A Brand New Zoo


hailey_icon.gif squeaks_icon.gif

Scene Title A Brand New Zoo
Synopsis Squeaks meets the other elusive member of Gillian's household.
Date September 19, 2018

Elmhurst, Gillian's Brownstone

It’s autumn and as they say in the north, Winter is Coming. The leaves outside are just starting to turn and most of the colorful birds have started their migration south. The ones that are left are black, brown, or combinations of both with a bit of white and constantly making their presence known. The unusual amount of activity this morning at Gillian’s isn’t human related for the most part. It’s a lucky thing that the brownstone owner herself isn’t here because one of the squatters has come home to roost, with company that probably wouldn’t be approved of. Again. It’s been days since Hailey’s graced the house, days where she hasn’t made contact except for the note she scribbled in haste when she left.

Gone to feed the deer, back in a bit.

A tiny bleat can be heard coming from the kitchen, then soft shushes, a loud clatter of pots, more shushes, a rhythmic sucking noise, and finally quiet… If the chirps of the birds out the window and the constant grumblings of an old cat can be considered quiet.

The rays of the sun shining on Squeaks’ face as she slept are replaced slowly by a shadow. Then, the distinct feeling of being watched, the kind that wrestles one out of dreams and back into the waking world.

Shadows can be ignored. They move all the time and are usually not things to be worried about. Even the stared at feeling can be shrugged off at first. It's probably Chandra being a cat and wondering how he can claim some of the sleeping teen’s warm.

But when it does start to feel too long for it to even be the cat, Squeaks’ eyes come open. She turns and sits all in one motion from her half-hidden spot on the living room floor. An accusing look is lifted to meet whoever, or whatever, is doing the staring.

The sight she’s greeted with is simian, nose to nose (until she moves), then he jumps back with a shriek that could wake the dead. It’s mostly surprise and when she’s fully seated, he hops back to the nearest sofa cushion and begins bouncing on it like a trampoline. No jumping on the furniture is probably a rule that Gillian hasn’t instituted (yet), so until he gets caught, the monkey does what monkeys do. He’s having fun.

Again, a small bleat sounds from the kitchen. It’s quickly interrupted and goes quiet again with a suck suck suck.

“You smell gross,” Squeaks complains at the monkey. She huffs at his antics then rubs her face with her hands. She even considers wrapping herself up in her blanket again — the peeping simian can probably be ignored for a little while — but that noise from the kitchen can’t. It’s too strange.

So instead of trying to return to sleep, or at least pretending to sleep, she stands and pushes her blanket out of the way a bit. “Come on,” the teenager says to the monkey, holding a hand out to it. “Let’s see what’s making that sound, and find breakfast.”

The kitchen, to put it simply, is full.

Squirrels on the counter eating seeds, rabbits and raccoons on the floor eating vegetables, a few cats and dogs laying wherever they decided to put down, and one blond woman in the middle of it all bottle feeding a white baby goat. She’s got the tiny creature tucked under her arm like a football and it is sucking noisily on what looks like a very full rubber glove that’s knotted at the end.

When Squeaks and Jim arrive, she looks up and greets the teen with a sheepish smile. “Oh hi, uhhh,” a guilty expression crosses her face as she looks around her. “Don’t tell on me. They’re hungry.”

Squeaks looks down from the monkey on her shoulder to the kitchen as she enters. She stops almost suddenly at the scene, one hand raised to keep Jim from toppling — even though he’s probably more likely to stay in place on his own.

She might be fascinated by all the animals that are so plainly comfortable being inside, but she also looks a breath away from panicking. Being asked not to tattle doesn’t help. “Okay but… but… they can’t stay, right? And they… we have to make it really clean again.” Because she’s one teenager who doesn’t want to get into trouble for messing up the house.

"Oh, totally, I do this all the time." Hailey's easy grin happens the moment she hears that word okay. "I'm Hailey, by the way," she says in form of a greeting. "You're staying here?"

The little goat tucked under her arm gives another little bleat.

"No, you're done, you finished a whole glove Little Missy," Hailey croons at the baby, "time to head outside just in case." In case of that thing that causes Hailey to suddenly rush. Like a shot, she's up and dashing for the door, throwing it open and holding the kid at arms length in front of her before a little stream lets loose into the grass.

Close one.

“Yes.” Squeaks’ answer sounds more like a question. “Sometimes I don't, but more now I do.” There might be more to that answer, but it's put on hold when Hailey runs outside. She cringes a little bit while still standing just inside the kitchen.

Maybe she should have stayed at the apartment last night.

“You're Lance’s for reals sister,” she calls to the young woman after the baby goat is in the grass. “The one who's like Pippi Longstocking.” The teenager leans a little to one side to look out the door.

Book references!

Now that is something that Hailey understands and that earns Squeaks a wide smile but a shake of the head, "Oh no, I'm so not strong enough to be Pipi Longstocking." At that moment, Jim makes his presence known by hopping off of Squeaks' shoulder and onto the counter. This is probably a break of a set down rule because Hailey is quick to shoo him off.

"You know Lance?" It shouldn't be a surprise, her brother is a social butterfly and pretty much everyone knows him but still. The empath ducks behind the kitchen island and a few rabbits hop around its corner as though being chased off. One is still chewing on a leaf of lettuce in its mouth. They stop close to Squeaks' feet, the one with the lettuce actually using the teen herself as a rest stop. The rabbit is warm on cold toes.

“Yes.” The answer is quiet and complete with a nod, but her tone sounds more like a question. Squeaks looks down at the rabbits, curious but unsure about what to do with them. After a couple of seconds she just shrugs and looks up at Hailey. “Sometimes I stay at his home, with Brynn and Joe too.”

Her eyes drop to the rabbits again, thinking while watching them. “Lance things you might be able to help with the rats in the Underneath.” The teen’s comment this time is more thoughtful, wondering out loud. “He thinks the rats are slice, but I don’t.”

"You stay in that tiny apartment with all three of them?" Hailey is practically incredulous at this point. By her standards, Gillian's house is already crowded (that's not even including the mobile zoo following her around). "You know they have rats in that building, right? I could feel them. Rats really like peanut butter and old socks." The last bit was a nonjudgemental commentary on the cleanliness. "Seriously, my house is in a zoo and it's less gross."

To each their own. The Gerken siblings both have their well voiced opinions on the other's living conditions.

Speaking of rats, "Why don't you think they are?"

“Sometimes,” The younger girl says again. “More after I stopped living in the Underneath, but not as much now. I stay here now, and only sometimes at Lance’s.” And maybe it was crowded, but that doesn't seem to bother her very much.

“There's rats in the Underneath, too. I could hear them sometimes. At night. Also there's dogs and cats.”

Squeaks gives a slow shrug, with her hands turning up. “Because we don't have proof that it's the rats being electric or something else. They really for reals looked electric, but maybe it's someone making them seem that way.”

Makes sense.

To that answer, Hailey shrugs, "I guess." Jim is busy picking through the fur of one of the dogs sprawled lazily across the kitchen floor. One cat is finished its can of tuna while the other is still scarfing it down. One by one, as the animals finish their meals, they get let out the back door. Except Jim's dog, she stays until after the last one of their little group is gone. Perhaps because she's so old.

Blind in one eye, mangy brindle coat, and grey around her eyes and muzzle, she's patient with the adolescent monkey who is lovingly pulling mites and eating them. That dog isn't going anywhere soon, and it doesn't seem to bother Hailey as she carefully begins cleaning the kitchen, erasing any traces of her little friends.

"But we weren't real a few years ago either."

There’s a look for the animals as they start migrating back outside. Squeaks even shuffles her feet, as carefully as she can with the rabbits so close, and goes to open the window. As she does, she gives Hailey an absolutely confused look.

“How could you not be real a few years ago? It’s impossible to not be real before but real now, unless you’re like… a toy or something that hasn’t been invented yet.”

"I mean people with abilities," Hailey says as she scrubs the counter that Jim had sat his little monkey buns on, disinfecting it. "Before Midtown, we were science fiction not science fact. For most people." From there, she moves to the others. Counters first. Then the dog is finally put out. Then sweeping begins.

She moves deftly around Squeaks, like she's done this same routine many times before. She's so careful that not even a hair is left behind. That's more so Lene doesn't freak out. For some reason, the woman doesn't seem like animals. That, in Hailey's eyes, makes her a bit of a weirdo. Even if she is a celebrity.

“But…” Squeaks is quick to avoid the broom, she slinks around the window and retreats to the doorway she’d entered from. Still confused, she watches Hailey and tries to make sense of what the empath is saying. “But they were real still. Just not so known about. Some people knew but not everyone. That still makes them real.”

“I’m just saying, we’re like the rats,” Hailey continues in rebuttal. “I mean, who knows if there’s slice animals or not. It’s not like we can just up and ask them.” At least Hailey can’t. Other people probably can.

With sweeping finished, the evidence is placed in the outside garbage, just so no one sees the mass of fur that’s collected over the course of a morning. When she returns, she fills the sink with hot water and cleaning solution and gets down to start washing the floor by hand.

Jim takes the opportunity to crawl up Squeaks’ body and hang on her like a papoose.

“Man, he likes you almost as much as he likes Lance. Do you have something in your pocket?”

“We can’t be like rats, we’re people.” She might not quite understand what Hailey is trying to explain, but Squeaks is pretty certain that she isn’t a rat. She stands patiently while Jim climbs up to hang off her, and only looks at him when he’s stopped moving. “No. Sometimes books, or things I find, but nothing now. It’s still morning.” Because the time of day makes a difference. She hasn’t been out anywhere to find things.


Often times, Gillian leaves fairly early in the morning and isn’t seen from again until the evening. Too much to do. People act like they have so much time, but she would love to have just one more hour in the day when she didn’t need to be asleep, when she could work. While they talk in the kitchen, the front door starts to unlock. She’s not supposed to be home again for hours, but here she is, unlocking the door and stepping inside the three story brownstone— Immediately she can smell the difference.

Someone who spent a lot of time around the animals probably could not smell that, but someone who doesn’t… She glances up at the ceiling and shakes her head a little, pulling the door shut behind her. Quietly. But that may be all the warning they need, as she starts toward the kitchen. “Hailey, you’re back. And good morning, Squeaks,” she responds with a smile. She had poked her head in to check on the girl at one point before she left, but didn’t bother to wake her.

Her eyes slide toward the floor. Are those hoof prints?

Just little ones, tiny baby ones. No big deal, right?

The moment she hears Gillian's voice, Hailey leaps up off the floor and throws the rag she was using the wash the floor into the sink. No evidence! "Hi Gillian," she greets with a very uncharacteristically sweet smile, "what brings you home so.. uh.. early?"

Jim, sensing Hailey's sudden discomfort guilt, tries to crawl into Squeaks' shirt to hide away from the new arrival. He's insistant and quite lanky, so if she has a mind to stop him, Squeaks will find herself in a wrestling match with two arms, two legs, and a tail.

She doesn't try to stop the monkey from hiding, but she does share his discomfort a little bit. At Gillian’s voice, Squeaks gives herself a hug, arms wrapping around her middle as eyes go all wide and kind of anxious.

“Hi,” she answers as she looks up at Gillian. The younger girl sidesteps so she's not in the doorway anymore and darts a look at Hailey. “I… um, is the library closed?” Hopefully not, she was going there later.

There’s a disappointed glance toward the door to the backyard, as if she half expects to find a zoo back there, but instead of a lecture or anything, she just responds to their questions, one at a time. “I forgot something. It’s not really important.” But important enough that she decided to go get it. To Squeaks’ question, though she shakes her head, “No, it’s still open. They can manage it without me.” They had more librarians than her, and she doesn’t even man the checkout counter unless she’s personally helping someone. She also did not teach a vast majority of the classes.

“Good morning, Jim,” she adds to the monkey, though she does glance around occasionally as if expecting a small animal to appear out of nowhere. “You look like you might have need of a bath.” Yes, she’s talking to the monkey as if he were a person, but she sometimes talks to Chandra like that too, as they have both seen.

Much to the credit of Hailey's cunning, most of the animals have already scattered away from the house itself. The only ones left are Jim and a bleating kid outside. A kid that Hailey does her best to ignore and cough whenever it makes a sound.

cough cough

"Yes! He probably does need a bath, eh heh heh," the empath admits amongst her coughs. "We've been pretty busy the past few days, you know with all of the deer feeding and.." bleat.. cough cough ".. that we've had to do!" She thinks she's doing a fantastic job covering. Slowly, she backs up to the sink and casually reaches in to yank out the plug. Nothing to see here!

That the library is still open is a relief, even if it doesn’t look like it. Squeaks’ eyes slide to the door when the little goat complains outside. If she could make it stop, she’d do it. Maybe it just wants company. She shifts her arms to push Jim closer to her shoulders again. He could go play with the goat, not that she’s able to tell him that.

Her lips fold in and are clamped closed by her teeth and she angles a vaguely worried look back up at Gillian. She isn’t sure what to do or say now. And Hailey’s efforts to cover it get a nervous look. It’s not going to work! But instead of saying as much, or getting further caught up in the mess, the younger girl ducks and turns to slink back to her blankets.

Able to hear the bleating despite the attempts to cover it, Gillian just raises an eyebrow after the last blea-cough and shakes her head with a smile. She wanted to ask Brian how he had handled this, but if she understands correctly, he hadn’t really handled it once she reached a certain age. “There’s a faucet in the backyard that you can use. I have a metal basin in the basement,” she offers, not really wanting to wash the monkey in her shower again. The fur had not been fun to clean out the last time.

“You can also leave it full if your friends need somewhere clean to drink, if that would help.” Her friends, meaning the goat, probably, and whatever else had been with it. She hoped that the little green space she had in the back hadn’t been destroyed too much, but maybe she won’t need to mow this weekend, either.

Whatever she had come to get she seems to ignore in favor of the returned young woman, old enough to be an adult now, though still considered, in some ways, a child by her. Mostly because she remembers when she’d been younger than Squeaks here. “Where have you been staying the last few days?”

Not a question that's easily answered and Squeaks is leaving to hide again, leaving her without an attention deflection. "Ahhh…round?" She doesn't have a wholly truthful answer, whether she's keeping it a secret or sparing Gillian's worry about if she’s back at the zoo, she just doesn't elaborate.

While the young ward-to-be is content to be out of the spotlight, her shoulder ornament isn't. Jim is busily wrapping long arms around her head and making small loving cooes and cheeps. Maybe she's born with it, maybe it's Maybelline, but the monkey just can't get enough of her.

The fact that Jim is so taken gives Hailey a small pause, but then she smiles at Gillian. "Confession!! I brought a bunch of friends home. There's a baby goat in the backyard, she's from the zoo." With that off her chest, she opens the back door to let the screaming little baby back in. "I call her Snow White," and she is. Tufts of kinky sticking up snow white fur covers the tiny pygmy kid that is roughly the size of Chandra.

The attention from the monkey is weathered without a lot of protest. Squeaks does nudge his arms off her face a time or two, but she otherwise just lets Jim be Jim. She isn’t really sure of what else to do with him anyway.

Once the younger girl has ducked into the living room, she peeks around the corner to watch and listen to the conversation in the kitchen. She’s still curious about what’s going on. And nervous about how all those animals — or at least the baby goat — and Hailey’s place in their appearance will be taken.

If Hailey earns points for her confession, it’s all wrapped up in the small smile that Gillian gives when it’s over. “I know.” After all, she had noticed the bleating. And the tiny hoof prints. “You don’t need to sleep so far away, you know. If you prefer staying close to your animals we could set up a tent in the backyard.” Though she doesn’t have much in the way of a bedroom to herself, she never had really, she could still have a spot in the backyard should she wish to stay outside.

“There are some who live rough in Park Place, too,” she adds, knowing of at least one or two who live in unpowered houses with no running water, who were too stubborn to leave even with the offer of a residence inside the resorted districts had been offered. “There had even been an old Zoo there. And my old library.” The one she had worked at before… everything changed. “When it starts getting cold you may wish you’d gotten a room for you and Jim.”

Winters are deadly, after all. For those without a reliable heat source. She glances over her shoulder to where Squeaks had disappeared to, but doesn’t go and get her. “Had you met Squeaks before?”

The kid is jumping for joy around the island in the kitchen, then around Hailey, then around Gillian, then back around Hailey, then she stops to nibble on the dish towel hanging from the oven handle… She’s a busy little girl.


That’s directed at Gillian, who smells more than a bit better than Hailey at this moment. Perhaps two should be bathing outside in the tub… the goat makes three. But she’s a clean baby, it seems that unlike the other two, she’s been bathed quite recently. Knowing Hailey, it was probably not outside because her friends deserve all of the comfort that she enjoys here. Hailey’s a sharer.

“Uhh… nooooo?” Is the answer to the question, “but she says she lives in that gross apartment with Lance, Joe, and Brynn sometimes.” No one will ever convince Hailey that it’s not a gross apartment. Mostly because of her first visit there. Her zoo is cleaner. “I don’t know if I can live there, I have to get my deer and Dayton in… and…” She goes silent before she names the rest.

“It’s not gross.” Squeaks’ voice is quiet and down the hall. She hasn’t returned from where she scuttled off to and she’s still watching from around a corner. “It could be less gross if you did your Pippi Longstocking on the gross things.” She probably doesn’t mean the boys.


She eases around the corner and ghosts a few steps closer to the kitchen. Since it doesn’t seem like anyone is getting angry, and there’s still breakfast to find. And she told Jim that’s what they would do. But the teenager doesn’t go very far, maybe halfway before stopping again to watch a bit longer.

“Teenage boys can be difficult to live with.” And while Brynn also lived in those boys’ apartment, it still held two teenage boys. Who often smelled like dirty gym socks even when they didn’t try to. Gillian can’t help but think of her brother— the one she’d actually grown up with— and how his room had always smelled like a locker room. Unless their mom had cleaned it.

“If you need help moving your animals inside, at least the livestock-like ones, I can help,” she adds in offer, an offer that sadly would not extend to the wolves that she knew Hailey had been friendly with. She doubts the wolves would be happy even if they lived in the overgrown Park Slope. There’s a pause, before she looks toward Squeaks, and then back to Hailey. “Squeaks will probably be staying here soon. I’m going to file for guardianship of her.” She gives the younger teen an apologetic glance for talking about her in front of her, but she felt the need to tell Hailey this.


It’s hard.

It doesn’t take an empath to understand what might be happening right now. Hailey’s stony silence at the news and then the smile that’s pasted to her face beneath eyes that just go dead. “That’s great,” she not-quite exclaims, bending over to pick up the overzealous little kid from the floor. “That’s really good, it’ll be great.”

She needs a cuddle. Jim feels it because he leaps away from Squeaks and hops up onto the island, pawing and crawling all over Hailey and shoving the baby goat in order to be first.

“But yeah… uh.. I’ll need help.”

There’s one who doesn’t quite understand. Squeaks’ confusion starts at the look from Gillian and continues with Hailey’s reaction. It makes her go quiet and still, just watching even when Jim abandons her shoulders for Hailey’s arms.

Eventually learned instinct fills in for what she doesn’t understand, and the teenager eases backward a couple of steps. Breakfast can be found later, best to disappear now. “I have to get ready,” she explains, but not loudly. Maybe she’s just telling herself that while she slinks backward and away from the kitchen.

There had been a reason Gillian had been reluctant to bring this up, but grateful at the same time that it hadn’t already come up, too. It was going to be known soon. It was happening. Nothing would change that except the teenager saying she no longer wanted it. That would be the only thing. She glances after the teen for a moment, sending out a mental apology that she knows the girl can’t feel like a telepath might. One that she will give later, before she turns those hazel eyes back on Hailey and her tiny zoo. “I wasn’t ready for this eight years ago.”

God had it been so long? Of course it had, she’d been twelve when she’d met the girl and now… now she’s definitely not twelve anymore. “And after what happened with Brian, I wasn’t able to stay up in Canada. He disagreed with me and wouldn’t budge, I disagreed with him and could not. Training you kids was the last thing I wanted. I couldn’t live there while he did that to you.” And she knows that Hailey hadn’t even stayed with them after— if things hadn’t been so bad during the war, things may have been differently. “I still don’t want that for any of you. I fought to give you a world where you wouldn’t have to. To live in hiding, to know how to… to kill to protect yourselves.”

While she speaks, her hands are shaking, her face is paler than normal, too. “I can’t give you back what you should have had, and you will never know just how sorry I am for that.” She should have had a family. She should have been able to be a child. “I still consider you my daughter too, Hailey. This doesn’t change that.”

The kid bleats and struggles, she’s too young to understand what it is she’s feeling as a result of Hailey’s ability. Jim, on the other hand, is too concerned. As the goat is let down, he takes the place and wraps his long arms around Hailey’s neck but she pushes him away.

Nodding once to Gillian, she takes the same route as Squeaks, an escape. But the young woman isn’t doing that. She chases Gillian’s young ward down and through possible struggle, locks her into a strong hug. “You’re going to be good,” she says in a low voice that the librarian wouldn’t be able to hear. “You’ll like it, I promise you will. And I’ll Dolittle the rats away, so the next time you visit Lance, it won’t be so gross.”

In the kitchen, Jim is better at conveying the words that Hailey can’t and leaps from the counter and, surprisingly, onto Gillian.

He doesn’t let go.

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