ArchivedLogs:Gift Horse

From X-Men: rEvolution
Gift Horse
Dramatis Personae

Hive, Paige, Egg, Sprout


Great horns! Where are the wings?


<NYC> Harbor Commons - Courtyard - Lower East Side

This courtyard is the lush central hub of the surrounding Harbor Commons, bound in on three sides by rows of duplexes and triplexes, cutting upward at the sky with the sharp thrift of a minimalist's style, neat lines and bountiful windows, boldened with accents in wood towards the upper stories, stone towards the base, the whole of the compound sealed in by a low stoneworked wall that opens entrance gates to the streets beyond at its two far corners, smaller gates at building back doors.

The fourth side of the courtyard is open to the East River, the ground forming a slight decline, controlled on one side by micro-retaining walls to form wide steps where picnic tables sit beneath the nominative shelter of a trio of dogwood trees, accessible by ramp. The other side is allowed to slope at its natural angle, a wide open yard space, until its cut off at the river's edge, where a massive pair of oak trees stand, a staircase leading away up one of their thick trunks.

The yard itself is carpeted in an organic flow of emerald grass swirled through with wending channels of smooth-paved cement walkways, flowing naturally away from the building's front entrances, where some are arced by trellis, some flanked by hosta plants, fern and lilies, a few laid in gentle switch-backing ramps for wheelchair access, before forking off at matching angles to sites of small garden installments. Bird feeders and baths suspended from the necks of small lamp posts, a rock-lined koi pond, a sleek gazebo tucked to one side in simplistic varnished wood, its southern side overgrown with a mass of thriving grapevine and a caged-in barbecue pit under its sheltering roof. A play area and proper garden are within sight off another branch, until finally all paths spiral in like wheel spokes to a shared common house at the center of all traffic flow.

Though the past few days have sunk to fairly frigid and another biting freeze is set to come in tonight, early evening is pretty mild, really. It’s brought a fair few people actually out into the Out Of Doors -- technically speaking, perhaps, this is Private Property but you wouldn’t really know it from the cheerful bustle of neighborhood parents come to bring their kids to take advantage of the large playground, or the cluster of folk down by the water’s edge letting their dogs have some off-leash playtime (a large mop of an English sheepdog has currently commandeered the sole Frisbee, playing keep-away with it from the rest of the pack.)

On the front patio of the large house at the center of the courtyard, at the moment there’s not much activity. One lanky skinny man in faded old jeans, a weatherbeaten corduroy jacket over a plain white tee, sits with laptop in his lap and a cup of coffee at a table to his side -- if he’s working, though, he’s making a poor show of it, paying his computer little attention and instead peering very intently off into the bushes in front of the house. Stare. Staaare. The bushes are -- for the moment -- doing nothing particularly interesting, though after a short moment they give a rustle. Then another bigger rustle. Then quiet.

Paige glances from the grounds to the business card handed to her last night and back again, sighing. "-This- place has -guest- vacancies?" she murmurs to herself in disbelief. The place is absolutely gorgeous, swankier even than college, and has some seriously beautiful scenery she's definitely not used to seeing. Wearing an overlarge sweatshirt with a hood to cover her horns, the young woman decides to chance it. The house in the center of the courtyard seems like a pretty obvious target for her to head towards. As she approaches, she makes an attempt at friendly wave to the man on the patio before initiating conversation. "Hi, uh, I'm Paige. Do you happen to know where I'm supposed to inquire about guest vacancies?"

There's a scurrying along the the floor of the patio, and from beneath Hive's chair emerges a grotesquely scrawny goblin creature. Other than the fact that they have six limbs--two batlike wings sprouting from their shoulders--the creature looks rather a lot like a lemur with a buzz cut, dark gray skin covered in short, fine black hair. Their long, pointed ears swivel toward the rustling bushes, but their slightly squinting but still overlarge green eyes fix on Paige as she approaches. To Hive, the shift of their single-minded focus from their hunting is abrupt and their newfound interest keen. They click softly at the newcomer, then suddenly pop up into an awkward crouching sit, wings braced against the ground to hold up their torso. Spindly arms and clawed, long-fingered hands thus freed, they sign 'Pretty horns pretty like Isra!' The motions are jerky with excitement as they bounce up and down in place. They open their mouth, baring sharp fangs and emitting a series of much louder clicks. 'Tola come look pretty horns!'

The rustling from the bushes stills with Paige's approach, though it's soon replaced by a brief giggle. Then quiet. Hive shifts one leg to the side preemptively just before the sound of skittering claws begins, allowing space for the ungainly goblin-creature to scuttle out from beneath his chair. His lips quirk very faintly, fingers pressing lightly down against the lid of his laptop to close it. His answer to Egg comes in silent mental imagery to the infant alone: no words, just a touch of memory of Isra's horns, brightly painted in a dusting of starry nebula.

Aloud, his answer is less colorful, a simple, “Yo,” accompanied by a small upturned jerk of his chin. “Guest vacancies, that sounds so goddamn -- /formal/.”

The bushes have started rustling again, meanwhile, though this time they've sprouted a new growth of autumn-hued leaves poking out of their lower branches. The leaves soon push further out -- they're attached to a small green head, wide green eyes, a chubby-cheeked face of a small green-skinned leafy-headed toddler dressed in very muddy overalls and fleece jacket who is emerging from her bushy hiding place to join the goblin in staring. “Woah!” is her first responds, aloud, and her second, enthusiastically signed, ‘/Cool/ are they new? You should,’ she advises, ‘climb onto them.’

"Holy fuck!" the horned woman exclaims, perhaps a bit too loudly, as she stops abruptly and her face pales in clear fright at the sight of the creature. She watches with bated breath the creepy goblin-esque creature, unnerved by the clicking and confused by the gestures they make. Paige's eyes glance towards the man who is apparently unfazed by the appearance of whatever-it-is-that-exists-in-front-of-her, so at least it seems that she's not in any immediate danger.

"I, uh...Sorry about that. -Really- sorry about that, actually," she says. "I'm just not used to seeing...different types of peop--" And then the goddamn bushes. No, seriously, the goddamn bushes. Did she just wander into one her favorite books - the really awesome but psychologically freaky one? Because that's seeming more and more likely by the moment. But at least this one speaks at least one word in English. Difficult as it is, she does try to direct her attention back to the man and his response. "So...I'm -guessing- this is the right place to ask?" Then she adds, "Are there many more...people about to pop out at me?"

The goblin creature resumes their bouncing with more energy than before. 'New yes, great horns! Where are the wings?' They squint at Paige, clicking softly again. But at Tola's suggestion their eyes go disturbingly wide. They move to execute their rudimentary plan almost as soon as they have conceived it in even the vaguest strokes. Scurrying up the side of Hive's chair, they scale the man's arm, tiny black talons of all six limbs hooking onto clothing with ease. They balance on Hive's shoulder for a moment like a huge, demonic cat, wings shaking out but as yet unsteady. Their clicking grows a bit louder and their head sways from side to side, ears twitching. Then they crouch low and launch themselves at Paige, wings snapping wide, only a singular fevered thought in their mind: << FLYING!>>

“{Oh hell no you should absolutely,}” Hive’s gruff Thai does not sound very /stern/, language aside; really, more like he's stifling a laugh, “{-- well, ask for someone's /permission/ before climbing on them.}”

His head has tipped back, now, giving a small perfunctory examination roof-wards. “Hard to say.” This answer comes to Paige in English, albeit a heavily accented English -- kind of a bastardized distinctly not-from-New-York even if it's kind of hard to place where exactly else it might have roots. “People pop up pretty suddenly around here a lot. -- Uh, /shit/. {sorry} --” He's largely ignored the small goblin climbing up him but winces as Egg takes off towards Paige. “But yeah this is the right -- Uh. Did someone send you?” Somewhere unfelt, this question comes with a faint psionic /openness/, the telepath listening for answer on mental wavelengths more than simply spoken.

"GAH!" Paige cries as she scrambles to the side in an attempt to get out of the creature's way. Of course, she then trips over her altered feet and lands on her behind. She doesn't even seem that upset her fall - more annoyed than anything. The incident that led up to it, however, is a different story. "Holy fuck. Holy fucking fuck. Holy fucking fucking fuck," she pants, trying to keep her voice quiet. "Yeah, uh, Steve sent me?" she tries to assert despite the inflection at the end of her words. Trying again, her mind reminiscing on a very recent memory of Steve offering her the card along with some money and a feeling of being saved, she says, "He said to just tell people that Steve sent me." It should be noted that Paige is also too distracted to notice Egg's whereabouts and has not made any effort to stand herself up.

Egg cannot alter their flight path quickly enough to compensate for Paige's movement, and so miss her entirely. Still, they manage a reasonably soft landing a few feet by her, tumbling only a couple of times before sitting up and shaking their head like a dog, ears flailing comically. Recovering fast, they crawl back toward Paige, clicking solicitously. They look just about ready to begin scaling the poor horned woman, but then hesitate and, sitting up again, sign, Hi your horns are pretty may I climb up on them please?'

The small green toddler is watching Egg's flight with wide delighted eyes, hands poised near to each other on the brink of a round of clapping that bubbles up eagerly at even this failed miss of a flight. “That was so good that time you got almost as up high as Sugar. Next time take me. I don't have wings,” she's informing Paige of this matter-of-factly as she, too, starts to scale up Hive's chair. And down to Egg a little skeptically from her new higher vantage point on Hive's lap, after scrutinizing Paige further: ‘No wings, too.’

Hive shifts an arm absently to circle Tola, nodding along with Paige. “Steve. Okay. Y’aright?” This last seems like a bit of an afterthought, as though he's only just noticing her spill to the ground. “Apologies for all the hectic. You were asking about rooms, right, there's guest rooms inside. My roommate'll have to get you a key once he's awake that'll probably be around dinner time. Egg wants to know --” He doesn't finish this sentence, but suddenly he doesn't need to. There's a strange mental pressure briefly against Paige's mind and a moment later the sign language becomes perfectly intelligible to her, understandable even if she can't speak it herself.

The clicking noises from the creature grab the young woman's attention. "Pretty?" Paige asks, sitting on the ground and seeming genuinely confused by the compliment. Then she sighs and pulls her hood off. "So I guess the hood doesn't really work, huh?" Apparently she's too drained to put up a fight against all the craziness reality has been throwing at her and just tries to go with the flow. "I don't know about climbing on them, though. They're kind of attached to my head."

Her expression quickly shifts to one of worry as her eyes go wide. "Wait, you didn't just talk, did you? That...fuck." Dropping her head into her hands, she announces with despair, "This...this is just how life is, I guess. I really know -nothing- about the world do I? I don't even GET how I just understood what you said." It takes a while for the horned woman to deal with her small existential, mind-breaking crisis before she addresses the man again.

"Yeah. Steve. But seriously, that's it? That's all? You don't need to check my...Right. Not looking a gift horse in the mouth. Even if I am losing my freaking mind. Because I can apparently understand sign language now," she tells Hive in exasperation. "I really don't think I can even answer if I'm alright anymore."

As a breeze passes by, she shivers and lets out a hesitant breath. Then she turns again to Egg. "Look, if you could, uh, maybe keep my head and ears warm then, sure, why the heck not?"

Egg nods, far too many times than necessary, their ears flopping back and forth. 'Next time,' they assure Tola solemnly, 'we fly together.' Their head cocks to one side at Paige. 'Yes I talk,' they agree matter-of-factly, 'with the hands. Hands are good for talking.' Their eyes get, improbably, even larger at the invitation. 'Thank you thank you thank you! Horns good for climbing, I climb on Isra's horns all the time.' They stretch up one wing and the opposite arm to hoist their lanky frame up onto Paige's arm, then shoulder. Skinny as they are, they're even lighter than one might expect. Perching on Paige's shoulder, they coil one arm fondly around the nearest horn and, as requested, wrap one warm, fuzzy wing around the woman's head to cover her other ear.

“{Excellent.}” This is in Thai -- distinctly in Thai, audibly in Thai, but Paige understands this, too, nevertheless. “{It's always good to ask people before you touch them if you don't know if they're okay with it.}” Hive is looking, perhaps, mildly amused as Egg scales Paige.

“I'm Hive, by the way. This little one,” he jostles the girl on his knee gently, “is Tola. And you've got Egg over there. /And/ I can't tell you if you're alright, but you don't understand sign language -- exactly. I understand it for you. {Sorry}, it was just quicker than -- interpreting all the time.” << You aren't losing your mind, though. >> This comes silently, Hive's gruff accented voice directly in her head, now.

Tola is miming chewing, now, pointing at Paige's horns to demonstrate to Egg Proper Horn Etiquette. “Shane always eats the horns.”

Hive just scrubs at the side of his face, with this suggestion. Kind of longsuffering.

“That's how you get stronger,” Tola continues to offer helpfully.

“Would you /like/ me to check something of yours?” Hive is electing to ignore the smallthings and their exchange. “References? Background check? Usually people just kind of turn up and crash for a little bit but we can pretend to be fancy if you like.”

Paige cringes as she's being climbed upon, the feeling completely alien to her. "You're, uh, welcome?" She doesn't even know why she's allowing this, but making friends is a good cause, right? Besides, the creature now on her shoulder is kind of adorable despite their super odd appearance. How often do people politely ask if they can climb the stupid, disgusting abominations on your head -and- call them pretty? In any case, her head is now warmer than it was.

Alas, now there is 'noise' coming from everywhere. Language. Language she doesn't understand, but does. And then an explanation for her understanding of these two foreign languages in English. And then it's in her head. Well, not it. Him. Hive, as he seems to call himself. Now Tola is talking again. Never having had a telepath in her mind before and trying to process all of the information coming at her in various languages, Paige is quickly becoming overwhelmed and appears to be on the verge of breaking down.

"No!" the young woman exclaims loudly, massaging her forehead with her fingers. "No, I...Please, there's nothing to check. I j-just didn't know what to expect." There seems to be an underlying fear provoked by the questions and someone might get an inkling that it's related to her registration. "I don't really have any cash or anything and I don't really want it to be known that I'm around here and I'm worried running a check would tip people off."

At Tola's prompting, Egg duly applies their teeth to Paige's horn. Though they are clearly not strong enough to do any kind of damage, the gnawing still transmits sound through the horn and to the skull, no doubt an odd experience. The rapid low clicking sounds they emit sound almost like a sort of purring now.

“Woah no s’aright we won’t --” Hive lifts a hand, palm out, his eyes opening slightly wider. “Nobody told you you had to /pay/ or anything, right? Shit. We’re not a hotel -- because damn the licensing for that would be ten different kinds of nightmare. We’re just --” His brows furrow. He looks down at Tola. Over at Egg, happily toothing on Paige’s horn. “... just us. How… how about I show you where, uh, the rooms. Are. There’s… dinner later.” He stands slowly, hefting Tola up to sit on a hip as he rises, arm still looped around her.

Tola is nodding her encouragement to Egg’s chewing: “You’ll fly faster. /And/ carry me. Dusk carries me,” she tells them brightly, “and he chews /lots/ of people.”

Hive frowns for only the briefest of moments. “Dinner with -- actual food,” he clarifies.

Still on edge, Paige takes a few deep breaths before pushing herself up off the ground. She winces at the noises and vibrations produced by Egg's attempt to devour her horn. Although off-putting and a tad irritating, the young woman seems again too drained to put up a fuss. Appearing genuinely grateful when Hive speaks to her in her native language, she responds, "No, no one said anything about paying and I'm sure any of the rooms will be better than a coffee shop. But dinner? You mean it? That would be...amazing."

Her attention finally makes it to Tola. "You know Dusk? I didn't know he chewed on -people-, but his taste in -books- is interesting." Then, to Hive, she sheepishly admits, "I should really say thank you, shouldn't I? You all just kind of scared the crap out of me earlier. I still don't get the whole language thing and the whole mind thing, but I, uh, I can try to help around with anything you need. I'm not exactly used to charity and all that."

Egg has no trouble keeping their perch when Paige stands up, shifting their weight effortlessly in concert. 'Dusk so strong, fly so fast!' they sign one-handed, without letting go of Paige's horn. 'Go inside there is good climbing inside, good for flying!' Their one unoccupied wing stretches out and stirs the air ineffectually. Then, reluctantly relinquishing their chew toy so they can lean forward and make eye contact with Paige, they add, 'We show you all the best places.'

“Uh /huh/. I know /everybody/,” Tola explains to Paige. “Dusk chews on people /and/ flies /and/ he reads me some books.”

‘Sorry,’ a quick circling motion of fist over heart, with the hand not currently occupied holding Tola on his hip. Hive leaves his laptop sitting out on the chair he’s just vacated, not evidently worried much about abandoning it outside. “There’s a chore board inside if you feel motivated to pick up some slack ever. I’ll give you the real brief tour. And yeah, dinner. ‘Round sixish.” He’s leading the way into the Common house, now, tapping his hip pocket against an electronic key reader by the door to unlock it on his way inside. For a moment his lips press briefly thinner before he adds: “-- think there may even be cake.” And then he’s holding the door open for Paige -- Tola is waving small green arms to gesture her helpfully inside. “We should get the cake /first/,” she kind-of-asks, kind-of-demands.

“Room first. /Then/ -- maybe cake.”

"Bwa! Stop...stop scaring me," Paige warns Egg as they show up very close to her face. "Maybe you can show me the best places /without/ doing that?"

An oddly disturbed and concerned look is cast towards Tola, but the horned woman does only says, "Everybody, huh? Maybe you'll introduce me to all of everybody sometime, then." She breathes out a sigh of relief as Hive gestures with his hand, despite still being creeped out by the sudden 'understanding' of sign language. "Chores sound fine. Anything, really, to keep my mind off of all the things wrong in my dumb life. Well, not this. This is not dumb. This is good," Paige appeases as she follows Hive, grinning at Tola's request.