Like Batman


aman2_icon.gif richard4_icon.gif

Scene Title Like Batman
Synopsis Richard drops in at Aman's place of work to ask a) if he can smoke and b) about Odessa's partner before he vanishes off into the night.
Date November 7, 2020

Pigeon Courier Services

Amanvir Binepal doesn't have a middle name, but if he did, he imagines maybe it would be māndā or thaka or susata simply because he's not sure he's ever going to shake the tired he feels out of his soul. The last few nights haven't been great for sleeping, a thing he's not exactly remedied through copious alcohol intake.

By the time he shakes off the hangover, he starts to feel exhausted again from putting in long hours in the cold. At least being the one to wrap up and close the storefront tonight, he's been in the warm, in the light.

But even that reprieve comes to an end. Ten o'clock is nearing, so it's time to sweep up for the evening— make sure the packages received which need to go out tomorrow morning are lined up and in the correct bins in the back. He pushes himself up from the desk facing the front entrance, arms stretching above his head in a closed-eyed yawn as he gets his wits about him. His arms go swinging by his side as he finishes it.

The ten o'clock hour comes quickly (although maybe not as quickly as he might hope) and of course, the door's locked before the final clean-up to make sure nobody wanders into the store.

As the bolt turns, though, there's a rustling from the direction of the desk behind - a thump - and very quickly Amanvir becomes aware that he's no longer alone.

The shoes that are kicked up onto the desk are the first hint.

They're attached - via legs, naturally - to one Richard Ray, albeit in less formal clothing than he's usually seen in. Worn jeans, a leather bomber jacket with patches so worn they're barely readable and multiple bullet holes mended through the material.

"Hey," he greets ever-so-casually, eyebrows lifting over the edge of his shades, "Got a minute?"

Aman whirls back at the sound of someone being there who shouldn't. He tenses momentarily, aching for something to throw, potentially, but there's nothing here. He's frozen like a deer in headlight, expression blank save for his eyes. A stab of painful fear pierces his chest— and goes nowhere it shouldn't. The link between him and Odessa is severed.

If Redd's snuck in to kill him, she'll never even know.

… But it's not him. Redd, that is. Aman relaxes visibly when he realizes that, letting out a sigh. He looks back to the door, considering for a moment if he should proceed apace with going home for the night.

He decides, ultimately, it'd be better to have this conversation indoors, whatever it is.

"You know— you could have just called," Aman points out as he maneuvers his way behind the desk. He edges around the seat Richard's stolen, content to let him keep it. "I'm gonna assume whatever it is that Kaylee's okay, if you're kicking back like this. So…" He thumbs over his shoulder tightly at the open doorway. "I'm gonna finish up work and talk at the same time. You'll get the benefit of me not nodding off. Sound good?"

Even if it's not, he's slipping back into the package and bike room anyway.

"The hell'd you get in here anyway?" Aman wonders.

“Magic,” Richard quips dryly, and it’s not far from the truth. What’s the difference between what they do and magic, after all?

He waves a hand a bit towards the back permissively, even though his permission isn’t required. “I’m not here about my sister right now. You mind if I smoke?” One hand dips into the jacket, pulling out an old, battered pack of cigarettes that has to be weeks old. He doesn’t partake often. He quit, technically.

Isn’t that what all addicts say, though? But at stress, they reach for their crutch.

He flips it open and pulls one out, a lighter pulled from the cellophane as he asks in a pointedly even tone, “I want you to tell me everything you know about Harry Stoltz.”

Aman must have misheard him. There's no way Richard just asked if he can smoke in Aman's place of work.

So he's shuffling boxes around before double-taking back in the direction of the open doorway, waving a hand at him in return in a very firm gesture of no. With a hint of exasperation while he keeps focused on his task, he makes clear, "Fuck yes, I mind. I've not exactly got a steady back-up job here."

He does, sort of, but it's not nearly steady enough to make a living off of. Not legally, anyway, and not— safely, in some cases.

But he shakes his head then, Richard's question— demand sitting firmly in his ears. It stays lodged there for a good amount of time, time enough that he wishes he suddenly had more chores to tend to back here before the storefront was ready to close up. He sets down a mailbin half-full of packages more heavily than is called for. "I don't know really what there is to tell," he only half-lies, voice as flat as Richard's is even. "But if he's sniffing around for a job or something, you might want to put him on your Do Not Hire list."

Aman looks off to the side and then back through the doorway at Richard, head tilted in the direction of the magic-bearing enigma that's decided to drop in on him and kick up his shoes. "Any particular reason you're asking?" he asks a little too tightly for it to come off in the cavalier tone he was shooting for.

Oh, yeah, Richard’s definitely smoking when he looks back out the doorway towards him, that tell-tale trail of greyish smoke leading up towards the ceiling. The cigarette is held between his lips, and he’s digging into his jacket - a laminated plastic card pulled out, and tossed onto the counter with a flat smack.

The cigarette’s pulled from his lips, and he motions with it vaguely in the direction of the card, noting in quite even tones, “That’s the key to Odessa’s apartment, so you two can continue your affair.”

He takes another long drag on the cancer-stick, and closes his eyes, “I’m not allowed to shoot the piece of shit in the head, apparently, so I need to figure out other ways to deal with this problem that we both have here, Amanvir.”

“So. Harry Stoltz. What do you know?”

Oh, cool. It's everything Aman hoped would never be drawn to the light of day being… well. It's not daylight, and they're alone, so he should count his blessings where they come.

He doesn't smoke, but now he feels like he needs something like a cigarette. He pulls his coat from a hook in the back, thick and protective, slipping it over his shoulders. "Come on," he sighs, trying to coax Richard toward the back door so he can turn off the lights and go. Aman runs a hand back through his hair, judging the absolute seriousness Richard appears to speak with and finding it all a bit unnerving.

"He's the guy Odessa's been living with. I don't think much of him. He has her wrapped around his little finger so tight she just… forgets all the ways he makes her feel terrible every time he does something remotely nice. She's constantly afraid of one thing or another when it comes to him, but she never fucking leaves him. She…"

Aman scowls, looking past Richard to what's been lobbed out for him to take. What he doesn't leave the back room to touch.

"We're not having a fucking affair, Rich. Jesus Christ." If Richard's breaking into his work now, saying shit like that, then taking liberties with nicknames feels like the least-worst thing he could do with that. "We— I don't know what happened the other night, but she's not fucking leaving him." A bitter break of a laugh leaves him before he looks back to him. "I told her if she wants something, if she's determined to… to trying to figure us out," words that make him feel dizzy as they manifest, "then she needs to leave him."

"I've been dealing with what that asshole does to her for five fucking months at this point. She got close the other night to walking out on him, but…"

Another small broken laugh leaves him with a shake of his head. "From what she tells me about him, he's a rich, possessive, narcissistic piece of shit. And the only way she gets out of that relationship without him hunting her down from now until eternity is if she's the one who breaks it off herself."

He tilts his head back to the ceiling, tongue pressed to the roof of his mouth. Aman's arms come out from his sides helplessly before falling back to them in a flop. "I don't fucking know much about him. He paid for her surgery, I know that much. She thinks he owns her because of it, and I'm not sure I can convince her otherwise. She…" He sighs, eyes closing hard for a moment. "She doesn't have a very high opinion of herself."

"It might be why she's not able to leave him. She doesn't feel she deserves better than what she's got, and what she's got is better than…"

Aman has trouble finishing that thought, so he pulls up the hood of his coat and turns, shutting off the light regardless of Richard's readiness, heading for the back door. He pulls the store key from his pocket and yanks the door open, gesturing for the burglar to go first. "She certainly doesn't fucking believe she deserves me either. She puts me on a pedestal so fucking high it's a wonder she doesn't break her neck every fucking time she looks at me."

He still can't believe he's fucking talking about this at all, with the way things are still hanging in a weird limbo between him and Kaylee. With the feelings he has for her, even if they're both uncertain they should be pursued.

Richard exhales a long sigh, his head falling back and eyes closing as he digests all of that. The cigarette brought up, smoke drawn into lungs and breathed out in a drifting cloud through the office.

“Of course he did. Of course he fucking did, instead of just calling me and…”

Then he’s rolling up to his feet, moving to step out from around the desk and moving towards the offered door to move out into the back lot.

“She was raised by the Company,” he says quietly, “As a tool. Then she went through the hands of one extremist group to the next, desperate for approval and belonging, and she did a lot of… terrible things.”

“By the time she realized they were terrible, it was too late to do anything more than hate herself.”

He drops the cigarette on the blacktop, grinding it out with the sole of his shoe, “She attaches herself to… men that aren’t good for her, because they inevitably grab hold of her life with the control that she craves from her upbringing and treat her like the garbage she thinks she is.”

A hand motions towards Amanvir, “She loves you. She’s convinced you’ll never be with her for long because you’re ‘normal’ and can’t deal with the weird bullshit that our lives actually are.”

Keys in hand, Aman pauses in moving to lock up the door, arms just lifting higher in a gesture of exasperation. He looks into the door like he's looking at a mirror, or through a window that might grant him answers.

"Is she wrong?" he asks pointedly, voiced raised higher than he means for it to be. It's more evened out as he turns to look back at Richard. "I mean, it's the same fucking concern Kaylee has, and it's half the reason she pushes me away— and why shouldn't she? She came and peeled away a little bit of the poster over the hole in the wall, and guess what?"

"I choked," Aman admits bitterly, hands still lifted by his sides, the one holding the keys clenching them a little more tightly. "I didn't dive in feet first, and she didn't push me."

"I— I'm not like you all. I didn't fight in the war, I don't know what goes bump in the night, the shit I got wrapped up in in February is by any far the most fucked-up bullshit I've dealt with in my entire life, and I…" He bites his tongue, looking off and shaking his head. He comes back to the moment more quietly. "But this isn't about me. This is about her."

Looking back, he goes on, "I don't know what he's got her wrapped up in. But she did say he reminds her of who she used to be, starts dragging her back to it. Never in specifics, but like, saying it's dark, and…" Trying to think of anything more specific, he turns back to lock the door, pulling hard on the handle to make sure it's actually secure. "I don't fucking know I can live up to what she thinks I am, what she wants me to be. I can't be her north star if I can't even find my own."

"… At any rate, she knows exactly what she was getting herself into, Rich," he digresses with a mutter, sliding his hands into his pockets. "And for every moment he makes her feel terrible or scared, there are just as many where he makes her feel like a queen. I get to fucking feel it all."

"She loves him." Aman is all too sure.

"If you hadn't turned away from what was behind that poster, then I'd be worried about you," Richard replies dismissively, one hand lifting in a dismissive wave through the air. He leans back against the wall, one foot kicking up to rest against the wall and arms folding over his chest, "It's fucking terrifying bullshit, and I say that as someone who has more of a vantage point of the chessboard than most."

He rolls his head a bit to regard him, saying, "She does. She also loves you. You can love more than one person, after all."

A breath's drawn in, exhaled, and he shakes his head, "Just— just for the moment, let's make it about you. If you had to take down that poster and climb on through that hole in the wall to be with her, would you? You've had your glimpse. You've had time to roll it over in your brain. In the end, that's the decision you're making, so do you know which way you're making it yet?"

The question puts Aman off visibly, instantly. He turns to Richard, lost for a reply. He's glad, abruptly, that his emotions are his own at present. The guilt he feels for not knowing his answer— or for maybe knowing it instinctively— mounts in a way he's glad Odessa doesn't have to feel. He's not sure how he could answer her if she'd have asked him about it later, but he's sure he'd botch it about as bad as he does now.

"No," he answers finally. It's not the answer he wants to give, but it's the most honest one he's got. "No, because that's not something I've really thought about. A future with Des was not something I thought about until she confessed the other night."

He looks away, off into the dark and out to the end of the alley and the streetlamp that lies beyond. There's a long distance between here and there, one that feels poetic or ironic in this moment. "And I said some stupid shit, Rich. I said what she needed to hear, to give her a goal to work toward, to give her hope for a future beyond the end of her and Ace. But that didn't mean I'd fucking thought any of it through before it came out of my mouth."

"I—" Aman has to laugh at his own expense then. He's impressed with his introspection, but definitely not with himself in the moment. "I act in the moment, and I hope to hell I land on my feet when it's done."

“Eh, O says stupid shit all the time, she can’t hold it against you,” Richard dismisses, and then he breathes out a chuckle, “Well, think about it. Because you need to have an answer to that before you take another step — because it’s either gonna be through that hole or walking away from it.”

He pushes away from the wall, shaking his head, “So, that topic done, uh—” He glances back to the shop, then to Aman, “Do you need a better job or something? I mean, I know we have corporate couriers, if you want to stay in the same line of business…”

Well that's a hell of a topic shift. Aman peers back at Richard, an eyebrow arching up. "No offense, but no. Hell no. This isn't my dream job, but I've already walked out on Ande once, I'm not about to get poached out from under him in his own back yard." He sounds a little incredulous, even.

"But if we're on to things I've been dying to ask but there's not really been a chance to…" His eyes begin to narrow at Richard— at his sunglasses in the dark, at the way he'd suddenly appeared in the storefront, and maybe even something else. "What the hell is going on with that ability you're carrying around?" Aman tilts his head in open admission of a curiosity long repressed, an idle fascination bordering on academic making its way evident.

But he blinks and looks away, heading for the sidewalk so they're not just loitering back here waiting for someone to potentially call the cops on them for standing behind a business at this late hour.

Richard lets out a bark of laughter. “I can respect that kind of loyalty, just thought I’d ask,” he admits with an easy shrug, “It’s easier if I’m keeping all the eggs under one roof, as it were… heh. I guess that sort of thinking— well, nevermind.”

He pauses, then, a single eyebrow raising up over the edge of his shades, “…what do you mean?” It’s cautious. As if he’s unsure what exactly the other man’s asking about, but having answers either way.

He pushes away from the wall, then, moving to follow.

A faint huff of surprise and amusement both comes from Aman when it becomes clear Richard's considering him, for better or worse, an 'egg' in the 'basket' he's trying to craft. He's near enough to them all and apparently passed enough of a test to not be kicked out of that nest. Should he be glad? Should he be worried?

"I mean," Aman clarifies while they walk, a little lower, a little quieter, but without hesitation. He glances sidelong at Richard. "That whatever ability you're carrying around with you … is weird. I can't put my finger on it, so I figured I'd ask." For his part, he offers up so very little to indicate what's giving him his cues.

He lifts his shoulders in a demure sort of shrug, supposing, "But if mum's the word, I can go back to pretending not feeling what I'm feeling every time you get within arm's reach of me."

At the comment about his ability being weird, Richard stops dead in his tracks.

“And how can you… tell that? I thought you were a teleporter, Amanvir,” he notes. Which might explain why he was just trying to poach the man - teleporters are worth their weight in gold to most large organizations.

There’s a certain level of caution now in his expression as he regards the other man, brow knitting.

It sees an echo in Aman's expression after he realizes Richard's long-held understanding. And why wouldn't he have it? After all, Aman had borrowed the teleportation again before the trip to Canada a few weeks ago.

His steps trudge to a halt shortly after Richard's, and he turns halfway back to him, leaving the other man in his periphery while he stands several paces away. One hand comes free to rub at the bottom half of his face, wondering where exactly he should start. "Not exactly," is the first step, so he begins there. Afterward, he glances back to Richard and lets his hand fall out in front of him, palm up.

"I've got a side business I run," Aman begins to explain, a clear difference between him now as he talks about it and him most other moments. There's a professional solemnity to him. "Extremely confidential, all my clients are checked out before I agree to take them on. For those I let hire me, I offer a temporary negation service. Chemical-free, registration-free, short-term. After we reach an understanding about what their ability is and things to watch out for with it, I take it off their hands for them, just for a short while."

That sort of mindset might explain his unconscious terminology. An ability, for him, really is something you can just 'carry around' and give back.

"My ability lets me sense yours… in a way. The specifics are harder to place without either closer contact or picking it up for myself." He shakes his head before gesturing vaguely back at Richard. "But even at a range?"

He blinks, peering vaguely up at the painted concrete brick of a wall on the nearest side of the alley while he fishes for a metaphor. Slowly, he supposes, "If all abilities are gift-wrapped boxes, yours is in a different paper I've never seen before."

Richard’s reaction to the other man’s revelation may be surprising.

A half-step back, and he holds his hands up sharply as if defensively. "Jesus— never, uh, fair warning, never, ever try and use that ability on me, you'll probably— I mean, you could kill me, yourself, possibly anyone else remotely nearby."

He clears his throat, a bit paler than before, "Just. You know. Don't."

Instead of expressing open skepticism, Aman leaves his tongue glued to the roof of his mouth for a solid few seconds as he turns his head the rest of the way to Richard. Okay, what the fuck?

"Yeah, that's weird shit territory, all right," he inputs with a blithe lightness. A beat later, he points out, "Still doesn't explain a thing about it." He dithers a moment longer before popping an eyebrow. "I'm assuming you've got a good enough control on it?"

Aman gestures loosely between him and Richard, supposing, "I mean if not, depending on what it is, chances are I could offer some advice. I've dealt with a lot of different abilities over the years."

"I… that's not something I can really talk about unless, and until, you're willing to go down the yellow brick road, as it were," Richard admits with a shake of his head, stepping back forward again with a rueful expression at his own reaction, "I can control it well enough, or I wouldn't be out here where there are people."

"It may not react to meta-abilities like yours as… a normal ability would, though, I'll leave it at that for now," he admits.

That's Aman's cue not to pry, he supposes. Abilities are just abilities, pieces of genetic code that grant something fantastic to those who have it. Until, maybe, it's something more, based on Richard's reaction just then. But if there's one truth Aman's not in a rush to throw out the window, it'd be the one he partially makes his living off of, so he gracefully passes on it for now. "Well, if it gives you any trouble, you know where to find me if you want help. Wouldn't be the first time I've helped someone with a complicated situation like that."

They've gotten so far off track now, though, and it takes coming into the lamplight by the sidewalk for it to come back to him just how far they've strayed. The light shifts in the brown of his eyes as he lets his thoughts wander back.

"But anyway… as far as Des goes, I don't know what we can do for her aside from be there when she's ready to talk about it. Ready on her own to break away. Because if there's a part of her that still doesn't want to.."

His expression is far less certain than his tone would imply, betraying the conflict— maybe even hurt— he has about the matter. "All the words in the world won't matter."

“Oh, I wouldn’t say that. She’d never forgive me if I killed him, maybe, but there are other ways…”

Richard brings one hand up in a vague, dismissive wave, “But nothing you need to worry about. Just wanted to get your side of things. And—”

A wry look over, “You know that you could be filthy rich with that ability of yours, yes? Like, mansion and purse poodles rich. Meta-abilities are extremely rare.”

Aman's shoulders broaden as he shrugs, elbows out by his sides with his hands in his pockets. "Yeah, but would I make that money doing anything I want to do? Ending up as some… glorified radar or ability thief isn't what I want for me." Mouth flat, it quirks to one side in an uninterested pull. "I'd rather find ways to help people with my ability. Help them better understand theirs, or have a night off from it, or…"

He admits with a laugh, "Unless you're fully prepared to grift me on some way I can still do all that without any of the moral and ethical sellout…" Grinning, he shakes his head. His expectation that those expectations can be met are low. "I mean, I'm open to suggests, but—"

Nose wrinkling, Aman looks off down the street. "Bottom line, I'm just not interested in being anybody's tool. Whatever I do with me, it's on my terms."

“Well, I don’t blame you there,” Richard replies with a quiet chuckle, shaking his head a little, “As for moral and ethical, well— I didn’t mean stealing powers or detecting them or anything, I meant completely legit uses in the realm of science and research. Or I suppose all the ‘saving the world’ bullshit that we do as well, but that only started paying well recently.”

“But regardless, you know where to find me. If you need anything, Amanvir…” …Amanvir

When he looks back from the street, there are only shadows in the alley.

On the verge of replying, Aman looks back and whatever it was he was going to say floats away unspoken while he blinks twice, confirming what he's seeing is the new reality of the situation. He waits a beat, listening for the sounds of footsteps. "Oh cool," Aman airs with a light, false casualness, the hair on the back of his neck stiffening.

"We're dealing with Batman now."

He tilts his head back to the sky, willing a cool to wash over him that he doesn't actually feel in the moment. The exhale that comes from him is short and without actual relief of the unsettled tension that's crept into him. "Great," he whispers to himself.

Blinking, waiting to see if the shadows say anything else for longer than he likely needs to, Aman finally uncomfortably begins to head off down the sidewalk, still oddly feeling as though he might be being watched. "I know where to find you," he repeats to no one and nothing, sounding as awkward as he feels about that. "You know."

"Except right now."

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