A Place in the Sun for Anyone


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Scene Title A Place in the Sun for Anyone
Synopsis There's a place in the sun for anyone who has the will to chase one, and I think that I've found mine.
Rue delivers Selina to Benji, and receives encouragement in return.
Date April 19, 2011

Outside Benji and Hannah's

The door fits into the narrow space between a jewelry store that has seen more hours in the past than it does now, and the empty lot of what was a Malaysian take-out that has been boarded up and for sale for a while now. A narrow corridor, up and up into presumably the space above either one, but by grey and brown brick and blank windows, it could well be anything. It happens to be the hovel that Hannah Sumter found for them, and difficult to find even when you know what to look for — and so Benji Ryans sits on the stoop; grey concrete, metal railing, a little dirty but nothing she owns is ever very new, or good, or expensive.

A pair of combat boots rest demure on the sidewalk, black scuffed leather and brassy hooks for thick laces, and grey wool tucks into them, thin leggings stretching over exposed shins and bony knees before obscured again in a lighter shade of the same material, if thicker, in the form of a skirt. A warm sweater doesn't require a coat, a mix of greys, whites, and blacks, as if greyscale colour would have her fade into the grey of the neighbourhood as well.

No makeup, except whatever has managed to cling to eyelashes and the corners of her eyes, and the grease of infrequent washing at Pollepel Island is gone from dark hair. She holds open container of what was a thick chickpea, chicken and lentils curry and rice is a taste of the present and mostly gone by now, plastic fork scraping up the rest, posture insecure and unassuming as she waits without watching the road.

Rue Lancaster desperately misses the loud colours in her wardrobe. Particularly the reds and purples that comprise her favourite combinations, and the bright orange that's her favourite colour. If she'd known they were going to be wearing similar outfits, well… She wouldn't have believed it anyway.

Tuxedo'd Selina makes a fine match for Rue. Subdued grey leggings under a washed out denim skirt that was probably black once upon a time, and a cream coloured cable knit sweater that's heavy enough that she doesn't need her semi-signature red jacket. That she's trying to avoid standing out in a crowd means that even if the sweater weren't warm enough, the coat would be left home.

The kitten peeks out from a shoulder bag - the sort socialites and the wannabe posh buy specifically for carting their pets around. She sniffs at the air curiously, and actually seems to be the first to spot Benji. If only because she mews at her as they approach. Rue actually has to double-take. Blue eyes get wide and she gasps before a wide grin spreads across her face. "Ohmigawd! Lookit you!" Which is meant to play the part of warm greeting.

Benji's attention snaps up as swift as a deer, swallowing the last of the curry-soaked rice and setting the container aside. An automatic smile dims into automatic selfconsciousness when Rue suggests one look at her— please don't— but it's not true dismay. There are worse hells than a warm greeting. Levering herself up to stand, hands go out for kitten despite the open street, and despite that kitten is growing into cat with weed-like speed. "And look at you," is diverted to feline, Benji plunging hands into the shoulder bag to extract squirmy cat, scratching fingers around the houndstooth collar.

"Hello, yes, I missed you too," for all that Selina is mildly content about the situation at best. Stepping back off sidewalk to lean against the railings of the stoop, Benji keeps the cat close to her chest, pointed ears tickling under chin.

Ice-blue glance is paid to Rue. "Thank you, for bringing her."

Rue giggles softly as she relinquishes the little cat, and her bag. Apparently it belongs to Selina, rather than to her. Or so she's decided. "Hey, no problem. She's all up on her shots now, and I tossed a few more toys and a blanket in. She likes blue. I swear." She lifts the bag just a bit to indicate it's all in there before she sets it down on the stoop.

A strand of inky black hair is tucked behind one ear, and Rue watches the reunion a moment longer with a lingering smile. "I have what's possibly a really stupid question."

She's changed her hair, Benji notices, observation dancing over the dyed darker locks as fingers massage Selina behind her pert ears, a little bit of wistfulness for the loss of fiery red, maybe. A tilt of her head is meant to be further gratitude, and Selina's tail whips back and forth with restlessness, twisting around with improbable, slippery flexibility to observe the mistress she's leaving behind, for now.

"Well, hopefully I won't have a stupid answer," Benji says, shifting so the cat is forced to drape over a shoulder while the other hand goes to pick up the shoulder bag.

"Is it still Benji? Or… Do you go by something else?" A shrug would look a bit helpless if not for the light in her eyes. It's not amusement at her friend's expense, but it's amusement. "I'm in shock, and I shouldn't be." Rue sucks in deep breath, not even trying to wipe the grin off her face. "You're so pretty! I'm jealous!"

People are nice, in 2011. For the most part.

The smile that blooms in the wake of questions and compliments both is awkward, crooked, but not forced, a chuckle that is more exhale than anything else. "Benji is fine," she dismisses, with a quick shake of her head, for all that a minor hesitation stamped itself before the assurance. "And you are very sweet to say so. Would you like to come in?" She twitches a glance up the face of the crowding building, stains around the windows and flaking paint. "It's not much, but, I have tea. No coffee.

"It keeps me up all night." Up the stairs, she shoulders open the heavy door, exposing claustrophobic corridor, all narrow passage, low ceiling and high steps.

"Oh, could I?" Rue's quick to accept the invitation and fall in behind Benji as she moves into the building. "I like to think of it as honesty, but I'll accept sweet because that's flattering, too." Even though she doesn't need to, she ducks her head a little bit, conscious of low ceilings. Like someone who's probably been caught unawares by a low-hanging light fixture before.

"Tea is fine, as long as there's sugar to be had. Next time," at least Rue is presuming there will be a next time. Hopeful, "I'll bring a bottle of wine. If I'd been thinking, I'd have done that! Well, Selina will just have to handle the housewarming for me until I can do better."

Inside, it's warm, with a gas heater going — although this is twisted off before Benji is setting down the cat, Selina becoming a tuxedo blur as she streaks through the unfamiliar living space. It's whatever low income den that can be expected in New York City, cramped together but not dirty, or even uncomfortable. Places to sit are a little less economical, with the sofa cushioned into someone's bed and left as such, pillows and covers straightened out as much as the lumpy sofa will allow. The bedroom— exists, still, with the door partially opened, a small room for better privacy. A bathroom links off the main living space, just next to the kitchenette. Vertical blinds blot out the already dull afternoon light.

The shoulder bag is placed gently upon the makeshift bedding, and Benji opens her palms towards the ground, which is clean, and covered over with furry rug. "Pull up whatever you can find," she says, moving towards where a silver kettle is upon gas stove, the flame switched on and steam readily rising from already tepid water.

Rue rolls her shoulders as she steps inside the warmth of the apartment, looking around curiously without appearing snoopy. She hopes. "Do you like it?" she asks finally, tossing her hair absently. "The new look, I mean." More helpful. "I'm just finally recognising myself when I pass by a mirror." She meanders slowly, debating sitting down on the couch-made-bed, but settles instead for coming to lean against the counter in the kitchenette instead, shifting a little restlessly.

Little tins of tea are taken down off shelving, shaken and inspected until one is selected, a black, loose leaf tea that requires the strainers set out there after, setting things up with a sort of disordered erraticness that is familiar for Benji for all that it's not very efficient. Maybe nervous of being watched. "Of course it suits you," she says, over a shoulder. "I'll miss all that red hair, but— " She can't say much against changing appearances, mouth twisting against unspoken hypocrisy and instead bowing her head over her task as a thin ribbon of steam lifts out the kettle's spout.

"How's the island?"

"I miss it, too," Rue admits with more sadness than she's allowed for anyone else. "But… This is better for blending in, is the hope." Politely, or perhaps distractedly, she looks away while Benji prepares their tea.

Attention mostly focused on the blinds, and what's beyond their slats, Rue takes a moment to consider. "Things are good," she murmurs, "all things being equal. I'm sure you already know Mrs. Caliban is up and about again. That goes a long way to making people feel better, I think. But there's some weird stuff going on."

Her nose wrinkles, creasing peppered freckles. "Quinnie says she and a lot of the others are having weird dreams. But like everything else that happens around here," nebulously representing the Network, or New York City maybe, "I'm somehow left out. I'm not having any dreams out of the ordinary."

With her back to Rue, Benji can at least wince where it isn't seen, near tipping loose tea leaves into white porcelain when fingers twitch in a startle before steadying. She makes a light, breathy sound, designed to be neutral, sympathetic, curious, as hot water comes out rich through sieving leaves and mesh wire. "Any— " The rattle of the drawer interrupts the question, the clatter of cutlery as two silver spoons are extracted. "— working theories?" Brown sugar is scattered into the dark tea, and she bends to dip an arm into fridge to obtain the milk tucked into the door.

In a few short seconds, she turns back to Rue, holding out warm tea to take, on the side of milky and sweet than standard, but not weak.

"I think they're all on salvia and should at least have the courtesy to share some with me. They say they're seeing the future or something." Rue rolls her eyes, obviously unconvinced of such a theory. "Pre-cogs see the future. And there haven't been… rolling black-out visions like last June. So, I think the Island is just driving people a little nuts or something."

Tea is accepted with a soft thank you, serving to warm fingers before she'll bring it up to taste. "Shit. I'm pissed off enough that I can't even figure out what's up with my own ability. I can't even figure out where to begin with what Quinnie's told me. I don't know." A scowl is directed into the dark of her tea, Rue's lopsided mouth pursing. "Whatever she saw, she's decided she needs to get married." The nerve of some people.

Coming to lean by Rue, Benji brings the tea up to her mouth to test at, small sips so as not to take off the roof of her mouth, and steam maybe does something to veil the morbid fascination being glinted across at Rue. Fear, in a way, but only the kind of fear that might occur when watching a suspenseful movie — not in any actual immediate danger, with the cynical raising Rue's brow and hardening her jaw. That last part has Benji hesitating, however, tea dropping an inch and mouth parted before she asks, unsure if she wants to know: "Who?"

There's a little inhale that could be the beginning of tears - it sounds like it wants to be - but Rue keeps herself in check for now. "She's gonna marry 'Lainey. — Elaine Darrow." Quick clarification, in case Benji doesn't catch on to the nickname right away. Her voice is pitched up higher than she'd like, too indicative of her distress over the situation. "Have you seen her? Oh, we're like the same height and our hair is like the same colour and—"

Rue tilts her head back with a whine, staring up at the ceiling in her dismay. "I'm so pathetic. It's just not fair, though." Like everything else.

"Oh," is said, faintly, blue eyes wide as she watches Rue's distress. A slow blush is beginning to creep up from cowl neckline, past jaw and towards her own set of sporadic freckles, and it's hidden by another hurried sip of tea, never mind how warm its temperature. "And you're both so tall." Glance left, glance right, and then she breaks away to move for the centre of the living room. Ignoring the sofa, Benji moves to sit on the warm rug, gangly legs folding but politely, a hand smoothing skirt into place.

It's mostly to tend to Selina if she desires to come over, but also as good a sitting place as any. "I'm sorry," she says. "But maybe it— some things are meant to be. Next month, you could be in love with anyone."

Rue sighs somewhere between sad and wistful. "Maybe. There hasn't been anybody since Quinnie, though. Nobody even looks at me like that. Except boys." Which brings a bit of a curl to the young woman's lip as she finally pushes off from the counter.

"I know it's stupid, being as hung up on her as I am. It's just that… She's my first love. Nobody's supposed to get over that easily, right?" Rue comes over to sit across from Benji, glancing for some acknowledgement. Understanding is a secondary hope. She brings her tea up then, blowing gently at its surface before she takes a sip and nods approvingly. "Maybe it isn't love anymore. Maybe I'm just jealous that she found someone else to love her."

"Jealousy is— " Benji turns a glance to her tea, a couple of errant leaves that managed to get away despite every best effort whorling within the liquid, and there's a shy tip to her head, an arm curling around a knee where the fabric has worn a little thin. "A distraction. One that just gets in the way of better things. But once you do… you have so much future ahead of you."

It is, after all, only 2011.

"At least you know who you are," she adds, voice finding some certainty even if it never leaves that whispered tone, quiet enough to disguise richer timbres that otherwise come naturally. "What you want. I'm still working on that first part."

"Oh, Jiji." Lancasters and nicknames. It was an inevitability. Rue crawls over so she can cosy up next to Benji, tea balanced in one hand. Wrapping an arm around her shoulders and squeezing. A reassuring hug. "You're beautiful. And you can be whoever you want. It was tough for me, when I figured out I was gay… I can only sort of imagine what it's like for you. I just know it can't be easy.

"I'm sorry for whining about myself. Again." Feeling sorry for herself is abated when Selina decides that her two favourite people needs their knees rubbed on by her little face. Rue can't help but smile at that. And she angles her smile over to Benji, brightening more on her face. "We should have a make-over night. I took most of my make-up over to the Island for the kids - dress up is hard without costumes, but little girls love hooker rouge and blue eye shadow. I swear."

She pauses on that thought, something occurring to the (mostly former, only ever part-time) model. "Does that make me a bad influence?"

Jiji gets a brief look of alarm, but it's much the same as many of Benji's expressions and so by the time Rue has crawled on over, snuggled warm, the horror has died away into tolerance. Maybe affection. Blush is quick to rise hot, but the smile is just as compulsive and genuine as well as she says, "I think so, but so well intentioned." Is the road paved to hell. "You don't have to worry about me — this isn't new of me or anything, just." Well, she said it. It can't be easy.

A hand goes out, stroking Selina from her ears to the base of her tale, watching the cat arching up for it. "Mm, I can just imagine my roommate walking into that. I'm sure she'd evict me." Selina is scooped up, angled to lie lengthwise against Benji's arm, pink paws ceilingwards and cat nonplussed at the treatment. "Or herself."

"Well if she did, my door's always open to you." Though the notion of Benji getting evicted over something like that has Rue mildly perturbed. "I mean, we could just do it at my place." She sits up a little straighter with a gasp. Benji can almost see the lightbulb switch on over Rue's dark head. "It could be a slumber party! Movies, and popcorn, and makeovers and— Oh, do you do waxing? Maybe we can leave that out." A thoughtful beat. "Who are you rooming with anyway? Anybody I know?" The more the merrier!

"Oh, no," Benji says, hasty to correct, to defend any implication over the nature of his roommate, soft earnestness in her tone. "It's not like that, she's just— she isn't very— she's a little— practical? A tomboy." She jolts a shrug, and then shoots a look towards Rue that, if dialed up a few notches, could potentially convert blood to ice water around ideas of any kind of slumber party that doesn't involve sleep, what with both residents of the little apartment being the softer side of thirty, but it's gentled by a hint of a smile at the corner of her mouth.

Dipping attention back down to the cat in her arms, a slight curtain of glossy black obscuring expression. "Her name's Hannah. She was on the island with myself and Howard. We had some— we both agreed it might be better to stay mainland for a little while, I suppose."

"Hannah." All thoughts of slumber parties are banished from Rue's head, and now it's time for a blush to creep into her cheeks. "I… I was with the party that f- found her." Proximity and cuddles are abandoned in favour of getting up and pacing. Sipping tea.

Haunted. "I— " Begged her to breathe. Not to be dead. "I'm glad she's-" All right is probably not the appropriate word. "Better. I'm glad she's doing better." Which does a little to lift the gloom from her features, because Hannah lived, but Rue still looks stormy.

"That's why I think we need to fight the government. When I saw her- them all like that…" Her breath hitches in her throat and she gives up on words, trusting Benji will understand what she's meaning to convey.

Clear blue worry tracks after Rue as she gets up. Surprised, some. And sharp gaze dulls fast at the mention of Benji's friends long recovery, swallowing and shrinking in against the couch-turned-bed, keeping kitten cuddled close. "I'm sorry, I didn't know you were there. Or I forgot. She's doing well." Ivory front teeth touch light against bottom lip in thought for the span of a few seconds, gaze dropping to her own knees, before dragging all the way back up.

And up. To try and study Rue. Benji isn't a telepath and can hardly read her mind, but, it's a good effort. "I saw you at the meeting," she agrees, gently. Very gently. "And they're all so capable, but— be careful. Things are going to get bad. And it always happens quickly."

Rue's free hand comes up to rest thumb knuckle against chin, teeth working absently at the ridge of nail. Words wash over her, are heard, but don't actually register until several seconds after they're delivered. "It's okay. I didn't really talk about it. And I ducked into the infirmary whenever I could just to…"

She falls silent again as she's studied, unrealising of it. "They're all so capable?" Rue echoes, silently asking if that's an exclusion. That they are capable where she is not. But it only lingers unasked a moment, need or request for an answer abandoned in favour of something else that gnaws at her. "Things are going to get bad? It always happens quickly?" Her shoulders sag a little. Not accusation, but disappointment.

"You've been having dreams, too, haven't you?"

Benji's head shake is quick and instant, and peters out just as fast as if realising what she's doing — instant denial. It's not even quite lying, either, but she has no available honesty to fill it in with. "I just— history repeats. November 8, and the Dome. The sickness." And other historical events. "It's going to be dangerous, that's— " Selina takes the moment to leap from Benji's arms, overwarm, tail whipping fast enough to near hit her face should it have gone by without flinch.

Now comes the task of picking cat hair from woolen sweater. "That's all," she murmurs, to finish off the lie, other hand gripping neglected tea.

That Rue looks distrusting isn't because she truly suspects Benji of lying. At least, not for the reasons she maybe should. "They all have this sense of urgency about them, the ones who've dreamed. Like they've got insider information to act on. It's like they think I can't understand the trouble we're in without that."

Sullen, disgusted. "Like those soldiers at the checkpoint didn't give me an inkling. Like seeing those people hanged, and then realising we'd brought home the plague wasn't enough?" Bright blue eyes close slowly, and Rue lets out a deep breath. "I'm doing it again," she admonishes herself. "Fuck, I'm selfish. It's difficult, though. To be surrounded by that many talented people and feel like…" Teeth clink against the mug she brings to her lips, words aborted in favour of a sip.

A pause passes by, before Benji pushes herself to her feet, and there's the click of tea cup being set down, before her hands go out to take Rue's in turn, half empty though it may be. Half full. One of those. It's placed upon kitchen counter with simple patience before those hands go to take the younger woman's, fingers curled around fingers, and that Benji has to duck her head is less about height— Rue outranks her in this department— but more to catch her eye sight.

And offer a small smile, hands squeezing gently. "I know exactly," she implores her, very carefully, and quite honestly, a huff of a voiceless chuckle, "what you mean." Though she isn't one to initiate much in the way of contact normally, save for family, she just go to pull Rue into a light embrace if allowed, hands at her shoulders and squeezing once more. "Dreams can only be hope for something better, nothing more.

"You just have to find yours. Only yours will be real."

Rue relinquishes her tea easily enough and allows her hands to be taken more readily. Her lips are still pulled into a pout for the first moment or two of eye contact. It's the assurance that the other understands that brings her to smile again. Her arms tighten around Benji's frame, warmth and squeeze to communicate gratefulness and appreciation.

When she draws away, Rue drops a soft kiss on Benji's jaw about an inch from where it would meet her ear. "Thank you. You seem to know just what to say, and all I do is put my foot in my mouth. I hope I can be more like you someday." Affectionately, she tucks a strand of hair behind Benji's ear. "I should probably get going. I've emo'd your ear off enough for one day. Call me later? We'll grab dinner or something?" The sparkle's returned to her eye. Maybe sans mischief, maybe not.

Bashfulness tips her head and kicks hair over and in her eyes, but the moment passes swift enough, Benji mincing a step back, hand resting on counter. "Of course, that sounds wonderful." As if sensing departure of at least someone, the tuxedo cat takes to winding herself sinuous around Benji's legs, leaving black and white cat hair on thin woolen leggings, gaining a small smile from her owner. "And thank you, again, for Selina."

Hand comes up to clutch around the silver pendant than fell out of her collar somewhere between getting to her feet and hugging, hanging there against the integrity of the chain. Other hand splays fingers in a musical wave. Guilt gnaws somewhere Rue can't see it.

"Thank you for trusting me with her." Rue stoops down briefly to pet the kitty again with a smile. "See you later, sweetie~" Though she maybe glanced up at Benji on the last two sing-songed syllables. Then stands again, moving for the door and pausing to glance over her shoulder as she lets herself out, hand raised to wave in departure.

Footsteps sound swiftly on the stairs, and should Benji look out, she'll see the renewed spring to Rue's step. A little twirl, smile plastered on her face.

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