Hearts Of Copper


august_icon.gif merlyn_icon.gif

Scene Title Hearts of Copper
Synopsis Merlyn and August may be criminals, but they look out for one another and others with shitty luck who Karma's forgotten.
Date June 16, 2021

Staten Island, August's offices

The building that “Doc Yeats” works and lives out of would have been charming in another time, before the various tragedies that had turned Staten Island into a den of thieves and criminals, even before the Second Civil War. A house before it was a doctor’s office years ago, the carriage house architecture has seen better days. White siding has been tagged with graffiti in a number of styles and colors, and the circular red roof shingles are missing in places and patched with cardboard and tarp where the lack of cover is more than merely aesthetics.

While little (nothing) has been done to improve the sorry exterior of the place, the inside is immaculate. A lot of work has been done to clean it from the decade and a half of debris and mistreatment. The original design of the office remains the same: downstairs is a medical office with exam rooms, an office, and a waiting room, and upstairs is a small apartment.

Most days, August hangs out alone in the reception area, tinkering with robots or reading. It’s here he lounges now, feet up on the desk with a book in his lap. A large scruffy mutt lies nearby watching the door, tail thumping now and then on the hardwood floor.

The building is familiar enough to Merlyn King, but it's never been somewhere she's needed to go to be patched up. He's top on her list though–it's safer not to have extra information out where she might not want it. Today, though, she's got her usual red Jansport slung over one shoulder as she approaches the door. She knocks, making sure it's loud enough to be heard clearly. She's got a big personality, even if she works in areas where subtlety is involved.

In case she's not heard, however, she announces herself. That, however, is not quite as loud and she hopes it's heard through the door. "Doc? It's Merlyn."

Long legs drop from the table to the floor and August rises and heads to the door to open it. It’s usually unlocked (all the expensive devices and drugs are kept in locked rooms or in a safe), but some people do things old school. He doesn’t mind, being a little old fashioned at times himself.

There’s no peephole to look through, though that might be a smart thing to install. He finds as long as he lives a ‘live and let live’ life, most people on Staten honor it – because sometimes they need his help.

The door swings open and the tall man smiles as he sees the woman on the stoop. “So it is,” he says, scanning her form quickly for anything requiring emergency medicine. “Come on in, Miss Ambrosius.” The name is a teasing allusion to her first name, and his manner, despite being just a few years older than her, is a bit of the old country doctor’s bedside manner – even though their relationship is usually more based on illegal trade.

Merlyn finds the old fashioned style charming, and it's evident by the way she grins at both the words and the once over for injuries. "Thankfully, I've not sustained any stray bullets or come down with something that would require smelling salts for me to recover from," she teases lightly, shifting the bag on her shoulder a bit as she steps in.

"I'm not really here for medicine or anything today, I just happened to be out shopping and came across some mechanical parts that I felt looked like they could be useful. Now, I can't tell you what any of them are because tinkering is not my thing, but I figured you could fish through and see if you find anything you want." She tilts her head sideways towards the backpack strap. "It's pretty heavy."

August’s brows lift at the mention of smelling salts and he grins. “No? And here I was sitting there just thinking how it’s been a few days since someone came in with a touch of the vapors for me to cure,” he says playfully. “Feel free to swoon upon sight of me, though, if you want to give my ego a boost.”

He reaches for the heavy backpack. “We’ll see. You trust me to give you a fair price when you don’t know what they are, do you?” He’s probably too honest to lie, and in this neighborhood, it’s poor business practice if you want to

a) continue to have a working relationship
b) keep all your fingers
c) live to make another deal
d) all of the above

August pretends to be overly affected by the backpack, like it’s far too heavy for him, before bringing it over to the reception desk to begin sorting through it. Meanwhile, the dog, Argos, has stood up and made its way to Merlyn to be pet, though he’s very polite and waits for her attention.

"I'm only swooning if you have a fainting couch and those are hard to come by," Merlyn says, though she pauses at the thought. "I suppose if anywhere had a fainting couch, this place would be just as good as any for one to be hiding." As he takes the bag towards the desk, she grins down at the dog and reaches down to scratch him behind the ears. "Always the best boy, aren't you?" She says to Argos, spending a moment petting him before she looks back to August.

"I trust you to give me a fair price. It's mostly stuff I wouldn't have bothered to pick up ordinarily, but I know you enjoy this sort of thing so it made sense to see if there's anything in there of value to you. Besides, even if there was something in there worth a million, I'd sell it to you for cheap if you were going to make something interesting with it. Sure, the money would be nice, but in the long run it's not nearly as fun."

Before he starts the perusal process, August leans down under the reception desk to open a mini fridge stowed under there. It has a few medical supplies that need to be cold (including some blood) but it also is very convenient for stowing beers. He pulls out two bottles, uncapping them deftly with a bottle opener screwed to the underside of the desk.

He has made some renovations.

One bottle is slid across to her like the desk is now a bar and he’s the tender.

“That’s sweet of you. I’m afraid I’m not that good of a roboteer, or I’d be working over at Richard Ray’s joint,” he says with a grin.

“So what else is keeping you busy, besides rummaging around scrap yards in your spare time?” he asks, picking up a piece of some gadgetry and peering at it, before putting it in the ‘keep’ pile.

It apparently has sparked some joy.

She takes the cold bottle, glancing at the label briefly before taking a long sip. Merlyn's not actually picky, just curious. She watches the collection of parts as he sorts them in a sort of casual way, either unworried August will sneak some of it away because she has some measure of trust, or she's better at paying attention while not looking like it than she lets on.

"Some stuff here and there. Nothing that's going to put me in much danger, I feel, but pretty much anything can go south at the drop of a hat. It's unlikely I'll need medical assistance, but I know where to look if I need it." She nods towards a piece he put in the keep pile. "I thought that one looked promising. Really, though, you don't have to work at some fancy company to be good at doing something. You tinker, you make things, you try. Those are the sort of things I find matter." She shrugs her shoulders. "But I haven't been into anything interesting, mostly just getting some of the most beautiful pieces of art to collectors with a good eye for detail."

August chuckles at the validation Merlyn offers him, and he lifts a shoulder. “I’m not worried about it. Capitalism isn’t my style these days, if it ever was. I just wanted to help put things back together, you know? People, mostly, but things, too.”

He picks up another piece, then opens a drawer to find a small screwdriver. He separates a couple of components, putting one part in the keep and the other in the discard pile.

“Let me guess. You’re reappropriating it from people who don’t appreciate it?” he asks, looking up at her with a grin. “Robin Hood’s a different fairy tale, you know. But I suppose we could start calling you Maid Merlyn.”

With a shrug, he returns to sorting. “Anyway, I approve. Any pieces I’d know? Art history’s not my wheelhouse, but I know a Manet from a Monet.” Which is more than most people can say, but he says it humbly.

“I always reappropriate from people who don’t deserve or appreciate it. I’m unfortunately afraid I can’t actually do magic, so I’m probably stuck in another fairy tale.” Merlyn grin, but she’s watching him and the sorting with interest. She may have no idea what any of the parts are actually useful, but she’s finding it fascinating. “I suppose I’m a bit of a Robin Hood, but my work is still technically illegal.”

She’s silent for a moment before she laughs. “You could take a look, if you’re familiar with the art, I’d love it if a careful eye would take a look and see if it compares to the real thing. Mostly little stuff currently. My artist companion and I have mostly been doing small stuff people wouldn’t look at too hard, but a critical eye for bigger pieces can’t hurt. If she consents, of course.”

“Oh, that kind of art crime,” August says. “I mean, I personally can only draw schematics and stick figures, but I wasn’t too bad at ‘find the difference’ in the old Highlights magazines we had at the orphanage. I think they were all older than I was by at least ten years..”

He selects another piece and sets it in the keep pile, then scrutinizes the rest of the pile for anything else, then selects two more bits of machinery and adds it to his hoard.

“I think this will do me for today. So what’ll it be – favor owed, cash, meds, drugs, or secrets? Whatever you say is fair.” It’s really a wonder he gets by on Staten, with this sort of policy, but then, he doesn’t trust everyone, and he trusts Merlyn.

"Highlights! I remember those. The ones I found already had shit circled so they basically were ruined for everyone else," Merlyn recalls. "Gotta love the assholes who think it's just okay." She glances at the pile, moving to scoop the rest of the parts into the red backpack. "I usually like to go with secrets or favors, mostly because there are people I can get the rest of them easy from people much less…" She searches for a word. "… competent?"

With a grin, she looks over his pile as if to assess the value of it. "I think I'll hold onto the secrets and the favor for now. Mostly, I'd just appreciate it if you hear anything interesting to pass it down the line. That's worth a lot, I'd say, given that I imagine people talk when they come in for emergency first aid. Personally, I just like to keep an eye out for things to make sure I'm avoiding the right situations. I might have to lay low in a bit, so if you hear of anything regarding me especially, passing on a note securely would be useful."

“Assholes,” August agrees about the people who circle in magazines meant for communal use. He lifts his beer to take a couple of swallows’ worth now that the sorting’s done.

“You know that I’d tell you if I heard something regarding you anyway, right, Mer? I’m hardly a mercenary who’d keep that from you,” he points out. “But I’ll keep an ear out. As for today’s loot…”

He reaches into the desk to pull out an index card and a pen, clicking it to extend the nib within, and scribbles a name and a neighborhood.

“This asshole, speaking of them, has some actual pieces of art stolen from the various galleries and museums during the war. He’s been selling them but it’s slow going, so I’m not sure how many are left. Some famous names, but none of the pieces themselves are household names,” August explains, passing the card to her. “I don’t think. Word is he has a prophetic painting or two in the mix, but not sure if that’s just hearsay or if they’re already passe.”

Merlyn smiles at him broadly. "I know, but I think it's always polite to ask. If I'm not courteous, I'm not me." She accepts the card, glancing over at him. "I wonder if there's a way to figure out which ones are the prophetic ones. Not that I'd find much use for them personally, but I might know some people very interested in something like that. I appreciate it, Aug." She takes a moment to scan through the information on the card. "It's a good tip at the very least, and if nothing else I can find someone who might be interesting to work with in the future."

“This is why we’re friends,” August says with a smile that makes him look more youthful, taking away, if momentarily, some of the hurt behind his perpetually sad eyes.

The address on the card is in Elmhurst, which makes it trickier than a burglary on Staten Island would be – in some ways, if not others.

“In my experience, the prophetic ones are usually odd in a way of like – why would anyone paint this? Not like an abstract painting of a red circle or green arrow, or something like Jackson Pollock. More like… who paints a recognizable building on fire that never burned down? It’s weird.” He lifts his shoulders, taking another swallow from his beer. It’s not fancy beer, just a local brewery’s pilsner.

Gray eyes survey her as he tips the bottle back. “Everything okay? If you need a place to lay low, there’s a spare room upstairs. It gets hotter than a wizard’s balls when it’s humid, but you’d have privacy. Doubt many would think to look for you here.”

"I suppose it wouldn't be too hard to determine ones that might be prophetic then. I'm pretty good at hunting down the weird," Merlyn grins. "If I'm lucky perhaps the gentleman would part with his paintings without knowing that they're prophetic. I'm pretty sure it'd be kind of fun to figure out what they meant. It would kind of suck if it showed the end of the world or something, but uncovering some kind of mystery could be fun."

She tips back her own bottle of beer to take a long sip from it, a long enough drink that might indicate she's worried. "I might need somewhere. You ever have one of those situations where it seems too easy? The stakes are high but you've got a good hand, but there's this sneaky lowlife in the corner with some cards and he's grinning like he's already won?" She pauses, realizing the metaphor was getting away from her. "Anyway, there's a chance if shit goes down really bad that I could use a spot. I'm just preparing in advance. Never hurts to play it safe and have a backup plan, right?"

She nods in his direction before taking another sip. "I don't think it's going to be dangerous and I'll have to crawl back here with a gunshot wound, but if it goes sideways I think there's a good chance I'll have pissed off a lot of people and it might take me a little to show my face and a little more to smooth over ruffled feathers."

August chuckles, shaking his head. “Nothing in my life has even seen too easy. Not once. If I ever get dealt a good hand, I’ll know something’s wrong.”

He sets down the beer, though, and then ducks down to a open a drawer below the counter, shuffling things around until he comes up with a keyring. It’s one of those cheap transparent red jelly plastic sorts, in the shape of a heart with the words “I 🤍Vermont” on it in white. This he slides across the counter toward her.

“Tell you what. Keep that on you. If things are bad enough you need it, you’ll have it. Just let me know it’s you when you get in so I know it’s you, yeah?” he says. “The spare room’s left at the top of the stairs, but if you need me, I’m to the right, along with the kitchen and bathroom and everything else.”

"That I understand. Anytime something's easy, I'm waiting for the ambush. So I'm just staying prepared, getting ahead of things. Trying to get a few places in case I need to switch locations or anything of the like." Merlyn reaches over to take the key, lifting up the keychain and taking a moment to push at the jelly in the heart. "You are too damn sweet. This does mean a lot, I hope you know." The beer in her other hand is brought to her lips again before she speaks.

"Thanks. Having people you can trust for this kind of thing is priceless."

He chuckles, and lifts his beer in a ‘toast’ sort of gesture.

“Just don’t tell anyone. And now, I can say I gave you my heart. Try not to break it.” He grins. It’d be nigh impossible to break the red plastic heart, pliant as it is.

“Jokes aside, let me know if you need anything else besides a roof and place to lay low. I’m not good with much aside from fixing people or machines, but I know a lot of people who owe me a lot of favors.” He makes a face. “Or who wouldn’t mind me owing them one.” That clearly isn’t as pleasant a thought.

She lifts her own beer in a return toast, slipping the heart-and-key into the red backpack. "Trust me, I'll keep it safe. I'm always safe with hearts," Merlyn replies with a small grin before she offers him a nod. "Networking a bit would be good, you hear a lot of things and honestly I could use a bit of that. But…" She points at him with the neck of her bottle. "I don't want to hear you saying you're not good for much aside from those things. Don't discount your worth. You've got charm; I know half-a-dozen people would die to be half as charming as you. You're trustworthy and fair. Besides 'not good for much' is relative in the eye of the beholder."

Merlyn takes another drink from the bottle and nods to her backpack. "Not anyone would just give me their heart for a bunch of stuff scavenged from a scrapyard," she grins. "And if anyone ever tells you you're not good for much, you tell me and I'll beat them up myself." She grins; half of the joke is that her short and petite form really isn't that intimidating–and she doesn't really fight.

August chuckles and ducks his head at the barrage of compliments. Despite his talents, he’s a modest sort, and he doesn’t take compliments very well.

“You’d do better than me. I’m big but I’m a pacifist.” It’s a bit of irony, considering one of his gigs is patching up the people who get hurt at the Crucible.

He tips the bottle back to finish what’s left in it, then tosses the bottle in a nearby trash can. “Luckily, I think my days being bullied are mostly behind me. No one’s going around telling me I suck except my own inner monologue, and I’d rather you not punch me, so I guess I’ll just keep that to myself.”

“As if I’d ever punch you for any reason,” Merlyn replies, following his lead with the beer and finishing the last of it. She deposits the bottle in the trash, then grins. “Well, at the very least as long as I don’t hear you beating yourself up. But if I do, I’m going to remind you of the good qualities you have and good luck dodging those.”

He shakes his head and chuckles again.

“How in the world did a sweetheart like you end up a criminal? You could be anything with that face and that charm. Working PR for one of those fancy corporations. I actually know Richard Ray – or I used to, back when we were kids together at St. Sadsack’s Home for Waifs. Was Richard Cardinal, back then, but I know that guy’s mug anywhere. I could call in a favor for an old friend and tell him to hire your positive affirming ass.”

August doesn’t know Richard well enough to know he’s not in town, and hasn’t seen him in over two decades, but he’s not above a little name dropping once in a while.

“If he’s not too cool now he’s a legit business man,” he adds.

Merlyn flashes a grin. "A sweetheart like me ended up a criminal because the world sucks and left me on my own for too long and I never caught a break. That's just the way the world works, I guess. Some people are lucky, some people aren't, and bad shit will happen to good people even if you believe Karma is some kind of thing. I hate it, but I face it."

She does take the opportunity to laugh, but it's not at him. "Right, like I have a great resume for anything. Wouldn't even hire me as some wench to do filing, they'd be worried I'd steal all the good pens from the supply closet. And I would too. I wonder if they need a junk collector for supplies that just happened to fall off the back of the truck." She offers him a smile. "You can put my name in a hat for pity hires from Richard Ray, but that's not a call I ever expect to get back."

"I also swear too much to be professional enough for an actual job where they don't pay me in cold hard cash or favors," she adds.

The not-quite-a doctor laughs, opening a drawer and pulling out a few very nice pens to toss on the counter. “I would steal the good pens, too,” he says with a smirk, implying all the pens there have been stolen. “I’ll let you have one of mine for free, though,” is added with a wink.

He leans back, tipping the chair until it leans on the wall behind him. “I have a decent resume – but incomplete med school without all the rest of it doesn’t mean much, and after the war, I just didn’t feel like being around people enough to finish, I guess. I mean…” He gestures around the office – even before Staten Island had fallen in the early 2000s, the house-turned-medical-office was a standalone building on an unbusy street where it wouldn’t get much traffic. Now, a person really has to know he’s there to come find him.

“That and they usually require urine samples which are one of the few tests I don’t ace,” he adds with a grin. It’s no secret to those who know August that he self medicates.

"I will treasure it and keep it safe with your heart," she replies, taking the pen and examining it for a moment before it goes in the red backpack as well. "Honestly, though, I think what you do is better than med school. I know a lot of people who are wary of anyplace they could get turned in for whatever reason, and would end up potentially dying simply because they don't want to go in for an open wound."

Merlyn chuckles. "I could get a job doing social work, so long as it didn't require me to snitch on anyone… so that's probably out. I spent a lot of the war going around and finding safe places for people to hide out at or find food or sleep. Nothing that I could sum up on a resume. You probably save lives others wouldn't care to or lives no one would get to at all. Better than a damn resume in my book, Aug."

She does give the building a once over again–she's seen it before, but she's really taking stock of it. "You know, I kind of like the place. There are worse places to make a home and you've got the proper space here."

“Until someone comes through with a wrecking ball. How’d that song go?” August says, with a chuckle, but it’s a very real problem. One of these days, this area will probably be marked for improvement, either by the government, D’Sarthe, or Yamagato.

He lifts his shoulder. “There’s always a place for those of us who want to live our lives a bit outside the lines, but I’d rather not have to pack up shop to do it.”

As if sensing his owner’s anxiety about the uncertainty of the future, Argos whines and gets to his feet, ambling over to the chair August leans in. The medic reaches out to pet the shaggy dog and smiles over at Merlyn. “‘S funny that most of the best people I know live out here, not over in the Safe Zone proper. You included. And so many people just assume we’re all either low lifes or criminals.” He lifts a finger to ward off any more pep talks from the younger woman.

“I didn’t say either of us were those, don’t worry. I mean, we are, technically, criminals, but you know. The sorts with hearts of gold. Or at least copper – and copper’s worth more to me, anyway.” Electrical currents like copper, after all.

"Even if I got some sort of fancy nine-to-five job, I'd still be me. I'd still be looking for safe places to mark for people who need it, giving out resources to people the world forgets," Merlyn smiles back at him. "I like that. Copper hearts. Better than gold, and it's more like real people. We've got flaws. I like having flaws. I mean, not all of them, but I don't strive to be perfect."

She glances in Argos', smiling warmly at the sight of the dog again before her gaze settles on August. "If I hear anything about anyone trying to 'improve' this area, I'll let you know in advance. Maybe even try to stop it. I like this place. Not sure how much I could do, but I've got your back on this. Plus I'll always throw some work your way if I can. Good work, of course."

He smiles, and pulls out a second bottle of beer for each of them, uncapping them with a quick twist under the counter with the bottle opener.

One is slid across to her and the other lifted in a toast. “To good work and criminals with hearts of copper, then.”

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