"Nice to ah, finally meet you. In. Person."
<NYC> Chimaera Arts - Dumbo
This is just one of the many abandoned warehouses in DUMBO, and like many of them it has recently changed hands. Unlike most of those, however, it does not have some corporate developer's sign out front promising a transformation into luxury condominiums or a boutique shopping center or the latest concept restaurant. Instead it's marked by a piece of weathered but wildly colorful plywood propped up on a stack of broken pallets, which reads "Chimaera Art Space!" above "chimaera.org" in smaller letters.
The warehouse is moderately large and decorated with graffiti art in various styles--some of it recognizable as the work of renowned local street artists. A pair of monstrous scrap metal sculptures, perhaps still works in progress, flank the entrance. The building itself has undergone significant renovation recently, complete with wiring, plumbing, and a modular partitioning system. The grounds, too, have been cleaned up, ramshackle fences torn down and rusting detritus removed in favor of reclaimed (and brilliantly repainted) outdoor furniture ringing an impressively engineered firepit.
A cool day is transitioning into a chilly sort of evening and as such the fire spinners practicing out in the yard are maybe, perhaps, drawing even more of a knot of spectators than they otherwise might, swapping conversation and drinks around the firepit as at a distance (though less of one than is probably safe) poi and batons twirl.
Maybe Shane was here working on something else -- who knows. At the moment though he's kind of on the fringe periphery of the warmth where he has been perched on an old rattan chair. He's dressed today in a collarless tunic, pale grey with a very faint silvery sheen, its toggled fasteners and the round patterned embroidery on it a deep blue; though all his clothes are exquisitely tailored, the linen trousers and penny loafers matched with his shirt bring the overall formality of his attire down a few notches. "... I'm not actually sure if the dog is supposed to be part of the act they're training." He's keeping a weather eye on a scruffy wire-haired retriever-esque mutt who has been weaving eagerly in and among the fire spinners, a hula hoop (unlit, but with several ignition points attached) carried in its mouth. "I can only hope not. I am definitely gonna need booze if we have to perform dog-CPR before the end of the night." He stands up, clapping Sarah lightly on the shoulder before he scoops up an empty Coke bottle that's been sitting beside his chair. "Grab you something?" Whatever her answer, he's heading back inside.
Sarah is not quite dressed for the chill—she has her legs, covered in black tights with a pattern of small rainbow skulls and frayed acid wash shorts, pulled inside her tie-dye pastel rainbow sweatshirt. Sunshine yellow converse peek out from the bottom of the sweatshirt covered lump, her arms wrapped around (what is presumably) her knees. Her hair has had a recent cut and color, a bright and happy pink, and is in the usual messy state it ends up in after she’s been working for a while. There is no paint on her hands or in her hair, though, only faint shadows beneath her eyes and a tired but happy air to go with them. “Funnily enough, I actually know dog CPR,” she says as Shane rises. The light tone she says it with doesn’t quite balance out the concern in her expression while she watches the dog prance around. Or the slight flinch that she tries to play off when Shane claps her shoulder. “I’ll take whatever is orange soda flavored,” she calls as he heads back in. Goes back to keeping an eye on the—well, first she has to yawn, but then she is keeping an eye on the dog.
Steve's arrival is as usual a slow, staggered process as half a dozen Chimera regulars bring their friends over for introductions. He takes this in stride, chatting easily with new and old acquaintances alike. His attire might catch the attentive eye as what he used to wear to class or to work on his paintings -- a simple khaki canvas jacket over a black t-shirt and comfortable blue jeans, all lightly splattered with many-colored paint. His right hand is still wrapped neatly in white gauze, however. When he finally extricates himself from the firepit chatter, he comes over to Sarah. "Hey there," he greets her with a slightly lopsided smile. "Long time no see, stranger."
Sarah perks up at Steve’s approach, smile bright and wide. “Hey! It’s nice to see you back again. Feel free to take a seat.” She nods to the variety of seating around, she herself having claimed a corner of a couch that still has a little plush left in it. What she has to say next is interrupted by another yawn and she shakes her head to clear it, huffing in annoyance. “Sorry. Here to see what classes are available? They’re filling up fast once they open for registration.”
"Hope I'm not keeping you up." Steve settles into the sturdiest piece of furniture in easy reach -- a solid, blocky, avocado green armchair that is probably older than Sarah. "Don't think I'm quite ready for class yet, but I plan pick some projects back up and see how far I can get before I start wanting to chuck the palette." His smile is easy and warm. "What brings you here? Just hanging out?"
“Oh, you’re not keeping me up! I’ve just been practicing with my powers.” Sarah holds her hands up from her knees, fingers waggling. “I get sleepy after a while, so I came out to get some fresh air.” She glances over her shoulder, before looking back at Steve with a grin. “I’m glad you’re trying some things out. Let me know how it goes. You know, I was talking to Shane, Jax’s kid? Well, one of them! Have you met?”
"That's great! The -- practicing, not the sleepiness." Steve starts to run his hand through his hair. Stops himself. "I will...probably not let anyone know how it goes, frankly. But I will think about it, hard." This with a little twitch of a smile. "I haven't met either of the older ones -- seems they're busy beavers -- but I've heard plenty. He still around?"
“It’s slow progress, but there is progress. Sometimes that’s the best we can hope for.” Sarah shrugs, searching through the firespinners before losing some small amount of tension she had. The dog has apparently traded the hula hoop for some kind of treat; it’s lying in the grass off to the side, gnawing steadily on something held between its paws. She easily returns to smiling at Steve. “I don’t think anyone in that family slows down. But yeah, he should be back soon. He just went to get something to drink and maybe get a bite of something.”
"You say nobody slows down but that just goes to show you don't spend enough time at Pa's place. All Sprite and Obie do is sleep. They hold all the chill for all of us." Shane is returning, strolling up from behind Sarah and Steve at a casual amble. He plops himself back down, this time on the threadbare couch beside Sarah, offering a cold bottle of Jarritos mandarin soda out to Sarah and waggling his own can of Sixpoint gose in a lazy hello to Steve. "Shit." Enormous pitch-black eyes flick over Steve, a quick and exorbitantly toothy grin splitting far too wide across his narrow face. "'Tween my Pa and Ryan I feel like I halfway already know you, man. Hope you all have been able to make up for some lost time since lockdown ended. Bet you were just itching to take him somewhere nice all those weeks, huh? What a nightmare."
"'Slow and steady wins the race', my ma used to say." Steve chuckles, his head dipping for a moment. "Not that I ever listened. Or won any races." He looks up just in time to see Shane reappear, his eyes going wide-wide and fixing on him for several long seconds before he forces himself to look back at Sarah. Then back at Shane again when the teeth come out. "Oh! Hey there, I --" He blushes furiously. "-- heard a lot of great things about you. Nice to ah, finally meet you. In. Person." The flush in his cheeks deepens further at the question. "We ah -- yeah, it was real rough. You know, excuse me a moment I'm going to text him right now. Let him know I'm thinking of him." He plucks his phone of out of his pocket and unlocks the screen, swiping rapidly on it with just his left hand.
How would you like to come out with me and have a nice supper somewhere? It hardly make up for my negligence, for which these troubled times are no excuse, but if it's any consolation I do wear contrition very well. Yours truly, Steve
Looking back up, he seems somewhat recovered from his shock and embarrassment, though the red has not fully receded from his cheeks. "I ah -- hope your cafe has doing alright. Montagues had a bump right after lockdown ended, but now business is definitely slower."
“Maybe Sprite and Obie is doing everyone’s sleeping for them.” Sarah takes the offered Jarritos with a delighted sound. “And because nobody else sleeps, they have all this surplus to work through. 24/7 sleep, they are the hardest workers.” When Steve looks back to her, she is No Help. While she seems to be focused on opening her bottle, sweatshirt fabric bunched in her hand to protect the skin of her palm, there is a wideness to her grin and a small shake of her shoulders that hint at amusement. By the time Steve has looked up from his phone, she is trying to get her smile under control and enjoying sips of mandarin soda in the process. “We certainly don’t have people come in and sit like they used to. I think everyone is just sick of being inside four walls and a roof.”
Shane's smile stretches wider under Steve's gaze. Bigger, bigger. The teeth go on, perhaps, forever. He lifts his can slow, takes a long slurp of gose. "Yeah, can't even imagine. I bet he's got like. Dozen whole songs written for you by now. Absence, heart, fonder and all that. I can tell you really were missing him." He rests his beer on the beaten arm of the couch, claws lightly clacking against it. "Maaaan, shit at Evolve is -- it's hard to measure like that. We've been packed, but -- most of our customers don't really pay so it's not. Exactly promising for business. Glad we're feeding people, though."
(Ryan --> Steve): Darling. Sugar. My own personal Adonis. The muse who has kept this fire going in my heart through all these long weeks of torment. One text from you and it's like honeyed notes of distant jazz reaching my veranda on a clear spring evening. (Ryan --> Steve): I'm sure you wear contrition well but after what feels like an eternity away from your arms I'd like you be wearing a lot less. Supper sounds delightful but I've had this empty bed and a distinct lack of your solid muscles keeping it warm for me. I can think of at least a dozen ways you could make it up to me and aside from maybe some whipped cream food does not feature highly in any of them.
Steve is transparently trying and failing not to stare at Shane's mouthful of very large, very sharp, very numerous teeth. His blush returns full force at the speculation about him and Ryan, and he's about to reply when his phone gives one long pulse of vibration. "Pardon me, that must be him now." He clicks the screen back on and smiles. "He is a pretty wonderful fella, to be sure..." He trails off when the phone buzzes in his hand again, his blush deepening, spreading up his ears and down his neck, his mouth opening and closing soundlessly. Even when he finally finds his tongue his voice comes out a touch high, breaking before he corrects to his usual pitch, "Gosh, I'm sorry. It's just -- ah -- my fella, he's got a way with words."
Sarah is doing her best to stifle her giggles behind one hand, even as her own eyes widen some at Shane’s energizer bunny smile. (It keeps going, and going, and going...) A laugh breaks through everything when she glances over at Steve and takes in his expression and growing blush. The dam broken, giggles stream forth until Sarah finally ducks her head into her sweatshirt to get herself under control. “Sorry. I’m sorry,” comes out muffled, crooked around laughter. “I’m sure he does.”
"That's what they give him those fancy awards for, isn't it?" It's hard to tell, really, if Shane's eyes are very much wider than their norm. They start out -- so wide. Huge black pools fixed earnestly on Steve. "Soul of a poet. He sips again at his beer, glancing only briefly down to the phone in his other hand as he swipes at it. "Well, Flicker's had nothing but gushing praise for you too and he's not the gushing type. I'm sure you'll make Ryan a very happy man."
As impossible as it seems, Steve is flushing redder still. "I -- I guess that's part of it. Probably in part for the music, too." He takes a deep breath and looks up at the distant ceiling of the warehouse. Then back down at his phone. "Flicker can be very...expressive." He winces. "I just meant that -- he's an artist, too. Only, with his hands -- oh lord." His embarrassment finally overcomes months of conditioning and he fully facepalms before swiping out his reply:
Looking back up at the others, he looks more composed now. "I ah -- I'll of course do my best by Ryan. In -- a gentlemanly fashion."
Sarah holds her soda away from herself--and away from Shane!--until her gigglefit subsides, which it does in starts and bursts with occasional snorts and hiccups. Finally she pops her head back out of her sweatshirt, with her eyes wet and face pink, and smile wide. Though not nearly as impressively as Shane’s. “Sorry, Steve.” Wiping at her eyes with her sleeve, she takes a long drink and clears her throat. “I guess I was more tired than I thought, or maybe I needed a laugh.”
"Of course. In a manly fashion. I would expect no less from --" Shane indicates with a small turn of his wrist, a small tip of his beer can to take in probably not all of Steve -- there's quite a lot! -- but as much of him as the lazy gesture can encompass. "Why not both? Who hasn't needed a laugh lately? Probably need a nap too, though. You want a lift home?" He glances down to the beer in his hand. "I look small but I promise a beer is not gonna hurt me. Joy and curse of the whole healing thing."
It's only by firmly putting his phone away now that Steve stops himself fidgeting with it. Though he looks somewhat recovered from his ordeal his cheeks are still quite pink. He does manage a weak chuckle, himself. "It's alright -- I ah..." He runs the fingers of his left hand through his hair. "Learned to laugh at myself too, in the USO. Glad I could oblige, though probably the credit should go to Ryan." His eyes skip to the can in Shane's hand. Back up to his face, then away again. "Amen to that," comes quieter, more even than before. "Think I might just go grab myself one of those, for all the good it'll do me." This last cheerfully enough. "I -- know my manners took leave of me there, but it is nice to meet you, Shane. Hope to hear you play sometime, live."
“A nap does sound good,” Sarah concedes, and her body agrees with a jaw-popping yawn. “I guess it’s not exactly out of the way for you, so I’ll take you up on that. Wait—ride? How are we going? Motorcycle?” She perks up, eyes lighting with excitement. “Steve, I’m not trying to downplay his amazing violin skills, but you have to see his motorcycle sometime too. It flies. Welcome to the future, huh?”