Cute and Natural


rue_icon.gif seren_icon.gif

Scene Title Cute and Natural
Synopsis It describes Seren's friend to a T.
Date March 26, 2019

Cat's Cradle

Tuesday night isn’t the biggest night of the week at Cat’s Cradle. Which might be why Rue’s chosen to drink here. Or it could be because it belonged to Eve Mas, who she considered a friend. Or perhaps it’s because one can pick up on all manner of interesting conversation in this place.

Whatever the reason, Rue Lancaster is seated at the bar with a lowball of whiskey (not her first) in front of her, looking like a dark cloud is hanging over her head. She should be celebrating — Devon’s alive. But so many unanswered questions about the particulars of that sorely wished-for miracle have spawned many doubts. Doubts that keep her from properly being able to smile about it when she thinks too hard about it.

The nice thing is that she’s not on a mission. Not even a personal one at the moment. The break she’s taking is a well-deserved one, and it means she’s dressed less practically than usual. A champagne colored dress hits her at no more than mid-thigh, with a neckline that drapes almost perilously low. Her red curls hang down over the open back.

This dress is wasted on this place and this moment, but sometimes she just likes to feel like she did in the days before the war. Before the Ferry. One black stiletto taps against the brass rail near the floor of the bar. A matching satin clutch purse hangs from a gold-tone chain on a hook under the bartop and a leather moto jacket is draped over the seat she occupies.

"Shhhh," Someone beside Rue murmurs to someone else beside them. "I don't think this is the kind of establishment that would card you. Just act natural, look cute, and I'm sure everything will be fine."

But should Rue turn to look, only one person is actually there.

Seren Evans is not dressed nearly as well this evening, wearing a thin, white, opened dress-shirt that is patterned with tight intersections of black and red plaid. A black, modest tank top is visible beneath that, worn with looping layers of thick silver bands of jewelry strung on strands of black leather. It's a look that could pass as nice … were it not accompanied with dark, nearly black jeans. Their hair is worn the only way it can be, shorn this short, which fully shows off the tattoo on the side of their neck and the tiny scars it's meant to cover.

"Baird, I'm sure everything will be just fine," they assure whoever or whatever happens to be next to them.

A quiet, if inhuman rumble comes from their other side in reply.

Oddly enough, Rue is the last person to judge someone for seemingly talking to themselves, given her history of having done it herself for years. Her immediate suspicion is never to assume someone’s a few bricks short of a full load.

Lifting her head, she sizes up Seren out of the corner of her smoky kohl-lined eye. She keeps the up-and-down sweep brief and surreptitious, but it seems to take everything a fraction of a second to catch up with the movement. Mm.

The last of her drink is downed, the glass pushed forward and a finger pointed into its empty depths. “My glass appears to be broken,” she tells the bartender. He smirks at her and pours her another round.

Rue turns in her seat finally to regard Seren openly with polite interest. “Hey.” She lifts her hand and brushes a finger over the side of her own neck, black-lacquered nails grazing her skin. “I like your ink.”

Having just turned around to the bar proper, Seren's brow shoots up when someone addresses them, turning to face their complimenter. They're wearing the all-too-alert face of someone taken by surprise, complete with the second-long pause before their deer in headlights expression relaxes into a warm grin. "Why thank you! It's a good piece." they say, reaching for their neck in particular.

When their arm lifts, it reveals their conversation partner by their side — a silver-into-yellow catlike face with unnaturally larger amber-hued eyes. The creature blinks curiously at Rue as it catches sight of her, a browned paw tapping against the side of the bar as it pushes itself up. In the whole five seconds since Seren has taken their eyes off of it, it's entirely abandoned whatever 'be inconspicuous' plans its human had tried to impart on it. Its ears are long like a fennec's, and when they flick with interest, the tips of them start to turn an earthy green.

Seren is still oblivious how their friend Baird has poked its head out, as the creature remains silent by their side. Their smile only grows. "I'm Seren. Did they get your glass fixed for you?"

“Rue,” the ginger offers in return, teardrop-shaped mouth pulling into a lopsided grin. “They did.” Her gaze flickers to the animal poised to perch on the bar. “That must be Baird?” Since she doesn’t see anyone else with them. “I’d say I don’t think they allow pets, but knowing Eve, she’d probably approve.”

And possibly suggest seeing what happens if they’re exposed to pot smoke.

“Is that a fox?” It’s not like one she’s ever recalled seeing, but Rue knows she isn’t exactly an expert on animalia.

Seren lets out a purposefully dramatic, almost growling gasp as they turn to observe Baird. A scowl is attempted, but it fails almost instantly. "I thought we were going for inconspicuous tonight."

Baleful eyes regard Seren in return, before mewling a reminder the creature was told to look cute and natural. The leaves now growing in earnest from the tips of its ears were certainly natural! Seren sighs down at Baird, shaking their head ruefully before turning to their barmate with a small grin.

"Baird's just Baird," they explain with casual nonchalance. "He mostly does what he wants and is a different thing almost every day."

Rue blinks in astonishment. First, she wonders if she’s had too much to drink. Then, she wonders if there was something slipped into it. Surely she would have noticed something like that. A quick glance is spared toward the bartender. He’s the regular guy, and she doesn’t think he’d be bought.

That stands to reason that what she’s seeing in front of her is real. Again, she blinks, then looks back up to Seren. “I’ve never seen anything like that — like him — before.”

"He and I have been good friends for a long time," Seren remarks with placid cheer, lifting a hand to stroke the top of the small creature's head. Its little head dips under the weight of their hand, and they overall seem nonplussed at the abnormalities it possesses. "But you know, I've never met anybody or anything quite like him either."

Rocking their head to the side, Seren evenly points out, cheer still lingering in their voice, "It's nice to meet you, Rue." Turning to face her properly, the statement is accompanied with a brief grin. "Are you from around here? I don't get down this way very often. I'm staying up in Jackson Heights." Perhaps they suspect she's not in fact from around here, given her state of overdress.

There are a myriad of questions that Rue would like to ask about Baird that essentially boil down to but really, what the fuck is he? That seems rude, however, considering the way Seren is treating the creature like he’s something perfectly normal. Regardless, Rue’s eyes linger on Baird a little overlong before she manages to drag her attention back to Seren as they speak.

“Illinois originally, but I’ve lived in New York for almost ten years.” So, she’s sort of from around here and just overdressed. “I spend most of my time in Rochester these days, but I’m in town visiting a friend.” Rue’s so used to speaking in half-truths about her life that she finds it refreshing to have a moment of complete honesty.

“Can I buy your drink, Seren?”

“Ten years?” Seren’s brow arches up in appreciative awe of that. “Wow, that’s a long time. You saw it before the war, then.” They would have loved to have seen Times Square, themselves, or Central Park … and it shows in the thoughtful look they fix on Rue. “That’s really neat…”

A look is spared for Baird when it starts tapping its paw on the side of the bar again to get some attention, peering straight up at Seren. They lift a hand to pet its head, ears flopping underneath their palm. “I’m from out of town myself,” is a remark followed by a knowing grin. “Well, out of the country actually. I’m from Halifax. Nova Scotia.” A brief pause, before they add a little sheepishly, “Canada, if that’s not a place that rings any bells. It’s just that Canada’s a pretty big country, and it’d be weird if you thought I was from like… the West coast or something instead of the East.”

Seren’s suddenly aware of eyes on them and abruptly looks up to see the bartender staring them down. Rue’s offer to buy a drink hasn’t been forgotten in the slightest, but they know that look the bartender wears. The what the fuck is that, and what is it doing in my establishment?? expression. At least Baird was lap-sized, today.

“What in the—”

“Sorry, sorry,” Seren apologizes immediately, not even looking down at Baird. Quite simply, it’s because there’s nothing to look down to. The small creature in their lap has disappeared within the space of a blink, nothing but nothing where only a moment before there was something. “Do you have any wine? I’d like a moscato, if you have any.” they ask with some hope in their voice.

“Yeah, sure,” the bartender replies airily, still a little confused at what’s going on overall. He saves any sass for himself at least, eyes narrowing at Seren with some suspicion before he heads down the bar to pull a bottle down from a tall rack of various wines. During that wait, Seren looks back toward Rue with a sheepish, small smile. “I appreciate that, actually. Thanks, Rue.”

Rue smiles at the explanation of where Seren is from. “I know Halifax,” she assures. “Not personally - I’ve never actually been there - but I know of it.” It’s a real place that she’s seen on a map, even!

For a thank-you, “You’re welcome,” is an appropriate response. So is okay, but what the fuck? re: Baird, probably. Her brows furrow in confusion. She knows he was just there, because she was looking right at him. “How’d you — or he? — do that?”

"You do?" Seren tries not to look too excited that Rue knows where they come from. "A lot of Americans don't! That's great." There's a short laugh for that, good-natured and all. When they see the woman's expression change, that confusion entering her expression too, they let out a quiet, barely-vocalized 'ah' of understanding.

When there's the question posed of whether or not it was Seren or Baird that initiated sudden disappearance, there's a shift of their weight in the chair before their hands turn over, palms facing up. "He has to go away sometimes. Been like that as long as we've known each other. He turns up, though, I'm sure I'll find him again after I leave." Seren smiles warmly with that knowledge, turns as the bartender comes back with the glass of wine. They dip their head in a grateful nod, meanwhile the bartender asks Rue if she wants another round yet.

Rue nods her head to another round. She’s not quite finished with what’s in her glass, but she will be by the time the next one’s up. Then maybe she’ll coast for a while. Maybe.

“Well, I’ve definitely never seen anything like that happen before.” Even when Samara disappears, Rue can still see her. She isn’t quite sure to make of it, or what to do beyond accept that it’s a thing she just witnessed. “What brings you to New York?”

"The opportunity to make a difference," Seren replies immediately, filled with both confidence and the innocence required to make so bold a statement. Only after it's out do they blink at themselves, sinking down a little sheepishly. They look back to the bar, fingertips on the base of their wine glass to gently rotate it. "—work, mostly." is what the initial statement is almost meekly downgraded to. They shrug helplessly before explaining, "I needed hours to completely become certified in architecture, and I wanted to do impactful work. So, at the risk of mucking it all up by leaving the country, I took myself south." Here.

A more nervous person would take the opportunity to drink at this moment, but that's not Seren. The glass is regarded mildly before they start to rebuild their posture, reassert their confidence. "Raytech signed me on," they explain with a small smile, and when they turn back to Rue, the tiny strips from the isotope in their neck twisting visibly along with the script lettering.

"What about you, Rue? What do you do?" is the bright, polite return question.

There’s a fond smile that spreads across Rue’s face at Seren’s initial answer. It reminds her of herself before the war. Maybe even now, but she’d put it in less bright and shiny terms. Rue calls it duty and responsibility. The only way she knows how to live anymore. Her smile fades when she thinks about that too hard.

“Raytech, huh? That’s a sweet gig. Mister Ray’s a nice guy. A little head-in-the-clouds sometimes,” not in the way most people usually mean that statement, “but nice.” Which leads nicely to how she knows him via what she does. “I’m with Wolfhound.” She perhaps erroneously expects that association will speak for itself.

"You know him?" Seren sits up a little in surprise. They weren't expecting the company CEO to be so hometown-hero levels of recognizable, but they had read something about his involvement with the war … not that they really kept track of all the movers and shakers in that. And speaking of which: "Wolfhound?" is repeated back with interest. "What do they do?" The question is asked with curiosity, innocent and plain before they lift their glass up to take a tiny sip of the moscato.

Oh, they’re cute. “Yeah, Raytech provides equipment to my outfit.” She gestures with one hand, pivoting her wrist as if to hold the statement in her palm. “Wolfhound.” Tipping her head to one side, Rue goes on to explain. “We take on contracts from the government, mostly hunting down war criminals.” So far, at least. Those contracts have run a little dry now, though.

There’s a stuttered headtilt of interest, along with a surprised, ever-lifting, “O-oh,” that comes from Seren at hearing just what it is Rue does for a living. Their posture straightens out, and they continue to hold onto the wine glass in their hand with a semblance of formality. Then, for good moment, they bide their time with a shift of their weight on the chair, brow knitting in focus as they wonder about that small revelation.

“That must be something else,” Seren finally decides, looking back to Rue. Unsmiling, but not uninterested in her profession. “A very unique line of work, if nothing.” And polite, too!

“It is that,” Rue agrees with a faint grin. She’s a little worried she’s scared this one off by not lying about what she does for a living, but a quick internet search would turn up information about her. She always wanted to be famous, and that means some secrets just won’t be kept.

“Sorry,” she muses, “I hope I didn’t put you off. You seem very nice. I didn’t want to mislead you.”

"No, no, no," Seren insists, grey eyes widening a little. "Honesty's the best policy, right? I was just taking a moment to appreciate that. It probably pays well, being that dangerous, and it's— good work, right? I mean, helping bring people to justice." With a tilt of their head, they look down the bar, thoughtful. "Wolfhound…" is repeated again, trying to remember where they've heard the name before.

"You were in the news recently, weren't you?" Spoken as if Rue herself were a representative for the whole company. "There's the Albany Trials going on right now, I think." There's a short blink, followed by a nod. Yes, they were certain.

"Wolfhound…" Seren repeats again, drinking to provide themselves a caesura to think by. "You know, that's a fascinating name. Wolfhounds would make me think of a celtic hound, which historically were used for hunting. Great big dogs, capable of ripping down enemies from their horses. There's the Welsh myth of the dormach, a hunting hound who also helped the dead into the afterlife in Annwn," Their eyes narrow a touch at the pronunciation — it's one that's easy to mess up if they're not careful, "There's Laelaps, the legendary greek dog that never fails to catch what it hunts…"

With a blink, the edges of their eyes limned in silver, they look back to Rue with a warm grin. "Then there's also Q'ursha! He's a winged dog — like Baird." Their look grows a little more sheepish, the wine glass held closer to their face to hide behind a drink again if they need to. "I think what I'm trying to say is Wolfhound is a good name for a group that does what you do, but I got a little distracted there."

Rue smiles wide as Seren assures her this is fine, then launches into the mythology of wolfhounds. She nods with a touch more enthusiasm than she normally would (thank you, whiskey) and leans forward a little. “We tend to favor native legends, but you’re absolutely on the right track.”

Another sip of amber liquid is taken before Rue continues. “The work is rewarding for me. I like knowing I can help make the world a better place by bringing people to justice. Sometimes I have to bring in people who are victims of circumstance,” she admits, smile fading a little. “But bringing them in means they don’t have to run anymore. For some, it means they’ll find freedom again.” Others may not be so lucky, but sometimes that’s the way things go.

Eyes light up at the mention of native legends. Seren’s fondness for mythology is very clearly visible. “Oh? What kind?” they ask, turning Rue’s way. If anything, there’s relief at their enthusiasm and rambling not having been shut down. Any plans to drink are forgotten about in the immediate, because what kind of legends is a must-know.

But they note the fading of Rue’s smile when she talks about her work, and there’s a moment where they try to reconcile with themselves what she feels about it, try to figure out what to say in reply. “It’s good work,” Seren reaffirms kindly, because it sounds like she needs to hear it. “And there’s downsides to every good. Not letting them outshadow the benefits can probably be hard, with what you go through … but like you said, even the people who are victims of circumstance can get their lives back because of the work you do.” Tipping their head in a nod, they assure her, “Overall, that’s a very good thing.”

Rue nods her head slowly, taking a moment to nurse her drink contemplatively. Ultimately, she manages a smile for the pretty one in the next seat. She lets the subject drop with only a grateful incline of her head. Her conscience is assuaged for the moment.

“My team is named after an Inuit deity.” Rue holds her hands up, palms out and fingers wiggling. “The harbinger of death.” She pointedly doesn’t state what the actual deity is called, but Seren is likely resourceful enough to figure it out later on their own. Her hands lower back to the bar and wrap around her near-empty glass.

“So, I’m going to be forward. You seem really cool. Can I get your number? I’m not always in the city, but I’d like to be able to look you up when I am. If you’re keen.” Rue shrugs her narrow shoulders. “And if you’re not, that’s okay, too.”

Seren shifts in surprise but also interest at the team's name. "I'll have to look that one up," they remark thoughtfully. Maybe even go on a whole learning spree about Inuit myths in general. That sounded like a nice night in with Baird. They're already in the process of sliding their phone from its hiding place in their back pocket to jot a reminder about it when Rue asks for their number.

"Rue, you've been nothing but great this whole time. I'd be happy to go out for drinks again in the future, or something less alcohol-related, for sure." With a chuckle, they produce their wallet and slide free a simple business card, the Raytech logo running down the left side of it. Seren Evans, Architect. "My email is on there too, if that's more reliable. Phone service down here is surprisingly shoddy."

Rue picks up the business card between two fingers for a moment of inspection. She smiles, genuinely pleased. “Great. I’m in town for a few days visiting a friend. If I have some free time, I’ll look you up again. Otherwise, next time I’m around for sure.”

The card is glanced at one last time before it’s slid away into her clutch. “I’ll drop you a line, one way or another. Radio silence doesn’t mean ghosting. Promise.” That’s a little bit easier to believe in today’s age of spotty reception and internet service.

Seren returns the smile, attention drifting down to their phone to finish writing up that note. "I'll look forward to it," comes from them in a warm tone, comfort in it. It's always great to meet new people.

They're looking over their shoulder before long, though, searching. As nice as it was to make new connections … there's an old one they're missing, and they can't put their finger on the why behind it. Time to go searching. Seren adjusts their grip between phone and wallet, pulling out a ten dollar bill (their favorite, by the way) and tossing it on the counter. "I'll grab the tip at least," is said without a hint of apology, though they glance in a spot of hesitation at what remains of their glass. It would be a waste, they decide, so they pick up the moscato again and drain what remains in a single, large gulp.

"I should figure out where Baird's gone off to, though. Normally he's back by now." Seren explains as they back their way off the barstool into a standing position, tucking away everything where it proper belongs. With another warm smile, they lift one hand up in a still wave. "It's been nice meeting you, Rue."

“And you.” Rue graciously accepts the ten to cover the tip. “Have a good night, Seren.” She gives them time to take their leave before draining the last few drops from her glass, settling her tab, and heading out into the night to return to Elmhurst Hospital.

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