Aggressive Hospitality


lance_icon.gif merlyn_icon.gif

Scene Title Aggressive Hospitality
Synopsis Lance and Merlyn meet up at a street fair and he offers some aggressive hospitality.
Date May 15, 2021

A closed street somewhere near a park, Safe Zone, NYC

From time to time the streets are host to a cluster of small tents that make up an assorted street fair. There's the typical canvas tent housing overly scented homemade candles, pitched next to some kind of booth displaying various pieces of beaded jewelry. Somewhere there's likely a charity doing its best to fundraise to keep the lights on for their meager offices.

Merlyn King, for her part, is an observer. She wanders slowly enough not to seem to have a destination, but quickly enough to keep from getting in the way of those who do. As she looks between booths, it almost seems as if she's looking for something even if she doesn't know what it is she's looking for.

At one of those booths, little more than some tarps and PVC pipes over a table, the sound of music comes from stacked speakers - the broadcast from WSZR, although currently it’s on WRAY material as it is for most of the day. There’s a banner hanging that’s been hand-painted with the station logo, and there’s also another banner with a picture of a lighthouse that says ‘LIGHTHOUSE BROADCAST - TELL US WHO YOU’RE LOOKING FOR’ that hangs above an open notebook on the table below it.

A relatively new feature of the station, DJ Lancelot’s been broadcasting the names of people others are searching for, family and friends that lost touch during the chaos of war and the years after.

Speaking of the DJ– Lance himself is settled in behind the table, not that anyone would recognize him by sight. Just another skinny young man in jeans and a t-shirt declaring WSZR 1560 AM, with a cane leaned up against the table’s side. There’s a handful of silkscreened t-shirts just like that, and a box for donations, but overall it doesn’t look like there’s a lot of attention being paid in their direction.

“Man, we need to get one of those remote radio vans,” he observes out loud, “Like they had back in the day. I bet I could get peoples’ attention if I could put them on the air out here… HEY THE NEXT PERSON TO DONATE TWENTY BUCKS GETS ME TO SAY SOMETHING ON THE AIR!”

His random shout happens to be just as Merlyn’s passing.

Fishing a twenty out of her pocket, Merlyn stops at the table. Smoothing the wrinkled bill from where it had been literally shoved in her pocket and putting it into the box, she glances over. "You serious about the donation?" She asks, offering a wry smile. It's clear after a moment, though, that she's teasing. Mostly.

"I've heard you before," she says, glancing over at the lighthouse banner which she gestures at. "That's one of the few good things in the world right now. Thanks for doing that. Might not seem like much to most people, but I know if I were looking for someone that'd be absolutely clutch."

“I never say anything I’m not serious about,” Lance replies with a roguish smile and an charming uptick of an eyebrow, “And eh, it’s nothing, really. I’m just keeping the lights on until– “ He waves a hand vaguely, “The old man comes back. Unless you mean the Lighthouse. That’s all me.”

“The actual lighthouse that inspired it’s gone, but we’re all still here thanks to it, so– we do what we can. But anyway, you know who I am– “ Hands spread a bit, “What’s your name?”

"The Lighthouse, yeah. I've heard you naming off people. I keep an ear out for people I meet, so hearing your stuff is pretty useful. Happy to help with a donation to keep it going." She pauses for a moment, and a grin spreads across her face. "My name's actually a bit ironic given what you go by with the whole radio thing, DJ Lancelot. The name's Merlyn. With a 'y', not an 'i', but hey, who's counting?"

She leans her head to the side a bit as she studies him. "You find anyone you're missing that way? People tend to start these kinds of things when it's personal."

“No shit?” Lance grins broadly at the name, “Well, seems like we were fated to meet or something. I’m actually just Lance but– shit. Am I? I’ve never actually seen my birth certificate, that actually might be my full name, I’ll… have to ask my dad next time I talk to him.”

Then he flicks his hand through the air, “Which, speaking of– yeah. I found my dad. He thought me and my sister were dead all these years– it was pre-war stuff, all that mess with the Company back then, but same general idea. Grew up in an orphanage, uh, that was the original Lighthouse. So we all know about missing people.”

"That's a mood. Mom's dead, claimed dad was dead but it turned out he was a deadbeat who just left or something and she didn't want me to feel bad. He's probably dead given how the world works, but I don't even know who he is at this point even if I wanted to look. Besides, the foster system and group homes are great at teaching you how to live, not like I need a deadbeat trying to act like he cares."

Merlyn folds her arms over her chest. "Maybe if I ever find out I'll have you add his name into the roster of people. Just so I can tie up that loose end and maybe tell him he's a dick." She cracks a grin. "But yeah, I'm not kidding about the name. My mom thought I was fantastic and 'brought magic into her life'. I think she'd probably be disappointed I'm not a stage magician or something now."

“I could teach you a few card tricks if that’d help.” Lance quips, eyebrows going up playfully, “I know a little bit of stage magic, actually. Not a lot but we got a book on it one year so I was practicing for awhile and annoying everyone with it.”

He motions a bit to the notebook, “If you find his name, though, yeah, I’ll put it out there for you. I know how hard it is to find those, though, after the war.”

Merlyn doesn't hide the grin at the mention of card tricks. "I feel like if I actually did magic tricks no one would take my name seriously again. Gotta keep some street cred or something. Unless I'm trying to become famous, I think I'll stick to just having a charming personality." She looks towards the notebook, then frowns just slightly–it's an upturning at the corner of her mouth, and then she looks away from it and back towards Lance.

"He fucked off before I was born. My mom had this elaborate story about how he died in a housefire saving some people and… I eventually found out she made it up. He didn't deserve her, or me, especially just abandoning us like that. Not sure what good it would be if I found his name. Like I said, maybe just to call him a dick but that almost sounds like a hole I don't want to dig myself into."

She nods in his direction. "I'm glad you found family, though. The world's rough and finding people you know and care about is something good in it."

“You never know, I mean, maybe she lied about him fucking off too…?” Lance spreads his hands a little, then realizes he’s overbalancing the chair he’s in and quickly jerks it forward before he falls. Pause. Okay, he’s safe. He didn’t look completely ridiculous there for a second. (Yes he did.)

“Always two sides to every story, though. I mean, my dad was told he killed us so he’d stay put in a little cell in the ground thinking he deserved it,” he grimaces a little, “But, anyway, family’s what you make it. Blood or not.”

Merlyn manages not to laugh at the near fall encounter with the chair, but she does crack a smile in Lance's direction. She has the grace, though, not to make a comment on it. This time. She listens to Lance's story about his own experiences, then shakes her head. "Nah. She kept telling the story of this housefire with all these really specific details almost like she'd memorized a monologue for an audition," she shrugs. "It was like telling a kid Santa exists over and over and over but describing his jolly round belly to the millimeter."

She lets out a warm huff of breath. "Either way, when I was 7 I looked into it. I was too smart for my own good and wanted to go see the place. I did my research, I was looking for news articles, I asked in the library about newspapers and maps and…" She shrugs again. "No fire, address wasn't even a valid address. She made up the street name. I even asked if maybe there had been a street ever called that in the past, just to cross my 't's and dot my 'i's, like I said, really smart kid, but nada. It never happened." There's just enough of a frown on Merlyn that seems more genuine than any expression she's had before, but it disappears as smiles wryly.

"Some people's dads fuck off. Or don't know. Either way, he wasn't there and my mom never wanted me to think badly of him. Never told her I knew. I think she would have liked it like that. Probably wouldn't like me using the words 'fucking off' to describe his actions either." She laughs for a moment. "And in any case, what would a blood relative do for me now? Make things awkward and send me a dozen missed birthday cards? You're right, family's what you make it. You're helping families find each other. So… that's certainly worth my twenty."

“Shitty.” Lance wrinkles up his nose, “Sorry to hear it… but hey, like I said, found family’s worth more in the end a lot of the time anyway. Even though we found our dad, I’d still trust any of my lighthouse-sibs over him if it came down to it. I know I can rely on them. We’ve been through a lot together.”

A vague wave of his hand, “I’m sure you’ve got people too, though, right?”

"Eh, I've got… people, sure," Merlyn says, not at all sounding convincing. It doesn't sound as if she's hurt, though. "I've got people I trust enough to crash with for a while, people I trust with business, I've had very few experiences with being able to say I know I can rely on someone. That's just how I live my life. People are imperfect and disappointing. I don't mind the first bit of that, but the second can sting like a…" She glances around for a moment. "… a swear I'm going to refrain from using on the off-chance someone's got a kid around."

She nods in his direction. "But you've got people to rely on. I've seen that happen, especially when people go through shit together. That's the kind of family you don't ever let go of." Her chuckle that follows sounds a bit harsher than perhaps she means it to be. "Pretty sure anyone I could consider a 'sibling' is someone I wouldn't want to be anywhere near. Not then and not now."

“Uh huh.” That’s the sound of someone who’s doubting the first thing she said, though Lance doesn’t really look concerned at all; he sizes her up for a moment before with a grin and a sweep of one hand, “Well, I mean, if you ever want to stop by to have dinner or something, I’m– we’re always happy to have visitors.”

Eyebrows raise as he entices, “Also, the new Lighthouse is pretty primal. It’s an old fire station. We kept the pole and everything.”

"You have discovered my one secret: it is almost impossible for me to resist the offer of free food," Merlyn states, grinning a little bit more. "I wouldn't mind sharing a meal… if your found family doesn't mind my intrusion, of course. To be honest, though, the idea of an old fire station as a dwelling certainly is something. Wouldn't be surprised if I'd crashed in there for a night before it was your lighthouse thing."

"My crashing's more on couches these days, though. It was a lot more difficult during the war to find people with actual couches to crash on. So I do okay for myself. I'm a sucker for free food though, so I'm sorry to say you're stuck with me visiting to claim some. You offered, I'm just letting you know what Pandora's Box you've opened up with that sort of offer," she says, folding her arms over her chest as she studies him.

“Nah, we’re nothing if not welcoming,” Lance dismisses her concerns with a wave of his hand and a smile, “We wouldn’t know what to do with ourselves if we were living in a place that didn’t constantly have people coming and going, I think, we all grew up that way. If anything we’re aggressively welcoming.”

Evidence: This entire direction of the conversation.

Then he grins, both eyebrows going up at her observation that he’s opened Pandora’s Box. “Oh no,” he playfully deadpans, “A beautiful woman who appreciates my work is going to eat my food, whatever will I do.”

He only blushes slightly when he says that.

Merlyn laughs, genuinely sounding amused at the idea of aggressive welcoming. "Usually a home where people come and go doesn't work out so great, so I suppose it's good that there's somewhere that it works. Group homes were always so problematic. Interesting to see a place where it sort of works, with no one trying to kill someone else."

She pauses for a long moment.

"I suppose I didn't confirm that no one there is killing someone else, but you've got free food so I think I'll take my chances," she says, tipping her head in a nod in his direction. "You say that now but you'll hate me later when I'm always mooching your food. Like I said, sucker for a free meal. Food's one of the best joys in life and one I'm consistently grateful for. I'm kind of the stray cat someone puts food out for so she keeps coming back and waiting for you to put food out again. I'm probably a little feral too, but definitely no rabies."

“Trust me, you can’t be more feral than Squeaks was,” Lance observes with a chuckle, “She was living in the Underground when we met her originally. Back before the Dark Below cleared it out, anyway…” He wrinkles up his nose at the memory, then dismisses it before it can bring a shadow on his mood.

“And you can’t eat more of our food than Joe anyway.”

He starts to say something else, then hesitates before asking carefully, “Ah– Slice don’t bother you, do they? Most of us are.”

Merlyn raises an eyebrow. "Living in the Underground is an, uh, interesting choice if you don't have a lot of options. There are safe places to sleep if you know what to look for. It does seem that the Underground would be more private but I'm sure it'd have certain very unique challenges. Besides, I like dealing with people. Much easier to manage than whatever was down there."

She's grinning yet again at the suggestion that there's someone else already claiming the title of most ravenous. "I may be short, but you should see how much food I can pack away. I like it when people underestimate me in restaurants and tell me I can order whatever I want. Because I do. Like I said, free food."

The mention of Slice gets a small shrug from Merlyn. "Never bothered me any, it's just another thing some people got the chance to get a leg up with. I'm not, if you were wondering. It might be surprising, but I'm actually someone who's not an asshole. At least about that."

A relieved smile curves to Lance’s lips at the response, his head bobbing a bit in agreement, “It’s just a thing some people have– people are still people, and honestly, none of us have anything earth-shaking, ability-wise. Like, probably the most impressive is that Joe’s invulnerable. Don’t be surprised if he does something stupid to show it off, either.”

He grabs for one of the flyers, then, pausing for just a split-section as his shift to do so pulls on something– an injury, maybe?— before the moment’s passed and he’s scribbling down a phone number and address, tearing off the paper and offering it out with a grin, “Well, give me a call sometime, if you get the urge to challenge our hospitality.”

"Ah, someone doing something stupid to show off in front of me, that's something I've never experienced in my entire life," Merlyn deadpans as she reaches over to take the paper. "Thanks. I'm sorry in advance for whatever culinary warfare goes on in your lovely firehouse. I did give you the warning of Pandora's Box, so that's about all I can do unless I made some sort of waiver for you to sign."

The slip of paper is tucked carefully away down the front of her shirt with no real concern with its location. Merlyn does it as casually as she might a jacket pocket. She has, however, caught sight of something more interesting and she gives him a quizzical look. "You doing okay?" She nods in his direction. She doesn't know what's wrong, but perhaps vaguely referencing something will prompt context.

“Oh, uh–” Lance wrinkles up his nose as he’s caught in that brief moment of pain, leaning back in the chair, “It’s nothing, really. Just got hurt and I’m still recovering, technically. It’s usually fine now except when I stretch in the wrong way, and that’ll probably heal up well enough soon.”

Breezing on– “And hey, I call your bluff. Just call me sometime.” He grins, an eyebrow raising, “Unless you’re afraid of aggressive hospitality.”

Merlyn spends another moment looking skeptically at him about the injury, mostly trying to determine the accuracy of his statement versus the infuriating habit of some people to downplay injuries or tough it out. She seems convinced after a moment, and lets the subject drop.

"You assume I'm bluffing, that's cute," she grins. "I certainly have to prove myself now. I'm not sure exactly the brand of aggressive hospitality I'd be facing, but I have been known to survive some pretty extensive hospitality in my time. You can't challenge me twice and expect me not to defend the honor of the many titles I have earned. I do hope you are fully prepared."

“Well, it’s decided, then,” Lance declares, grin widening, “I look forward to receiving your call, Lady Merlyn the Magical. My tower awaits your arrival.”

He shifts in his seat, a hand pushing back through his hair, “Just– y’know, whenever you’re free and all.”

"Well, Sir Lancelot, it's lucky for you that I happen to have a very flexible work schedule, so I'm free quite frequently. I will insist that I get to try that firepole though. I'm also insanely curious if you've ever used it to get out of your place quickly. It does sound like an asset if you're trying to run and hide from one of your buildingmates." Merlyn chuckles as she makes an assumption about their group dynamics.

"I'll try my best not to intimidate them. With my wit, of course, because I do not think enough people are really hiding from my terrifying height."

“Oh, yeah, you can absolutely slide down my firepole. The firepole.” Lance turns absolutely scarlet when he realizes his slip, clearing his throat and frantically correcting himself, “The firepole.”

The grin that spreads across Merlyn's face could probably be seen from miles away and she rests her hands on her hips for a moment as she looks at him. She's even trying for the chance to look him in the actual eye. She's trying to make it more awkward. "Well, that certainly sounds like an offer that's hard to resist. The firepole, of course. I knew what you meant, you were probably very distracted by something to slip up that sort of phrasing. I can't imagine what. There's not that much out here." She gestures around them.

Her grin doesn't fade. "I am definitely going to have to invade the firehouse then. It sounds like a lot of fun."

Lance, looking like he wants to crawl under the table and die, brings both hands up to rub over his face. “Yes I have no idea what I was thinking about must have been a flashback caused by painkillers,” he mumbles into his hands.

"You must be on some pretty heavy painkillers to react like that. Sure your injury there is okay? If seeing someone for a wound is difficult for you, I know a guy, real discreet." Merlyn, after all, has a soft spot for the orphans, foster kids, and those down on their luck. Lance is clearly one of those. She leans in closer to the table as if to inspect him for that injury, but it's mostly an excuse to heighten the awkwardness.

She's having fun, but at the same time there's real concern there. "You did say a flashback. Serious trauma from it?" She nods towards where the injury seems to be.

“I’m fine, really, it’s–” Lance chuckles, his hands dropping and head shaking, still blushing horribly, “I’m fine, hospital discharged me and everything, just a matter of time now.”

He looks up with a rueful expression, “Anyway, uh– just uh, give me a call sometime, if I haven’t completely made an ass of myself?”

Merlyn eyes him carefully. "Well, just make sure you don't do that thing people do when they're healing where they push themselves too hard thinking they can absolutely do the things they used to and end up popping a stitch." She folds her arm as if she was chastising him, but the grin on her face says otherwise.

"I'll call. You haven't made an ass of yourself, honestly. You'd have to do way more to be an ass. You're just awkward, which is cute. Anyway, make sure you stock up your fridge. You'll probably have to do it again afterwards once I've raided it."

:”Hmf.” Lance blows a bit of hair from his eyes, and offers her a wry grin, “Anything you’re allergic to or particularly like? I can make sure we stock up properly.” He’s starting to recover from that slip, at least.

While she had been cheerful and friendly before, now Merlyn was perpetually amused. Still grinning as she nods in his direction. "I'll eat most things. Never found something I'm allergic to, which is good but I'm sure we can find out if I am. I kind of eat what's there so I'm not picky." She seems thoughtful. "If I take anything to go, which I likely will since you've basically given me permission to inhale all of your food, stuff that's easy to just reheat would be nice? I don't have a stove."

“You don’t– “ Lance blinks– twice– and then rubs a hand over his face, “Yes, call me. Soon! Jesus Christ, call me!” He’s laughing, but there’s actual concern there, “We need to get you fed, Merlyn.”

"Sir Lancelot, I assure you I'm not going to starve to death," Merlyn states, serious even within the amused tone. "I can find food. I just don't currently do the permanent residence thing. I help a friend with her bills and crash there when I need to, but I'm not always there and if I put a thing in her fridge for too long, she'll help herself." She winks. "The concern is cute, but I'm safe and fed and I'm okay."

“If you can be worried about my g– injury,” Lance observes, arms folding over his chest and eyebrows going up, “I can be worried about your living situation.” He grins, then, “But fine. Until then, I await your call, and will ready the Grail Beacon.”

Merlyn's quick to notice the near slip, raising an eyebrow, but whatever thoughts she has about them become filed away silently. "I think that's an equal trade, but I still think my situation is far less to worry over." One hand on her hip, she makes a sweeping bow with the other. "Fear not, I'm sure I'll get hungry soon." With that said, she turns to leave.

“I’ll be waiting,” Lance calls after her, watching her depart… and then he leans back in his chair, both hands clapping over his face as he groans into them.

“Lancelot, you are not smooth. Maybe you should have been named Galahad.”

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