oh, um, yeah, it has..." Matt does finally set the book down, closing its glossy plastic-shielded cover. "Do you mean the book? It's good. Very...Murakami. Full of emotionally disengaged people navigating a world much weirder than they expect." He starts to lift his tea, and his hand shakes so hard that he immediately brings the other up to steady it. "Unless you meant the tea. It's also good. Sun Moon Lake, but higher grade than what you'd find in the bubbletea stands." His shoulders have relaxed, but when he sips his tea he still watches Rasheed with a wary gleam in his green, green eyes. "How are you doing?"
"That sounds --" Rasheed lifts his hand, fingers rubbing slowly across his mouth. "Often apropos, around here." His eyes drop to Matt's hand, brow furrowing. "Are you quite alright, Matt? You seem -- well. Normally I'd suggest tea to help but." He gestures towards the cup already in Matt's hands.
"The man does have a knack for capturing alienation and giving it a certain unlikely allure." Matt's eyes dart to the book, linger there for a moment, longingly. "I'm..." He takes another pull from his tea, longer. Transparently stalling. "I'm not feeling too great, no," he admits, with an air of almost palpable relief. "My sister..." His brows crinkle, his eyes grow distant, his hands squeeze the cup tighter. "Well, you know more about that than I do."
There's a noticeable slump to Rasheed's already typically stooped shoulders, here. His eyes lower, his lips slightly pursed on a small exhalation. He hesitates before speaking, stalling himself as a server arrives at the table with /his/ mug of mint tea and cup of lentil soup. When they have departed he picks up his spoon, stirring at the soup but not eating any. "I am sorry," he says quietly. "We are doing everything we can -- I'm still hopeful. The models are showing a lot of promise -- we just need more time to refine it to ensure it's /safe/ for --" His fingers curl around his mug. "Is there anything I can do to help?" This is quieter. "I don't mean as her doctor. I just mean -- for your family. For you."
"I know. I'm not saying..." Matt shakes his head, and the fact that the motion does not immediately translate into hair in his eyes evidences that some manner of product made it into his tresses today. "It's not like we haven't considered that we might lose her. Probably will." For just a moment, there's a kind of even, calm fatalism in his tone that might call Lucien to mind. It's gone as quickly as it comes, though, followed by something rather like anger. "What would you do for us? And why?"
"Wh -- why?" Rasheed's eyes open slightly wider, and he presses back in his seat in a small flinch. "Because you're important to me? Why do you think I'm doing /any/ of this? If I could help more, I would."
Matt gives his companion a long, searching look. "I'm sorry," he murmurs, as much to his tea as to Rasheed. "Who can answer a question like that, anyway?" When he smiles, it's a wan, unhappy expression, but not affected. "Thank you, but I don't think there's anything more you *can* do for us at this point, short of working an actual miracle."
"No." Rasheed's spoon continues to stir through his soup, slow and mechanical. "No, I suppose there's not." His eyes lower, spindly fingers curling tight around the handle of his spoon. "Forgive me. I should leave you to your -- book. I just. Wanted to check in."
Matt's eyes had dropped back down to his tea, but they lift again when Rasheed stops speaking. For a moment, he looks stricken. He opens his mouth, but no sound escapes. "Thank you," comes out at last, a little flat and a little hoarse. “You know what she means to us.” An edge creeps back into his voice. "Take care."
Rasheed's brows crease, deep and concerned. His lips only press together in silence, though. He rises, hand falling to squeeze briefly at Matt's shoulder. "And you." He collects his food and drink, giving Matt a long and curious look before finally heading off.