Busy Work


chess_icon.gif lynette_icon.gif mateo3_icon.gif

Scene Title Busy Work
Synopsis Chess needs something to occupy her mind. And her hands.
Date April 15, 2018

The Benchmark Center: Safehouse Common Room

The phrase "lay low" to Chess does not seem to mean staying in the Benchmark. The mysterious house guest comes and goes, arrivals and departures always done under the cover of night. Not to hide from those within, of course, but her trackers and assassins.

Her sisters.

Tonight, she's come back from wherever it is she goes. Rather than going to the room she insists on sharing with Alix, despite the other she's been shown, Chess heads to the common room. The courier bag she carries at all times slides from shoulder to floor and she follows suit into one of the chairs. Bending forward, she rests her elbows on her knees and her head in her hands.

In the common room, near the piano that has it's keys covered due to the late hour, a man sits with a small guitar looking thing. A ukulele? No, not actually. It's a charango, but most people probably take one look at it and assume it's a ukulele. They share some similarities, mostly in the size. He sits with his foot up on the piano bench, toying with the strings and plucking them between twists of the tuning pegs.

At the arrival he glances up and grins, recoginizing the young woman in passing, though not really knowing so much about why she might be staying on this floor. He didn't tend to ask questions too much unless his wife needed to vent. But he knew most people up on this floor needed a place to stay for one reason or another.

"Evening. Expecting a concert?" he jests, even as he plays a few chords to punctuate his statement. Cause really, he might be intending to play a little to let off some steam.

Lynette, for her part, was tucked away in the kitchen. She's had to resort to tea for the time being and it is just terrible. Well, actually it's pretty good, she's just grumpy about a delay on her most recent coffee purchase. She steps out of the kitchen when she hears Mateo talking, a steaming mug in her hands. She glances over to him first, but her gaze turns on Chess a moment later. "Darling, are you giving our guest a hard time?" It's a playful question, but when she addresses Chess, her tone is more gentle.

"Are you alright, Chess? Alix is alright, isn't she?" The two most obvious concerns are guessed at first. "Would you like some tea? I'm afraid we're out of coffee at the moment."

Apparently Chess hadn't seen Mateo, since she jumps, visibly, when he speaks, then rolls her eyes at herself. She rakes her hand through her hair, looking to the man and lifting a brow, taking a second to comprehend the question. Concert? She sees the instrument in his hands, and she shakes her head.

"Sorry, I didn't see you," she says, voice a bit rough from lack of use, most likely.

When Lynette arrives, Chess flashes a brief smile that fades as quickly as it's given. "I'm fine. I haven't looked in on her yet, but she's probably fine." She shakes her head at the offer of tea. "I'm good, thanks." She rarely accepts anything unless Luther's there to nag her to do so — wherever she eats it's not the Benchmark.

"I'm not trying to," Mateo responds with a small laugh, putting the charango away as he twists, putting his feet down on the floor as she looks at the at the young woman and listens to the conversation. He doesn't ask questions, assuming he will understand the context with time.

"The tea does sound good," he offers, but he does glance at his wife briefly because he knows how much she likes her coffee. He might attempt to do something about that. But he doesn't know how yet.

Sometime soon.

"Well, there's plenty if you change your mind," Lynette says, to Chess. For Mateo, she comes over to pass him the mug she's carrying. She doesn't seem too worried about getting herself one. "Mateo, have you met Chess?" This is her way of introducing them. Names used, gestures made.

"You've probably heard him playing," she says to Chess, because around here? it's hard not to heard Mateo playing something. "You don't seem fine, though," she points out, her smile just a little crooked. "Can we do something?" She does her best to make it casual, even though it obviously isn't.

"Hey. Nice to meet you," Chess says — apparently she does have manners, even if she forgot to tell Lynette the same the day they met. She was distracted.

She nods, in regards to the piano. "You play well. I used to play the cello. Long time ago."

Her dark eyes dart back to Lynette, and she exhales that facsimile of a laugh. "I'm all right. Just… you know. Feeling a bit like a petri dish. A bit overwhelmed and, I don't know, like I have nothing I can do at the same time." She glances at Mateo, as if to discern how much he knows — Lynette said everyone on this floor was trustworthy, but that doesn't mean much to her.

"You're doing more than enough. Thank you again," she adds, quickly.

"I have seen you around, but you always seemed in a hurry," Mateo responds, giving her a polite nod and grin. "Nice to meet you, Chess." Like the game? He doesn't comment on the name, cause really there's tons of interesting names out there. Some people would find Mateo weird, he's sure. Especially now that he's no longer living in Mexico or South America. Less common a name in these parts.

"Well, I don't have a cello you can borrow, but there's always things you could do around the Benchmark to help out. There's always things that need doing." Even if it's just like. Fixing a jammed door or the leg on a chair that's loose. Odds and ends. Something to keep busy. That had been how he learned a lot of his 'not actually good at this, but I can if I try' skills. Like cooking. It had all been helping out among the safe houses he stopped in.

"Understandable," Lynette says to Chess, moving to sit on the edge of the piano bench. "Not an easy situation to take in by any means. There is one good thing, though. Whatever they thought to use you for, you got to become your own person. It may not seem like it, but that's important." Context might be difficult to glean, but it might comfort Chess, seeing that Mateo doesn't know what they're talking about. "You're already doing something. You're taking care of Alix. Keeping her safe. That's not nothing."

As for the thanks, she shakes her head some. "I'm happy to do it. Helps balance the… karma or whatever." Plus, Luther has been sneaking things into the Benchmark even though Lynette has told him not to. Jerk.

She looks over at Mateo at his suggestion, her head tilting. It's not a terrible idea, really. "You're not obligated to," she notes first, "you're in something of a stressful situation. But if you need something to keep busy, to clear your head, there is always something."

Mateo's words draw another huff of a laugh from Chess, as she shakes her head. "I haven't played in a few years. Don't think anyone would consider that helpful, even if you did have one lying around."

At the suggestion to help, she nods once, perhaps taking it as a subtle directive. "Sure, whatever you guys need. I want to be square with everyone here, by the time we leave," she says.

Lynette's words about being her own person makes her shake her head, something of an elongated twitch. "Not sure about that, either. After everything we've gone through here, are any of us really our own person? We're a product of our environment, and this one's been pretty screwed up. Even if I'm not a lab rat."

A moment after the words leave her mouth, Chess sighs, glancing away and shoving her hand through her hair again. "Shit. I'm sorry. I'm just… tired." She looks back again, this time to Mateo. "Is there anything in particular that needs done?"

The mention of not being a lab rat makes Mateo tilt his head to the side and glance over at Lynette as if wondering what she might mean by that. A lab rat for who and why. But he doesn't ask. After all, he too had been an unknowing lab rat of sorts once. He wondered how he would have been if he'd realized what had happened when he manifested. How he'd been manipulated and kept apart from everything for so long.

"You'd be surprised how helpful playing an instrument can be. Some of those who stay here just want to hear some music. But really, it's not necessary to pay us back." Us meaning Lynette mostly, but the kind of collective 'us' meaning the Benchmark as well.

But that he also understands. He'd had much the same frame of mind when he was staying in safe houses.

"Well what do you know how to do?"

"We are a product of our environment, but we get to decide how we react to it." There's no argument about the state of their environment, because it's pretty difficult to argue with. "I'll try to remember that you're prone to existential nihilism when you're tired," she adds, her smile crooked. "And there's no need to apologize."

She looks over at Mateo, her expression a bit apologetic for leaving him out of the loop. Later she'll fill him in more. As much as she understands about Chess and Alix's situation. "Well, we're working on some security upgrades. How are you will a screwdriver?"

Chess has the decency to look a little chagrined when Mateo waxes poetic about the virtues of music. "Nah, you're right. I just don't think I even know how to play anymore. Been a long time. It's nice to listen to you, though," she says, eyes downcast, like she's forgotten how to be nice to people.

Lynette's words bring a surprised bit of a laugh that's actually genuine from the young woman. "Ouch," she says, putting a hand to her chest. "I guess I must be in a bad mood. You, on the other hand, are more of an existential humanist, it sounds like. Sartre said only a person can define their own essence, right?"

She shrugs, as if she didn't suddenly just spout off philosophy. "I'm a lot better at destroying than building but I can probably handle a screwdriver."

"I'm of the opinion that you never unlearn music," Mateo responds, running his fingers over the piano. But he doesn't push on that topic beyond that. Nor on how she had fallen into nihilism. Cause really, haven't they all. He does nod at the glance from Lynette, willing to wait for the explaination, and for the moment just focus on what he can do to occupy this young woman's mind.

"Then we'll find you something to do in the morning after you have some rest, and when everyone else is awake." Cause no one likes potentially loud work late at night. No one at all.

Not even the people doing the work. "We're upgrading the security, though, so there's a lot of little things that need to be done. Cameras that need to be put up, things like that." He'd already checked the wiring, they just need to put things on all the doors and windows, for one.

"I am attempting to be one," Lynette says, as far as her own disposition. "Fake it 'til you make it, or so I hear," she adds with a chuckle. When Chess quotes Sartre, Lynette's smile grows, but her gaze turns a little more thoughtful. If the young woman happens to find a philosophical sprinkling in the books available in the common room soon, it's only because Lynette wants to keep her entertained. Probably.

"Well, do try not to destroy this one. I'd appreciate it," she adds with a smirk. "I hope you're not afraid of heights; they tell me the cameras do better on the ceiling than down where I can reach them from solid ground." She spreads her hands, as if this were a distressing matter.

Chess offers a small smile to Mateo. "You're probably right. Sometimes if I hear a song I knew how to play, Bach or Shostakovich or whatever, my fingers want to move to the strings, you know." It's a small concession — perhaps a small apology for her bad mood.

Lynette's question of heights gets a shake of her head. "Nah. I used to live in the tower at the Armory in Park Slope," she says, brows drawing together just a little, since that place is no longer an option. One of her many chosen 'homes,' now one more place she has to leave in the rearview mirror. "I can probably manage to work a screwdriver and climb a ladder, sure. You afraid of heights?" she asks, before adding quickly, like the question might be offensive, "It's okay if you are. For me, it's other people I don't trust. If it's just me and the heights, though, I'm all right."

"Well, we are planning to boost the security. I can show you how to install a few window sensors and you can help install the rest. It's mostly a matter of making sure the sensors line up so no one can open the window without them going off." Mateo thinks it will be easy enough— and some would require climbing on ladders. Some of their windows were tall, and the doors often had the sensors placed on the top, so they definitely would need that there.

"I have a whole boring manual I just read, but I can give you the easy version. Less 'insert screw K into piece B'" It's a joke.

But an accurate one based on how their designs and instructions tend to go. Them doing it themselves saves them on the install fee.

Lynette lifts an eyebrow when Chess returns the question, but in amusement. That amusement fades as she goes on. "Sadly, being cautious with other people probably keeps you safer." Lynette doesn't exactly trust other people, either. If she did, they wouldn't be sitting in a safehouse right now. "But, more to the point, any help is appreciated around here. We're often very… DIY."

She looks over at Mateo as he explains the work, her smile reappearing, but crooked. She turns back to Chess to add, "I keep asking him to do all this without a shirt on, he keeps telling me no." This, too, is a joke. Mostly.

"You actually read the manual?" Chess asks, lifting a brow, then glancing at Lynette. "You should keep this one. Rare breed."

She smirks at Lynette's joke, but shakes her head. "It's a good thing you're married. He could sue you for harassment, otherwise." Two jokes in less than a minute. Apparently she does have a sense of humor under that scowl. Along with knowledge of Sartre.

"Have you had any problems here?" she asks curiously. "You're not just putting the cameras up because of us, right? Because if so, I can pay for them. I know I probably seem like a homeless person, but I have money."

At the mention of asking him to do all this without his shirt on, Mateo looks over at his wife and quirks an eyebrow in that way that says 'you've never actually asked, but maybe I will now' even if what comes out of his mouth is, "I'll go shirtless if you do." Yes, he's edging to get smacked.

But the concerns of their guest draw his eye back, "We'd been discussing it since the food shortage. We have a kitchen here, and with that small riot at the market not too far away it seemed a little close to home." And… there had been the incident with one of their clients, but that's not something he's as inclined to share. "We'd been working on it for— has it really been more than a month? It took a while to get the shipments."

Not a lie, but the whole. Situation. Expeediated things. And made them increase the amount they intended to use.

At Mateo's look, Lynette lifts her own eyebrows in pretend innocence. Eyebrow conversations. They happen. But what he actually says gets a laugh instead of a smack. "Terrible," she says, even though she started it. And as if to acknowledge that, she leans over to kiss his cheek. Just briefly, for Chess' sake.

"We haven't had anything here," Lynette confirms, "The original Benchmark is in Mexico, we had plenty of trouble there. Call it… preparedness." It's better than 'paranoia' anyway. "It takes forever to get anything shipped these days. But yes, it's been in the works for a while."

The affectionate banter makes Chess smirk, and then look away, should that chaste little kiss become more, but it doesn't. Both of their assurances that it's not because of her or Alix seem to assuage that worry, and she nods.

"All right. If you haven't figured it out, asking for and receiving help is pretty much torture for me. Don't let the bad guys know my secret weakness, yeah?" she says, before standing up. "I probably can't really do any jobs out in the world while the others are looking for us, so I may as well make myself useful here. What time you planning Operation Big Brother tomorrow?"

No, the chaste little kiss does not evolve into something that would embarass their daughter or their guest. But if they way they look at each other says anything it easily could go beyond that. "Your secret's safe with us— and it's actually one the two of you share a bit, I think." There's that eyebrow at his wife again. She too would not often ask for help. Even when she needed it.

But that's beside the point. "I'm usually up at dawn, but whenevr you get up we can start on that part. I'll be around somewhere, just look at the windows." He'll likely start as soon as possible, on the windows in the public areas first. Then later on to the private ones.

"He's right. I had to hit absolute rock bottom, then dig in a bit deeper before I got any help." Of course, by the look of things, when she did, she did so in such a way that she still had control over the whole situation. "I'm glad that you have Luther to prod you along, though." He didn't prod Lynette along, back then, but it was a different time. Different situation.

"We're very relaxed about scheduling here," she tacks onto Mateo's explanation, "mostly because I do not get up at dawn and would never ask someone else to do so. Whenever you find yourself with some time, or when you need something to occupy your mind." Then this becomes less like giving and receiving help and more of an exchange of services. Which is totally different.

Chess' eyes drop at the mention of Lynette hitting 'rock bottom.' Given the kind of establishment Benchmark is, she can figure out how bad that must have been. She doesn't comment on it. "Hopefully you won't regret that on Luther's part," she says, a bit wryly — since Lynette hadn't known Chess or Alix when she let their mutual friend bring the women in to her home.

She nods to Mateo. "I'll be up early. I don't sleep much, anyway." Given that she sleeps in the chair of Alix's room, if she sleeps at all in the safehouse, that's probably not a surprise. "I should let you guys have some family time. It was nice meeting you, Mateo. Have a goodnight, Lynette."

"Then I'll see you when I get up. If you can't find me, I'll let the front desk know where I am." Mateo decides to make it extra easy, as he nods to her in farewell, before turning back to his wife with a raised eyebrow once again. This one is in questioning. Cause she's got some things to tell him about it looks like.

"Oh, I make a point to never regret anything," Lynette says, flippantly. This is, of course, a lie as there are plenty of things she regrets. But helping out a friend? Even a friend of a friend? Never that. "Good night, Chess. Tell Alix, too. We'll see you tomorrow." They might see Lynette, anyway, if they have to do her office windows.

She looks over at Mateo once Chess makes her way out, her own eyebrows pulling together. Because it's a troubling situation. "Chess— well it seems like she and Alix are clones or… the result of a breeding program maybe. They were designed," she says with her voice lower. "Chess, for whatever reason, slipped their watch and they've been hunting her every since. And found her recently. We're hiding her and her sister here for now. At least until Alix recovers."

There's silence from Mateo as he just looks at his wife as if she might be speaking in a language he doesn't understand. But then he blinks and shakes his head. "That's making my crazy life look a little less crazy." By being… more crazy. He glances in the direction that she'd left before nodding and deciding that, yes, it was believeable. Under the circumstances.

"We'll do what we can. Though it sounds like she's prone to try to handle it on her own." But until the sister recovers— clone? — maybe she'll stay put for a time and accept an exchange of help, which seemed what his wife wanted, anyway. "I'll keep an eye on her while we work." It's the most he can really offer.

Lynette spreads her hands at his look. She didn't make this world, she just lives in it. "I'd be lying if I said I'd heard crazier," she admits. Because it is a bit wild. "But it comes down to the girls being in trouble and us looking out for them. I hope they'll feel… more comfortable coming back, if they need a place to lie low again." Which is to say— not handling it all on her own. "I'd appreciate that," she says with a gentle smile. her hand comes over to brush his cheek as she looks over at him. "You're so good."

"Yeah, I'm a keeper by most accounts, sounds like." Mateo responds, shifting so that his forehead rests against hers so she doesn't see the doubt in his eyes. He can't hide it from her, but most people would just assume he was tired, from the way he hides it under a grin. Oh, he knows that she loves him, but he thinks people over-state his worth at the same time. It's difficult.

"But you are too," he adds on, so she knows that, even if he already does sing her praises a little bit, sometimes literally, he still wants her to know how much she means to him.

And how much the rest of the world missed out on.

"Mm," Lynette says to his response, amusement in that little sound but agreement too. She knows he's a keeper, that's why she married him. She closes her eyes as his forehead touches hers and her hand slides to rest against his neck.

Doubt is a familiar feeling around here, and one that Lynette is inclined to push away. Her own as well as his. Which is why his addition gets no real comment. "Come with me, love," she says, her hand trailing across his shoulder and down his arm, fingers teasing gently, "I'm tired." Her tone turns sly there. Because she's not tired. But she would like to go to bed.

Oh, he knows that sly tone all too well. Mateo lets out a soft chuckle of amusement, returning her look with one of his own as he moves to follow after her. It's not working but— "I know, you want to see me with my shirt off."


Unless otherwise stated, the content of this page is licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 License