Resting Grinch Face


emily_icon.gif geneva_icon.gif

Scene Title Resting Grinch Face
Synopsis Emily and Geneva find fellow Grinches in each other, igniting a new relationship.
Date December 5, 2018

Red Hook Market

The Red Hook Market resides within the gutted shell of Textile Factory 17, a turn-of-the-century mill building that once served as the headquarters of New York's FRONTLINE civil defense organization. Miraculously, the building survived the civil war largely unscathed except for the total collateral loss of its electronics to the EMP that ravaged Manhattan. When the building was reclaimed by Gilbert Tucker in late 2015, it was remodeled with the intention of turning it into a central community hub for the entirety of the Safe Zone. Today, the multiple above-ground buildings serve as meeting halls, council chambers, offices, and storage rooms for the Safe Zone Cooperative. The basement levels, a labyrinthine maze of brick corridors, vaulted storage spaces, and small nooks, have become the sprawling home of the Red Hook Market, an open-air bazaar with free admittance to every Safe Zone resident. The market features pop-up vendor stalls, a single bar called the Red Hook Tavern, and food vendor stalls.

The holidays were here all right. Somehow, even without all the constant updates of advertisement and store windows with all the aggressive capitalism of yesteryear New York, people were finding ways to deck the halls just as creatively.

Or obnoxiously, if that was what you thought of it.

On top of the extra stringed lights and bands of tinsel-esque bands of garland hugging far too many surfaces, there's Christmas carolers in Red Hook Market today, and they start singing after Emily Epstein is already deep inside its walls. She blinks twice at the sound that rises up, crutches and feet pausing.

Browsing for something small for her cousin-roommate-caretaker Julie is entirely forgotten. "You've got to be fucking kidding me." She turns away from the stall's wares toward the sound, cautiously optimistic that maybe they'll stick with tunes that are superficial and don't tread on less pleasant topics. Like the joy of being together with family on the holidays.

Tossing her head so her hair falls less in her eyes than before, Emily hastily returns her attention to the crafted goods on the table before her. To rush selection, or risk the knife to the heart certain tunes held for her?

"Fucking holidays." She curses under her breath.

As someone who is usually jaded— if not outright pissed— at most things in life, Geneva finds that the holiday season is no real exception to this. The gaudy decorations, the false and temporary sense of cheer, the utterly shameless advertising (New York being destroyed apparently isn't enough to stop this!!)… it all gets a definite no from this teen, who has somewhat of an even flatter look on her face than usual as she winds her way through the crowd.

This same crowd, however, does present a good opportunity for the young drifter, whose eyes scan through the assortment of shoppers. Idly, she leans against the darkened side of a stall with a red plastic cup of steaming hot chocolate carelessly cupped in her bare hands. That is when she overhears quite an uncharacteristically unfestive sentiment for this time of year, and glances over to another young blonde woman browsing the same stall she is lounging near.

"Amen to that," Gene says with a smirk in response to the ‘fucking holidays’ line, lifting the hot chocolate slightly and taking the smallest of sips from it.

Emily's not used to being overheard, and pauses just before picking up a piece of handmade jewelry for review. She shifts her attention toward its source, straightening to her full height to give the other blonde a once-over. There is a clear moment of judgement that happens, the ice blue of her eyes piercing through Geneva's appearance and mannerisms … before the angle of her shoulders slack to something slightly more natural. Ever so slightly, she inclines her head in a greeting — or acknowledgement of a fellow fellow without proclivities for the festivities.

She shifts her grip around her left crutch, the overlong sleeve of the comfortable emerald-colored sweater being shimmed out from under the palm of her hand. "What's your excuse?" Emily asks in the interim, brow arching to add to the question. "The bomb? The war? Or can you just not stand sleigh bells and harmonies?" With her right hand, she reaches for the necklace again to examine it, and with a frown put it back down again. None of this stuff looked like anything Julie would like, or wear.

Depending on the other girl’s tastes, there may or may not be some decent material there to judge. Geneva’s attire is pretty typical for her: black leather jacket, tattered low-rises, large cheap hoop earrings. She lets Emily's judgmental gaze sweep over her without care, not bothering to give one in response: that was something she’d gotten out of the way earlier, while still unseen.

“Check. Check. Aaand check. Hell, I hated the holidays before the war. All this fucking cheer, it hurts my soul. Plus the bad singing.” In the brief second of silence after she says this, the strains of the Christmas carolers striking up a loud, renewed refrain can be heard floating up to their ears. Gene… just grimaces. “Need a hand?” she asks as her eyes fall over Emily’s crutches, clearly trying to block out the music.

The crutch is stamped against the ground firmly as she catches the other girl's gaze falling. I'm up here. her look clearly conveys. The offer for help isn't exactly shot down, but neither is it actively accepted. After a long pause, she shakes her head and steps back from the booth she's immediately at, to start to cross over and look at the one on the other side of Geneva.

"Condolences for us both." Emily sends an indicative glance toward the sound of the carolers as she shifts past, the small bag worn across her chest swinging as she steps. This booth also has jewelry, mostly silver, manned by a stubbled man keeping a much closer eye on his wares than the owner of the booth she'd just left. Sitting on a stool behind his table, he nods politely up at the two. A greeting as much as an indication he's watching them. "Let me know if I can help you with anything." he advises.

The nod is returned much more stiffly by the girl with the crutches as she browses the rows of rings. "Arguably better now than it used to be. People have more important things to worry about." Emily remarks to Geneva, hand hovering over a few of the designs. She blinks at one in particular, studying it without picking it up. "You know, I'd take listening to one loud group of carolers here over the persistent echoes of a metric fuckton across the entire city." Even while that might be a worthwhile trade-off, she looks no less pleased to be exposed to it. At least she's got her shopping to distract herself with.

Crutch hanging from her forearm as she reaches down, her fingers curl around a ring bearing a simple Celtic knot.

When the offer of help is met with slightly more hostility than the standard ‘no, thank you,’ Geneva catches on that this is perhaps a subject that the other may be sensitive about. She accepts this without a word, lifting her cup of hot chocolate to her lips and enjoying another sip as she drifts alongside the other girl at an idle pace. “That’s the thing, though. People have more important things to worry about now but they still throw their money at this bandaid of bullshit. I guess I don’t get it. But… yeah. Yeah, it is better than being blasted across the city, fuck that.”

She outright ignores the appraising nod of the man sitting at the booth, taking a moment to reflect that in the company of another, personal ‘shopping’ may be more difficult to achieve. But for once Gene doesn’t mind so much. It’s nice to be in the company of a fellow crank. “…Say, have I seen you before? I could’ve sworn I’ve heard Hailey or someone talk about you.”

"Hailey?" Emily pauses in examining the ring, echoing the name back without it clicking at first. Her weight shifts as she turns to face Geneva slightly better when it does. She didn't know that many who could fit the bill, after all. "Wait, you know Hailey?" Hailey with the monkey, with the zoo Hailey.

An incredulous breath escapes her. Okay, then. They were talking about her while she wasn't there, now? "You might," she concedes with resignation. "I'm Emily." A brief pause as she gestures toward her new companion as she belatedly confirms, "You mean the Hailey with … Joe, and Lance, and…"

“Hey, it was nothing bad,” Gene is quick to reassure, guessing as to what may be on Emily’s mind from the intonation of the exhalation. “Don’t even remember what she was talking about, really. The description just rang a bell. And yeah, the Hailey, with Joe, and Lance, and Weasel, and Brynn… the whole menagerie. You guessed it.” In a subtle gesture as they’re talking, one of her hands flares to life in a muted, reddish glow as she takes the opportunity to ensure her chocolate stays nice and toasty. She uses the other hand to casually pick up a braided choker inset with a red gem from the stall’s display, examining it with clear signs of unexpected interest.

There is a small outtake of breath of her own, though hers sounds more amused. “Funny how the holidays bring people together, eh?”

"Weasel?" Emily asks, a touch of confusion entering her tone. "You mean Squeaks?" Otherwise, yeah, that was them. The whole Lighthouse gang, or a good number of it at least. Her eyes flit for just a moment to the girl's hands as they change color, and then away just as quickly. For only slightly longer than that, some of her earlier tension's returned, prompted by the unexpected display of ability, but it doesn't enter her voice at all as she inputs, "I'm not sure they've mentioned you. What did you say your name was?" She's fully aware the information hasn't been offered.

She balances herself for a moment under her own weight, looking physically unsteady but calm as a cucumber as she slides the ring on to get a look at it. With a nod at the man behind the stall, she asks with some appreciation, "You make all these?" and receives a nod in reply.

"Most, yes." he grunts as he pushes himself to his feet. "Others were found and repaired." One hand comes back to adjust the knitted beanie over his head before he beckons at Emily. "Let me guess, sizing? Hand it here. I'll fix it."

“Nah.” Geneva does a ‘heh’ under her breath as she mentally draws on the similarity between the names Weasel and Squeaks, something she hadn’t thought of before for whatever reason. “Now that you mention it, they’re both skinny little gals named after cute animal things. But nah. Weasel is Clara, she’s old-school Lighthouse. Squeaks… I only just met her. She’s a new face. I’m not surprised they haven’t mentioned me, I’ve sort of gone my own way lately. ”

As for the display of ability, it’s clear that Gene hadn’t even really been thinking about it; the glow of heat dissipates from her palm as subtly as it formed. Similarly, she doesn’t notice Emily’s reaction to it, if any. “My bad, I’m Gene. Nice to meet you- wish it was under better circumstances.” The carolers nearby have just started on a terrifyingly jovial rendition of ‘Jingle Bell Rock.’ Geneva’s finding it hard to keep the sarcasm out of her voice.

"Huh." is all Emily says at first, sliding the ring off her finger again. The man behind the table is utterly uninterested in their conversation, or somehow puts off that impression. "Let me guess, you're like a 6 or something?"

She looks at him with a shake of her head as she offers it out. "Yeah, and I think this is the right fit, but I was going to ask if you had this in anything smaller. Like a half size smaller. It's not for me. Also… do you do additions or anything? Like, could I get an engraving added on the inside of the band?"

Emily gets a long look from the stall owner. He, too, might be a little sick of the holidays already, and everyone's special requests. "Why not." he says, as affably as he's able to manage. (It's deadpan.) He takes the ring and holds it in his hand, turning it over to look at it. "What do you want?"

She's distracted momentarily from her conversation with Gene, leaning back down on one crutch for support. "Um… just 'Raith'." It's then spelled it out. "It's a surname." The man lets out a half-interested, "Uh huh," in response, not reaching for any tools. He turns the ring over several times between three fingers, his downcast eyes flashing with rings of silver around his irises. The change that happens is almost unnoticed at first as the circle of silver becomes just a slight bit narrower, in exchange for the celtic knot becoming more pronounced, with more detail. He hmphs, then lifts the ring up like to inspect it in the light.

Emily looks away in the meantime, a smirk pulling at the corner of her mouth. "Yeah, nice to meet you. Glad there's someone else who —"

"Here." the craftsman interjects, holding the ring out to return it. When Emily turns it over in her hand, she sees the stylized lettering on the inside of the band, underneath the knot. She looks up in surprise at him and he lifts one hand with a miffed expression. "I'd tell you Merry Christmas, but you've both just gone on at length about hating the season. Do me a favor instead and keep this one to yourself — it's just practice for getting commercially licensed, though word getting around could mean a slap on the wrist, since I'm not yet." He rather likes his spot in the Market, and doesn't want to risk it. "I'd rather not have your name to curse come Festivus."

"Hell." Emily says, turning the ring over. "I mean… sure. Sounds like I'm getting the better end of the deal. How much for it?" she asks, sliding the ring into the pocket on the front of her small brown bag, then unzips the top of it. From Emily's side, Geneva can see the butt end of a handgun of some kind, right next to the wallet she pulls out. When she pulls out cash, she overpays to the spoken amount.

When she looks back at Gene, bag sealed again, her mood is much more improved. To the point the carolers might even be momentarily forgotten, if that's possible. "You want something?" It might be an offer to pay for her, too.

While Emily is busy carrying out her transaction, Geneva spends a minute or two perusing several other pieces of jewelry adorning the various displays of the stall. It isn’t mere busywork either; she lingers on one or two pairs of earrings, one pair of silver hoops and another pair of topaz dangles, for longer than passing interest would require. This man’s wares are well-crafted.

In contrast to her own utterly casual use of her ability, the vagrant is fairly sensitive to others displaying theirs. She glances up from the wares she is mid-way through examining long enough to note the strange shift in the jeweler’s irises as he adjusts Emily’s ring for her without any tools, and her gaze gains a faintly appreciative tint to it.

…Before Emily offers to pay for something for her, and then her eyebrows arch in a look that speaks of confusion. “Oh. Oh, no. I’m good, thanks.” Clearly Gene is not used to having someone offer to pay for things for her. Because that involves money. And money is precious.

“Hey, my turn to bother you,” she directs over at the seller, instead. “How much is it for this choker?” She points to the original item she had been eyeing: a rather intricate black, braided choker inset with a scarlet-colored crystal.

He squints at the choker, trying to remember off the top of his head, then announces the price. It's twice the amount the ring was. Expecting resistance, he shrugs his shoulders in advance of any rebuke. "More materials and decoration. Lace is a bitch." He says it like a man who knows firsthand.

At which point Emily shifts a glance to Gene again, but doesn't press the offer. "For you, or for someone else?" Yet.

Perhaps surprisingly, no rebuke or argument of any kind is forthcoming. Instead, Geneva almost casually tosses over the correct amount of cash required for the choker, plus a little extra. "Keep the change. Gotta support the ‘arts,’ you know…?" The word arts is said in practically audible air quotes— a clear and appreciative reference to the man’s Evolved talents.

Emily’s question is answered by Geneva clasping the choker around her own neck right then and there, with an accompanying grin. It adds quite nicely to her casual punk look. “I’ve done my hell-iday shopping for most people. Figured I’d give myself a lil’ treat, for once.” She tilts her head at Emily’s sealed bag, where her engraved ring is now resting. “How ‘bout you, that for a sibling? Friend?”

"Family." is how Emily decides to put it. Though she lets out a quiet sigh, brow starting to knit as she realizes something. Friends. Right. Maybe this trip would get more expensive. She shakes the look off, forcing a smile to the craftsman, who lifts his hand in appreciation of them both before sitting back down.

"Though, there's probably one other gift I should get." For how much she seems it's a necessity, she sounds hesitant about it. The row of stalls is considered under an entirely new light, but it's like one she can't properly see. "Ah, fuck."

A sigh escapes her again, and she slides a look to Gene conspiratorially. "Don't suppose you're any good at picking out gifts for a stranger."

“Good at it? Dunno, but I’ve been doing it. Got Squeaks something and I barely even know the chick. Dunno if she’ll like it, but hell yeah, let’s do this shit.” A lopsided smile quirks onto Geneva’s face in response to Emily’s conspiratorial glance. It might be surprising how okay Gene is with giving gifts, given her dislike of the season in general. But hey, Gene is capable of being nice sometimes.

“C’mon. We’ll get through this holiday hellscape together.”

Emily manages an honest smile in return, glad it's a problem she doesn't have to face alone. "I mean, I can tell you if it's something she'd like. Hell, if it's a book, you're on the right path. But mine's… probably a little harder."

She starts walking further down the aisle, away from the stands of jewelry. "It's for someone who… has tried hard. And probably deserves recognition for it. Probably."

Her nose twists as she searches for a better explanation, expression entirely unguarded as she tries to air her thoughts. The uncertainty around this person is plain. But she clearly wants to give something back for all the effort they've shown, and the help they've given. "They put up with a lot, from me and otherwise. And … they should know I don't hate them? I guess?" Sometimes this was a thing in doubt, apparently.

"But like, I'm pretty sure I have no idea what they'd like. I mean, they like movies. They know how to look after themselves. They… I don't know."

A laugh from Geneva, fully acknowledging this first point. “Yeah, you got me with Squeaks. Little twerp’d probably be happy with a full set of encyclopedias. Some people are definitely harder to buy for. Yours… well, I’d tell you your description was helpful, but, I’d be lying. ‘Movies’ is kinda broad, is there anything specific you know about what he likes?”

As the two weave through the nooks and stalls of Red Hook, Gene keeps a sharp eye out on the different varieties of merchandise they’re passing. “Something practical maybe? I guess, if you’re totally unsure, you could play it safe and get him a gift card.”

The 'he' being assumed correctly makes it so she drops the attempt at gender-neutral references. "I don't fucking know," Emily blanches in reply to what he might like. "We avoid talking about personal stuff, for the most part. That's … a summary of the majority of our friendship, to be honest. Just imagine two socially awkward Ron Swansons — that's us. We get together, we say nothing, or something bad happens, then we go our separate ways."

She rolls her neck more than shaking her head, chafing at how uncomfortable the topic is. "That dumb idiot still wants to be my friend, though, for some dumb fucking reason." And she may feel slightly guilty about her permanently rough demeanor with him.

"I don't know, though. His uncle's the Raytech CEO, he works for fucking Wolfhound, he's got this huge book of movies and shit, and to be honest, I wouldn't even know what his favorite color is to get him something practical like a scarf." Emily pauses though, the frustrated thought giving birth to an idea. Pre-approved color or not, it's something. She looks to Gene for validation. "… Maybe get him a scarf?"

Somewhere at the other end of the market, the carolers have begun a rendition of 'O Christmas Tree'. There is not, to her knowledge, a Christmas tree erected onsite for them to even be caroling about.

That’s a tremendously good thing, at least for the carolers, because if there was a Christmas tree it would probably find itself on fire very shortly. “Doesn’t sound that terrible, to be honest,” Geneva comments rather light-heartedly even against the freshly irritating backdrop of the carolers, stifling a snort at the image of double-Ron Swansons trying to figure out how to interact with each other. “Actual friendship’s ‘bout action and not words. Most people talk too much anyways.” As Emily might have guessed, Gene is the exact opposite of a small talker.

“Hey, maybe the reason is he’s got a crush on you.” Certainly wouldn’t be an unprecedented dumb reason for a dude to want to stay friends. In response to the scarf query, Gene shrugs, but there’s a thoughtful light on her face. “I love scarves, but that’s just me. But keeping your face warm is probably more important for a street rat like me than… hold up, his uncle’s the CEO of Raytech? So he’d be Richard’s nephew.” Shit. Small world.

"That'd be him," Emily confirms, not bothering with qualifying that they weren't really family. People made their own families these days, and that was the family Devon had made. It's still a bizarre concept for her, totally separate from wrapping her mind around Squeaks' legal adoption that was underway. "Though… First name basis with the CEO." She glances at Geneva almost wearily. "You know him, then."

Small fucking world, right?

The comments still aren't enough for her to drown out hearing Gene's suggestion about why Dev kept trying so hard. It's the first time anyone's said as much out loud to her at least, and it causes her to let out an involuntary laugh. "Yeah, because swearing at someone and running them off the first time you meet them is a surefire way to have them develop a crush on you."

That? That had been a bad time.

But at Elmhurst Hospital, before recognition dawned and she remembered who he was? That… had been different.

"… I'm not sure who's the bigger idiot. Him, for giving me his number, or me for keeping it." Emily confesses more quietly. After a beat, she shakes her head. "Scarves, though." She's back to before now. "Scarves sound nice and neutral."

Nobody would understand the concept of embracing an impromptu family more than Geneva, who literally doesn’t have a biological family anymore. There is no hint of a question on her face as she gives a nod. And breathes out in a chuckle at the next query. “Yeah, I know him. Not that well mind you, but he used to visit us Lighthouse kids sometimes before the war. Hear he’s going by a different name now and everything.”

Gene keeps the amused look as Emily denies the probable(?!) relationship. “I mean, you know what they say about guys being giant fucking morons. Moreso around girls they like… You two sound sweet.” Not that she remotely knows anything about him beyond Emily’s description, of course, but it does sound like a shoe-in.

“How about one of those over there?” She points at another stall on their left selling jewelry and curios. This one, however, also features a rather sizable rack of lovely-looking cashmere scarves in a diverse range of patterns.

"Used to visit…" Emily echoes back. Just another shade she hadn't expected to Richard Ray. She lets out a quiet laugh and asks, "Did you know he used to be a cat burglar, at one point?" And a self-professed 'murderer of futures', but the cat burglar proclamation was the one that tickled her.

She'd ask if Gene had met her father, too, but there's no amount of instant clicking would drive her to do that. To herself, or to her new acquaintance.

Color rises to her cheeks unpleasantly as Gene insists they sound 'sweet'. "Easy with those accusations. I'd hate to have to run you off with a crutch. We've only just met." This also overlooks how hard it is to shake any part of the Lighthouse once it's become stuck to you. It wasn't just a bad penny — it was like being hit with a ball of overpowered, double-sided tape. There was no escape, only more exposure.

It's a good thing the other girl is paying attention enough for them both. Emily's gotten distracted at some point. She turns toward the scarves, her head tilting as she sorts through the different designs mentally. "Yeah," she offers up cautiously. "Maybe…" She tips her head at a beige scarf with black and greyscale Burberry-like plaid on it, one of the many double-wrapped around the display pole to keep it from flying off. It looked like it might do. It looked… sophisticated, even.

Literally any of them could do. But looking at that one, she could see Devon wearing it. It's an uncomfortable feeling she's not entirely sure how to address.

“I didn’t know exactly what he did. Buuuut that doesn’t surprise me one bit. You know, it’s actually hard for me to picture him as the head of a fancy place like Raytech.” Whatever had happened must facilitated one hell of a transformation. Fate is a weird mistress, as Gene well knows. A smirk visibly alights on her expression at the thought that once, Richard and her had once been more similar (at least in this one respect!) than anyone would care to think.

“Hey sorry, sorry. Just trolling. I’ll stop if you want.” Geneva laughs at the sight of a flush of color entering Emily’s cheeks, but it is a sound that is good-natured in tone.

That’s just the nature of them Lighthouse folks, isn’t it: they stick to you like a bad tan. Poor Emily.

Catching sight of the beige scarf the other woman has seemingly affixed an intense gaze to, Gene preemptively removes it from the rack for her. “This one? Yeah, good choice. It’s a nice one.”

Emily's eyes light up as she sees the scarf closer, lifts a hand to touch it. "Yeah, this one looks good." She grins at Gene for a moment, pulling the scarf up so it wraps around her neck in a loop and a half. Her bag was full, nothing to do but wear it.

After the tender is squared away, her mood is more back to normal. The price for a scarf was highway robbery, according to her. She'd gotten a much better deal on the ring. (Can't win 'em all, Emily.)

Unfortunately for the both of them, the carolers are right by the exit back to the rest of the building. "Looks like we're fucked. Might be time to face the music."

She looks back toward Gene, brow idling up. "Think it's considered festive to throw a snowball at them?"

When Emily goes up to complete the purchase Gene just can’t help but feel as if she, too, had been personally robbed. The price is ridiculous. True, the scarf is of high-quality make, but still - she sneaks a glance across at Emily. Perhaps when they know each other better Gene can, ahem, work on turning such transactions into the occasional gift.

But as they both come up on the carolers blocking the exit from Red Hook Market, it would appear that Christmas has come early after all. Because finally there, silhouetted behind the mass and thrown into sharp relief by the erratic lighting in the market, is a free-standing Christmas tree. It is (to Gene anyway) an absolutely garish look, festooned in tinsel and capriciously blinking strings of lights with a raggedy felt angel sitting at the top. Oh… she has something a bit better in mind than a snowball.

As the pair pass by, Geneva tenses up the back of her hand closest to the tree, sending a tightly wound wave of heat directed right at the base of the tree— not stopping in her stride all the while. It is enough: the dry, flammable pine needles littering the base are immediately set ablaze, and it is not long before the entire Christmas tree has been engulfed in bright, licking, hungry flames from the bottom up.

There are screams from the other market-goers as they begin to notice. Geneva pretends to be just as shocked as they are, covering her mouth and pointing at the flaming monstrosity with a very believable expression of disbelief on her face. “Oh, my god! The tree is on fire! How could that possibly have happened?”

How indeed. Emily buys none of it, her eyes going wide as she looks back, feeling the heat before she sees the tree in flames. "You're fucking kidding me." Still wearing that same look of shock, she balls one hand into a fist and punches the other young woman in the bicep, doing everything she can to stumble out of the way of everyone else. Someone's pulled the fire alarm. In the panic, people are rushing the door that they had been so close to, and Emily and Geneva manage to pop out onto the street with the rest as extinguishers and even an ability are brought to bear against the tree to contain the fire.

Hearing the sound of a fire engine starting up nearby is the last straw. She turns back toward the heat manipulator by her side, trying to shove down her amusement at the petty takedown in the face of how serious the whole situation is. "Goddammit, Gene."

At least the carolers had stopped.

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