Real And Imagined


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Scene Title Real and Imagined
Synopsis Isaac and Seren learn a bit more about each other and their respective abilities after escaping the scuffle at Red Hook Market.
Date November 27, 2019

Red Hook Market

Seren Evans exhales a long sigh that’s visible in the cold winter air as they step out onto the street outside Red Hook Market. Police officers freshly arrived on the scene are pushing past to get inside and establish a better hold on the situation they managed to flee unscathed from, and for a moment Seren’s eyes lid in thought. The fantastic creature curled around the back of their neck like a scarf lets out a quiet chirrup as he watches his summoner’s mood shift.

“Yeah, I just hope Shaw’s all right,” they murmur, adjusting the tote on their forearm so it’s less likely to cut off circulation. They pedal back another step on the sidewalk to better put the whole of the textile-factory-turned-marketplace visible in a single glance. “Seems like he has a bad stroke of luck following him around…”

Isaac Faulkner lets out a sigh of his own as he steps back outside, pulling his coat tighter around himself. "You're not wrong. I'm starting to see now why Isa wanted me to try and keep him out of trouble," he grumbles, shaking his head as he stops for Seren to adjust their tote.

As he waits, though, something occurs to him; he frowns, glancing to Seren. "Wait. You know Shaw too?"

Isa is not a name which prompts familiarity, which Seren might ignore if not for Isaac rounding at mention of Shaw. They lift a hand to tilt it back and forth in an uncertain wobble. “Not necessarily— but we’ve met before.” There’s a certain drop to the end of that statement, an unspoken sort of appended on it. “But he does seem to have a penchant for being in the wrong place at the wrong time. I feel bad just leaving him back there.”

Proverbial feathers ruffled at Seren’s continued worry about what side of the American penal system is going to show itself this evening, Baird shimmies his way up into a proper stand along Seren’s shoulders and begins to saunter down their arm, landing with apparent weight on the arm already bearing their purchased goods. His clownfish-patterned foxtail swipes the side of Seren’s face as he moves along, prompting them to wriggle their nose and pfft as Baird succeeds in his attempt to distract them. “Yeah, we definitely weren’t having a conversation or anything, bud…” they balk at the creature.

"There's nothing either of us could've done at that point; if we'd waded in, we'd have been bagged ourselves," Isaac says grimly… then out of nowhere, he laughs. "God, though. Did you see it? He took a swing at that lumberjack looking guy with a baguette!" he says, actually laughing for a moment.

He sobers quickly, though. "He'll be fine. The police'll probably hold him for a day or so and then turn him loose once they've sorted out who did what."

Isaac nods resolutely, then casts his gaze about for something else to talk about; the best way to stop worrying about this is to focus on anything else. Luckily, Seren has an easily available distraction in the form of the fox-clownfish looking thing running around on their…


"Hey… did something happen to Baird?" Isaac asks, eyeing the weird critter; it definitely looks different than the equally weird but quite different critter Seren had the last time they'd met… although there are definitely some similarities in the way it acts. Still, that can't be Baird, can it?

Isaac's logic seems sound, so Seren talents on the subject of the police with a glum nod. His laughter brings them out of it somewhat, a small smile tugging at the corner of their mouth. The mental image of the baguette is one they'd not lose for a while. "Yeah, he's fearless…" they agree with a short laugh.

They're oblivious to the question he poses about Baird. "Hm?" A look down confirms the figment is, in fact, fine. "No, I don't think so, he stayed with us the whole time."

A beat.

"Oh." It dawns on them abruptly. "No. No, no—" Seren turns back to Isaac with an embarrassed grin. "He was just feeling a little autumn today, I think." Orange and black and white aren't too far off, maybe. Fish, though?? Maybe it doesn't need to make sense. "He changes his look pretty often, but he's always himself."

To prove that point, the creature pounces toward Isaac— then spreads his arms and legs wide. A webby membrane pops into existence between limbs, creating a kite that catches an invisible breeze and lets him float about Isaac without so much as a bat of his limbs. He coos pleasantly.

If anything is like before, Baird doesn't seem to be content with being any one thing.

"He's one of my only friends who does that. Everybody else more or less looks the same— but Baird? He changes skins like people change clothes." Seren remarks, a bit proudly at that.

Isaac watches as Baird changes; as Seren speaks, his eyes narrow thoughtfully. "Huh," he says at last. "Pretty cool," he decides at last, mostly for lack of anything better to say. He'd originally speculated Seren was an illusionist… now, though, he's somewhat less sure. But the nature of what exactly Seren's power is isn't exactly important at the moment anyway. 'Friends' is maybe an odd choice of words… but then, he's called the shadows his friends now and again, hasn't he?

"You have… other friends like Baird?" Isaac follows up after a moment, arching an eyebrow as his gaze swings to look at them directly.

“Well, yeah,” Seren supposes, thoughtful. “There’s Dandy, and Orchid, and Kit, and Crow, and Coyotl, and … well, some of them don’t have names, but there’s a lot of them.” A distance comes to their eyes, a fond smile issued at the memory of them. “We used to have a friend named Puka who changed some like Baird does, but…”

Their eyelids flutter for a moment, coming back to the present. A tight frown takes over their expression before they shake their head. “Well, she doesn’t come around anymore. Back when Baird and my other friends needed to hide all the time, she would try to stay with me anyway — but there was always something that gave her away, you know? She used to pass really well for human, up until someone got close enough.” They let out a slow exhale, wrestling down a complicated set of emotions surrounding that. “Then after it was safe, after the Evolved — sorry, Expression became an out thing, I thought she’d come back and see me and Baird again.”

With a quirk of their mouth to one side in thought, they remark, “I even made sure not to wear any iron, in case that was keeping her away. But…” Seren starts to retreat into their thoughts again but tsks and comes back to the moment. “—But that’s all right.” They perk up, looking up at Baird as he circles them both, keeping a lookout for trouble, surely. Again they find themself able to smile. “We’ve made some new friends along the way.”

Looking back to Isaac, their brow lifts. “That’s just life, isn’t it?”

Isaac tilts his head slightly as Seren lists off their friends. The way they're talking about them, that distant look in their eye… it's like they're remembering a whole other world that Isaac will never see. Like the night is for me, he thinks to himself. There's something in that, he supposes. How the abilities they have shape totally different worlds around them… and yet, here they both are. Friendly acquaintances, standing outside the market, just the same as any two friends might.

But wait. Pooka?

Isaac's gaze flickers back to Seren, listening quietly as they tell their story. There's something… maybe a little sad about the picture they paint, though Isaac isn't quite able to pin down what it is. It comes to a happy end, at least.

"I suppose it is," Isaac laughs. "Things lost, and things gained…" he says, trailing off into some thoughts of his own… before he, too, snaps himself back to the present.

"Pooka, though… that reminds of a movie I saw once. One of those late night old time black and white films they'd run to fill up airtime on cable TV, when I was a kid; it was about a man who had a friend named Harvey. Harvey was a pooka, supposedly, though you never actually saw him; everyone else thought the man was going crazy, though Harvey turned out to be real at the end…" Isaac muses with a wry smile; strange, the things that start to look rose-colored when you're looking back on them.

His expression grows more serious as he regards Seren, though. "I'll not bedevil you too much about old friends, though I am a bit curious about the 'iron' bit," he admits.

Seren draws their arms around themself, flashing another small smile. The attentive listener has latched onto something of interest. It brings the storyteller away from the melancholy that had been flirting with them. For a moment they seem to consider proverbially winking it all off— like a magician who doesn't reveal their trick— but they shy away from that.

"Did you ever write when you were a kid? Write, or draw, or dream? Did you ever hear a story and it enchanted you in some way, and you kept it with you, at the same time making it your own?" Seren almost can't believe they're having this conversation given what they just walked away from, but they're at peace with letting it happen in this moment. Maybe it's even a little cathartic.

"I used to read all kinds of fairy tales and fantastic stories. When I was young, I found a copy of The Book of Imaginary Beings— an encyclopedia of creatures that might as well have been real. I don't know if it started then, necessarily, because Baird came before…" With a tsk, they shake their head once. "But I kept reading stories, kept reading myths, always with that what if at the front of my mind. There were certain ideas I became enchanted with. Protectors, mostly— guides and guardians."

Seren fails to stifle a laugh then at a thought that remains only their own for a moment longer. They lift a hand as they explain, "And I was really bad at names, then. I'm only slightly better, but, I think I did all right by Baird at least." The very same Baird coos from his position floating like a weighted balloon above their heads, more interested in Isaac and Seren than everything else— including those who pause to double take at the creature overhead. "Baird, and maybe Dandy." That one they do grin at mischievously, an explanation there remaining for another day.

They glance abruptly back at Isaac, folding their arms again. Knowingly, they confide, "It's said faeries don't like iron, and that's where Puka came from. That was her inspiration— the Celtic Pùca."

Isaac listens. He hadn't written in the way Seren means, or had much talent with drawing, but dreaming… ah, there they have his number. A small smile spreads across his face as Seren talks about their interest in guides and protectors… somehow that seems to fit with them, doesn't it? And being bad with names… well, when they can conjure up Bairds, being bad with names is definitely forgivable.

"So a Pùca was an actual thing… I wouldn't have guessed," he admits… then his grin starts to fade a bit, replaced by a distant expression. "With me," he says softly, "it was always comic books. Well. Comic books and late night TV." He chuckles. "My uncle always said that kind of thing would rot my brain, but so long as I did well on my homework and behaved myself, he turned a blind eye."

"I looked into myths a little bit, but with me it was always the monsters that I was interested in; heroes too, but mostly the monsters. And the monsters in some of those myths… some of them were pretty scary. The kinds of things that, if you had an active imagination, might seem to lurk in the shadows where you couldn't see. Waiting. Every click and rustle in the night a sign of their presence…"

Then he laughs brightly, whatever dark spell had been coming over him broken. "The monsters on the TV, in the comic books, they all seemed a little… easier to handle, I guess. A little… safer." He glances to Seren, grinning ruefully. "Just… don't get me started on Poltergeist. That movie scared the crap out of me."

When Isaac shares that bit of insight into his own world, a gentle smile overtakes Seren resulting from the light, pervasive happiness at that sense of camaraderie. Usually whenever people shared the way they used to view the world, it was done as quickly as possible, trying to gloss over it and return to a less-fantastic adult outlook. But Isaac? He slips right into that reverie with them.

Their smile breaks a little with a pang of understanding when he says the monsters in television and in stories all seemed easier to handle than real life challenges. Seren absently lifts a hand from their folded arms to rub over the tattoo on the side of their neck as they muse over it. They look back to Isaac with a knowing smile and a small hmph. “I think we’ve all got movies like those. Do you remember … Pan’s Labyrinth? That Hansel-and-Gretel-esque moment with the monster with those eyes?” Just in case he didn’t, they carefully lift both hands by the side of their face, half-covering their eyes with their thumb and palm. Re-enactment surely the best to show it off. “That stuff still gets me.”

Arms dropping again, they adjust the bag over their forearm again so their purchase doesn’t slip and fall to the ground. They look up at the floating Baird and call up to him, “Come on, you, let’s go.” Decidedly, Baird likes floating and does not come down. Seren waits only a moment before clapping their hands together, and pop goes a cerulean bubble around him. Noisy coos of dismay are cut off by the bubble’s existence as it quickly swirls its way down into Seren’s hands before popping, letting them catch Baird by the undersides of his arms. “Gotcha!” they tease him with a grin. The creature’s tail droops behind him to overstate just how unenthused he is about this, and a tiny pink tongue sticks out at Seren in protest while his back half continues to dangle in the air.

Isaac arches an eyebrow. He'd not seen that one, and 'the one with the eyes' sounds uncomfortably like something his childhood self would've imagined to populate the darkness. "I missed that one, I think. Definitely sounds like something that'd get me, though."

Watching Seren wrangle Baird draws a faint grin to his lips… but the lull in conversation slowly brings his mind back to the present; he regards the bag Seren's still holding, frowning faintly. "So. Were you able to get what you were looking for?"

“Yes!” Seren chimes happily, scooping Baird closer so he lays against their chest. “Well,” they amend on second thought while the creature settles in, their free hand bracing him so he doesn’t fall. They frown thoughtfully. “Not really— I’d meant to get a pie, but the woman selling the vouchers went and got arrested. I got a few small things, though — some good bread. Cranberry sauce, even if it’s canned. Hopefully that’ll make a nice addition to the meal tomorrow.”

It’s a long-belated thought, but they blink and focus back in on Isaac with new intensity. “Wait— what are you doing for tomorrow?” they ask with far more interest, even concern, than is likely merited.

… Then again, they’ve tried Isaac’s cooking. He messes up even microwave meals.

"Yeah, I saw that. She ran in and decked a guy…" Isaac chuckles, recalling the pie vendor's — Councilwoman's — enthusiastic approach to resolving issues.

Then comes the question about his plans. Isaac's expression twists a bit. "Not… really sure yet," he says grimly. "I was hoping to avoid cooking…" — after all, Isaac has also tried Isaac's cooking, and has a frank and unsentimental estimation of just how bad it is — "…but so far things haven't been going so well. The pie vendor got arrested, and I didn't really get much further than that. And now everyone's probably stirred up in there…"

"I dunno. Maybe if I stick to canned stuff, it'll be alright," he says, with the gloom of someone who knows that 'alright' will probably be a stretch. "Or maybe I can find a takeout place that's open."

With a sympathetic wince for his predicament, Seren almost leaps straight to offering him to join their meal. But— it’s not just theirs, and they should be cognizant of that. With some disappointment, they sigh as they wonder how Bella — private, private Bella — would react to a perfect stranger showing up with Seren for dinner. It wasn’t even like it was Rue! Oh no, should they have invited Rue??

With a shake of their head, they groan, “Maybe if you just stick to the instructions, it’ll all be okay. Or like you said, maybe there’s takeout or a bodega open … either something small, or something to splurge.” By the end of that thought, they sound a little hopeful. There should definitely be options, right?

Now it’s Seren’s turn to abruptly realize something. “Hey, um… when you asked us to look over you earlier…” How to delicately phrase this? They look back to him with genuine curiosity. “Were you doing something?” After all, he had appeared to be just standing there, for all his intense focus.

Isaac is silent for a moment, regarding Seren blankly… then… there's a tiny twitch of a secret smile at the corner of his lips. "I was," he admits. "Keeping that table stuck to the floor. I have a trick too, you see." He's not normally as quick to admit that in daylight… but…

What the hell, he thinks, glancing around to make sure that the coast is clear. "Would you like to see?"

Baird’s piqued interest is immediate, much less guarded than Seren’s as he lifts his head off of their shoulder, turning back to look at Isaac intently. But after a beat where they don’t seem to react at all, Seren finally nods. “Y-yes, that’d be amazing!” they say, careful to mind the volume of their voice.

Isaac had a superpower aside from burning water, and he was going to show them. Wow. They go to move a step closer to see, so hopefully he can show it off more stealthily, Baird wriggling in their grasp to get equally as good a look while his tail flickers behind him in interest.

Isaac chuckles quietly. It may be that he regrets his offer, a bit; he's not usually one to show off his trick very much, and while he has no issue with showing it to Seren, the prospect of demonstrating it on the street.. Is a bit nervewracking. But Seren's shared quite a bit; fair's fair, right? In any case, he's spoken, and now he's committed. Fortunately, the earlier disturbance seems to have put a damper on the number of people leaving Red Hook. He looks around, frowning, considering the angle of the sun, and considering how he wants to demonstrate.

Going full bore seems a bad idea… but there's still plenty he can do. He takes a step to the left, screening Seren from the street, and grins as he reaches out with his power. "Look down," he says, pointing to Seren's shadow…

…which, though still stretched out on the ground, is now in a different pose than Seren themself. Hands on hips, tapping a toe impatiently as it waits for Seren to recognize it.

Both Baird and Seren both lean in when Isaac steps back, expecting to see something then. When he gestures to look down, they don't seem to see at first, turning slightly to look. Then, their Bairdless shadow is noted and they let out a startled gasp. The edges of their irises immediately ring with silver. "Oh my god," Seren stage-whispers. "You're Peter Pan."

The knee-jerk reaction is far off the mark, but they're too excited to care or correct themself. They look down at their animate shadow, positively delighted. Baird leaps from their arms to sniff at the moving shade with interest, casting no shadow of his own at first. With a short narrowing of Seren's eyes, that changes— but the shadow takes on a distinctly black-blue shade.

That, and it can't be felt by the resident manipulator of darkness.

"That's wild!" Seren whispers as they look up to Isaac again, their mind abuzz with possibilities about what else he can do. "So— you take it, and— you…" Looking slightly off from him, they circle back as they breathlessly ask, "make it real? Make it tangible?"

Isaac's grin widens at the Peter Pan crack; maybe it's not exactly accurate, but it had been the reference he'd been going for. When Seren notices that their shadow is animate, the shadow shifts to a less impatient pose, waving cheerfully — then it waves again as Baird jumps down. It's at that moment that Isaac notices that Baird doesn't cast a shadow of his own, though that particular deficiency is quickly rectified by Seren… sort of. It's a 'shadow'… but even if the color wasn't off, Isaac can't feel it like he would a true shadow. Interesting.

Then Seren surprises him again by nailing the nature of Isaac's power in one shot; seems they've both been listening to him and they're sharp as a tack, which is delightful. Isaac's lips curl up into an even broader grin. "Ha!" he exclaims. "That's exactly it." He's a little surprised that Seren put it together that quickly… but then, their tricks do have a certain similarity to them, don't they? Especially in light of what Seren's been saying about their trick. "It's as you say; I can make shadows real," he says, making an effort to collect himself. He considers for a moment how he could demonstrate that… then, with a shrug, he reaches into his pocket and pulls out a quarter, tossing it towards Seren's shadow's hand…

…and with a modicum of mental effort, he has the shadow reach up and catch it from midair. It holds the coin for a moment in one hand, then flips it back to Isaac, who catches it in turn and drops it back into a pocket. On the ground, Seren's shadow strikes a pose; if it could speak, surely it would be saying TA-DAH!

The demonstration of just how real Isaac makes things is a dizzying marvel, one that makes Seren's heart ache just a little with envy. "Wow," they whisper again, applauding for the shadow's good show with a quiet clasp of palms. They leave their hands together, settling their mouth against the curve of their knuckles.

At sensing the shift in mood, Baird immediately turns back up toward Seren. He blinks once, and then his form bleeds dark, orange pushing to the outside of his figure. He stands on haunches that lengthen like the rest of him, growing quickly in size and shape to become a second orange-ringed shadow self that slips off to the side of Isaac's hijacked projection. The shadowBaird sets hands on hips, proving a point.

See? the action says.

Seren lowers their hands with a small smile. "Right you are, bud." they murmur at their second shadow, who rubberbands out of the human shape he'd taken and back into something more foxlike again. Entirely black and white now, he floats inside an orange bubble similar to the one from before, curled into a ball while he peers at both Seren and Isaac over his paws.

Isaac's lips curl into a broad smile, eyes widening in surprise at Baird's antics; with a moment's thought from Isaac, Seren's shadow raises a hand to its face, as if in surprise.

But as much as Isaac may be enjoying showing off — it's something he doesn't do all that often, after all — Baird's got a point. Enough is enough… and so, as Baird shifts out of his shadow form again — now becoming something that looks like a monochrome fox in a vivid orange bubble that Isaac is compelled to admit seems adorable — Isaac has Seren's shadow offer a final wave, and then he lets his attention slip away from it, and it's just a shadow once more.

"It's a neat trick, I think," Isaac offers — not without a certain sense of satisfaction at how visibly delighted Seren is. "Very useful if something rolls under the couch," he adds wryly.

Seren can’t help but wave back at their own shadow before it resumes being something ordinary. They’ve never particularly thought of that part of themself as being imaginary-friend material before, their projections always more external… but now they’ll wonder at it, even if it won’t be the same as Isaac’s trick bringing it to life.

“It’s amazing,” they enthuse softly, lifting a hand to touch the bubble Baird is encased in. Black ripples sheen over its surface with a single tap, but it doesn’t pop. “Honestly, I never would have imagined knowing someone who could do something like that. It's…" There's not a good way to describe it, apparently. Despite that, they do their best. Pulling their hand back to themself, with a flourish of their wrist Seren is holding onto a single, long feather. With a sheepish smile, they let the feather go. The wind takes hold, the feather spinning toward Isaac's chest. It disappears just at the moment of impact.

Isaac blinks. He doesn't entirely get it, but… at the same time, he thinks he gets it at least a little, and what he does get is enough to elicit a soft, slightly awkward laugh. At this point, ordinarily, he might make a self-deprecating jab to break the silence before it gets too heavy, but in the face of Seren's sincerity he doesn't have the heart for it; when someone is being that earnest about something, taking shots at it — even in a playful fashion — is taking shots at them, too.

So Isaac is forced to be sincere in turn, and… he's not really good at it. "That seems like… pretty high praise," he says quietly. His trick is pretty awesome, and normally he'd be the first to admit it… but Seren didn't exactly lose the lottery when it came to real life superpowers, either. High praise indeed.

Well. Standing around and shuffling his feet isn't going to accomplish anything for anyone, now is it? No. Time to get it together. "Well. You've got a pretty neat trick yourself, you know?" he asks, gesturing to Baird and giving both of them a quick grin… though that settles into a more thoughtful expression quickly. "Our abilities have some common ground, I think… but I'd bet that our… approaches? Methodologies?… are pretty different," he muses… then shakes his head with a chuckle. "Though I think if start having that conversation, it might take awhile. And you've probably got somewhere to get with those groceries, right?" he asks with a grin. His own grocery run is probably out of the question at this point, but that just cements his own plans for tomorrow's Takeout Thanksgiving.

Seren had gotten entirely sidetracked, but Isaac brings things back around. "Oh!" they exclaim, remembering the bag on their arm. "Yes, I probably should." They look off as another police cruiser rolls up, lights flashing. A frown is issued at it. "Definitely probably should, before things get more … hectic around here."

Looking back to Isaac, they issue him a small smile. "It was good to see you. I know Baird's been glad for it, too, despite everything that's gone on." Seren's smile only grows. "I'll be thinking about you, hoping you get a good meal tomorrow."

Isaac's grin remains, though it shifts slightly towards the sardonic. "I'll try not to poison myself too badly," he smirks, raising a hand in farewell. "Take care. Both of you," he says, turning to take his leave.

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