From X-Men: rEvolution
Dramatis Personae

Flicker, Hive, Steve


<< Could do a lot with thirty inches of piping. >>


<NYC> Creative Little Garden - Lower East Side

It's not a big park, really. A small secluded garden in the Lower East Side, quite close to Tompkins Square. The trees stretch overhead to both sides of the mulched paths, forming a leafy canopy through which New York's murky city-sky is visible. Between the paths the grounds spill over with an abundance of flowers, hedges, community-tended, in here. The paths all wind together into the small central clearing, a little circular retreat with fountain and benches.

Too late for lunch, too early for dinner. It's a pleasantly quiet hour, this tiny nook of a garden occupied largely by squirrels, who for the moment are ignoring its lone human inhabitant (already investigated and discarded as a potential source of food.)

Flicker is here to ruin that peace -- the blur of motion he makes as he enters startles at least two squirrels to run chittering up a tree. And immediately creep their way back down in curious investigation of the tote bag he carries, laden heavily with a feast. Crispy spring rolls and lemongrass tofu, basil fried rice, coconut juice, garnishes and dipping sauce and pumpkin cookies. He lands neatly beside Hive, quiet as he starts to lay out the food. Externally, anyway, though his mind is cluttered: running over what he needs to do for his lab, considering the backlog of furniture orders he has promised people, mild and familiar irritation at How Long It's Been Since Hive Last Ate. The arm he wears today is gold, shaded with green pine roping wrapped around it, the tips of the needles glazed with a touch of white frost. The rest of his clothing is bland in comparison: khakis, grey polo shirt.

Hive doesn't look up, as Flicker arrives. He reaches for the coconut juice even as Flicker is taking it out of the bag, taking a long and thirsty gulp. The numbness in his leg, the slight ache in his back and shoulders (echoed faintly through shared mental connection) suggests he has been here A While and forgotten (again) about things like Moving.

This time, because of work: the glowing much-marked-up skeleton in front of him of an in-progress housing complex is absorbing much of /his/ attention. If he notices /where/ his newly delivered beverage has come from, it doesn't show.

It's a little while longer before Steve arrives, straight from work, judging by his outfit -- lavender dress shirt, black-and-purple color-block tie, black slacks. His shield is slung casually over one shoulder by its harness, and he's swiping at his phone (retweeting a video featuring one of New Leash's pups), heading toward his neighbors before he's even looked up to see them. He sits down with them, putting his shield down in the grass. There's a small twinge of pain in the crook of his elbow when his arm straightens out, though it doesn't really register in his conscious thoughts. "Gracias," to Flicker, as he snags a spring roll. "How were your days?" His eyes drift to Hive's blueprint, which inspires a mild curiosity as well as somewhat incongruous amusement (<< Perspective! I'll never draw buildings quite /that/ well. >>).

Flicker passes off the bottle of coconut juice without a thought. Makes up a plate, tucks it -- kind of beside, kind of amid Hive's display. Dishes out a second plate for himself, more heavily laden. There's an unconscious adjusting of his /own/ posture, a small shift to take strain off (their?) twinging spine.

He's in the process of making a third plate already, even before Steve has appeared. Even more heavily laden than the others. He's setting it down at about exactly the time Steve is reaching for a spring roll, shifting the container of dipping sauces nearer the other man. The small twitch of his mechanical arm comes with a small frown, a small discomfited shift at the not-phantom phantom pain.

Steve's question stirs up a chaos of potential answer. Heavy pull of exhaustion. Snippets of a frustrated exchange with one of his professors over accessibility concerns (it comes with a thickly layered dose of Very Determined Politeness). A long and frustrating email chain with his team relating to hurricane relief logistics. An even longer and more frustrating back and forth with some of his church elders. A particularly draining but unsurprising exchange at school over Flaunting his freakishness in Normal People's faces. Ultimately, thoughtful: "About usual. You?"

Hive takes a spoon with one hand, shoveling a mouthful of fried rice into his face. He straightens (just as unconsciously), back adjusting to a more comfortable position. His other hand is turning at his blueprints, blowing up one level to a larger size to study with a frown. << (You/we) are definitely going to Fight Club. >> The thought that surfaces in their minds is soft, wry. His hand drops, absently rubbing at the crook of his arm. The motion makes the twinge of pain register more consciously, pulled to the forefront to examine pensively. It's only here that he actually looks up from his work, eyes slowly drifting from one man to the other. "I worked."

Steve dips the spring roll in the sauce that Flicker has placed -- exactly where he needed it, apparently -- and devours it in short order before taking up the bowl. His day flashes rapid-fire through his mind, too: a boring meeting in the morning followed by a somewhat tedious debrief, training with his team in the weight room and subsequently S.C.A.P.E., a prodigious lunch, a heated argument with Nick Fury about the disposition of a quantity of weapons-grade Plutonium that S.H.I.E.L.D. had retrieved, a headquarters lockdown drill, and finally the inexplicable (<< Fifth blood test in as many months -- I don't buy that I need /this/ much monitoring. >>) visit to the med lab and the starstruck phlebotomist's carelessness that gave Steve both the minor wound on his right arm and a slightly early escape from work. "Same." There's a touch of self-deprecating laughter in his reply. His eyes track the expanding blueprint. << Well. Not /all/ the same. I'll be taking my week's worth of frustration out on punching bags and social media. >>

Flicker laughs, quick and quiet. Leaning forward onto the table, weight resting on his elbow and chin propped in his palm, he doesn't touch his own food at first. His easy smile is content enough enjoying the fried rice, the spring roll. << It's been a week. >> He's unselfconscious about his ready agreement with Hive, his quick choice of recreation regardless of looming duties. "Are you going to be arguing with Friends on Twitter again? << They're probably checking up on our /blood pressure/. >> Only -- very mildly serious.

"I'm sure there's people who'd let you punch them. Dusk's been in a /mood/." Hive leans back, frowning discontentedly at his work. Kind of irritably pulling up his email to check over a request from a client with an irritable, << -- all this gorram fucking fuss over thirty inches of copper piping, wish these rich-ass motherfuckers would -- >> This cuts off with a small flick of his display, /batting/ it out of sight to pull his food closer. He slumps back in his chair, eyes narrowing on Flicker's prosthetic arm. << They're not /monitoring/ u... you. >> It's a little jarring, a little dissociated; he has to make a conscious effort to wrest the idea of Steve away from /them/ in their somewhat nebulous mindspace.

"That's the idea. But I'll have you know my blood pressure is perfect, no matter how many people are currently being wrong on Twitter." Steve finishes the rest of his roll and picks up the bowl Flicker had assembled. << Do I need to punch our /clients/? >> floats causally through his mind as Hive sets the work aside. "I suspect that if Dusk decides to stay home, he probably /isn't/ up for punching tonight, anyway. Though I'll still /ask./" With that last addition his thoughts stray to various less violent things he might proposition -- video games, dancing, decorating Chimaera's epic haunted warehouse... This train of thought veers off into the back of his mind, though. It's not so much Hive's reply as the effort he makes to single Steve out that rouses him. << What mean? Why /do/ they keep running tests? I can't imagine they'd be finding anything /new/ at this point. >>

<< Could do a lot with thirty inches of piping. >> Flicker's deceptively idle musing has veered away from Hive's architectural woes straight into how best to apply the pipes directly to the bothersome clients in question. "If you ask, Dusk might be more likely to stay home tonight. With or without punching." He swipes the coconut juice -- a casual motion for him though it might look like a rapid snatch if there were any outside observers present. The reflexive worry that stirs in his mind is quashed with a very practiced effort. Instead quietly listening for Hive's reply.

<< Don't think they understand they're going to have to pay me way the fuck more for the time to make these changes than for -- >> Hive's mental image ends with piping shoved unceremoniously up his client's backside, but he seems to have picked up Flicker's general violent tendency. His chair rocks precariously as he eats. Quietly, gently, nudges Flicker to eat as well. "If Dusk wants to fight I don't imagine he'll give much of a fuck about /where/." Shrug. His teeth are grinding, slow, after his last bite. A reluctant deliberate hesitation. A continued careful detangling of his (and Flicker's) own muddled identity from Steve's. Despite this detachment, the immense myriad sense of his mental presence is curling inward, careful and gentle, in a slow bolstering support up against Steve's mind. << You were at war. And then you died. And science has come a ways. There's hella lot they can keep discovering. Some shit takes time to figure out. >>

"I'm hardly a challenge to him." There's no hint of argument in Steve's tone or the thoughts ghosting beneath his words, which continue after he ceases speaking, << ...and that's probably what I want right now, in any case. >> He has only just started in on his bowl, but stops short again. Eyes snap to Hive, a slow, dull dread creeping up into the depths of his mind. << They've been picking at me since I was frozen. >> He leans hard against Hive's psionic presence, and the dread recedes, bit. << /Have/ they found anything new? >>

"Shield, tie his wings back, get him before Taylor's fed him. I think you'd have a chance." Flicker reaches for his food. Finally remembers to start eating it. This time, the worry surfacing in his mind isn't so easily quelled.

Hive clenches his spoon tight. Stops eating, as Flicker starts, his eyes a little unfocused and looking more or less through his food. His mind curls a little more snug around Steve's. << You're not aging. >>

Steve's reflexively conjured mental image of Dusk with his wings bound does not look particularly /violent/, but it does not persist, either. He picks up on his companions' tension, even if he isn't quite immersed in them as before. To Hive's actual reply he barely reacts, at first. Doesn't seem to really process it at all, for a few seconds. Then the dread comes back strong and sharp even as his conscious mind is scrambling to reject the information. << I didn't while I was frozen, certainly... >> But he already knows that's not what Hive means. His mind twists inexpertly in the telepathic grip. << Not at /all/? >>

A light flush dusts Flicker's cheeks with a touch of pink, though his expression doesn't otherwise change. Not until Hive's reply, at least. Brows furrowing, then. A small brief clench tensing in his jaw. He swallows his mouthful of food, puts down his spoon. His eyes dart reflexively over to Steve's face. Searching. Then lowering.

Hive's brows dip slightly together, too; a faint tension in his jaw, a swallow that rolls down his throat though he has no food to take with it. It's only when Flicker looks to Steve that his eyes flit there as well -- and linger, even after the other man has looked away. His head shakes, small. << Unsure. Slowly, if at all. Not enough that they've been able to tell, so far. >>

Steve's shoulders hunch slightly. He gives no other outwardly sign of distress, but inside he's all roiling hurt and confusion. << How -- /why/?! Doctor Erskine never -- >> His jaw sets tight. Relaxes. "Well. As unforeseen side effects go, it's -- hardly anything to complain about..." He trails off and focuses, disciplining his thoughts into coherent words again. << But I guess I should expect them to want plenty more tests. {Thank you, for telling me.} >> Then, with a profound effort, goes back to his abandoned meal.