Deserved Pain


kincaid_icon.gif melissa_icon.gif

Scene Title Deserved Pain
Synopsis Kincaid has it, Melissa tries to take it away, and they both agree he deserves it.
Date January 19, 2011

Westview Apartments: Melissa's Apartment

Even in places like this, a 'press pass' can go a long way. Kincaid's not a reporter, but he's an assistant producer for Studio K working with the Advocate. It took some time, but he got passage at the bridge, his card scanned carefully, and he explained he would be visiting someone in an apartment complex while he was on the island, to talk about business.

A time limit was placed upon him, but no one followed him, even after he had to jump through the hoops again to get into Summer Meadows itself.

Car parked, he pulls a backpack out of the back seat and walks up to the apartment complex and begins to trek up the stairs, until he makes it to the third floor. Third floor, room 303.

Leveling the backpack on his shoulder, he knocks firmly on the door. A lot has changed for Kincaid since she last saw him. A piece of white tape rests on his forehead, holding a cut on his eyebrow together. His upper lip is slightly swollen where it's cracked, and there's signs of days old bruising in various areas of his face.

It looks like his face ran into a wall. Or a fist, likelier. The right hand that grasps the bag strap on his shoulder has bandages again, smaller, but bandages.

A knock on the door isn't a normal thing to hear in Melissa's apartment. She can count on one hand the number of visitors she's had here, given the location. So it's with caution that she opens the door, and like him, she looks a bit different. Mostly because she's tanned and no longer looks like she's seriously sleep deprived. And since she's at at home, she's dressed casually, in jeans and a tee-shirt, with bare feet.

Seeing Kincaid on the other side of the door has her looking surprised, her head tilting as she studies him and his bandages. "Well I expected to see you soon, but not here. I didn't know you knew where I lived even." A pause, then she steps back, opening the door. "Guess you should come in and tell me what brought you here though. Since you saved me a trip."

"When I was looking into you being a guest I was able to dig up a lot of information," Kincaid says with a smile, that forces a small wince to his face. Those wounds he's not compensating for, it seems. The one on his hand, though, must be, or he wouldn't be using it to hold a bag. "I had a thought and decided to run with it, you could say," he simply says, as he steps inside, carefully rubbing his shoes on the welcome mat to avoid tracking anything in.

"Do you prefer shoes off in your home?" he asks, to see if he too needs to become barefoot, or at least socks wearing. Some people do. "You look like you've been on a trip already— or at least a spa visit. You look like you took my advice and took a vacation."

"You can keep your shoes on. I just didn't see a point in putting shoes on to stay home," Melissa says, shutting the door behind him. Her apartment is absolutely spotless. No dirt dares to show its face, toys are all kept neatly in a toybox, and over by the window is a playpen, Junie sitting in it, banging a couple of blocks together with a big old smile.

"And yeah, I took your advice. I owe you big time for that actually. Spent a week in Hawaii. Went surfing, swimming with dolphins, the whole nine. It was good. Fun. Amazing. Crossed a couple of things off my bucket list even."

Her head tilts for a moment, then the pain of his injuries fades away, just before she motions towards the couch. "Have a seat. Want something to drink? I think I've got a Red Bull tucked away in the fridge somewhere. No coffee made though."

Despite all Kincaid's research, it seems nothing prepared him for the sight of a baby playing with blocks in a playpen. And that can be seen by a sudden gasp and the fact that the bag tumbles off his shoulder and impacts the floor with a heavy ding of metal. This only happens after she asks if he wants a drink, because until then he was just standing and staring at the kid. That sound jars him out of it more than anything else, from the way he jumps, and winces guiltily.

"I didn't— know you had a kid." She'd not come up in their previous conversations, and certainly not in any of his research. He bends down and picks up the bag and looks at her with a guilty expression.

"I'm glad you went and did all that, though, really, I am. I've never done any of that either, but… it's good that you got to." His voice seems overly distracted as he glances over at the playpen before he sits down, opening his bag as if to make sure he didn't break anything, and perhaps to put his eyes elsewhere.

"And some Red Bull should be good, thanks," he adds as an afterthought.

The dropping of the bag has Melissa looking at him curiously, and Junie jumping a bit, dropping her blocks. "It didn't come up. Why's it such a shock though?" she asks, eyeing him for a moment before moving over the playpen and picking up Junie, settling the baby on her hip before heading into the kitchen.

A minute later she comes back, offering the Red Bull to him. "This is Junie though. She's not mine mine. I've adopted her. Sort of a thing I do, taking in strays. Her mother was executed on the eighth for no reason at all, and I took her so she didn't go with the soldiers who'd killed her mom. Seemed like the least I could do." And Junie is very interested in Kincaid, waving a tiny fist at him and making baby sounds.

"I said I did research… there wasn't anything about a child, or an adoption in progress, in my research," Kincaid says quietly, as he looks over at the baby and stares at it for a few moments before shaking his head and looking down. "I already met her, I think. Junko? Robyn Quinn was carrying her around the studio and I offered to assist her so she could get some work done. She said she was watching her for a friend, but… didn't mention it was you."

Popping open the tab of the Red Bull, he downs a good gulp before he looks back at her, expression somber. "I'm sorry to hear about her mom. That's terrible that she was executed for no reason."

"Junko's a weird name. I call her Junie," Melissa says, shrugging and sitting down, letting Junie rest in her lap for now, which means she continues to study Kincaid and wave her little hands in the air. "And yeah, Quinn and her roommate Elaine were keeping her while I was in Hawaii. I owe them too. She didn't say that you watched the baby for a bit though. Wouldn't have pegged you for a baby type."

Then she nods a bit, looking down at Junie and running a hand lightly over her hair. "Yeah. Was on Staten. A bunch of people were lined up against a wall. Just randomly. Not sure why they picked her mom instead of me. But that's the government for you."

She shakes her head and looks back to Kincaid. "But you said you had a thought and decided to run with it? What sort of thought?"

That's never something anyone wants to have to hear— but Kincaid just nods faintly, as if the injustice of the government is known all too well to him, or at least he isn't too surprised. Could be from working in media. "Oh," he says, reaching back into his bag again and pulling out the clanking metal that she heard. There's a pot in the bag, and a box of noodles ready for cooking.

"I decided you need to learn how not to burn water, and maybe make something edible at the same time. Pastas are about as easy as they get, only thing easier is soup, but this was one of the first things I ever learned to cook, and I thought a little lesson would never hurt."

Melissa blinks as she looks at the pot, then the noodles, then the pot again, then him. Lips twitch a little, and a little more, before she starts snickering softly. "You wouldn't be the first to try, but hey, I'm game. That's on my bucket list too. Learning to fix something that's edible after I touch it. Pretty handy too, since I'm planning on having a dinner soon. I doubt I'll be up to fixing an edible dinner for four, but it's worth a shot, right?"

"The whole dinner, probably not after one lesson— but I can definitely teach you how to make a side of noodles or something," Kincaid says with a smile, as he stands up and carries the pot over into the kitchen to the sink. Not to get ready to cook, but to wash it. She keeps her house clean, and a clean pot to cook in is a good idea. It's been in a bag too long.

While he runs hot water and soap over it and scrubs any dirt away, he glances over his shoulder. "So why do you have to cook dinner for four? I'm guessing Ju— Junie doesn't count as one of the four."

Junie's brought into the kitchen and put in a high chair, some toys set on the tray so she can play and be part of the group, sort of. And again Melissa gives Kincaid an odd look. "You said you watched Junie for Quinn, so why's she bothering you so much? But no, she's not one of the four. My brother, his girlfriend who I've never met, and my guy. Figured it'd be a good idea for all four of us to meet and talk and all that. Been sort of rocky terms with my brother for a while," she says, shrugging.

"I just didn't expect her to be here," Kincaid says quietly, biting down on his injured lip a bit and causing a small stab of pain, before he stops. The rest of his face aches enough he doesn't need to hurt himself with bad habits of lip biting. "I didn't know you had a brother either— my research is usually a lot better than this. And your guy?" Not only is his research off, but his expectations are getting kicked swiftly in the face.

Melissa head tilts slightly and she shakes her head at the lip bite. "Don't do that. And yeah. It's…he was another stray. His parents kicked him out, disowned him. I took him in since he was only sixteen. He became my brother, just like Junie's become my daughter. It's kinda complicated really. No blood there. I'm an only child. Only blood family I've got are my parents, aunt and uncle. And we're not gonna get into that right now."

She moves to the fridge, grabbing out a coke, and she moves to lean against the counter, popping it open. "And yeah, my guy. A friend found out that I was going to Hawaii, and was…concerned, I guess. Like you. Decided to come with. Not sure why, to be honest, since I was in total bitch mode over your boss's dickless move. You do know you have a dickless, spineless bastard for a boss, right? Can't do that Humanis First show anymore, because I'd just prove them right by hurting the dipshit."

"Russo's not my boss, K is," Kincaid simply says quietly, looking toward the water streaking over the pot to rinse the soap off. He doesn't ask more questions about the brother, but he does look very curious about it, still. "And the two of you wouldn't have been happy together, so it's probably for the best— though I wish he would have chosen a better way to do what he did."

With that, he fetches a clean dry towel, so he can begin drying off the pot. The bandages on his hand are oddly not damp. He was careful to use his left hand almost entirely, holding the pot on the handle with his right to keep his bandages dry.

"I'm glad you found someone else, though, just surprised it happened so fast." In his mind, he expected it to take longer, most likely. "Is he good to you? Are you happy?"

"You're right. And hope him and his fiance," the word is said with a great deal of disgust and disdain, "are very miserable together." Nope, no bitterness here. Not at all! Melissa nods then though, letting the bitterness seep away. "He is good to me though, yeah. He…loves me." And that seems to baffle her to no end. "I didn't expect anything to happen either, so you're not the only one surprised. I don't think anyone could be more surprised than me though."

She smiles then. "And you're dying to say something about my brother, I can tell, so go ahead and say it, whatever it is. Though you've seen him…sorta. He was at the last date auction."

"I know you're hurt, but you shouldn't wish pain and misery on others— especially not what you wouldn't want to experience yourself," Kincaid says quietly, avoiding biting down on his lip with the bad habit. "What he did wasn't nice, it was cruel, but it saves you from finding out later that he didn't really love you, which I think would have hurt you even more. And it led you to this guy. Good things can come out of pain you don't think you could have survived by itself."

It's off the topic of the question she asked, but… it's something he seems to feel serious about, as he glances toward the child briefly. "What's his name? Your brother and your guy both."

Brows shoot up and Melissa stares silently for a moment. "I have experienced pain and misery. Even emotional pain and misery. And the bastard was too much of a coward to let me know that we were through before he went and got himself engaged. To the sister of a friend, no less. And with that, I am absolutely done talking about him."

She takes a drink of her coke, following his gaze towards Junie. "My brother's name is Kendall. Works for a friend of mine. He's awkward and geeky but I love the little twerp." She must, since twerp is said as fondly as any other endearment might have been. "And…Perry. Perry Jones. We've been friends for a while. But just friends. Hence the big surprise."

There's movement of his lips, as if one of those names got repeated in his head and Kincaid couldn't keep his lips from moving while he did it. There's even a hint of a whisper, before he looks back with a grin, the subject of Russo dropped, "I think I'd like to meet them sometime. But first— you need to learn how not to burn water."

With that, he sets the pot down and moves over to the stove, looking over the burners carefully, "Despite not using the stove you do keep it clean, I thought I'd have to wash them, but they should be okay. The first step, is to pick a burner that's near the same size as the pot. No need to overheat the poor thing." The pot isn't big, so he sets it on the smaller burner in the front. "Now you need to figure out which one this is…" he reads the text until he points at the right button. "This burner is here. Now… do you have measuring cups to put in the proper amount of water? If you don't, I do, but I need to wash them."

"I don't use the stove, but my sort of roomie does. Besides, there's nothing in this apartment that isn't kept absolutely spotless. I'm sort of OCD about cleaning," Melissa explains with a shrug, moving to a cabinet to pull out some measuring cups, setting them in front of him. "And you'll meet them I'm sure. Perry in particular wants to meet you, since you're the one responsible for our trip. And speaking of, before you leave, I have something for you. A thank you." She smiles. "And I just like giving presents."

It takes a few moments, but Kincaid produces some measuring cups and then some milk from the fridge. Thanks sort of roommate. He double checks to make sure it's not baby milk, or something, cause he doesn't think that would make for very yummy noodles, and Junie might not appreciate it either.

"You didn't have to get me anything. I'm glad you actually went. You needed a break. But give me the present, and then I'll walk you through the cooking. If I do everything you won't learn." Which is why he hasn't even put the water into the pot yet, or turned on the stove. But he is doing the early prep work.

"I like getting people presents. And the trip was exactly what I needed, so it seemed right that I get you something. Be right back." Melissa heads back to her bedroom, coming out a minute later with two bags, one large, one small.

In the smaller bag there are four boxes, each with a different coffee mug in them. One is standard Hawaii souvenir, ceramic with Hawaiian designs and the name of the state plastered all over it. Another is wooden, carved to look like a tiki, but sealed so that it works as a coffee mug. Then there's one shaped like a hollowed out pineapple, and the fourth is a hula girl mug.

The larger bag is related, and inside is what looks like a gift bag from one of the coffee plantations on the island. It has several different varieties of Kona coffee, in various sizes. But it's enough to keep even Kincaid in fresh ground coffee for a month at least.

Giving gifts is something they had in common, and Kincaid freezes as he starts to see what she got him. Thoughtful gifts, as he said, are far more meaningful. There's a moment when he reaches to his pocket as if to touch something, but he stops himself and steps forward, to look at the gift. "Thank you," he says quietly, voice sounding different than normal. For a moment, she may even catch a hint of a glistening in his eyes.

She likes to give gifts, he may not be the best at receiving them without showing emotions. "This was very thoughtful… Thank you," he adds again, touching the mugs briefly with his fingers, as if trying to claim them as his by touch, then the gift bag. "I'll get a lot of use out of this," he finally says, smiling again as he focuses his extremely dark eyes on her. Too bad he still looks like he's been beat up.

Melissa smiles. "When I was looking through the guidebooks, trying to figure out what to do while we were there, I saw the whole coffee plantation thing. Figured it'd be perfect for you, with your caffeine addiction and all. And you can't have coffee without coffee mugs. Just be glad I didn't get you the one shaped like a whale. The handle was the tail of the whale. It was very odd. And uh…if you don't have a coffee grinder consider that part of the gift too. I didn't know if you had one, but…figured fresh ground was better."

"I don't have one, so… thank you. I won't have to stop by Starbucks for a while," Kincaid admits with a smile, reaching out with his free hand and touching her arm briefly. He looks as if he wants to show more affection than that, but— the arm touching with have to do. "Now no more delaying," he says, as he uses the hold to steer her towards the stove. "You're going to learn how to cook noodles."

Melissa recognizes that look, mostly because it's been on her face more than a few times in the past, especially growing up, and she smiles. "A hug between friends isn't a bad thing. Just so you know. And yes, teach me how to cook noodles rather than torch the water," she says, turning towards the stove, prepared to learn. Or try to, anyway.

As soon as she says that, Kincaid suddenly pulls her into a hug, apparently taking it as permission to do what he wanted to do anyway. Eyes closed, he holds onto her for a little longer than might have been appropriate, and before he pulls back he scrubs his face with a hand. The skin around his eyes is a little red. "Sorry— presents have a strange effect on me," he dismisses it with an embarrassed laugh, before he turns toward the stove and starts to avoid the topic by giving his instructions.

Patience is a virtue in cooking. Always follow the instructions. Always turn the temperature down when it says… When it says stir frequently, make sure you do… It sounds so simple, but he'll be there the whole time, pointing things out. The important things he tries to implant in her are simple.

Melissa laughs and returns the hug, then grins and shakes her head. "No reason to apologize. I know the feeling. The ice skates were great. Best present I've gotten in a long time." And then she turns her attention to trying to learn to make pasta.

She pays close attention to everything he says, following instructions, making corrections here and there when necessary, and having to pause once to give Junie some cheerios to gum on. And when the directions finally say the pasta is done, Melissa looks at it suspiciously. "I'm afraid to try it," she confesses, though it looks alright, and the smoke alarm never went off.

Cooking is like taking care of a baby— take eye off it and asking for trouble. But that's what help is for. Kincaid takes over stirring while she gets cheerios, and he pours it evenly into two smaller bowls. It seems he'll be adventurous with her. "Cooking is all about following the instructions, really. If you can clean as well as you seem to— you can probably cook from a box. It's just as OCD as cleaning can be, if not more so. When you want to cook meats or other things, though— then it gets more difficult. From a box is enough for most people."

Two forks are pulled out, placed one in each bowl, and he says, "Now we just need to let it cool so we don't burn out mouths. I can test it first, though, if you're that worried." He seems to have a bit of a smile, from that, but he looks pleased from the smile.

"You should've seen my last place before and after I got done with it. Trust me, I clean as well as I seem to. Maybe better," Melissa says, grinning. She considers her bowl for a moment before she shakes her head. "Nah, I'll go first. If it's screwed up, I screwed it up, and no reason you should have to suffer if it is inedible. And if it is…well, maybe Junie'll share her cheerios with us."

She takes her bowl, getting a forkful and blowing on it to cool it off. When it's no longer steaming, she takes a deep breath. "Here goes nothing!" She lifts the fork in a sort of toast to him, then takes a cautious bite. A moment later, she says, "Well, I didn't gag, so that's a good thing. It's not great, but I do believe this might actually be edible!"

Kincaid doesn't say that it's really hard to actually mess up noodles. Bad ingredients can do it, not watching the pot can do it— but… he still smiles as he twists the fork around and brings the noodles up to his mouth. First bite makes him nod, sounds of agreeing, before he swallows and says. "Congratulations. You can make a side of noodles for your dinner party now."

Melissa laughs and nods. "Yeah, now all I gotta do is figure out how to make the rest of the food. Though I'll probably just do carry out or something. I order a mean carry out. Got all the local places on speed dial. The good ones, anyway." Another bite and she nods again. "Only took me twenty-seven years, or nearly, but I have finally made something decent. Yay me!"

"Carry out is probably the best idea, with noodles as your proof of cooking," Kincaid says, pointing at the box. "To make double this amount, just get two boxes or bags— noodle sides usually come in little bags— and double all the other ingredients." Milk, butter, water. "Double should be enough for four, especially if you have other food."

There's a pause, and he suddenly pulls out his phone to check something and then laughs. "I forgot it was almost your birthday. I just turned twenty-seven last month myself. Hopefully it'll be a good year for both of us." Though so far he seems to have been beat up at least once.

"You just had a birthday? When was it? I'll get you a birthday present. And yes, I know, I don't have to. Tough. I wanna," Melissa says, hopping up on the counter to continue eating noodles. "And I can't tell Kendall that I made the noodles. He wouldn't eat them. He knows that I can't cook." Another bite, then she pauses. "Just how much research did you do on me? Most of my friends don't even know when my birthday is."

"It was the twenty-eighth. I'm an after-Christmas baby," Kincaid says with a laugh, as if he finds it funny. Too late to be a Christmas baby, too early to be a New Years baby. But there it is. "And I did enough. Don't worry, nothing to pry into your personal life— cause I missed a lot, but birthdays are listed on almost everything."

The bowl is regarded, before he adds. "Just sneak the noodles in and tell him after. Then he can bask in amazement."

Kincaid is considered for a moment before Melissa nods. "Alright. And you really should've told me. We've spoken since your birthday and you never mentioned it. Knowing friend's birthdays is an important thing for me. The love of gift giving. And it's always a good excuse for a party."

"I threw myself a party," Kincaid trails off, focuses on eating noodles for a few moments, before he glances at her. He's been in enough conversations to know that hiding behind food won't save him, but he's certainly going to try to avoid whatever is on his mind right now. "It just didn't come up, it's really not a big deal. I didn't need another party, and really, you going to Hawaii— and that," he points at the package she brought him back. "More than enough for Christmas, Birthday and thank you all wrapped into one."

"Me going to Hawaii wasn't a present for you. I'm not sure why you say it was," Melissa says, shaking her head. "I really don't get a lot about you, for that matter. I mean, you came to me wanting people for your show. We barely talked after that, then you're giving me the perfect present and telling me to take a vacation and just generally being worried about me. It's bizarre." Then she laughs and jokes, "Don't suppose you're related to a girl named Jolene, are you?"

"Jolene?" Kincaid says with a rather surprised sound to his voice. Before shaking his head quietly. "No— I'm not related to anyone named Jolene." But that surprise at the mention of the young woman is definitely there. "But hey, you should be more worried about the people who aren't concerned for your well-being, right?"

Suspiiiiicious. Melissa eyes him for a long moment. "But you know someone named Jolene? 'Cause she's overly concerned with my well-fare too. Clung to me like a burr at a party where a bomb showed up. And she was all sorts of surprised about Perry's name." Another long look then she shrugs. "I'm used to people who want to mess with my well-being. They're easy to deal with. They're mostly what I've dealt with. It's the people who care that are hard."

"I recognize the name, but I'm not close to anyone who uses it," Kincaid says, voice going distant and eyes on what's left of his noodles. "I heard about that, too. On the news. I didn't know you were there, or your guy." But he also doesn't want to ask questions about it, cause he downs the last of his half of the noodles rather quickly and stands up, to put his bowl into the kitchen sink where she can wash it later, and stopping to touch the baby's hand.

"I told you, I don't know many people here in New York, but I don't mean you any harm at all. I mean you the opposite of harm. Like you take in strays, I have an inborn need to take care of someone. It doesn't really matter who it is, so long as they seem to need it, and you needed it. If that's a crime, then I'm sorry, but honestly I needed it too at the time."

"Yeah. We were there. And the guy that got a bomb strapped to him was a friend of mine," Melissa says, nodding and watching as Junie tries to grab one of Kincaid's fingers, grinning up at him. "But no, it's not a crime. I've just…led a life where I could expect hatred and violence more than friendship and taking care of. I tend to see a plot behind people doing nice things for me, because so few have ever wanted to just be nice. Sorry about the fifth degree. I'll stop."

The little girl is more than allowed to hold onto his finger, and Kincaid can't help but look down at her, as if trying to say something he can't quite expect a baby to understand. Suddenly he speaks up, "I cheated on my girlfriend." She just said she'd stop the fifth degree, and he's throwing out a topic that— considering what just happened with Russo, she may not be too forgiving about.

"That's why I'm all beat up. Her ex found out I was involved with someone here in New York and showed up to punch me in the face. That's why I'm not stopping the pain there. That pain I deserve." And he glances towards Melissa, as if wondering if she'll go and give him more pain he deserves, in the form of a fist.

"I'm not seeing the other woman anymore— it wasn't supposed to be more than… No matter what it was supposed to be, it was wrong. I don't expect her to forgive me for it, but I hope to have the chance to apologize."

Melissa blinks at him. She hadn't expect this from him, and it makes her brow furrow. "Why'd you do it then? If you have a girlfriend, and someone you obviously care about, why cheat on her? No quick fling is worth something more real. Relationships, real ones, are too precious to waste. And trust me, I know. This is my first one," she admits.

"And…why tell me? I don't know your girlfriend, or her ex. I'm no expert in this sort of thing. Well, maybe from the betrayal standpoint. Definitely from the betrayal standpoint." She cocks her head. "Is that why you mentioned it? To see if I could tell you that she'd forgive you? Because…I can't. I've already warned Perry that if he hurts me, I'll hurt him."

There's another pause, then, "Will she not talk to you or something? Avoiding your calls? Is that why you said you hope you'll have the chance to apologize? Though…if she does forgive you…I'd like to meet her sometime."

"She's not here," Kincaid says quietly, biting down on his lip as if that will make him feel better. "I don't even know if… when I can go back, or if she'll wait for me. I told her she didn't have to when I left, that I understood if she found someone else, but… we didn't technically break up. I'd been gone for over a month… and things happened, and I was…"

He shakes his head. "There's still no excuse for it. I'm telling this to you because while I'm not Catholic, I guess I needed to confess it to someone. I don't expect to be forgiven."

"You were lonely and horny and male," Melissa says flatly. She shakes her head. "I really don't get it, Kincaid. I don't. Not just you, but cheating in general. I was lonely. God was I lonely, but I didn't just go out and find a piece of ass. Of course not saying what I did was any better, but I didn't go for the quick fuck."

She falls silent for a long moment then sighs softly. "But it's not up to me to judge you. That's really up to her. And you, and you already know it was wrong. You said that you're not seeing the other woman though? That's a good start…"

She eats more noodles, then slightly changes the subject. "So where you from then, if she's elsewhere and you're clearly from there and not here?"

"Seattle," Kincaid answers, still standing before Junko and letting the baby hold onto his finger. He may be grateful for the change in topic, but he still bites down on his broken lip a little. This pain he deserves.

"I came here for a job, but she couldn't. Unfortunately traveling isn't easy anymore, and this job is important to me." There's a pause, before he finally extracts his hand and sticks it into his pocket, grasping something there. "I should get going."

"Would you stop that?" Melissa asks at the biting, even though she can't possibly see it. "If you insist on hurting yourself, don't do it around me. A few months ago I started occasionally feeling people's pain. It's not fun. Please don't add to it. But yeah, if you gotta go, you gotta go. Don't forget your coffee, and don't be a stranger. Maybe someday you and Perry will run into each other at Tartarus or something."

"I won't forget," Kincaid says, moving to transfer the coffee and mugs into the backpack that once held a big pot. Which it looks like he plans to leave here, at least until it's washed. "I look forward to meeting him one day— and I'm sorry," he adds, though the apology is for something else. The pain. After a moment, that pain is gone too. Surface numbing doesn't make his mouth sag like a dentist at least.

"Take care," he adds as he heads toward the door, and then stops, glancing back at young Junie. "And take care of her too."

Melissa looks at Junie as well and smiles. "That's something you can count on. But you take care of yourself too. No more running into fists, and don't be a stranger, hmm? It's good to have friends again," she says, showing him to the door.

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