Rats In The Walls


vf_elaine_icon.gif vf_elisabeth_icon.gif vf_lynette_icon.gif

Scene Title Rats In The Walls
Synopsis At least she didn't say 'cage', although that analogy works just as well.
Date November 11, 2011

The Hub

Although rumor hath it that there are new people in the Hub, they haven’t been seen much since they arrived several days ago — supposedly they’ve been in with Edward Ray and doing something questionable. You know how the rumor mill works. Today, however, at least one of them has ventured out into the mess hall. Slender but without the look of constant hunger that those here have from being underfed as a matter of course, she appears to be a blonde or sandy-brown of hair — it’s so short, it’s perhaps a little hard to tell just now. She’s wearing a pair of scuffed up and slightly too-large cargo pants cinched at the waist with a wide belt and a long-sleeved top that’s seen better days, like most of the clothing around here. And yet, for all that, there’s still the aura of not-quite-belonging.

Elisabeth has a tray at one of the tables, the bowl in front of her half-full still of today’s “lunch” — there’s a faraway look to her features that seems to have less to do with the oatmeal (?) that’s in front of her and more to do with being lost in thought. Her brow is furrowed slightly and she’s leaning on her elbows while she considers the far wall.

For a few days, Lynette has been missing from the common rooms of the Hub. Of course, that’s par for the course for the community, as she tends to disappear to isolation (ish) when she works on the electricity. Or what have you. But today, she’s here and she slips into the mess with her eyes scanning over those gathered. She’s heard the rumors, but even when she sees Liz there, she’s still looking. Whoever she’s looking for, it seems they’re not around, because she gives up after a moment and goes to get herself some water. She’s as malnourished as anyone here, but the food is given a pass all the same.

But since she did see Liz, and once she has her cup in hand, she comes over to drop down into a seat across from the new face. “Well, shit. I just lost a bet, I thought for sure you were just a story.” Lynette looks at her, like she might be considering reaching over to make sure Liz is a solid person and not a ghost or a hallucination, but she manages to keep her hands to herself.

Sitting off by herself in the room is a young woman. Her red hair is up in a messy bun, and she’s dressed in a pair of ripped jeans and a t-shirt that she’s practically swimming in. Elaine slowly eats her lunch—the usual fair, barely looking up from her food until she notices Liz. She gapes for a moment before closing her mouth and sitting up straighter. Gathering her courage, she lifts her tray of food and marches with confidence right over to the table… where her confidence drains away.

“Um, er, can I sit here? I mean if it’s not bothering you… I can always go back to my spot over there, it’s no trouble.”

Elaine does her best to stand up straight and at least look confident, even if she isn’t, and her attention turns briefly to Lynette. She figures the other woman is there for the same reason she is and she gives a timid but polite nod of greeting. Trying to say anything verbally would probably come out as a squeak at the moment.

Blue eyes come up to the new arrivals before they’re too close, so it’s clear that she’s at least got the survival skills to be aware of her surroundings even when she’s thinking hard. Her lips quirk upward at the corners just a bit at Lynette’s easy boldness, and she shrugs, “Sorry about that. Hope you didn’t bet much.” And then the redhead resolutely joins in, and there is something about her that makes Elisabeth immediately gentle her tone. “Of course you’re welcome to sit,” she remarks in a kind way. It’s an instinctive reaction on her part, clearly, and she gestures for both women to be welcome. “It’s nice to meet you,” she tells them. “Liz.” She offers her hand first to Lynette (since she arrived first) and then to Elaine.

“What have we got around here to bet?” Lynette says with a frown. It was probably meant to be a joke, somewhere in the back of her mind, but it didn’t make it out of her mouth that way. “Just who does which chores. Right, Elaine?” She folds the girl into the conversation quickly enough, patting the seat next to her. She looks at Liz’s hand when it’s offered, then over at Elaine, then back to Liz again before she reaches out to actually shake it. “Lynette. Rowan. I answer to either. So where’d you come from? I heard Ruiz was involved. He has a soft spot for strays,” she says, the first bit of warmth coming to her voice. And her expression.

“Right,” Elaine says, looking grateful that Lynette gave her some headway in the conversation. She moves, quickly sliding down into the seat before she shakes the offered hand and introduces herself. “Elaine Darrow. Just call me Elaine, everyone does… or they call me Miss Elaine, but that’s the children and you’re clearly not a child so Elaine is fine.” She shuts her mouth quickly and takes a bite of lunch to shut herself up at least temporarily.

Lynette Rowan is not an unfamiliar name to the blonde traveler — and now that they’re sitting, it’s definitely blonde there. Looks like Ruiz’s work with the trimming. But Elisabeth does her level best to keep her expression neutral at the introduction. Elaine’s name is not as familiar, but she smiles slightly at her as well. “Well, Ruiz was involved in that he got us settled in. K-Mart brought us in from the ruins. We were traveling.” She shrugs a little. “Kinda thought we might be the only two people left or something.” It’s not implausible. “‘Bout shit our pants when he appeared.” Not exactly a lie — he wasn’t an expected face when Liz got here. “I wouldn’t mind talking to you about which of the children were taking piano lessons, Elaine,” she offers kindly. “Apparently the last teacher took sick.”

Looking back at Lynette, Liz grins. “And I’m surely not betting chores. I’m pretty sure I’ll get stuck with the nasty ones, being lowest man on the totem pole. And if I lose, that’s twice the nasty.”

“Traveling, huh? In this weather?” Lynette looks over at Elaine, her expression wry. When it turns back to Liz, it’s more suspicious than anything else. “Not too many people do that anymore. I always meant to travel. You know how it goes, you get settled, the days start to fly by, and you just never manage it. Not the last two,” she says, hopping topics a bit with no real warning, “just nearly.”

Her frown deepens as she watches Liz address Elaine. If she meant to hide her suspicion, she’s really bad at it. Chances are, though, that she just didn’t try. “You can’t work with the kids,” she states, as if this were obvious, “we don’t even know who you are. Piano teacher,” she says the past words as if they might have been taken as some sort of insult. Or faux pas. “Jesus.”

Or she’s just really very bad at it.

“But don’t worry. There’s really no good chores to play for. Maybe…” she pauses, gaze flicking upward like she might be trying to come up with one. “Yeah, no, they’re all pretty rough.”

Elaine shares a quizzical look with Lynette before also returning her gaze to Liz. “Wow, you really must have been scared… and certainly glad once you got here to have some company. I don’t know what I would have done out there with only one person to talk to. Probably would have driven each other crazy.” Elaine shakes her head a little at the thought. “Glad I’m down here.” She nods after a moment.

But then Lynette comes with biting words. Elaine frowns, heaving a bit of a sigh. “Lynette, you don’t have to be mean. I don’t think she means us any harm even if her story is a little sketchy. We’ve let people in with less. If she can play piano, and can teach it, I don’t see what it hurts. I can supervise if you’re worried she’ll do anything wrong. And maybe when Liz feels more comfortable she’ll let us know the whole story. Give her a chance.” That’s Elaine, thinking everyone deserves a chance.

Actually, it makes her smile to have Lynette react that way. “Good for you,” she tells the other woman. “I wouldn’t trust me either, and I’m glad to see that people are being cautious.” There’s a slight shrug. “I’m happy to have a babysitter when the kids are around, if it will make everyone feel better. Let me sort out what my time is going to look like first? Mr. Rickham has asked me to look over some of the security protocols that are in place and make recommendations on where yet could be better. Perhaps you’d already have suggestions on that, Lynette.”

The blue eyes on Elaine are gentle again. “It’s okay, really. It makes me feel a lot safer that she is cautious. I have to admit that hearing there was a whole community here managing to stay under the radar made me… skeptical, at best.”

“Someone has to be mean, it might as well be me.” Because everyone else they’ve met has been nice, right? “And anyway, I am giving her a chance. I’m not throwing her out, am I?” Lynette looks over at Liz, her reaction getting a nod. “See, she gets it. We only survive because no one knows we’re here. Now two more people know where we are.” Which might actually explain why she doesn’t want to throw them out. They can’t tell anyone if they don’t go anywhere.

“I appreciate your understanding,” she says, careful, like those are not the words she wanted to say, but has chosen to edit herself. “I’m sure he wants to have fresh eyes on them. What do I know about security protocols? I’m maintainance.” Might explain the grease stains on her clothes and smudging her skin.

Elaine nods slowly as it seems the two women come to an understanding. “If you still want to teach the kids, I can make you a list of their names and ages and maybe some notes on their skill level. I’ve heard them all play before.” She offers a warm smile. “Unless you’re busy doing important security stuff.” She looks to Lynette as an aside. “Sorry for saying you were being mean. I know you just want to look out for everyone.”

“That would be lovely, Elaine. I have to admit that I’m really looking forward to it. It’s … been a long time since I taught kids to play.” Something in her tone, in the wistful expression that passes across her features, speaks to the truth of that statement. And to the fact that she clearly loves the activity itself. Pulling in a breath, though, she looks back to Lynette.

“In my experience, it’s the people who have their hands in the guts of a building who know the most vulnerable parts of it,” Elisabeth tells her candidly, meeting her eyes squarely. “And it’s my intention to do my part to keep the community as safe as I possibly can.” There is no give in her as she says that, determination written in every line of her face. “Volken is a scourge on the face of the Earth. I wouldn’t wish his tender mercies on my worst enemies, much less innocent people who have done nothing.”

Lynette looks over at Elaine, he expression difficult to read for a moment. But it breaks into something easier. “Don’t worry about it. I am mean,” she says with a sharkish smile for the younger woman. “If you think it’ll be okay, though, her with the kids, that’s okay. But you’re there with her, yeah?”

No offense, Liz. At least she’s honest about it.

She looks back over to Elisabeth to meet her gaze. Her eyebrow ticks up at the traveler’s words and she picks up her cup for a long drink. The days when she needs to use her power always have made her thirsty. But after, she sets her cup down and folds her arms on the table. “Well, you know how to talk, I’ll give you that much. We’ll see how much of that translates into action. What about this partner you came in with? What’re they good for?”

“I’ll get with Elspeth and we’ll make a list then.” Elaine says, nodding with satisfaction. Making sure those kids got their lessons was her highest priority. She nods to Lynette, offering her one of her most tender smiles. “I’ll watch her and the kids while the lessons are going on, that’s not a problem. So things should be just fine. I don’t predict anything going wrong with any of that.”

She nods again, focusing on both of them once more. When Lynette mentions Elisabeth’s #2, she perks up. “Oh, right, there’s another one of you. Please, tell us all about them. I won’t lie, you both are very interesting to me.”

“What is he good for?” Elisabeth gets this look on her face and seems… both amused and reluctant to actually say what’s in her mind at that moment. Getting us in over our heads, dropping us in the middle of fucking alternate worlds, getting us DEAD… he’s good at that. Is he actually GOOD at ANYTHING?

“Uhm… well, he’s a little hard to explain,” the blonde settles on. “I think it’s possible he’s bloody brilliant… and at the same time, the dumbest individual I’ve ever met in my life.” Why is she confessing this? Honestly, she has no idea — perhaps just because they’re perfect strangers and she can actually say the words out loud. “And honestly? I’m pretty well fucking terrified he’s going to do something stupid and get us kicked out,” she admits candidly. “So… there’s that.” She sounds almost… blase about the whole idea. But it’s not really amusement that shows in her eyes. More like surprise that she spoke her thoughts like that.

Lynette listens to the explanation with some interest. It grows the more Elisabeth talks. The confession gets an incredulous laugh. “Oh, he’s one of those types. We might have one or two of them around. He might fit right in, who knows.” It’s the latter part that gets her a sober up some. “Well. Maybe we’ll just keep a closer eye on him, then. Make sure he doesn’t stumble into trouble he doesn’t mean to get into. Elaine? Think you could help with that?” It’s possible that Lynette isn’t thrilled about personally babysitting such a person, but more than that — she has duties around here that require her more often than not. But she’ll pull her shifts. “It’s actually sort of hard to get kicked out. That’s a death sentence. Don’t put the community in danger, that’s pretty much the rule.” Common sense is all it takes. If… her companion has that. At all.

“I watch the kids all the time, what’s another to add to the collection?” Elaine actually giggles at that. “He sounds like he’ll fit in okay as long as you make sure he follows the ground rules. Some people are just those mad genius types.” Her gaze flickers between the two of them. “But I’ll do my best to keep an eye out for him when the kids don’t need me. Elspeth can keep an eye on them anyway.”

She taps her chin, the gears slowly turning about in her head. “What if we keep him occupied with a task. Something really hard that he might have to work on for a while.”

Elisabeth just shakes her head on a rather incredulous laugh. “Well, he won’t do anything to endanger the settlement, that’s for sure. I’ll rip his head off and shove it up his ass so far he’ll be eating his dinner through his belly button,” she retorts. “But I do think Edward is keeping him busy. Some kind of something the mad geniuses are theorizing.” She rolls her eyes expressively. Who the hell knows what goes on in the minds of mad geniuses??

Tilting her head, she observes in a quiet tone, “I can’t imagine what it’s been like to … live here like this. At least out there, you can kind of keep moving, travel the open areas, find places to hide in the mountains and stuff. But… here, under their noses like this? I’m… really really impressed, I have to say.”

“Is that what you do to the kids, Elaine?” Lynette asks with a smirk. Distraction. It works. “I don’t know if Edward keeping him busy is going to keep him out of trouble, exactly, but at least it’d be sanctioned trouble.” Who the hell knows, indeed. Not Lynette, that’s for sure. Her fingers reach out to take her cup by the rim and spin it idly against the table. No spilling. But the nervous gesture is just that, something to calm her nerves as Liz brings up the very raw wound that they all live with everyday. And try to ignore everyday.

“You’re about to find out. Hope you had a fascination with rats in the walls, Liz, because you’re about to become one.” That is a harsh truth, and she doesn’t sugarcoat it much. “Don’t worry, it’s great. You’ll get some work to do, you’ll fill the hours until you pass out, trying not to worry about when we’ll be found or when someone will make the mistake that lets the virus in here. And then you’ll wake up the next day and do it all again.”

She takes in a breath, like she knows she’s being difficult, and she looks over at Elaine.

“Have you seen Ruiz?”

“Some children are more difficult than others. If you give them a task and make them feel important for it, they work at it until they figure it out or eventually give up. It works on adults, too, if they have a certain childishness to them.” Elaine shrugs helplessly. “Works on me.” She gives a sheepish grin.

When Lynette lays out the reality of daily life for them, Elaine gives a half-smile. Even she can’t fully dilute the world that they live in. “You learn to take joy in the people around you, enjoy the little things. But people are important. Precious.”

“Ruiz… I haven’t seen him in a little while. He’s probably around here, cleaning something. It’s always safe to assume that. Or he got distracted by one of the kids. He’s good with them.” She explains for Liz’s benefit.

The blonde flinches at the mention of rats in the walls, and she nods slowly at the reality of the situation that they’re facing. She picks up the cup of water that she has in front of her to take a sip, grateful to have Lynette talking to Elaine for a minute. The thought of rats is one of those triggering things that make her… desperate to go home. She nods to the explanation of Ruiz. “He seems like a nice person,” she replies. “He’s the one who suggested the piano stuff when he found out I used to teach music.” There’s a shrug. “I guess in this world, we all just do what we can to get along… if I can bring a little light to a few people’s lives with some music, it makes it worth it to me.”

Lynette pushes up to her feet in a sudden movement. She pauses just after, like maybe it was too fast for even her. “Elaine’s smart. That’s some good stuff, Elaine.” She means it, even if she sounds a little edgy at the moment. In Liz’s reality, Lynette’s reputation is a woman of a calm demeanor and a dry wit. Whatever darkness she harbors, it’s tuck away from public view. But not this one. This one is an exposed nerve, frazzled and ready to blow at the slightest jostle.

The improvement over the years has been that she can see it coming now. And she knows not to stand there and let herself do something outlandish. Instead she nods. There is a lot of nodding. Ruiz is good with the kids. And is a nice person. And cleans things all the time.

Her hand grabs a hold of her cup and she looks between the other two. “Welcome to the hub, Liz. You and your friend,” she says, trying to sound nicer, gentler, “I’ll see you around.” And then she’s off, refilling her cup and ducking out of the room before anyone tries to pass off the food as oatmeal to her. Again.

“He is a good person,” Elaine confirms. “And I’m glad he suggested the piano. We’ve needed someone to teach and the piano gives us that little light in our lives. So do it. It may seem like a little thing, but I’ve seen the look in peoples’ eyes when they hear someone play a song. Especially if it’s one of the kids.”

Elaine waves off the compliment sheepishly. Another wave is given to Lynette as she parts and her gaze returns to Liz. “I hope you settle in here comfortably and that not everyone greets you like Lynette.” She grins.

“And I look forward to meeting your friend, too!”

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