Alex spends the early hours of January 1 in the ER. She’s not sure if that is a very auspicious start, but she does admit to herself that from here, one can really only go up.
Kloud turns up after Sunny calls him. The police officer is in his uniform, Levi takes one look at the man and starts crying silently. To his credit, Kloud doesn’t miss a beat, simply hustles the kid into one of the hospital’s conference rooms with Alex to serve as witness. It’s not in any way ideal from a legal standpoint, but well, circumstances rarely ever are.
Alex is silent while Levi explains what happens, she just sits next to the young man with a comforting hand on top of his.
“What made you decide to report the abuse now?” Kloud asks at the end, his pencil poised over his open notebook.
“He could have killed her. I think he wanted to.” Levi says quietly. “It’s been…different lately. I’ve been spending more and more time out of the house. Used to be, he just sorta paid us equal attention, you know? We each got half of it, which we could just deal with. But I haven’t been around, and she’s been getting more of her fair share.”
“Fair?” Alex whispers, tightening her hand around Levi’s so much that he turns in his seat to look at her. “There isn’t anything about this that is fair.”
Levi gives her a heartbroken, crooked smile. “The universe isn’t fair.”
“Still,” Alex stresses, unwilling to let this go. “There is no ‘fair share’ here, Levi. You know that right? This isn’t your fault, you don’t deserve to be treated like this.”
“Neither does your step-mother,” Kloud adds quietly, closing his notebook. “If you two will excuse me, I have someone to go and arrest.” He rises from his seat, pops his uniform hat back on and leaves the room.
“You’ve done a wonderful and brave thing, Levi.” Alex begins, “But I want you to know that you shouldn’t have had too. You are a child, and the adults in your life are supposed to protect you.”
“She tried, you know. In the beginning.” Levi admits. He looks off into middle distance for a long moment. “It was okay for a little while. He convinced her he was changing. But he didn’t. He never will.”
Alex draws him into a hug, resting her chin on his head and trying to somehow radiate her dim memories of unconditional parental love through her limbs and into his shivering frame.
“It is his loss.” She whispers into his hair.
Levi’s stepmother is released later that night with strict instructions not to sleep more than 3 hours at a time. The ER is reluctant to let her go with only Levi to keep an eye on her, so Alex steps up and offers them her guest room.
Back at the coffee shop, everyone is still awake and waiting on them. Hyper delivers untold quantity of tea and hot chocolate upstairs while Jade turns out perfect buttery delicacies in every flavor and construction she can think of until she is assured she has identified their favorites.
Alex finds GJ hunched over Hyper’s shop laptop when she comes down to get some espresso (sleep is a forgone idea at this point, she knows she’ll just have to wait until the following night or be hopelessly muddled when it is time to return to work in two days). She leans on him while she sips her drink, curling into his side like a comma and tucking her head into his neck. He seamlessly lifts an arm so she can cuddle closer, all without breaking eye contact with the computer.
“What are you doing?” she asks, trying to make sense of the rapidly shifting screen. He goes to fast for her to make out any of the pages or documents.
“Destroying Oakland’s credit, at the moment.” GJ answers blithely. “I’ll see about getting him on the sex offender’s registry next. I’ve already gotten his tax returns fucked up beyond all recognition.”
Alex takes a moment to parse that information fully before snapping up.
“What?!” she demands.
GJ casts her a quick, skeptical glance before going back to his screen. “What? You can’t tell me he doesn’t deserve it. The bastard nearly killed his wife with a baseball bat.”
“It’s not a matter of whether or not he deserves it. Kloud arrested him, he’s going to jail.”
“It’s the law, GJ. This is what I’ve dedicated my life too. You’re breaking the law right in front of me. What am I supposed to do?”
Alex reaches out and grips his shoulder, bodily turning him away from the computer and to face her.
“GJ, stop. Please. Undo everything you’ve done, right now.”
The man’s jaw clenches and he mulishly frowns at her, “I’m not going to get caught. This building is a black hole online. Nothing that happens here is traceable outside.”
“I did not need to know that.” Alex addresses first, “That that is so not the point.”
“You don’t care if I get caught?”
“I care that you’re doing this at all. GJ, I’m an officer of the court, I have to up hold the law. That would require me to turn you in to the police.”
“It isn’t right!” GJ erupts. “He’s arrested sure, but you and I both know that he won’t be in jail for nearly long enough. If we’re lucky he’ll be in there long enough for Levi to turn 18 and for Sharon to divorce him!”
“This isn’t about what’s right, it’s about the law.” Alex stresses, shaking him a little bit. “I never said this was perfect, I’ve studied law for my entire adult life I know where it falls short every time of what is right. But I didn’t swear to uphold the law only when I agree with it! I swore to uphold it always!”
“Why?” GJ asks desperately. “If you know it’s a broken system, why did you buy into it?”
“Because it’s all we have!” Alex replies furiously. “It’s all I had! The only other option is to become a vigilante and that always ends so well doesn’t it?! At least as a lawyer I can help people navigate this medieval, byzantine system. At least as a lawyer I can effect change. It’s slow and it is never enough but for all of my childhood the law was the only thing that stood between me and growing up on the streets!”
“You’re stepmother left you behind. The law didn’t protect you from that.” GJ says, quiet again.
“Yes it did,” Alex replies. “It didn’t punish her, and don’t think for one second that I don’t wish there was a way to do that, but it did protect me. The state foster home wasn’t the best place, GJ. There were times that I honestly thought the street would be better – but I was protected. I never went hungry. No one ever beat me and I always had a warm place to sleep.”
GJ reaches out, snags her by the arms and pulls her to his chest. He mindlessly shoves the laptop off his knees and instead drags Alex across his lap while he sinks back onto the sofa.
“I’m sorry. I’m sorry. I’m sorry. I’m sorry.” He chants against her temple, squeezing her as tight as he can without hurting her. Alex wraps her arms around him as much as she can from her position and tries to soothe him.
“It just isn’t fair.” GJ says eventually. “I hate that Oakland is only going to get a couple years in jail and some probation. I hate that he will get out of jail knowing how to get away with what he does better. I hate that he’s going to find another woman at some point and do the same thing to her. I want to render his life to shambles so that maybe, just maybe he’ll be so busy trying to pick up the pieces he won’t have time or energy to beat on another person or kid.”
“I understand,” Alex whispers. “I hate it too, GJ. But you can’t take his punishment onto yourself. If you do, you take on partial responsibility for him for the rest of his life. If you do, you will have to carry him around for the rest of your life. And he isn’t worth that. None of them are worth that.”
GJ runs a hand up and down her side, “Is that what you tell yourself about your step mother?”
“Does it help?”
GJ sighs, heavy and resigned. “And on the days that it doesn’t help?”
Alex tries to stifle a smile but can’t quite manage it, “Recently? Mess around with you.”
That brings a sort of electric quality to every place that GJ is touching her inside a second. He tenses, and before Alex can fully process it, she is flat on her back on the couch with GJ prowling over her in a very determined fashion.
“Really?” he practically purrs, “Would you mind returning the favor?”
Alex loops her arms around his neck and drags him down as her reply. He rests his weight against her, and she bends her knees to bracket his hips. He reaches back, and hikes her right thigh higher, letting him press closer. Alex’s focus recedes to just the man in her arms, doing frankly wonderful things to her and she gives as good as she can back.
The lawyer is starting to give serious consideration to GJ’s button down shirt, and how quickly she can divest him of it, when the coffee shop door opens to admit Hyper. Alex knows this because two seconds after she distantly hears the door shut she hears this:
“Crayle! What the hell did you do to my computer?!”
GJ breaks the kiss with a surprised start to glance over the side of the couch. Hyper’s poor laptop is on its side, a forlorn crack in the screen.
- Current Mood: amused
- Current Music:"Trip Switch" by Nothing But Thieves
Alex isn’t sure why Hyper has insisted on Christmas carols at the New Year’s Eve party, so she asks.
“Because after midnight it is no longer acceptable to play them.” Hyper explains over homemade eggnog. “I’m getting my final fix in.”
“It’s unacceptable to play them after Christmas.” Jade gripes from her counter where she is rolling out more cinnamon rolls. They, as a group, have already decimated her first and second batches.
“My shop, my tunes!” Hyper replies with a grin.
Jade glares and goes back to carefully slathering delicious smelling spices across the dough she just rolled out.
Alex leans back and peeks through the kitchen doorway to see GJ mind melding with the twin’s gaming system on the shop TV so everyone can play Super Mario Kart later. The twins themselves are upstairs tracking down more controllers since GJ assured them that generation didn’t matter with his abilities.
Jen is working on the menu signs for tomorrow. She’s a great deal relaxed about her powers these days, especially around friends. Liquid streams of white, red, green and yellow flow effortlessly from open bottles on the bar while an awe struck Ty curiously pokes at them, grinning in delight when he realizes the ink doesn’t stick to his skin.
“Do you think we’ll have leftovers that I can sell tomorrow?” Hyper asks, bringing Alex’s attention back to the kitchen.
“Hyper,” Jade begins dryly, “GJ is here. I’m amazing I’m only on the third batch.”
“Alright, fair point. Can you hide some from him?”
“I can try. But he has unfettered access to the security cameras, so I’m not sure if I’d be successful.”
“You wouldn’t.” GJ announces cheerfully from the doorway as he strides in. “And Hyper! Hiding the delicious cinnamon rolls from me! For shame!” He draws even with Alex, presses a quick, caste kiss to her temple while slipping his left arm around her waist.
“Website maintenance only gets you so far, Crayle. You’re eating me out of my pantry.”
“I’ll fix all your online billing for you.”
“And debug my personal computer. And set up my wireless printer so it works for everyone.” Hyper haggles.
“Ugh. Printers and wireless networks? Are you trying to kill me?”
“Okay, okay, deal.”
The two solemnly shake on it before trading matching happy smiles.
“We’re back!” Kai calls from the shop door. “Sunny’s here finally!”
Alex, GJ and Hyper all lean around the door jamb to wave a welcome at a cold, red nosed Sunny and she trudges into the shop shaking snow from her hair.
“Happy New Year!” Sunny cheers taking her coat off and hanging it up on the rack by the door. The second that she is detangled from her coat/scarf/glove combination, she pounces on her boyfriend, shoving her hands under his shirt making him yelp.
“Stars! You’re hands are freezing, get off!” Kai howls, shoving the extra controllers at his brother so he can turn and fight off the blonde invader.
‘Mega juggles the extra controllers, just barely making it to a table to drop them. Kai snatches his girlfriend’s wrists to shove her back, but she just lets him pin her arms backwards while she steps forward and plants a determined kiss on his lips. Kai’s entire affect instantly softens as he leans eagerly into the kiss and lets go of her arms so that he can wrap his own around her waist and lift her the couple of inches from the ground so that they are equal in height.
“Get a room!” Jen shouts good-naturedly from the bar.
Alex squeaks in surprise when suddenly her own boyfriend, his arm still around her waist uses it to dip her sharply and kiss her as well. GJ’s eyes are on her’s mischievous and playful as he nips at her bottom lip with gentle teeth. Alex smiles against his mouth, wraps her arms around his neck and kisses him back with fervor.
“Not you too! It’s not midnight yet you guys, knock it off!” Jen calls, outright laughing now.
“No PDA in the kitchen!” Jade hollers from her counter, furious.
GJ gracefully walks them two more feet through the doorway and with a cheeky wink at Jade goes back to kissing the daylights out of Alex.
“What is this? A contest?” Hyper hoots tossing a wet dish towel at them. GJ pulls back and sets Alex back on her feet so he can lob the dish rag at Kai and Sunny who are still kissing by the door.
Said door quietly clicks open again, this time to admit a clearly nervous Levi and a woman none of them have ever seen before. Levi is holding tightly to her hand, leading her carefully into the shop. If Levi is nervous this woman is practically petrified, her eyes are unfocused and she moves like she’s drunk.
“Levi?” ‘Mega asks quietly, his tone lacking all inflection but still somehow carrying his usual solemnness. Kai breaks his kiss, puts Sunny back on her feet and turns to face their new guests.
Levi looks at all of them, his eyes restlessly flickering over each of them in turn before finally settling on Hyper who still stands behind the counter next to Alex.
“I need help,” is how be begins.
Alex spends the first seven years of her life loved. And she knows it. She has no memories of her mother, but her father makes a special effort to speak of the woman often. Sharing experiences, thoughts, funny stories and pictures with Alex whenever she asks. Her mother started a baby book after finding out she was pregnant, that baby book is Alex’s bed time story for many years. Her father, despite the heartbreak it must bring him, reads through the pages over and over without falter. Without ever asking for another book.
That, Alex, thinks to herself many years in the future, is what love looks like. A faded baby book made by a woman long gone, and the man who loved her willing to break his heart every night rereading it to their child.
Her stepmother is not so understanding. In Alex’s humble opinion, her step mother is not much of anything, other than a terrible person.
Alex’s father passes away when she is seven after a car crash. He lingers, on life support for three days before her step mother signs the paperwork to turn it all off. The woman then packs up their life, their house, their furniture, their things and their memories in a flurry of activity; barely pausing long enough to hold a wake and a funeral. In two short weeks she is ready to return to her home town in western Pennsylvania.
“Heartbreak is best soothed by familiar surroundings,” her step mother says tightly as she tapes up yet another box from Alex’s room.
Alex doesn’t know what half of those words mean, but she knows that she doesn’t want to leave. She doesn’t want to leave her house, her room, her friends, her school, her home. This is where her father is, this is where her mother is, this is where all the things she knows about anything are. She cannot leave them behind. This is where she was loved.
When she tells her step mother this it is through tears, at volume and includes as many bad words as she can muster at seven. The woman listens to the angry, childish tirade in its entirety before finally replying:
Her step mother leaves her at the county orphanage on her way out of New York and Alex never sees or hears from her again.
- Current Mood: accomplished
- Current Music:"Alaska" by Maggie Rogers
wtf is this coffee machine and why is it TALKING
Not a charmer
Lets open a coffee shop!
Coffee shops are very expensive
Blessed buildings like Hyper
First customer is a red head!
Jen needs a place to crash
Hyper has a place for crashing
Jen is a scrivener
Blessed buildings are somewhat difficult to live in
Jen's teacher is a douchebag
That douchebag teacher and explosions
Why is there an unconcious woman in the kitchen?
Jade's life kinda sucks
Really kinda sucks
But she's a damn good baker
More on Jade's sucky life
Jade is something of a defeatist
GJ is baffling even on good days
also, Hyper is a badass and the building loves her
GJ is a technomancer!
There's a hole in my coffeeshop and it's GJ's fault
GJ likes puzzles
But not this puzzle
holy crap it only took me 25 chapters to get them all in the same room (except Ty. damnit.)
Sunny is perplexed by these odd people
Sunny likes success (or DOES SHE?)
She is also a badass and Kai LOVES THIS
Sunny and Kai go on a date!
Sunny quits her job and decides that an oracle is her only hope
Donnie is a cutie; and is kinda sassy (who knew?)
no, really, what the hell is up with this building
Donnie is an oracle and Kloud is a quantum particle
Blessed buildings are master meddlers and Donnie is very nervous about this
The other oracles are kinda mean
Levi is a cute little stray puppy
Makers vs. Mages Battle of the Ages!
HELLO FROM THE OTHER SIDE
good flirting and bad flirting, also, the death of words
good golly gosh lets join the army!
resurrect those words Kai
The Springs twins come into their separate powers at age sixteen. Makers and Breakers aren’t by any means rare in the US but getting the appropriate training can get expensive. In an effort to spare their mother the stress of two sons in college at the same time, Kai and ‘Mega decide to join the Army.
The decision isn’t one they take lightly, but between the recruiter that practically salivated over them when they first come by to inquire and the promises of a free education they figure it is the best option they have.
Joining is a practical decision, not a patriotic one. So it isn’t until they are facing a war zone in Iraq that they begin to seriously reconsider their choice. It’s not really the fighting that gets to them, as members of the Army Corps of Engineers and Spellcasters the twins don’t see much fighting. It’s the magic that’s expected of them.
Kai is an average Maker. His faith is stronger than most, but his imagination is not nearly as creative as others. But the curses they want from him…Kai still has nightmares about those curses.
He knows his brother doesn’t have it any better. As a Breaker ‘Mega is called in during interrogations to shatter protection charms and loyalty bonds. He is expected to tear down wards that stand over sacred places and sabotage guardian constructs.
They choose to leave after a single tour.
It is not a choice that the U.S. Government takes laying down.
It’s another early morning just three days before Christmas. Kai kills time waiting on his brother down in the shop kitchen watching Jade roll out that morning’s offerings. In an effort to get the last of their orders done before Christmas Eve, the twins have been getting up well before dawn. Jade has some kind of 30s big band swing on the shop’s sound system and is swaying in time while she manages three ovens and several pans of pastries and biscuits. In addition, one of Kloud’s book is open on Jade’s recipe stand and every so often she will nod at Kai to turn her page.
“Can you really even enjoy a book right now?” he asks her when she spins away on a down beat to silence one of the oven alarms and yank out two trays of perfectly cooked cheese danish.
“I’m dying to know what happen actually,” Jade admits sheepishly, as she sheds her oven mits and goes back to rolling out the dough for cookies.
“It’s To Kill a Mockingbird, Jade. I’m amazed you don’t already know what happens.”
Jade flicks flour at him in annoyance, “I’ve told you guys over and over, my education was very different from yours.”
“But really, missing out on basic American classics?”
“Never had a literature class, Kai.”
“That is genuinely terrible.”
“So I am beginning to understand.” Jade says ruefully. “Where are you and ‘Mega headed today?”
“Out to Red Hook to our workshop first. We’ve got several refurbishments to finish up and then we’re heading to the Village for some historic restoration.”
“Tell me that pays well.”
“You have no idea.” Kai replies with a toothy grin. “It’s going to be a very nice Christmas this year.”
The door in the shop opens and shuts loudly, Kai gets up from the stool to gather his things. But instead of his brother, Sunny appears in the doorway suddenly.
“Sunny?” Kai asks, bewildered, “What are you doing here?”
“I couldn’t sleep,” Sunny confesses wearily. “Jade, can you get me some coffee? Last time I tried to work with Hyper’s machine it spat hot water at me.”
Jade laughs, dusts her hands off on her apron and walks through the doorway and into the shop, slipping past Sunny.
“Sure, Professor.” The baker winks at the other woman as she passes. Sunny grimaces at the moniker.
“I’m certifiable for agreeing to this,” Sunny remarks to Kai. The young carpenter drops his things back to the floor and goes over to offer his girlfriend a comforting hug.
“You’re going to do fine,” he says firmly, lips against the crown of her head. “You know this stuff backwards, forwards and diagonally. And it’s just a guest lecture. If you don’t like it, you never have to see any of them ever again.”
Sunny sighs contentedly, wraps her arms loosely around his waist and leans against him.
“Oi,” Jade says as she returns, mug of coffee in hand, “No PDA in my kitchen. It’s unsanitary.”
“It’s a hug.” Kai tells her.
“For now.” Jade replies, mock suspicion in her voice.
Sunny giggles, pulls away and accepts the coffee from her friend.
“Thanks,” she says. Jade waves it off and goes back to her work station.
“Out of my kitchen the both of you,” the baker orders.
The pair obligingly goes out into the dark shop and sits down at one of the smaller tables to nurse their coffees.
“So what’s really got you freaked out?” Kai asks. “It’s not about the lecturing part, you can’t fool me.”
Sunny brushes some of her hair from her face before propping her chin up on her palm.
“I guess I’m just nervous about it because it’s new, you know? I don’t want to disappoint and I really don’t want to be disappointed myself.”
“This sounds trite, but it is true: you just have to try your best, Sunny. And then there’s no reason to feel disappointed.”
“But what if this isn’t what I’m looking for? What if Donnie is wrong?”
“Then you try something else, it’s really that simple.” Kai assures her.
The shop door suddenly opens again, Kai turns, expecting again for his brother to appear. ‘Mega still hasn’t come down, this time the cold, bitter morning admits their reclusive neighbor who stumbles across the threshold with a surprised look on his face.
“Morning!” Kai welcomes, glad to see the young man out and about. He has a messenger bag strapped across his chest and a documents tube over one shoulder. “Come on in and get a cup of coffee before you head out where ever you’re going.” Kai continues.
Kloud has been working hard to get Ty to socialize in the shop more now that he knows Jade’s hours. Ty for his part, has put up minimal resistance since there is someone he can talk to with ease, but at the same time, still spends the majority of his time up in his apartment alone.
“JADE!” Kai yells at the open doorway while Ty hangs up his things on the coat rack.
“WHAT.” Comes Jade’s annoyed reply.
“TY.” Kai responds. Ty flushes, embarrassed. They have all learned that the easiest way to combat his shyness though is to just ignore it and wait for him to rejoin the conversation when he’s comfortable. The artist tends to get even more flustered if anyone calls attention to his sensitivity.
Jade comes out of the kitchen, slapping her hands on her apron to shake off the flour.
“Morning Ty, can I get you anything?”
Ty responds in a flurry of signs while Jade pulls down a mug from the shelf.
“One Americano coming right up,” Jade replies. “Or you know, if the machine agrees with you.”
Ty huffs a laugh in response.
“Come sit with us while you wait,” Sunny invites, hooking a foot around one of the other tables’ chairs and pulling it closer. Kai turns it so it faces the right direction. Ty wanders over and drops into the seat signing his thanks. Jade follows a couple of minutes later with Ty’s coffee and a mug of her own. She pulls up another chair as well.
“Where are you headed so early, Ty?” Kai asks.
Ty, signing while Jade puts voice to it, replies “I have a client meeting this morning. I wanted to head into Manhattan before the subway gets super busy.”
“Showing off some mock ups, or a final product?” Sunny inquires, nodding at the large protective tube that Ty has hung up on the coat rack with his outerwear.
“Final product. A logo for a new law firm.” Ty signs back.
“Nice, I hope they give you a tidy Christmas bonus.” Jade says.
“Fingers crossed.” Ty replies. “How about you two?”
“Work,” Kai responds with a despondent sigh. “Christmas orders, man. They’re going to kill me.”
“I’m guest lecturing at one of the local universities. I couldn’t sleep so I decided to kill time here.” Sunny answers.
“I had no idea this place was open this early. I thought it opened at 6.” Ty signs.
“It does,” Jade answers after voicing the question for the others, “But the building will let in people sometimes. It’s one of the reasons I’m here from 10 to 6. I field all the people that randomly show up in the middle of the night because they are in desperate need of a cup of coffee. Or someone to listen. Or a place to crash. Or on one memorable occasion, the Wi-Fi.”
“GJ?” Kai asks, grinning.
“Yep,” Jade says laughing.
“Do people show up a lot at night?” Ty asks.
“Hmmm, maybe three or four times a week. They usually just need a coffee, or something small to eat.” Jade answers.
Kai frowns, momentarily concerned. He hadn’t known that Jade was having to mind the shop while that many random people were wandering in.
“If you ever want company, just in case, you can always call me or ‘Mega.” Kai offers firmly.
“And deprive you of your beauty sleep?” Jade teases.
Kai scoffs, “Hilarious. But really, Jade. We can go a couple of days without sleep, it’s no trouble.”
“You learn how to do that in the Army?” Jade asks.
“Sleep in a war zone is a luxury, believe me,” Kai replies without thinking.
“Is it the noise?” Sunny asks, clearly curious.
Kai feels the all too familiar lump in this throat rising to choke him, but manages to squeeze an answer out for his girlfriend.
“No, it’s not the noise. It’s the…atmosphere. A base, especially a base in a war zone is never really…restful or relaxing. It’s never really asleep. Do you know what I mean?”
“Like the city can be?” Ty offers.
“A little,” Kai admits. He has never thought of the city as restful, it’s New York City after all. “But not quite. The city is restless – like how you feel sometimes at night when all you want to do is leave it all behind and just start walking? It’s a kind of restlessness that has no focus, you know? The base wasn’t like that. It never slept – but there was always purpose to the sleeplessness. There was always something that needed doing.”
“So they kept you busy, even during your downtime?” Jade queries.
“Oh yea,” Kai asserts with feeling. That is an easy question and requires little thought or struggle. “’Mega and I were in pretty constant demand because of our abilities. If we couldn’t sleep, there was always work to do.”
“Wasn’t that unhealthy though?” Ty interjects, hands flying through his words, “I mean – you needed your downtime, right? Even if you weren’t sleeping, you should have had time off.”
Kai shrugs ineloquently, these words proving to be a great deal harder to summon. He takes a few seconds to try and gather his thoughts and the others seem content to let him have the time.
“It wasn’t easy. And you’re right, it was really unhealthy…but well…sometimes the work was all we had to distract us from what was expected of us. As weird as that sounds.” Kai finally says, shifting uncomfortably in his chair.
“So long as you had something to focus on, you could ignore the larger ramifications, am I right?” Sunny asks, resting her hand on Kai’s wrist on the table.
Kai sighs in relief, because that is a much clearer way of putting it. He’s going to have to try and remember that one.
“Yea, that’s it exactly.”
“I don’t mean to sound insensitive,” Jade interrupts, “But what did they have you two doing?”
“Hyper hasn’t told you?” Kai asks, surprised. He figured that the coffee shop owner would have shared with Jade and Jen at least. But Jade shakes her head.
“No, she has never said anything.”
“Ruining lives, mostly.” Kai replies. “In a variety of creative, terrible ways we worked at ruining lives.”
“Oh,” Jade says weakly. “Well, I can certainly relate to that.”
Ty and Sunny both look perplexed by Jade’s answer but never get the chance to ask because ‘Mega finally comes down from the apartment, dressed in his work clothes and carrying their tool box.
“Oi, Kai, you ready?”
Kai whirls in his seat, pissed “You’re asking me that? Seriously?!”
‘Mega is unaffected by his twin’s ire, ignoring Kai’s muttered insults as he gets up and gathers his bag and coat.
“It’s started snowing again,” ‘Mega remarks, shutting the shop door behind him to keep the cold out. “Where’s your hat?”
“In my bag, mother.” Kai half snarls yanking said item out and tugging it over his hair and ears. Jade chuckles at the brothers while gathering up everyone’s empty mugs and heading back towards the kitchen.
“If you guys give me five seconds I’ll have some blackberry scones for you to go.”
“Done deal,” ‘Mega replies eagerly.
Kai finishes putting his coat on and turns to Sunny and Ty, “Do you guys want a ride to the subway station? We’re headed in that direction.”
Ty nods quickly and flips his hand down from his chin in thanks.
“I appreciate the offer, but the university buildings won’t be open for a couple more hours. I’ll hang out with Jade for a while longer.” Sunny says, standing so she can peck a sweet kiss on Kai’s lips.
“You can turn my pages for me!” Jade cheers coming back into the shop space just in time to catch the end of Sunny’s sentence.
“Is she serious?” Sunny asks Kai.
“Deadly serious. She’s down to the last four chapters of To Kill a Mockingbird.”
“I must know what happens.” Jade says emphatically, handing a paper bag over to ‘Mega. “I put a cheese Danish in there for you Ty. Make sure you grab it out of the bag before the boys drop you at the station.”
Ty signs something to Jade that she doesn’t bother saying aloud but she grins happily at the artist in the response.
“Well with praise like that, it’s easy to be nice to you.” She replies.
“How about I read aloud to you?” Sunny asks Jade as the boys head for the door.
“Huh, that would probably go better,” Jade agrees. “You don’t mind?”
“Not at all, it’ll be nice to reread it.”
‘Mega opens the door and gets an armful of Hyper for his trouble. The sleepy eyed barista gives Kai’s brother a grin as she brushes by them all to get into the shop.
“Morning boys!” she chirps, yawning, already tugging her coat from her shoulders. ‘Mega stares at her back, a look in his eyes that reminds Kai quite suddenly of their mother many, many years ago. Longing. Wild, fierce longing.
Kai puts his hands on his brother’s shoulders and shoves him out the door, following and trusting Ty to pull it shut behind them. Once out in the snow and the quiet, cold morning Kai faces his brother on the side walk.
“If you do not find the words necessary to tell that woman how you feel about her, I will take drastic action.” Kai announces.
“Leave it alone, Kai.” ‘Mega hisses, stealing an uneasy glance at Ty who casts about for something to look at that doesn’t include the feuding brothers.
“No. I won’t. You know why?” Kai asks, poking ‘Mega in the chest with his finger and not giving him a chance to answer. “Because you look at her the way mom used to look at dad. And you and I both know how that one turned out. All because they could never figure out how to talk to each other.”
“It’s not that simple, Kai.” ‘Mega answers softly.
“I didn’t say it was. And I know it isn’t. Especially for us. But, seriously, ‘Mega. We have got to be better people than our parents.”
‘Mega glances away at that, a bitter frown twisting his mouth.
“I’ll try.” He promises, after a long moment’s pause.“That’s all I want.” Kai assures him. “For both of us, I just want us to keep trying.”
Kai does not like his father the first time he meets him at age five. Granted, when he first meets Kade Springs, neither of them (nor Altmega) are aware of the familial relation. The only thing Kai knows as he stares down the handsome older man with his charming smile is that he clearly makes his mom, Nikkoa, nervous.
Of course, both Kai and his brother end up liking Kade quite a bit. Kade listens to them as though they are grownups rather than children. That alone is enough to get Kai to like him even if sometimes he sees his mom look at the three of them together with such a fierce longing that Kai feels sad.
Kade becomes a regular fixture in their lives for six months. He takes the brothers on small trips around the city, teaches them things about promises and honor. And pride. Kai and Altmega learn a great deal about pride from their father, even if the lesson isn’t really one Kade means to teach.
Secrets like this aren’t easy ones to keep and that particular one comes out in spectacular fashion just after their sixth birthday. The resulting argument between their parents leaves the boys with two lasting impressions.
The first is of their mother’s formidable temper. Nikkoa has a habit of throwing things when riled.
The second is of their father’s pride. Because while he makes it clear that he would have loved the chance to be a father and that Nikkoa stole that from him – the boys do not see or hear from him again until they are twenty.
The week before Christmas Kai watches as Altmega presents a beautiful bouquet of red roses and winter holly to their resident Charmer and coffee shop owner. Kai actually holds his breath, mug halfway to his lips as he watches with wide eyes to see what her response to his older twin’s wordless advance is.
Hyper, in typical fashion, is effusive with her praise and delight.
“Oh wow, ‘Mega! These are fantastic! Thank you so much!” she tells him, taking the flowers in one hand and giving him a one armed hug with the other.
“I hadn’t thought of doing anything festive for the tables. These will work perfectly. Such a great idea, I didn’t know you were interested in interior design. Of course, actually now that I think about it, being a carpenter and all you probably do have a fair bit of experience don’t you?” the barista continues to chat at him while she pulls down some of the nice glasses from the cabinet and starts lining them up on the counter.
Kai puts his mug down and covers his mouth with his hand. ‘Mega is glaring at him so fiercely that Kai is having trouble keeping his laughter down. Deciding that retreat is his only option, Kai hops down from the stool at the counter and wanders over to see what Alex is up to at one of the large tables in the back.
“He is going to have to just come out and ask her at some point,” Alex comments the moment he sits down across from her. Kai chuckles, puts his feet up in one of the spare chairs and relaxes.
“’Mega has never been good with verbalization of his feelings,” Kai says.
“You seem to be able to read him easily,” Alex replies.
“He’s my twin, I’ve had our entire lives to practice reading his eyebrows.”
“Trust me, it’s all there. You just got to get good at seeing it.”
Alex laughs to herself as she shuffles through her legal pad full of notes, “I’ll keep that in mind. Though you might want to consider passing this information on to Hyper, rather than me.”
“What makes you think I haven’t?” he asks, innocently
“Because you’re enjoying this way too much.”
“Touché.” Kai concedes, leaning back a little so he can glance over at the nearly happy couple. Hyper is breaking up the bouquet into smaller arrangements and putting them in water glasses, while a scowling ‘Mega is taking them to tables.
“I’ll try talking to her if he doesn’t make any progress before Valentine’s Day. Fair?”
“What are you working on?” Kai asks, curious.
“Oh. I know you’ve been talking to Kloud a lot the past couple of weeks. Anything come from that?”
“Not really. Neither Kloud nor I can do anything without a complaining witness. I mean one of us could file a complaint with the police or DCS but the time it takes to investigate means that Oakland would have plenty of time to retaliate against his son.”
“And we’re certain that would happen?”
“Donnie has seen it.”
“Yea, so we’re stuck until Levi decides he’s ready to confide in us.”
Kai rubs a hand over his eyes tiredly. He and his brother have been busy the entire week filling last minute Christmas orders. Mostly refurbish requests, but it is time consuming, often tedious work and it has not let up at all since the start of December.
“There’s only so much we can do before the kid spooks and bolts. Trust takes time, and we’re all getting impatient.”
Alex sighs and pats him on the shoulder, “I know, I know. This system doesn’t make sense half the time but it’s all we have within the law.”
“And outside the law?”
“Don’t let me or Kloud hear you say that, Springs. We’re both officers of the law and you have no idea the trouble we would get in.”
“Are you saying it wouldn’t be worth it?”
“I’m saying that if you choose that route, you should consider all of the consequences before committing.” Alex snaps back.
“Sorry,” Kai says quickly, “I’m not really considering anything illegal, Alex. I’m sorry for saying that.”
“We’re all frustrated. It’s okay.” Alex shuffles some more of her papers and shifts a stack of law books further down the table. “If it makes you feel any better the second that Levi decides he can trust us we will be ready.”
“It helps,” Kai confirms.
Just then, despite it being well after closing and Hyper already having locked up for the night, GJ opens the front door and ambles in out of the snow.
“Stars and stones it is fucking freezing out there.” GJ announces taking his coat and scarf off and shaking snowflakes from his hair. “I hope everyone is in for the night, because I think they’re going to close the bridges after 1.”
“Good thing Sunny headed home early.” Kai says. GJ wanders past the tables, giving the new flower centerpieces a questioning once over.
“Are those roses and holly?”
“Yep!” Hyper confirms from behind the counter where she is still cleaning up the work surfaces. “’Mega bought them for me. Gives the shop a little more festive air, doesn’t it?”
GJ doesn’t bother holding back his laughter. “The shop is plenty festive already, Hyper. Are you sure this is what ‘Mega had in mind for the flowers?”
Hyper frowns, clearly perplexed, “Well what else would he have wanted me to do with them?”
“I’m certain I have no idea,” GJ says cheerfully, “You should ask him.”
Hyper turns to face ‘Mega, who has been sending blistering glares at GJ the entire time. Kai is once again covering a laugh with his hand while Alex tries her best to keep a straight face. GJ turns his back on the two behind the shop counter where ‘Mega is assuring Hyper that no, he did buy them for her to decorate the shop with. Hyper seems to accept his explanation but when ‘Mega goes to arrange the last of the glasses of flowers on the tables, Kai catches sight of the barista casting uncertain glances at his twin’s back.
GJ takes another of the seats at Alex’s table, “Well I think I’ve stirred that pot sufficiently. Let’s see if he manages to do anything with it.” He remarks, wiggling his eyebrows suggestively.
“You’re evil,” Alex admonishes with a smirk.
“And my aim is to please,” GJ says with a dramatic sign, touching the back of his wrist to his forehead. “But really, the man needs to learn to use his words.”
“Pretty much the conclusion we came to earlier.” Kai says.
“Has he always been quiet?” GJ asks, curious.
Kai shrugs, “Kinda? I mean he’s always had his issues talking about his feelings and stuff.”
“But he wasn’t always so…taciturn?” Alex asks, struggling for a moment to find the correct word herself.
“Oh, well, no. That’s…more from what we used to do.” Kai admits.
“What did you guys used to do?” Alex presses. GJ, on the other hand is unusually silent as he fiddles with one of Alex’s textbooks.
Kai suddenly feels as his brother must, because the words dry up in his throat and he stares helplessly at Alex’s inquiring face. He doesn’t even know where to begin talking about his and his brother’s past. They have kept silent about that for so long, Kai honestly thinks sometimes that the words died. They dropped dead from the lack of use and can never be revived.
The silence is getting awkward now, uncomfortably so. But Kai doesn’t know what to do, or say to break it.
“Hey Alex, have you given any thought to that play I mentioned last week?” GJ interrupts.
Kai sighs audibly in relief.
“Oh, um, I actually haven’t really…” Alex verbally flails and Kai feel nothing but sympathy having been stuck there himself seconds before.
“That’s alright,” GJ waves it off, “But if you’d like to go, I can still get us tickets. What do you say?”
“Wouldn’t all the tickets be sold out?” Alex asks, bewildered. Broadway plays, especially such popular ones like Merlin sold out within days, if not hours.
“I know some people that owe me favors.” GJ replies with a sly grin.
“Sold out Broadway tickets sized favors?”
“Um…I’ll consider it. For real this time. I’ll give you an answer tomorrow?”
“Okay, that’s fine.” GJ agrees blithely. “It’d be dinner too, we could head into the city early and grab a bite.”
“That’s really not…necessary.” Alex remarks, squirming.
“Nonsense. If I’m going to take a lady out, then I’m going to do it properly.”
“So this would be a…a date?”
“You’re asking me out on a date?”
“What did you think I was doing?”
“I have no idea, honestly.” Alex says, stunned. “I’ve just always assumed you were joking when you flirted with me.”
“Yea, I noticed.” GJ admits. “I stuck with it though, I figured you’d realize the truth eventually.”
Kai wonders if they even realize he’s still sitting there.
“That’s…you really want to date me?”
“Yes. I really do. I think you’re amazing.”
“So you’ve said.”
“Glad you were listening.”
Alex suddenly breaks out into a brilliant smile, “You are not going to let me get in the last word on this are you?”
“Not if I can help it.” GJ shoots right back.
“Gods above, I’m leaving.” Kai says suddenly getting up and making for the door. “Please wait until I’m gone before you two make out like teenagers.”
“Make out? Who said anything about making out?” GJ asks, wiggling his eyebrows at Alex again.
“I expect dinner before making out of any kind.” Alex says primly.
“Is that a yes?”
Kai hears Alex’s assent just before he shuts the shop door behind him.
Kaiotai has never had any patience for bullies. It doesn’t take long for Levi to become a regular fixture at the coffee shop. Two weeks in and the kid is clearly using the shop as a haven. If he’s not in school, he’s camped out at one of the tables getting homework help from whoever is free.
The police officer, Kloud has taken to loitering about the shop on his breaks and during a lot of his free time. He is casual around the kid, but is also obviously trying to gain the kid’s trust. He and Jen have all but taken over the kid’s education with regard to literature. It is funny, but half of the time their discussions turn into all out debates which are watched avidly by Levi and weirdly enough, Jade.
“I’ve never had much time for reading,” Jade admits when they ask her about her interest.
“What about in school?” Kloud asks, aghast.
Jade shrugs, “My education was pretty narrowly focused,” she answers cryptically. Kloud is clearly curious, but Jen quickly changes the subject and Kai joins her seamlessly. Kloud clearly doesn’t forget the conversation however, because he turns up the next Saturday before his early shift and delivers several novels to Jade.
“This should be enough to get you started. I picked out a broad range of genres so you can get a feel for what you like. If you can’t finish something, don’t sweat it, life is too short to waste on books you don’t enjoy, just move on to the next one.”
Jade numbly takes the stack from him, “Um, thanks?” she half says, half asks.
Kloud pops his hat on his head and winks at her, “No problem. Just give them to Ty when you’re done with them.” And he is out the door after nodding at Kai.
Kai smiles into his coffee mug, but Jade catches the look.
“That smug grin is not nothing, Kaiotai Springs. What?”
“He likes you.”
“He’s engaged.” Jade retorts, shifting the books to one arm, picking up the one on top and turning it over to read the back. Apparently satisfied with the synopsis, she tucks the small paperback into the front pocket of her apron and puts the rest under the counter.
“He’s showing a lot of interest in you for an engaged man.” Kai remarks, suddenly a bit more suspicious of the young police officer. Jade rolls her eyes at him.
“Kloud isn’t interested in me like that, Kai, for star’s sake. I know sign language.” She prompts, bracing her hands on the counter and giving him a level look.
“Oh. Ty. He wants you to befriend Ty.” Kai deduces in a flash of insight. Their other neighbor in the building is something of recluse. They’ve only ever seen him out with Kloud, and even then it is clearly something that Kloud has to talk the other man into.
“Ding, ding!” Jade says.
At her words, one of her many timers goes off in a parody of an echo. Jade disappears into the kitchen.
Jen comes in the front, shivering from the cold December chill.
“Where’s your jacket?” Kai demands.
“The shop door is literally six feet from the lobby door.” Jen replies airily walking behind the shop counter.
“Come on sweetie, I let Hyper sleep in and everything. What do you say to a macchiato as a thank you?” she croons at the machine.
There’s an almost reluctant creak from the machine, but Jen must take it as a positive sign because she gleefully sticks a mug under one of the spouts and it obligingly fills it.
Kai looks at his mug of plain black coffee, “Why is that Jade can only get the machine to make plain black?” he asks.
Jen shrugs, “No idea. The machine does what it wants, you know that.”
Kai does indeed know that. Hyper has been working with it constantly, trying to convince the finicky machine to actual make people what they order but with very little success. Granted, the machine’s bullheadedness hasn’t hurt the show much since it does seem to always know what people’s favorite drinks are – even when they themselves are unaware.
The door opens again, this time to admit Levi, looking a bit bleary at the early hour.
“Morning,” he greets them both while shedding his winter layers and hanging them up on the hall tree by the door.
Jen chirps a bright “Good Morning!” back while grabbing the young man a mug for his usual tea.
Kai just nods at the young man, while Levi goes and picks out his bag of tea.
“You’re here awfully early,” Jen says passing the mug of hot water over the counter to him.
“Wanted to get out from underfoot,” Levi said, “My dad is busy today.”
Jen and Kai exchange a lightning fast glance and goes unnoticed by Levi who is settling on one of the couches and taking a book out of his backpack. Jen instantly perks up at the sight of the older hardback.
“Oooh,” she whispers, almost reverently, “Is that a first edition?”
Levi looks up, surprised, “Yea, how’d you know?”
Jen points to herself, “Scrivener. Ink type.” She walks around the counter and crosses over to him. “Journey to the Center of the Earth?”
Levi nods, somewhat warily clutching the book like it was a stuffed animal. Jen gentles her tone, and crouches down next him.
“Could I have a look at it?” she asks softly. It is clear to Kai from across the room that Levi doesn’t want to let it go. But the kid is made of mostly bravery and resignation at this point because he hands the beautiful book over.
Jen makes a delighted noise as she opens the book lovingly. “Oh this is just lovely. Look at this typeface. London, 1861. You can taste the coal smoke in the ink, I swear.”
Levi still looks worried, but he is clearly intrigued by Jen’s abilities. “You can really feel the ink in it?”
“Oh yea, that’s my thing you know?” she asks rhetorically. “I can also tell that there’s some non-1800s ink in it.” She flips to the front of the book and Kai can’t see what she sees from where he is but her face falls suddenly. “Oh,” she says softly.
Levi snatches the book from her hands, his face a mix of anger and despair. But before he can snap at her, Jen interrupts.
“I can fix that.” She blurts out. That brings Levi up short.
“The inscription. I can fix it.”
“It’s almost completely faded,” Levi replies.
“Doesn’t matter, the ink is still there, it hasn’t disappeared. The dark color is just bleaching out. All I’d have to do is introduce a little fresh ink and it’d be back like it was signed yesterday.”
“R-Really?” the longing in the boy’s voice is so desperate that Kai has to look away and stare at his mug for a few seconds.
“Really, really.” She assures him, holding her hands out. Levi is hesitant but he slowly puts the book back in her hands. She pops up from her crouch and speeds over to her newsstand. “Give me ten minutes,” she says brightly, setting the book down on her desk and reaching to pick up and crack the seal on one of her bottles of ink.
Kai gets up from his seat at the counter, picks up his coffee and then bends down and grabs his toolbox from its spot by his feet. He crosses over to the couches and sits down on the low coffee table. Levi hasn’t stopped staring at Jen, who is now pouring a miniscule amount of ink into her cupped palm.
The Maker sets his tool box on the table next to him, followed by his mug. Once situated, Kai opens the lid of his tool box and lifts out the top tray. Levi’s attention is torn between what Jen is doing and Kai’s tools.
The tool box itself is actually both his and his brother’s and is filled with the tools of their trade. Empty spell structures, carving tools, vials of various substances, and other odds and ends fill both the tray and the bottom section. The box and the tools have been with him and ‘Mega since they were eleven; through their training and their jobs with the Army Core of Engineers and Spellmakers. It is somewhat crazy to think of them having voices (as Hyper has assured them both that they do) but then again, after all Kai and his brother have seen and done it isn’t that surprising.
“What is all that?” Levi’s voice breaks into Kai’s thoughts.
“Tools of the trade,” Kai replies.
“It kinda looks like junk.” Levi says, clearly without thought because he turns bright red the second the words are out. “I-I mean-“
Kai just laughs, “It’s okay. It does look like junk. But I promise, all this is very powerful stuff.”
Levi chews his bottom lip for a second and then points to a wooden spool in the tray, “What’s that?”
Kai picks the spool up and turns it in the light. There is a length of bright blue cord wrapped around it.
“This is spell cord from the Arabian Peninsula. See how bright the color is? According to local legend, the Makers of Iran have the ability to summon down the color of the sky above the desert.”
“Is that true?”
“Possibly. What I know for sure is that blue is the color of protection. It resonates very well with those kinds of spells and magic.”
“So like guardian charms or safety binds?”
“Exactly. With this I could, for instance, make you a bracelet or necklace that would make you a little more…invisible to those that might mean you harm.”
There is a heavy pause as Levi’s eyes widen and the young man tenses like he wants to bolt. But Jen still has his book, the book that he loves so much, and Kai is not above admitting that he might have planned it that way.
Patience isn’t Kai’s best trait, but his past has taught him a great deal about waiting.
Levi doesn’t make a run for it and Kai begins to wonder if they are just going to spend the next eight minutes in nervous silence when Jade brushes between them both.
“’Cuse me boys,” she says tiredly and drops onto the couch next to Levi. She sets a glass of ice water on the coffee table next to Kai’s tool box.
“Nice spell cord, Kai,” Jade says her tone teasing. “It’s cute.”
“Don’t condescend my tools, Jade,” he warns playfully. “They could save your life one day.”
“Whatever you say.”
“That sounds like a challenge. Doesn’t that sound like a challenge, Levi?”
“You wanna play this game with me, honey?” Jade drawls.
“You never graduated,” Kai shoots back.
“Still could wipe the floor with you.”
“Bring it.” Kai reaches into his kit and pulls out a small glass bead from the bottom and tosses it to her. Jade catches it without flinching.
“You see what you can do with that, and I’ll see what I can do with this,” Kai waves the spool of spell cord.
“You’re on.” Jade declares sitting up eagerly from her tired slouch. Levi looks a bit concerned, but also clearly curious.
Kai reaches into his kit again and pulls out his solid silver scissors. With his left hand he tosses the spool into the air, high above their heads. His eyes fix on Levi, staring at the boy fiercely, and concentrates on his desire for the young man to be safe.
The spool falls down between them and then suddenly is caught in midair at eye level. There’s a sharp blue of movement as the spool spins wildly and a length of cord unwinds in a dizzying spiral. Kai reaches out with his scissors in his right hand and cuts the length. The spool drops into his left hand, while the freed length of cord wraps around his scissors.
Kai puts the spool back in his kit, and starts to carefully peel the cord from his scissors.
“Show off,” Jade accuses him lightly.
The Maker cuts his cord in two, then three equal lengths and begins to braid them together. The spell is an old favorite of his, the words fall from his mouth in a steady, effortless stream as his magic works itself gleefully into the cord. It’s a nice little deflection spell, not pure invisibility of course, that would take a great deal more casting and a great deal more prep.
“My turn,” Jade remarks. Kai and Levi both look over at her.
She holds the small clear crystal bead between her forefinger and thumb and then brings it to her mouth. She takes a long even breath in and then breathes over the bead. Kai can see the glass fog over from the heat.
Jade then takes the bead between her palms and rubs her hands together slowly as though she needed the warmth. She closes her eyes and hums a single, low note. It reverberates strangely in his ears. Kai looks around as the building itself begins to hum right along with her only at an octave lower. Jade must hear it too, because she smiles, pleased. Both he and Levi watch, enraptured as a glow starts up, peeking from between her hands – brighter and brighter until it as though she is grasping a star.
She falls quiet and the building subsides as well. The mage opens her hands, and the bead is glowing a steady, soft white. Leaning forward, she drops the bead into her water glass. The moment it hits the ice on top, the light winks out. She fishes the bead back out and hands it to Kai.
“A little light,” she tells them with a cheeky grin. “All you have to do is warm it and it will always shine for you.”
Levi looks almost…hungrily at the bead at her explanation. Kai quietly remembers Donnie’s heartbroken description of a black basement.
“How long will it last?” Levi asks.
“A while,” she answers firmly. She picks up her water glass, gets up and heads back to the kitchen. “We’ll call this a tie, Maker.” She remarks as she leaves.
“How long is a while?” Levi asks Kai once Jade has disappeared into the kitchen.
Kai threads the bead on the cord and ties the ends together in a sturdy spelled knot. The resulting necklace is long enough that Levi can wear it under his t-shirt.
“That bead will give light to your great-great grandchildren, Levi.”
Kai moves slow, giving the young teen a chance to lean away if he’s uncomfortable but he holds still while Kai loops the necklace over his head. The Maker presses a solemn hand against the boy’s chest where the necklace falls and quietly intones one more spell. This one will see to it that the necklace can’t be taken away from the boy.
Once Kai draws back, Levi picks it up and looks at it with a great deal of skepticism. Kai laughs a little and starts packing up his tool box.
“Are you really sure?” Levi presses.
“Mages operate off the laws of the universe. Sometimes that’s the societal laws, like the ones that make this building what it is. And sometimes, they can use the physical ones, like gravity. Heat and light are closely linked by physics and the laws of thermodynamics. These are the kinds of laws that govern stars, Levi. And as long as the stars burn in the sky, that bead will give you light.”
“Oh.” Levi says quietly, clearly stunned. “What about your spells?”
“A bit shorter,” Kai says jokingly, “My magic is much more flexible than magery. If I can imagine it, believe in it, I can make it. But because it is based on me, my spells end when I do.”
“So Makers and Mages?”
“Will always tie.” Kai replies.
Levi opens his hand and stares at the softly shining beacon.
“Thank you,” Levi says, “You guys don’t have to do this.”
“Look at me.”
Levi looks up hesitantly at the Maker.
“You deserve good things, Levi. I’m sorry that the universe isn’t a fair or just place but I need you to always remember that you are a good kid and deserve wonderful things.”
“Why are you all being so kind?” he asks in almost a whine.
“Because it costs us nothing to be kind.”
Levi opens his mouth to argue with that point, but just then Jen appears beside them his book in her hands. The young man snatches it from her, and opens the front cover immediately. His face brightens in joyful smile that shines more than the light Jade made.
“It’s perfect,” he says wonderingly.
Jen pretends to dust off her shoulder with a smirk.
“I’m damn good.”
“Thank you so much.” Levi says with feeling, there are tears welling up in his eyes as he looks at Jen.
“Happy to help, my young friend. Happy to help.”
Jade suddenly leans into the shop space from the kitchen doorway, interrupting them with her abrupt appearance.
“I’m a masochist and I made cinnamon buns. Who wants one?”
The resulting stampede to get to the kitchen cannot be exaggerated. A few minutes later, Levi is sitting on Jade’s work stool, a hot, sticky cinnamon bun in each hand cheerfully chewing on a mouthful of the flaky, buttery goodness. His longing, desperation and despair are so absent that for a moment Kai can pretend that they were never there to begin with.No, Kai thinks to himself, the universe isn’t a fair or just place. But we do what we can to create some kind of balance.
So as it turns out Levi Oakland is a fairly interesting young man. There’s the fact that he is a budding Finder –
(Oh gods above, someday he will be a force to be reckoned with. His power is clear, but whether he comes down on the side of the law or not is yet to be decided.)
There is also the small matter of the young man’s father.
Oh yes, Donnie thinks to himself as Levi Oakland lets go of his sleeve, something will need to be done about that.
Hyper suddenly appears in front of them both, leaning across the counter to smile winningly at the 14 year old.
“Playing hooky?” Hyper asks the kid. Levi stammers ineffectively for a moment, taken by surprise by the cheerful barista.
“I j-just wanted-“
Hyper holds up a hand, “Hey, no judgment from this corner, sweetie. I’m amazed to this day that I passed Calculus considering how much time I spent avoiding that class.”
“I s-should g-get back.”
“How about some tea for the road?” Hyper offers, “On the house.”
“You can make tea?” Donnie demands, taking some of the pressure of Levi. “Why didn’t I know this?”
“Losing your touch?”
Donnie scoffs, “No need to be rude. I was just surprised, I figured your coffee machine would be taking a firm stance on the coffee versus tea debate. It’s a coffee machine.”
“My coffee machine is incredibly talented and flexible.” Hyper retorts.
“Isn’t tea just hot water and a tea bag?” Levi asks, clearly fascinated by the playful back and forth. So much so, that he momentarily forgets to be intimidated.
“Ooooh!” Hyper squeals, delighted. “Feisty!”
Levi flushes, “I didn’t-“
“No, no, sweetie, stick to your guns. One cup of hot leaf bag water coming up. Go pick out your tea bag.” Hyper points to the small rack down the counter that has a collection of about a dozen clear glass jars fully of different teas.
Levi obligingly shuffles down, still bright red.
Once he’s out of ear shot, Hyper focuses on Donnie, her cheerful grin dropping completely.
Donnie holds up a hand this time, “I know. I can see it.”
“And I can hear it, Donnie.” Hyper says softly. “The boy has something in his backpack. I can’t even tell what it is, it’s so hysterical.”
“What’s it saying?” Donnie asks.
Hyper’s dark brown eyes are solemn and sad, “Please don’t hurt him.” She answers. “Over and over, Donnie. Whatever it is, he loves it and it is screaming for him. It is begging.”
Donnie looks over at the unassuming young man who is staring perplexed at the glass jars.
“What would you recommend?” Donnie asks, because he’s done this before and the outcomes are never guaranteed – not even with his abilities.
(Mr. Oakland does not take losing control over his little family well. But Levi is required to attend school, so it isn’t hard to track the ungrateful little brat down and follow him. There’s a Maker down in Sheepshead Bay that doesn’t care what spells you ask for so long as you pay for the work. The little curse Oakland buys is a delicate one, but when applied correctly will last for decades so he has to time this just right -)
“Tell Kloud,” Hyper answers, while Donnie blinks the last few images of Levi writhing on the ground away.
“Evidence, Hyper. Our testimony is not admissible in criminal proceedings or family court hearings. And believe me, Oakland is going to have to be locked up before Levi is safe.”
Hyper tilts her head to the side as she considers Donnie’s face. She must find something there that convinces her because she sighs. She then glances over at Levi again, who is fishing a tea bag out of one of the jars with tongs.
“He’s afraid of the dark,” Hyper says sadly. “There’s a basement under the house, and a door that locks from the outside.”
Donnie feels sick for a moment, as his abilities offer up a real image to go with that description.
(Basement is generous. It’s a narrow, low ceilinged space that only has a water heater in a length of chain looped around one of the pipes. Chain that ends in ankle restraints.)
“This is silly,” Hyper says suddenly, straightening up from her lean over the counter.
“How so?” Donnie demands, because he can’t find anything remotely amusing about this.
“My coffee shop hosts a Charmer, a Scrivener, a Mage, a Seer, a lawyer, a cop, a genius, a Maker, a Breaker and a Techonomancer on a regular or semi-regular basis. You know what that means?”
(Donnie does, oh stars and stones, does he ever.)
“That you need to hire a referee?” Donnie queries, just to see Hyper grin.
“Funny, Phillips. No – it means we have more than enough brain, brawns and magic to figure something out for this kid.”
There’s a sharp pull in Donnie’s chest, and his focus both sharpens and draws back, like looking down the wrong end of a telescope.
(And in the great distance, far away, he can see Levi sitting at this counter, in the same place he just vacated, much, much older, laughing as Hyper, grey in her hair, wrinkles creasing the corners of her eyes, leans on the counter and pushes a mug of tea towards him.)
The building settles in its magic with what feels like a coy smile.
- Current Location:HOME, FINALLY
- Current Mood: cheerful
- Current Music:The Future Starts Slow by The Kills
GJ lets the plastic sheet go and hops down.
“That should hold until tomorrow, let’s just hope we don’t get a blizzard –“ Kai cuts himself off when the door to the shop swings open and a uniformed officer slips in, casting a quick glance around the space before closing the door behind him.
The officer removes his hat and tucks it under his arm. He has long hair that has been scraped back into a half bun and looks a bit worse for the wear.
“Can I help you, Officer?” Hyper asks politely, still holding her broom.
“Are you the owner of this establishment?” the officer asks politely.
“We have reports of an altercation that took place her about an hour ago. Someone threw a man through a window?”
“Shit.” GJ says, defeated. He raises his hand like a schoolboy in class. “My fault, officer.”
The officer, instead of immediately pulling out handcuffs, simply gazes at GJ, cocks a single eyebrow up and says, “Oh?”
“Uh. Yea.” GJ reiterates again, “His name is Bradley Harding, and well…we kinda got into a bit of a confrontation.”
“A confrontation that ended with Mr. Harding going through that window?” the officer hooks a thumb over his shoulder at the plastic sheeting.
“GJ didn’t do anything wrong,” Hyper speaks up firmly.
The officer returns his attention to Hyper. “Alright. You then?”
The officer turns to Kai, “You?”
Kai puts up his hands, in mock surrender “Wasn’t even here at the time.”
“I see, another patron then?”
“Um…no.” Hyper replies.
“No, not them either.”
There’s a somewhat awkward pause as the officer stares at them with his dark blue eyes. Finally, the man sighs, grabs one of the chairs, sits in it and places his hat on one of the tables.
“I’ll be honest with you, Miss...?”
“Miss Kenyon. I’m coming off a double shift because two of my fellow officers have come down with pneumonia. I haven’t slept since day before yesterday and all I really want is to go home, have a shower and fall asleep with my girlfriend.”
The officer fixes a tired, but steady gaze on Hyper, “Mr. Harding has made several claims regarding his treatment inside your establishment. I’ve been a beat cop for 5 years now and I can tell the man is full of shit. So what I need from you at this point is a statement of what happened and hopefully some proof that the man is full of shit. For instance, do those work?”
The officer points to the security cameras that Hyper has set up in the ceiling over the coffee bar. Hyper, wide eyed, nods.
“Fantastic. Any chance I can get a copy of the footage to go with your account of events?”
Hyper grins, “Officer, if you’re telling me that I don’t have to come down to the station and that I’m not going to be arrested you can have whatever you want.”
“I would not say no to a cup of coffee.”
“Done! GJ the computer for the security cameras is in the office in the kitchen. Go make yourself useful. Kai, go get Jen, she was here during the fight as well and can give a statement too. And while you’re up there tell Jade that it looks like we’ll be open tomorrow so I’m still going to need the usual pastry order.”
Kai scurries out to carry out Hyper’s orders, while the woman herself swings around the bar and sticks an extra-large mug under her coffee machine. The machine shudders to life with a hiss and a whistle. GJ on the other hand, goes to his briefcase and starts rummaging around for a USB flash drive he can use to carry the video footage.
The officer takes his notebook from his heavy uniform jacket and opens it on the table top.
“From the beginning, if you please, Ms. Kenyon.”
“Hyper is fine, Officer…?”
“Kloud. Officer Hunter Kloud.”
Hyper frowns for a moment, trying to think of where she has heard that name before.
“Oh! You’re the cop that comes to visit that artist on the top floor! I’m surprised that Kai didn’t recognize you.”
“They guy I sent upstairs. We all live in this building, except GJ here.”
“I see. Well, yes. My cousin lives here, I drop by to see him from time to time.”
“Your cousin doesn’t get out much,” Hyper observes as she takes the mug away from the spout and comes back around to deposit it on the officer’s table.
“He’s…shy.” Kloud says after a moment’s hesitation. He then picks up his cup of coffee and takes a tentative sip. He makes a startled noise, eyes wide with surprise and takes a longer drink from the mug.
“Stars and stones. What is this?”
Hyper, as always, looks over at her machine to check with him first.
“Huh. I didn’t even know he could make hot chocolate,” Hyper remarks, completely nonplussed.
GJ looks up from his bag, mortally offended.
“He gets hot chocolate?!”
Hyper waves off GJ’s ire, “I’m getting better at convincing him to make people things beside they’re favorite. I’ll get you a cup to try at some point.”
Kloud watches the back and forth, with sharp eyes. He may be tired, but he is still a police officer.
“Charmer?” he asks.
“This is delicious, thank you.”
“Anytime. Seriously. You’re like the only officer that can find this building. I definitely want to stay on your good side.”
Kloud frowns at her statement for a moment, clearly confused. Then he glances over at the plastic sheet taped over the window, then to GJ standing by his bag and then finally, towards the ceiling of the shop.
“The blessing. Of course. Harding broke the rules, didn’t he?”
“Told you none of us did anything wrong,” Hyper reports cheerfully.
“Well this actually makes my paperwork a great deal easier. Still going to need statements and the video footage though.”
“Sure, sure.” Hyper agrees, while GJ having finally found a flash drive at the very bottom of his admittedly messy bag heads towards the kitchen. Just before he ducks out of ear shot he hears Hyper offer the officer a free scone. The man lets out a tired, but genuine chuckle and accepts.
“Smart girl,” GJ mutters under his breath, “No one can resist the pastries.”
- Current Location:Flat
- Current Mood:kinda tired actually
- Current Music:One More Song by Josiah Leming
Ian Matherson is a brilliant and powerful Scrivener.
At first, he proves to be a truly gifted teacher. He is funny, patient and smart and Jen comes to idolize him more than a little bit.
All Scriveners fall into one of two categories: Ink or Paper gifted and he, like Jen, is Ink. He spends hours with her, training and honing her abilities and Jen is pleasantly surprised how versatile her gift can be, even in the digital age.
In the past, Scriveners were in great abundance within in the Supernatural community. But as the computer gained traction the number of Ink gifted Scriveners began to decline. In the beginning, Jen agrees to train her gift as a simple matter of safety and convenience. But as time passes, and her teacher shows her more and more of the supernatural world and their place in it, Jen’s opinion changes.
Jen starts researching degree opportunities where she could use her gift and is awarded a scholarship to a prestigious University in England. The University is deeply interested in seeing if her abilities can be used to help with book conservation and Jen has fallen in love with the written word thanks to Ian. He is her inspiration and she does not know how to thank him for showing her how beautiful the written language can be.
When she shares the news with him she imagines that he will be proud of her. After all, she will be going to take his teachings and apply them to the books and works of art that they both love.
He is not proud. And he is not happy.
Instead, he reacts in a manner that Jen did not expect. Violently. Very violently.
Jen learns her last, and perhaps most impactful lesson from Ian Matherson that night. She learns that ink, in the hands of a well-trained Scrivener, can be made into a weapon.
It is a lesson that Jen barely survives, and it is one that earns Matherson at least 15 years in a supernaturals prison.
Jen has had trouble using her abilities since that night. The written word is will awe inspiring, and language is still beautiful. But ink means pain and blood and is now the stuff of her nightmares.
In the early mornings, when she sits and watches the sun rise over Brooklyn, she honestly wonders if that is ever going to change.
Alex proves to be a slim, energetic young woman who loves coffee Americano. Just like every person before her, she tries that first cup made diligently by Hyper and declares firmly that she’s never leaving.
Opening day is only a week away now, Hyper and Jen are growing more and more stressed. The Springs brothers have finished refurbishing all the shelving, and the long wooden counter top. They’ve moved on to designing a newsstand nook in the back left corner for Jen to keep the publications she has been researching.
Alex comes in that morning with a fistful of letters, “FYI most of us have taken out PO boxes at the Post Office,” she begins, skipping greetings entirely. The lawyer hands the letters over to Jen.
“That would probably be a good idea,” Hyper admits. She’s working on the menu sign that will be hung on the wall over the wooden counter. Jen glances over at the Charmer and hides a smile.
The grease markers Hyper has purchased are proving to be messier than anticipated because Hyper has several streaks of bright yellow on her face, plus a drip of green on her shoulder.
The red headed Scrivener decides to sneak a picture at the earliest opportunity and text it to Altmega. (He’ll spend two days glaring at her for it. But it’ll be completely worth it in Jen’s opinion because she will discover that he sets the picture as his phone’s wallpaper.)
“We should probably do something similar to the rent’s auto draft for the cable too, Hyper.” Jen says as she tucks the letters under her arm so she can go back to wrangling the cable box for the TV on the back wall. This is the second time in two weeks that the cable service has been cut.
Remote in hand Jen reboots the cable box the lights blink for a moment and the TV blares to life startling them all at how loud the volume is.
“-Breaking News now from Boston where a massive fire has broken out in the Magery labs at Harvard University. Early reports suggest this has been a deliberate act of arson. No word yet on any fatalities.”
Jen frantically fumbles with the remote, dropping the letters to the floor and savagely punching the down volume button. The volume drops to a more manageable level and the three young women stare at the TV in horror as footage of a beautiful modern building is engulfed in what looks to Jen like real Mage fire.
Alex whistles, shocked and more than a little awed. “Suggests arson? Who are they kidding? That is a Class One Mage Fire. Entirely deliberate.”
Hyper nods her head in agreement, ‘We learned about those in history. Class One’s were used to destroy Dresden, Pearl Harbor and Tokyo in World War II.”
Alex crosses her arms over her chest and shifts on her feet a little, clearly unsettled.
“It’s also been banned by the United Nations for more than fifty years. Someone was very, very angry to have set that. Or desperate.”
Jen mutes the TV but leaves it on the news channel so they can watch the story develop. She puts the remote down on the coffee table between the sofas and bends down to collect the letters she dropped.
One of the letters has worked free of its compatriots and lays off to the side. Jen stretches to pick it up. The moment her fingers brush the paper, pain erupts on her skin – sharp and stinging like tiny scalpels in the ridges of her fingerprints. A smell of bad ink rises to her nose and Jen fights back the sudden urge to run, run, run, run…
“Jen!” Hyper shouts into her ear.
The woman has crossed the length of the room in a blink. She takes Jen by the arms and is guiding her back to the sofa.
“Jen, you’re white as a sheet. Sit down. What’s wrong?” Hyper asks urgently. She glances at the letter in Jen’s hand.
“It’s from him.” Jen says in a flat, toneless voice. Everything feels out of reach all of a sudden. She’s tense, she’s ready to run, she wants to run.
“Matherson?” Hyper hisses.
Jen nods helplessly, “He’s a powerful Scrivener too. I guess it should surprise me that his letters can find me.”
The red head drops the letter and shudders, wiping her hand on her jeans over and over. Alex, who moves closer, bends to pick it up.
“This letter is from an inmate,” Alex says quietly looking over the envelope. “Jen, may I open this?”
Jen shrugs, “Go ahead. I certainly don’t want to read it.”
Alex opens the envelope. Jen catches a glimpse of the front and sees her name written in Matherson’s stunningly beautiful calligraphy. There’s no address, just her name and his fierce intent on finding her. The red head can still taste the magic from where she sits.
Alex reads the letter quickly and Jen watches her expression grow angry.
“What’s he in jail for?”
Jen clutches for a moment at her own arms. Hyper puts a comforting hand on her shoulder, wordlessly encourages her to speak.
“Assault and attempted murder.” Jen answers very quietly.
Alex is not a supernatural. When first introducing herself she readily admits her mundane status. However, in that moment, as Alex’s expression drops into cold fury, Jen would swear the temperature of the room drops as well.
The lawyer folds the letter up and puts it back in the envelope. “May I keep this?”
Alex gathers up her heavy winter coat and brief case from the other sofa. She puts the letter in her briefcase and pulls on her coat with quick, angry motions.
“Because he has violated several laws by contacting you. And I need this letter in order to prove it.”
Jen stands abruptly, “Alex I can’t ask you to –“
“Nonsense,” Alex cuts her off. “This will be the work of a couple hours, tops. And when I’m through with him, he’ll be lucky to be allowed to play with finger paints during his mandated therapy sessions.”
“Alex.” Jen says sharply, bringing the other woman up short. The red head searches Alex’s face for a moment before relaxing and offering a somewhat timid smile.
Alex grins back, “I’m really happy to help. Honestly. I didn’t go to law school because I wanted to make money. I went to law school because I wanted to help people navigate the byzantine legal system. It’s nice, to finally have my skills be needed. You know?”
Hyper and Jen share a loaded glance with one another.
“Yea,” Hyper answers for them both. “We know.”
Alex picks up her briefcase again and sets her shoulders. “I’ll let you know what happens later tonight. But I promise you Jen, this is the last letter you’ll ever get from him.”
With that firm statement she marches from the shop with a determined step.
The two remaining women both stare after her.
“She’s like…a force of nature.” Hyper says finally. Jen laughs out load and drops to sit on the sofa again. All the tension that had coiled on her shoulders leaves in a rush. Hyper picks up the remaining mail and sits down next to her.
“How’d I get this lucky?” Jen asks.
Hyper straightens the other letters into some semblance of order.
“What do you mean?” the shop owner queries.
“Well, first I stumble across this shop and you give me a place to stay and a job. Then I meet Alex, who is perfectly placed to help me with Matherson. That’s two good things inside a month. It’s making me nervous. Like I’m waiting for the other shoe to drop.”
Hyper looks thoughtful before shrugging her shoulders.
“I don’t know, but good things usually come in threes.”
Jen snorts in disbelief, staring at the TV screen which is still showing the fire at Harvard. The Mage fire burns so bright and so white that the cameras are having trouble filming it without blacking out the rest of the shot.
“So do bad things, Hyper. Bad things come in threes as well.”
Later that night, someone breaks into the coffee shop.
Jen, Hyper, Altmega and Kai are all in the shop putting the finishing touches on the refurbished furniture. Night descended hours ago and Jen is contemplating her bed upstairs with longing as the rain pours down outside.
The back kitchen door suddenly rattles sharply in its frame. The building seems to shudder a bit around them. The lights flicker wildly and the air seems to gather ominously around them.
They all stop what they are doing, their conversation falling silent. The door thuds in its frame, shaking loudly.
“Stay here, both of you.” Altmega says sharply. He and his brother move around the counter in perfect concert with one another. There is an ease of movement, an element of extensive training to them as the each press themselves against opposite sides of the doorway wall.
Hyper and Jen creep unobtrusively closer but make sure to keep the counter between them and the kitchen. All four keep very still, the rain sounds so much louder now that there is no conversation to focus on.
There’s a scrabbling sound at the door that makes them all cringe. Like fingers clawing against metal; it sends shivers down Jen’s spine and the hair on the back of her neck raises in alarm.
And just like that, there is a sudden sharp shift in the pressure of the air. The tension vanishes, the electricity settles and the building seems to ease…and the kitchen door pops open with a gentle click.
Before their astonished eyes, the body of a woman falls across the threshold and lands on the floor with a wet slap. She is soaking wet and she’s frantically gasping for breath. She claws at the floor, drags herself all the way inside and kicks out a weak foot to knock the door closed.
She rolls to her side, tries to push herself up on elbows but falls limply back on the floor in a fit of coughing. The cough morphs into one sharp sob, and she goes completely still.
“What the hell?” Kai asks blankly as he and his brother move into the kitchen. Jen and Hyper follow right behind them.
‘Mega rolls the woman over and checks for a pulse at her neck.
“She’s still alive,” he reports.
“Should we call EMS?” Jen says, frantically patting her pockets for her cell phone.
“Is she hurt?” Hyper asks.
“She’s unconscious, so yea, she’s probably going to need a doctor.” Kai retorts crouching down next to her to get a closer look.
The woman has dark hair that even wet has a bit of wave to it and a round face. She’s not really dressed for New York in November, her clothes are far too thin and she lacks a scarf or gloves.
Hyper pulls out her phone, “I’ll call 911. I hope they’ll be able to find us.”
Jen crouches down at the same time and takes the woman’s hand in order to get a feel for whether she is hypothermic or not.
The second Jen makes contact with the woman, she screams. ‘Mega, Kai and Hyper all startle. Hyper drops her phone, her 911 call un-dialed.
“Stars and stones, Jen! What the fuck?!” ‘Mega demands. Jen scrambles back a couple of feet. ‘Mega and Kai do the same, casting worried glances at the woman on the floor.
Jen has never felt ink so vile in her life. Matherson is an evil person, and his magic had felt like it when he used it to harm her. But the ink itself he shaped into a weapon was still just ink. This was different. The material itself was a pit of darkness, a gaping maw that sucked out all light. Jen’s voice trembles as she attempts to explain.
“She’s…oh stars…she’s cursed. I don’t know with what, but there’s ink in her veins, in her blood and it’s cursed.”
‘Mega looks at Jen from over the woman’s unconscious form.
“What kind of curse?” he asks seriously.
Jen shudders violently, her skin is crawling. “I have no idea but its evil. It’s awful and terrible and I don’t understand how she’s even alive.”
Kai turns abruptly for the door, “I’ll go get our kits.”
‘Mega carefully skirts around the woman’s body.
“Hyper, do you still have those grease markers?” he asks, “We’re going to need a containment circle.”
Hyper doesn’t reply, just turns and goes to get them. ‘Mega then turns to Jen.
“Can you pull up the ink to her skin?” he requests quietly.
Jen quakes, and shakes her head. ‘Mega gives her a compassionate look, something that Jen would have though wouldn’t fit on his usually severe features. It does however, somehow he looks at her with sympathy that doesn’t feel a bit like pity.
“Jen.” He begins firmly, “Jen, think about it. She ended up here for a reason. Where else in the entire city is there a Scrivener and a Breaker in the same building? She needs our help.”
Jen thinks about the building they’re in, and how quickly and completely it and those in it have taken her in. She clenches her teeth together, squeezes her eyes shut for a second and tries to find the courage. She hasn’t used her powers to any kind of great extent since Matherson attacked her. It still feels unsafe, it still makes her feel like she’s back in that room with him, and fighting tooth and nail for control over the ink he tried to use to cut her ribbons.
Jen opens her eyes when Hyper comes back into the kitchen, two handfuls of markers. Kai runs in behind her, a wooden tool box in his hand. ‘Mega has not taken his eyes off of Jen. He offers a hand to her.
“Come on, Scrivener. We’ve work to do.”
Jen takes his hand.
- Current Location:WORK AGAIN DAMNIT
- Current Music:WILD by Troye Sivan
It’s a complete accident. Any one of the Kenyon family could have opened that storage locker. Really. Hyper cannot stress this enough. Fate had nothing to do with it. She checked, twice.
Nonetheless, on a cold October morning in Red Hook, two weeks after her grandmother’s death Hyper Kenyon opens the metal garage type door of the storage locker and is promptly bewildered by its contents.
Sitting atop a rather fragile looking card table is an enormous, stunning antique espresso and coffee machine. The entire thing is made of shining copper and brass with a name plate front and center that proudly declares its Italian manufacture. It also sighs happily and calls her by name, as if they are long lost friends.
(The first time that Hyper goes to the Brooklyn Oracle in about three weeks’ time to check for Fate’s interference in her life, Hyper also checks to make sure that she and the enormous coffee maker are not in fact, long lost friends of any kind. One can never be too certain about these things after all. The Oracle just laughs in response and doesn’t answer the question. Hyper is not the least bit comforted by this, but doesn’t ask the question again either.)
Hyper is also taken aback by the coffee machine’s sentience. Well, not by its sentience per say, after all the older and more heavily used an object is the more aware it becomes. Everyone knows this.
No, she’s stunned because she can hear it.
After twenty five years of being a complete disappointment to her Charmer family, Hyper’s first conversation with an inanimate is with an antique Italian coffee machine whispering terrible pickup lines in thickly accented English.
“How is this even my life?” Hyper asks no one in particular.
The coffee machine just laughs at her.
Hyper knows coffee shops. Hello, she’s from Brooklyn. Brooklyn does coffee shops like Vegas does casinos, New Orleans does jazz clubs and like Charleston does churches.
When it became obvious to Hyper that somehow the world renowned Charmer heritage had managed to skip her she started picking up part time jobs where ever she could. After all, if she wasn’t a Charmer, she wasn’t going to be much help to the family business. And she desperately needed to find a legitimate way to spend time away from her family and their disdainful scrutiny.
(If she gets handed one more ancient artifact with the order to “Listen. Honestly, if you just listen closely, you’ll hear it. This piece is over 700 years old, it’s practically screaming.” Hyper is likely to set something on fire accidently on purpose.)
Hyper floats from establishment to establishment taking up any temp work she can find. She’s a somewhat capable baker, a fine sandwich maker and a kick ass barista. She’s polite to customers, no matter if they deserve it or not, good at making change in her head and is always on time to work. As a result, despite the fact that she never stays at any shop for more than a couple months, she never runs out of jobs to take on.
She doesn’t necessarily like having to keep moving, but Hyper learned early on that if she lingers at any one job too long she always ends up having a variant of this excruciating conversation:
“So, Hyper. Are you really one of The Kenyons?”
“Yes, but I’m not a Charmer.”
“Oh. Really? But I thought all Kenyons were Charmers.”
“Huh. Well could you get an appointment for me with your family anyway?”
Hyper hates it. Really. So she floats from shop to shop, job to job, moving on just before her co-workers either get curious enough or brave enough to ask her about her name and her family.
Listening to that blasted coffee machine warbling at her gleefully, excited to be heard Hyper is reminded of her dearly departed grandmother. A woman who, despite Hyper never showing the Charmer talent, never stopped teaching Hyper about the Charmer abilities.
“Charmers aren’t witches Hyper, and we’re not physics either. What we do is magic but it’s mostly down to personality. We hear what objects have to say and we can speak with them. Convince them. Persuade them. Blades hold their edges longer; ropes twine tighter; memories are recovered; machines run just a bit smoother; history is remembered. But if you aren’t a good person yourself; if you can’t be kind or patient or compassionate you won’t get anywhere with anything. Objects can out stubborn anyone if they have mean to, even Charmers.”
With that advice in mind, Hyper gentles her tone, tries to quiet her disbelief and for the first time in her life Charm speaks.
“Do you have a name for yourself?”
The machine cheerfully replies a negative but would be quite pleased to receive a name at her discretion. Hyper puts that responsibility aside for the moment to ask another question.
“How long you been shut away like this?”
The coffee machine’s story is long, involved and requires the singing of two famous arias. But Hyper is kind and patient and knows that the machine has been years without a single person using it for its purpose. She is secretly a bit surprised at how coherent it is. The story winds to a close, ending with a rather bawdy joke about her grandmother as a young woman which startles a delighted laugh from Hyper.
And just like that, before her chuckles have even died down Hyper has made up her mind. It’s really an easy decision when all is said and done. She’s been waiting to grow into her Charmer powers for twenty-five years and she is absolutely not losing the first object she’s ever conversed with. She has a coffee machine and 10 years of experience with coffee shops. This is not a difficult decision.
“You sit tight for a few minutes, okay? I’m gonna go see a man about a van.”
The machine chirps the affirmative and wishes her well on her endeavor. Hyper pulls out her cell phone and her debit card from her pockets.
“I hope Brooklyn can do with another coffee shop.”
Opening a coffee shop in Brooklyn turns out to be a fair bit more than Hyper was expecting. She is of course, used to griping about housing costs just as much as the next New Yorker but holy mother of magic, commercial spaces are astronomical.
“I can’t afford any of these,” Hyper says, horrified at the listings the realtor has shown her.
“Oh. Well, I mean with a loan-“ the realtor begins.
“No, no, no. No loans. I’m using my inheritance for this. It should be plenty of money to get started.”
“Then perhaps we can look at properties outside of Brooklyn?”
“No,” Hyper says fiercely. “I’m staying in Brooklyn. This is my home.”
The realtor looks a bit annoyed now, but Hyper refuses to budge on this point.
“These are my offerings, Ms. Kenyon.”
“There’s nothing else? I’ll consider anything, even if it’s tiny or not on a ground floor. I need a space in Brooklyn.”
A flash of something comes over the realtor’s face, she looks perplexed for a moment, and then suddenly brightens considerably.
“I do have a rather unorthodox rental property in Fulton Heights. It might suit someone like you.”
Hyper frowns, waiting for the realtor to elaborate on that rather not so subtle barb. The realtor sees and hurries to correct herself.
“I just mean, you know, since you’re a Charmer. A Supernatural.” The realtor pauses awkwardly, “You are one of The Kenyons, right?”
Hyper sighs deeply but nods reluctantly. She refuses to ask her family for help directly, but she’s not above using her name like this.
“Is the property magicked then?” Hyper asks, steering the conversation past the potentially offensive tangent.
The realtor digs around in one of her drawers and removes an older looking file and hands it to Hyper. The young Charmer opens the file and looks at the listing information on the first page.
“Something like that,” the realtor answers hesitantly. Hyper turns her full attention to the listing.
The building is a pre-war era free standing apartment. Normally, that would instantly put it well outside the realm of possibility for Hyper as a tenant, much less a business owner. She flips to the pictures, expecting something hideous, but is instead greeted by a cheerful, picturesque example of 1940’s Brooklyn tenement housing. It is in great shape, the apartments all up to code and the ground floor is split between the apartment’s foyer and a small business property that includes a full kitchen. The location is a bit closer to the docks than Hyper would normally like, but the building is charming and is on a street that sees a lot of foot traffic.
Perplexed, Hyper checks the price and is stunned; because that price is clearly missing a few zeros.
“Oh stars,” Hyper swears quietly, “Is it cursed?”
“Oh no, not cursed,” the realtor hurries to assure her.
Hyper breathes a sigh of relief. Cursed buildings are rare in this modern century when the internet makes it so easy to find competent Breakers. One may have to pay for them to travel to you, but at the very least one can get competing quotes.
“Then what?” Hyper asks again, “Because this price is way too good to be true.”
The realtor twists her fingers together, suddenly a bit nervous.
“The building isn’t cursed, it’s actually blessed. Fifty years ago, just after World War 2 one of the very few surviving Mages blessed the building to always be found by those in need of it.”
Hyper groans and covers her eyes with one hand.
“Was this Mage terminally stupid? What kind of blessing is that?”
The realtor shrugs, “It wasn’t that bad of an idea at the time. The rental space on the ground floor was a sort of Veteran’s Center. They hosted a soup kitchen once a week, provided space for veterans to talk with one another, coordinated veterans with local businesses looking for workers – that sort of thing. It was an important place, but in 1946 it was in an awkward location due to its proximity to the docks. People apparently had a great deal of trouble finding it.”
“But really,” Hyper says, “Anyone in need? Those were the parameters he really used? I’m nowhere near a Mage and even I can see how that one was going to end.”
“The blessing is permanent as far as we can tell. In the building’s history five different Breakers have looked at the blessing and all of them have reported that the building has taken in the magic. According to one Breaker, the blessing is less a spell now, and more like a state of being. Apparently we’d have better luck knocking the entire building down; but the historical society won’t let us.”
“You’ve thought about having it demolished though?”
The realtor looks sheepish, “Well yes, when we can remember that we actually own it. Like I said, the blessing is very strong.”
Hyper raises her eyebrows in surprise, she’s actually a bit impressed. “I imagine as a business property it doesn’t fair very well, does it?”
The realtor sighs, somewhat defeated, “No, not really.”
Hyper grins a manic grin at the woman.
“Come down another thousand a month on the rent and I’ll sign today.”
The realtor startles so badly she nearly upsets her chair.
“Are you sure? I mean the shop won’t succeed –“
Hyper waves her off.
“I’m serious about this. I want to try. Even if that means giving it a go in an enchanted building. I’ll just have to get real creative with my marketing.”
Hyper doesn’t say this out loud, but she’s actually a bit intrigued by the buildings issues. The sheer curiosity aside, there is also something very appealing about it as well. Hyper will finally have a place that her meddling, disappointed family won’t be able to reach. A real, honest chance to do something on her own, well outside their influence.
The realtor rallies against her surprise and starts digging out the contracts she will need.
“Well okay then. You’d have to agree to automatic draft payments once a month. As I said, the blessing keeps us at times from remembering to collect the rent.”
“That’s fine with me.”
“There’s an apartment included in the monthly price, would you be interested?”
Hyper laughs outright, “Oh stars and stones. Yes.”
After she signs the papers and sets up the automatic draft Hyper is given a set of keys and some very carefully written directions.
Despite the directions, her GPS and even a careful on foot search it takes Hyper four days and six separate tries to find the building. She unlocks the door to the shop space on the ground floor and feels a strange tingle against her skin. Shuddering just a bit, she crosses the threshold and into the silent room.
Hyper pauses for long moment, looking around slowly. Afternoon sunlight is streaming in from the front windows filling the space up with warmth and making the dust motes glow like fireflies. The air is still and has a shuttered feeling, but the space itself looks welcoming and almost cheerful.
The shop isn’t huge, but it is more than enough for Hyper to work with. There a long wooden counter along the left hand wall, separating a large work space from the rest of the shop. An empty door way behind the counter leads to a kitchen that Hyper can just make out from the afternoon light.
There are tables and chairs stacked up haphazardly along the back wall, but Hyper can clearly see the beautiful exposed brick work and is already imagining a couple of overstuffed sofas surrounding a low coffee table with perhaps a television mounted on the wall. The other wall, to the right is almost entirely three quarter length windows overlooking the alley way but the dumpster for this building must be on the other side because there is no trash piled up anywhere.
Hyper takes in a deep, even breath and lets it out slowly. It will take some work, but not nearly as much as she was fearing for the past four days. She’d done extensive research into the blessing while trying to find the building. The realtor was right, it was a very strong spell, tied to some of the oldest hospitality laws. The blessing would end, when the very foundation of the societal norms that rules human interactions ceased.
“That old Mage was either a mad genius or a mad bastard,” Hyper says to the building. It doesn’t respond. Not surprising, even to Charmers, buildings do not speak often.
Hyper runs a hand along the wooden counter, collecting a handful of dust for her trouble.
She has done much research on this place and what it once was. A long time ago, this was a safe place for people to gather and seek support and help. Not exactly what she meant to do with her coffee shop…but…
“We’ll be a haven again. I promise. And if they need it, if someone comes to Brooklyn in need of it, we’ll take them in.” She says out loud to the building.
Hyper never, ever, has one ounce of trouble finding the building after that.
Hyper is busy unpacking cups and glasses when her first customer stumbles in through the shop door.
“What the?!” the young woman exclaims in complete surprise as she half falls across the threshold.
“Uh, hello.” Hyper says, equally as startled.
“This was not here a second ago,” the visitor asserts firmly, brushing her long red hair from her face.
“Yea…” Hyper draws out the word for an extra couple of seconds, “We get that a lot actually. Welcome to The Notebook, the only coffee shop that’s ever actually needed.”
“…what?” the red head asks, bewildered.
Hyper grins and doesn’t jump when her coffee machine starts muttering about café mochas and demands a mug be placed under one of its spouts immediately. Instead, the Charmer just turns and does as it bids.
“The building is enchanted,” Hyper explains cheerfully as the woman crosses the shop floor cautiously and approaches the counter.
“Only those who need it, can find it.”
“That must be terrible for business.” The customer points out.
“Well, I’ll find out soon. Opening day is in three weeks. Here, even though I’m not open yet, you can be my first customer.” Hyper slides the mug that her machine has just finished filling across the counter.
“On the house.”
The woman takes the mug carefully and considers its contents with a somewhat skeptical look.
“I didn’t ask for anything.” She points out.
Hyper just shrugs and goes back to unpacking the supplies.
“But you need it.”
The woman opens her mouth as if to argue, but then seems to reconsider.
“I’m Jen,” is what she says instead.
“Hyper.” The charmer returns.
“What is this exactly?” Jen asks, pointing to the mug.
Hyper casts a questioning glance at her coffee machine who smugly informs her as to the drink’s contents.
“He says it’s a rich Brazilian mocha latte with exactly .75 ounces of espresso. He wants me to stress that he got the espresso precisely right.”
Jen blinks, surprise crossing her face, “You’re a Charmer?”
“Yea, but I came into my powers recently. He’s the only one I can hear reliably thus far.”
Jen takes a tentative sip of the brew and then suddenly sits at one of the counter stools, as though her legs just gave out.
“Holy shit.” She says before Hyper can ask what’s wrong.
Hyper fidgets with the tape on the box she’s unpacking.
“Um…good or bad?” she asks nervously.
Jen looks up from her mug, and stares her blue eyes straight into Hyper’s brown ones.
“I’m never leaving.” Jen asserts.
Hyper laughs, delighted while the coffee machine breaks out into song behind her.
Jen is true to her word. She doesn’t leave.
“It’s kind of a long story,” Jen says hours after that first cup of coffee. She is helping Hyper with her unpacking and cleaning as a thank you.
“Long story like actually would take hours to tell, or long story as in emotionally wrenching and exhausting to recount?”
Hyper asks as she lays down shelf paper in the higher cabinets while perched on a step stool.
“The second one,” Jen admits. “I came to New York to get lost, you know?”
“Sure. People been using New York for that for centuries.”
“I can’t go back home. It’s not…safe anymore. I don’t mean it’s dangerous for me, it just doesn’t make me feel…at ease or comforted in any way. And…I really need to feel that again.”
Hyper pauses for a moment in her quest to get the corners of the shelf paper to match up to the cabinet corners exactly so she can look over her shoulder at the red head. Jen is concentrating fully on wiping out the sink, scrubbing at some of the stubborn calcium stains around the drain.
Hyper thinks for a moment about that bastard mage again, and about the apartment upstairs that she has just finished moving into. The one with the extra, empty bedroom.
She also thinks about going to see the Brooklyn Oracle again, just so she can slap him silly.
“You know, I’m looking for a roommate.”
Hyper says, and Jen looks up in hope.
Jen learns a great deal about Hyper Kenyon over the next few days. The red head imagines compiling a list while she watches the Springs brothers begin work on the shops long wooden counter.
One. Hyper Kenyon is kind.
Jen mentally begins, letting her hands sort through the box of cutlery automatically. The first attribute she notes is an obvious one.
Two. Hyper Kenyon is generous.
Jen adds next, thinking of the room she has moved into upstairs. The apartment she now shares with the Charmer is small but it is a clean and well-kept space. She even has her own small bathroom.
The appliances are older, but functional. The apartment is on the second floor and overlooks the courtyard in the back. Jen likes to wake up in the mornings and sit at the kitchen table which is pushed against the windows and watch the sunrise.
Three. Hyper Kenyon is intelligent.
Jen still has doubts about the success of opening a coffee shop in a building that people can only find when they need it. However, Jen cannot deny the ingenuity and cleverness of the shop owner when it comes to finding ways around the building's blessing.
Simple things, like having their supplies sent to the building next door. That way, the deliveries are always on time. The neighboring business – a Kinko's Copy store – can get rather hacked off at times by the random appearance of coffee beans, paper cups and mocha powder. However, the owner and the employees of the store also tend to forget about the occurrences fairly quickly. Hyper also makes it up to them by taking them coffee on delivery days.
Despite Hyper's creative thinking Jen cannot help but mentally add another item to her list:
Four. Hyper Kenyon is kind of oblivious at times.
Because, really. The older of the two Springs brothers is practically mooning after her. He might as well be curling up at her feet at night.
“Done with the cutlery?” Hyper asks, startling Jen from her thoughts.
“Oh! Yes, yes I am.” Jen hands over the neat piles she's made so Hyper can put them in the canisters she just finished washing.
Jen checks on the status of the Springs brothers. The appear to be deeply engrossed in a conversation about wood stains and sanding techniques so Jen takes a chance to whisper to her new friend.
“They're kinda cute, aren't they?”
Hyper snorts in amusement.
Jen grins wickedly.
“True. The older one is very...intense,” she continues to whisper, glancing over her shoulder at them again to make sure they're still talking to one another. Hyper also steals a look at them both.
“He's just the type to get very focused, I think. You know, driven,” the Charmer says, her eyes lingering on the older twin.
“It was really nice of them to volunteer their time to help us out.” Jen points out, letting a little coyness into her voice.
Hyper misses it entirely.
“Yea, I don't know how I'm going to repay them. I know we're neighbors and they're trying to be welcoming. But seriously, I'll be giving them free coffee until the rapture.”
Jen sighs and rolls her eyes a bit.
The Springs twins live in the apartment across from theirs.
(And the first meeting of Hyper Kenyon and Altmega Springs will forever be one of Jen's most cherished memories. Seriously. Hyper had been dressed in nothing but slippers, sleep shorts, a lacy camisole and a drowsy smile and Altmega had walked into a door frame. Jen promises herself that if they end up getting together she will tell that story at their wedding with glee.)
The brothers own a carpentry business and are just starting to gain a good reputation around Fulton Heights. Upon hearing Hyper's plans for the ground floor shop, Altmega had promptly offered their services free of charge.
“Considering how damn good your coffee is Hyper, I don't think it will take too long to repay them.” Jen says as she uses a box cutter to begin breaking down some of the boxes.
Hyper shrugs and goes back to unpacking more of their utensils and kitchen tools.
“I do want to talk to you about something,” Hyper says, changing the subject.
“I was thinking of setting up a sort of mini newsstand in here as well. Magazines, quarterly newsletters and newspapers. What do you think?”
Jen stops what she is doing entirely, and stares at Hyper.
“Are you asking me to -”
“No!” Hyper rushes to reply, interrupting Jen, “Not if you don't want to at least. I really do just want to know if you think it'd be a good idea.”
Jen is quiet for a long moment, her mind a sort of chaotic mess of several different thoughts at once. But Hyper did ask her a question, so instead of dwelling on her past, Jen chooses to answer her friend's query.
“It would encourage people to stay longer, spend more money.”
Hyper sighs in apparent relief.
“Great. Good. I'll look into some subscriptions, then.”
Jen licks her lips nervously and shakes her head.
“Let me do it.”
This time it's Hyper to stops moving entirely and frowns at Jen with a concerned look.
“Are you sure?”
Jen nods her head, “Yea. It'll be good for me. I can't keep pretending like I don't have my abilities. I'll look in the subscriptions and the materials. It'll be like easing back in.”
Hyper doesn't look fully convinced but doesn't offer up any other protests either.
Scriveners are rare, but expected in Jen's family.
For as long as her family has been keeping records (which has been a fair few centuries at this point) there have been Scriveners in the family line. But only born every four or five generations.
Jen was the thirteenth Scrivener and while she is not into numerology, she sometimes wonders if she just should have expected her experience to end up being a bad one.
One of the downsides to the large gaps between the gifted family members is having to go outside the family to find teachers. Ian Matherson was who her parents picked to be her mentor.
It turns out, he was a really bad choice.
Most of the apartment building is empty.
“The tenants get super annoyed when they can’t find home reliably,” Kai explains while taking a break with this brother from their work on the tables and chairs. Hyper coaxes the coffee machine into attempting different kinds of drinks, rather than just continually making everyone their favorites.
“You guys don’t get annoyed?” Hyper asks. The twins glance at each other, a lightening flash of conversation that seems to occur entirely through eyebrows and the lines around their mouths. Jen watches, fascinated.
“We need this place,” Altmega finally answers, “So we’ve always been able to find it.”
Hyper looks up from her coffee machine, her face the picture of concern.
“Why?” she asks guilelessly.
“Family issues.” Kai answers quickly. His tone is void of any infliction, but Hyper just nods her head and says nothing further on the subject. She gets family issues.
“Do we have other neighbors?” Jen puts in, guiding the conversation around the sudden awkward silence easily. She’s working on the television that the twins have mounted on the back wall for them. The cable box is set up, but Jen is having to look up remote codes on her phone in order to program the cable remote to work the TV.
“Well, there’s only two other people in the building besides us,” Kai gestures to all four of them. “There’s Alex. Haven’t had an opportunity to really meet her, she travels a lot for work I think. She’s some kind of lawyer.”
“And the other one?” Hyper asks. She seems to have gotten her coffee machine to cooperate finally and is sliding a mug of coffee across the wooden counter to Altmega.
“Not sure about him. He’s some kind of artist I think. I honestly haven’t seen him come out of his apartment except to get his mail,” ‘Mega says before sipping carefully at the drink.
His expression morphs into such a picture of bliss and pleasure, that Jen actually feels a bit uncomfortable. The older Springs twin is usually so inscrutable. Her gaze lands on Hyper who is blatantly staring at the older man, her face flushed, mouth parted just a little.
Jen turns and shares a long, exasperated look with Kai.
“Whoever he is, he get visited by the cops a lot.” Kai says, interrupting both ‘Mega and Hyper.
“The cops? Really?” Hyper presses, obviously curious.
‘Mega shrugs his shoulders, resting the cup of coffee back on the counter.
“It’s the same cop every time, his name is Hunter Kloud. I think he must be a friend or something because he brings groceries sometimes, and art supplies.”
Jen frowns, “So whoever the tenant is, he’s a shut in?”
The boys share another glance, and then shrug.
“No idea. We don’t monitor him or anything, this is just what we’ve noticed.”
“And that’s all? Just us, a super shy artist and a lawyer?” Hyper queries already trying her hand at another cup of coffee. “That’s kind of ridiculous. There’s enough apartments in this building for at least two dozen people to live comfortably.”
“Yep, it’s hard to find a way around the blessing. It’s really powerful magic,” ‘Mega says, taking another sip of his coffee.
“Could you break it?” Hyper asks.
The question was innocently meant, Jen knows, but both brothers flinch at its asking. The two stare at Hyper, eyes wide, their postures suddenly defensive.
“What are you talking about?” Kai asks quietly. Hyper realizes she has somehow mis-stepped because she stops attempting to make coffee and slowly puts her hands down on the counter top. Jen too, pauses in what she is doing to give the men her full attention.
“Well, ‘Mega’s a Breaker. And you’re a Maker.” Hyper declares gently, looking at Kai and then glancing over at ‘Mega.
“How did you know that?” ‘Mega demands tightly.
Hyper glances over at Jen, who twitches her shoulders in response. She certainly doesn’t know why they are reacting like this.
“I’m a Charmer.” Hyper says, “And your tools are quite vocal about your abilities and talents. They’ve been through a great deal with both of you. I don’t know any details, they haven’t betrayed any confidences, but they are very proud of you and they tend to talk a lot.”
The twins are stunned at this information. So Jen decides to go ahead and be up front with her own powers as well.
“And I’m a Scrivener.” She announces in the ensuing silence. The twins turn to face her. “Just so you aren’t surprised by it later.”
The men glance at each other again, and another fast, silent conversation takes place in seconds. ‘Mega turns back to Hyper.
“What are the odds of this?” his voice full of disbelief.
Hyper tilts her head to the side and considers his question seriously.
“Well, when you consider the building, it’s really not that surprising.”
“So wait,” Kai breaks in quickly, “All this time that you’ve been talking to your coffee machine…you’ve actually been talking to your coffee machine?”
“Yea of course. Did you think I was nuts or something?”
“A bit, yea. Ow!” Kai yelps when ‘Mega reaches over and smacks his brother’s head. Hyper is clearly amused by this turn of events if the smile she is struggling to conceal is any indicator.
“Nope. Actually conversing with him. He’s very loud. And obsessed with opera.”
“Opera?” ‘Mega echoes.
“He’s Italian. And he lives the cliché.” Hyper replies, finally grinning at them both.