hollis_icon.gif jim_icon.gif orwell_icon.gif peyton_icon.gif

Scene Title Reconnaissance
Synopsis A group from Winslow-Crawford Academy scopes out its new location on Roosevelt Island while Jim gets a vision of something else altogether.
Date February 20, 2020

Roosevelt Island, Winslow-Crawford Academy

Emerging from the dusty ground of Roosevelt Island, towering modern buildings loom high overhead. Glass windows reflect back the early afternoon sun and blue skies. Everywhere is the industrious cacophony of construction. Some buildings are completed; others are covered in scaffolding for the finishing touches, and some are still skeletal, mere frameworks of beams that fill in a little more with each passing day.

This is an adult-only field trip from and to the Winslow-Crawford Academy. The small group of has been led by one of the construction leads through the expansive new Winslow-Crawford campus, to the school itself. While the administrative wing is complete, they still have to wear hard hats and have been instructed to wear sturdy, close-toed shoes — luckily for the more fashionably-inclined Peyton, it’s winter so boots are in season.

The founder and dean of the academy stands a little wide-eyed as she looks around. The Toronto campus was an old manor that had been converted to a school; the Brooklyn College campus was one small two-story building with about ten classrooms. This school is larger than both combined, a state-of-the art facility, without even counting the adult learning facilities or research center that bears her parents’ names.

“What do you think?” Peyton asks those she’s brought with her today: Hollis, Jim, her deputy dean Marisol, board member Juan, and the painter Orwell Gidding — the latter because he’s agreed to paint a few murals for the lobbies and shared spaces.

Jim has been relatively quiet on the way — not unnaturally quiet, but thoughtfully quiet. He had engaged enough in whatever conversation there was to be had, but most of the trip was apparently reserved for whatever was going on inside his head. Maybe he was preparing himself for whatever they were going to see. If that’s the case, though, it doesn’t completely take away from his reaction when they actually get there.

“Wow.” It’s not finished yet, of course, but what is there certainly deserves a ‘wow.’ “This is amazing.” He looks up, squinting and shading his eyes with one hand, before a smile spreads on his face. “Do I get to pick my office?” he asks after a moment as he turns to Peyton. “If I do I’m putting in a bid for one of the ones on the top floor. It probably wouldn’t be practical to get sick kids up there, but at least we’d have an amazing view.” He’s probably joking.

“It looks great,” he continues a little more seriously, his hands pushing a little deeper into the pockets of his coat to ward off the chill. “Is everything still on schedule?”

Hollis Fitzroy has been taking everything in with a sort of wide-eyed appreciation. She’s a bit more gregarious than Jim - at least for the moment - and has been willing to offer conversation and commentary here and there, light and unobtrusive as she can manage. This new structure is the focal point, after all. Not her thoughts.

But, since she’s been asked… “I ain’t never seen anything so fine in my whole life, Sweet Pea,” Hollis commends in the thickly southern accent that’s persisted even after years spent in northern Canada. “I’ll bet even the sub-basement would be stunning.” Which isn’t to say she’d like an office down there, but it probably wouldn’t be the worst.

“Isn’t it amazing?” Peyton says, pulling out her camera to take a few photos, fingers sliding over the glass to send those to a few of her friends not on the trip.

She grins over at the comments on office choices. “I’d imagine most of the administration offices will be on the first couple of floors, especially the infirmary, but we’ll make sure there’s a staff lounge or something that everyone can enjoy up top. Oh, and a roof-top garden!”

Orwell’s rabbity energy finds the man glancing around, his gray eyes darting from one building to the other, one person to the next. His fingers twitch toward his pocket, but stop short of pulling out whatever it might be he wants in there. Cigarettes. Given he’s at a construction site and technically a school campus, he’s probably not supposed to be smoking.

Instead he takes a long gulp from the to-go cup he’s brought with him. It isn’t coffee, surprisingly, given the jitteriness he seems to exude; a green-tea tag drapes down the side of it. He doesn’t look much like the green tea type.

“Would you like to see the lobby?” the construction lead asks, gesturing them to the doors. “We’re still working on sealing the floors in the other first-floor rooms along with the stairwells, and we’re not cleared to run the elevator yet, but they should be ready to view next time you come out, Ms. Whitney.”

Peyton’s eyes light up and she nods, turning to Orwell. “I think one of your paintings will go in the lobby. The others, I’m not sure. We can decide later when we see the finished product, maybe?” she suggests, as she follows the construction lead into the expansive lobby — a half-circle shape with plenty of light coming in through the floor-to-ceiling walls along the curving front. There’s room on the back wall for a large painting, behind what would likely be the reception area.

“I feel like having the nurse in the sub-basement might have people drawing some conclusions that aren’t the best,” Jim remarks, though there’s a good-natured grin at Hollis as he says it. “Anything medical happening in a basement always makes me think of a morgue.” It’s said lightly, however, since clearly there’s not going to be any of that on campus. No, the kids will be fine, everyone. No need to worry, surely. “I’ll take a rooftop garden, though. That’d be really lovely.”

When they’re offered the lobby tour, Jim nods, too, following along after the group and looking around with wider eyes. “I like how bright it is in here,” he says. “It’ll be nice even in the winter.” One hand comes out of his pocket and to run a finger over some surface or other that’s in reach, but it’s brief before he turns back toward the group.

“You aren’t wrong there,” Hollis agrees with Jim in a tone that’s kept jovial, but has an undercurrent of understanding about the kind of message it might send. The kids will be alright if the pair of them have any say in it, at the very least. “We can get a horticulture club going, maybe.” She’s thinking ahead, but she’s always been angled toward practical skills that can aid in survival in the event of an apocalypse. Gardening happens to fall into that category.

The southerner’s blonde head tips back as she regards the high ceilings and the expansive windows, an absent little smile on her lips. It’s clear she’s as excited about this place as Peyton is. She’s pleased to see the woman’s work and dreams coming to fruition. New York needs a place like this. Has for a long, long time. But it’s Orwell that catches her attention when her head comes out of the clouds again. She’s willing to be there’s a string taped to the inside of his cup and that there’s no tea bag attached to it. Just a nice little tag that implies a calming beverage. If it were her, it’d be Kentucky bourbon. She slants him a grin, “It’s really somethin’, isn’t it?”

Peyton grimaces at the mention of basement medical practices and morgues. She’s certainly seen her share of mad science from both her own eyes and through others. “We’ll keep you ground floor or higher,” is all she has to say on the matter.

“The gardens and animals in Toronto definitely were a hit. I’m not sure if we really have the space here for any pygmy goats, but we definitely have room for some gardening. We have a couple of agrokinetics coming in next year as well, so they need room,” she grins, “to, well. Grow.” She shrugs at the unintended pun that she saw coming but couldn’t stop.

When Hollis addresses him, Orwell jumps, and he grins, a bit abashed. “Sorry, Yes’m, it sure is something.” He doesn’t have a southern accent, but he seems to be picking up hers. He too fishes out a phone to take a picture of the space, then moves closer to the wall that Peyton indicates, using the measuring tool on his iPhone to get the dimensions.

Of course he has to wave his phone around for a while to calibrate it, so he stands there moving his phone in slow circles. “This is worse than Pokemon Go,” he asides to no one in particular.

“That sounds good.” Jim doesn’t comment further on basement morgues or creepy medical experiments, either — you’re welcome, Peyton — and instead focuses on the idea of a garden. “I’m putting my vote in for strawberries in the summer.” His gaze sweeps the room again, and while he doesn’t look as obviously excited as some of the party, there’s a sort of quiet optimism about his expression, imagining what this could look like when it’s finished.

He has the presence of mind to move out of the way of Orwell’s measurements, though, as a chuckle escapes him. “I haven’t thought about that game in a long time,” he admits. “But I used to hatch a ton of eggs walking around the floor.”

“S’long as I get some blackberries,” Hollis interjects, “I’ll be a happy woman.” She, too, is perfectly willing not to dwell on the kinds of medical work that’s historically happened in deep, dark basements in this country. (Or any other, for that matter.)

While she gives Orwell his space, Hollis is craning her neck to look over his shoulder while he works, clearly both amused and interested in how he does what he does. “I tried to get into that one.” Pokémon Go. “Figure out what all the youngsters were so into and all’a that, but… Too much darn inventory management for me.”

Peyton’s brows lift at the mention of Pokemon, and the go from one adult to the next, and soon Marisol and Juan both admit to having played the app.

“The old me would make fun of you all for being a bunch of nerds,” the former socialite says, grinning, “but now I realize that I hire the best and smartest people to do the things I have no idea how to do.” Well, Juan isn’t hired, but they get the idea.

She too glances at Orwell as he takes his measurements, tipping her head at the shaggy-haired man. “What are you thinking?” she asks, voice soft so as not to distract him from any artistic inspiration.

He looks at her, then over his shoulder at the glass and the world outside, squinting a little. “I think something in pale blues, really luminous, you know? Like capturing the way the sky looks coming through the glass? Maybe something with the new bridge… like a metaphor, bridging the past to the present, yeah? Like, that’s kinda what this place is, isn’t it? All the shit that happened here before the war, and now, it’s all… I don’t know. Shiny and bright and promising. Especially with the kids here.”

Peyton’s dark eyes fill with tears, and she puts a hand on his shoulder, squeezing. She doesn’t seem to be able to answer with words, though, and looks to Hollis then Jim to answer instead.

“Pokemon Go was a global phenomenon,” Jim says in a little bit of a lofty tone as he looks over at Peyton, though he can’t keep the straight face for too long before it breaks and he laughs again. “Besides, nerds are highly underrated.” Hollis’ quibble with it does get a nod of understanding, though.

He quiets then as Orwell speaks up, and the amused expression shifts again to that quiet but steady hopeful expression he’d had a moment before. A glance to Peyton reveals her tears, and so after a moment he picks up the reply, his own voice quiet, but steady. “I like that,” he says, and he nods again, just once more, decisively. “It’s a beautiful thought. A happier future.” He turns back toward the windows, but his gaze is focused somewhere in the middle distance rather than on the world outside as he continues, “I don’t think it’s possible to have too much shiny and bright in the world right now. Or ever, really.” But especially now.

Hollis looks to the blank space Orwell is studying, then out the window, and back again, trying to visualize what he’s suggesting. She doesn’t know the New York City of old. Had never lived here before either bomb. All the same, she nods approval. Seeing that it makes Peyton happy is enough for her to think it must be good.

“Oh, there’s a lot you can find even in the darkness if you know where to look.” There’s a little smile that comes from Hollis at that assertion. There’s a little bit of a private joke there, but she also has a reputation for a sunny disposition in the face of calamity.

The painter glances down, then fumbles around patting his coat pockets until he finds a pen and little moleskin notebook to jot down the dimensions and ideas. Peyton looks at the phone in his hand to the notebook, but smiles and doesn’t make the obvious suggestion — after all, he’s the creative genius, not her.

“I’m good,” Orwell declares after a moment, and the construction guide nods, stepping back outside into the bright February day outside.

“Let me show you the other facilities,” he begins. But at that moment, Jim’s attention pulls skyward. The blue sky is garbed in wispy white clouds here and there, not thick or plentiful enough to obscure the sunshine. A flock of gulls take wing, black M-shaped silhouettes against the pale blue canvas.

The black sky glitters with stars above the tall gray buildings. Dark windows suggest the city sleeps, though here and there white or golden light fills a rectangle. There’s always someone awake, someone stirring, even in the dead of night.

Suddenly Jim can see through the walls of the buildings as if the walls have been cut away for him. Every room in every building has a sleeping figure within, each shadowed in a gray-blue dusk.

From somewhere above, he can hear a child’s voice, reciting in a sing-song manner:

“Love, in my sleep I dreamed of waking,
White and awful the moonlight reached
Over the floor, and somewhere, somewhere,
There was a shutter loose, — it screeched!”

Wispy silver tendrils that look like they were wrought of moonlight seep through the doors and windows of the sleepers’ rooms. They wind their way blindly into the ears and nostrils and mouths of the sleepers. Closed eyelids flicker, animated by dreams. They toss their heads on sweat-damp pillows. They murmur. They cry out.

Looking up, he sees above the buildings an angel, hovering in the air. Her eyes are closed, her head bowed, her body slack but for the wings that seem to hold her aloft.

“True,” Jim agrees with a quiet laugh, “but it’s nicer when you don’t have to look quite as hard.” His attention is pulled back to the window, a little smile still on his face.

However, when most everyone else starts to turn away from that window, he does not. That smile starts to fade, too — first to just a neutral expression, then to something that could only be described as ‘blank.’ His mouth opens slightly as he stares upward, his eyes fixed on the clouds. Fixed, yet somehow still giving the impression that he isn’t actually looking at what is there.

Seconds pass, and then turn to a minute. Then, two minutes. Jim continues to stand there, unblinking, his body completely still. He almost doesn’t seem to breathe, and should anyone attempt to rouse him or move him, he will not respond.

While the group starts to move on, Hollis is the first to notice that Jim isn’t trailing along behind them. She furrows her brows and starts back toward him while the rest continue on. “You, uh… You comin’?” she asks quietly, following his gaze and realizing it isn’t actually focused on anything.

“Hey, we’re just gonna catch up to y’all, okay?” Hollis calls back to the others, tone lighter than the concern that’s settled in her chest. Whether she knows what’s happening here or not, she’s prepared to wait it out standing at his side so she can be prepared to catch him if he pitches forward or back suddenly, like she might for someone about to go grand mal.

All the same, she casts a look back to Peyton, knowing in her gut that she’ll find her looking back.

Peyton does look back once she’s outside, to make a comment to the rest of the team. Her eyes fall on Jim where he stands dumbstruck, and she rushes back in. Orwell follows, while the others outside congregate to wait and chat with the construction lead.

“He’s okay,” Peyton murmurs, one hand gently touching Jim’s arm so he knows she’s there once he pulls out of it. She watches his face for signs of his return to the present. “You’re okay, Jim. We’re here,” she says softly.

Orwell studies Jim’s face, his curiosity clear. “He’s having a vision right now, huh?” he says, his gray eyes wide. “Mine don’t come like this. He and I talked about it once. I can’t tell when I paint if something’s foretelling anything or not, what’s inspiration and what’s more,” he explains to Hollis. “Unless it’s something I plan out in sketches like I’ll do for these paintings.” He nods to the space on the wall his painting is meant to adorn. “But if I just start with a blank canvas, I never know what I’ll get — Dogs Playing Poker or an Eve Mas wannabe.”

It’s a good five minutes before Jim shows any signs of coming out of it. Luckily, he does not need catching — it’s much more gradual than that. First, a few slow blinks, and an audible gasp, finally taking air fully into his lungs after a few minutes’ worth of shallow breaths. “Rapping at the window,” he murmurs, still looking in the direction of the clouds, “crying through the lock.” It’s so quiet it’s almost inaudible, or might be if Peyton and Hollis were not standing right there.

Suddenly, his head snaps toward the hand on his arm, and then up to Peyton’s face. “Are the children in their beds?” He sees her but doesn’t see her, his expression still lost in whatever else he’d just seen. His other hand comes up to grip the one on his tightly, urgency evident in that wide-eyed expression he’s turned on her.

This time, though, it’s only a matter of seconds before he seems to realize what he’s just said, and his whole demeanor shifts as he lets go of her. “What?” There’s an obvious wince, and then some embarrassment as he looks from Peyton to Hollis. “Shoot,” he continues, in a much more normal tone, “Sorry, I’m sorry.” His hand reaches up again, but now it’s to press against his temples in a clear sign of a sudden headache.

Hollis nods to Peyton’s assurances. All the same, she doesn’t ease up in her own vigil. It’s better with someone else there, so she doesn’t feel like she’s got to cover all the bases on her own, but she still has Jim’s back, in a very literal sense. When he doesn’t need it, the tension slowly starts to unwind itself from the older woman’s shoulders.

“It’s alright, sug’,” she assures in a quiet, soothing tone. She’s used to playing the mother hen with people of all stripes. “Just let us know what we can do for you. What do you need right now?” Hollis definitely did not just glance to Orwell’s probably-not-tea mug again or anything like that. “A chance to sit down? Something to drink? Eat? Someone to talk to?”

Hollis catches herself and grimaces. “Sorry.” Jim’s a grown man and he doesn’t need a southern aunt to help him through this.

Peyton’s eyes widen at the nursery rhyme lines Jim says. She doesn’t recognize it, and it’s a weird thing to say that she isn’t sure how to respond to. She looks to Hollis, who luckily has better words of support than she does.

Orwell recognizes the little scrap of a poem and says solemnly, “For now it’s ten o’clock.” He offers a small contrite smile. “Sorry, I had to get it finished in my head, you know? Otherwise it’d be rattling around there for days.

He peers at Jim, blinking a little owlishly. “Did Jim break?”

But then Jim apologizes, and Peyton shakes her head adamantly. “Don’t be sorry. You’re okay. How bad was it?” The last question is softer than the others, and she looks like she doesn’t really want to know the answer. She’s seen terrible things and knows the frustration of not being able to fix them — he has the added anxiety of visions that speak truths in metaphor that need to be deciphered, and the pressure of knowing how to change them.

“Huh?” Orwell’s supplying of the last line gets a look of confusion, but it’s very brief before understanding dawns, as though Jim is only just now realizing what he’d said. He nods, letting out a little laugh that draws another wince, though it’s slight. Whether it’s really slight, or that he’s making it out to be less than it is, is hard to tell. “Someone told me once that’s how people used to get Beethoven to wake up. Playing a scale, but leaving out the last note. He’d have to get up to finish it.”

He looks back to Hollis then as she speaks, and whether he’s an adult or not, the look on his face is grateful. Appreciative. He shakes his head at the apology, instead admitting, “I think I need to sit down, yeah. And maybe some water. Thank you.” Though he remains standing there, as yet unable to think about doing two things at once. Moving and talking, it’s hard. He could probably be led, though. “I’ve seen worse.” This to Peyton, with an attempt at a reassuring smile that doesn’t quite make it there, but at least it’s close. “I’m not…I saw people asleep, and this mist was making its way into their houses. Into them, into their ears, their noses and their mouths. There was an angel…” There’s a bit of that far away look again, before he shakes his head as though to clear it. “I don’t know. Dreams. Something about dreams.” A pause, before he concedes with a tiny note of frustration, almost imperceptible, “Maybe. Maybe not.”

Hollis gives Jim’s arm a reassuring squeeze before she moves off outside to find their tour guide and request that he get a bottle of water from the construction crew stash for their friend. When she returns, it’s on the tail end of Jim’s explanation. “Aaaand you’re still standing,” she chides. In an instant, she’s at his elbow and guiding him toward a bench in front of one of the windows. Before she guides him to sit, she tests to make sure the thing’s actually been installed instead of simply staged, leaning weight against it to ensure it’s load bearing.

Once satisfied, she gently nudges Jim to sit. “Should have water for you shortly.” Hollis darts a glance between Peyton and Orwell. “Either of you got hard candy on you? Lifesavers? Werther’s? Something like that?” Sugar, in other words. Something to give him a boost.

Peyton listens to the explanation of the vision, her brows still drawn together with worry. She doesn’t press for more details, but looks to Hollis when she asks for candy.

She’s a mom with a mom bag. Of course she has candy.

Peyton reaches into her purse and finds a Jolly Rancher — green apple, so hopefully Jim likes tart flavors — and presses it into his hand. She looks like she’s about to say more, but Orwell, nearly bouncing with energy, does instead.

“Jim with the mad trivia skills!” he says, his grin big, but then says, more solemnly, “I swear to God I had that same vision. Like years ago. I have a painting with it… somewhere. I never sold that one. It’s sorta creepy,” he confesses. “And it was before people decided I was, you know. Precognitive.”

He focuses his gray eyes on Jim. “Was the angel flying or, like, just chilling out with the sleeping folks? In yours?”

“Oh!” Jim looks around himself at Hollis’ words, and there’s another wryer smile when he finds himself…yes. Still standing. Oops. He does not resist her directing him to a convenient and sturdy bench, and sits down at her urging, too. “You have great auntie energy,” he says with a smile up to Hollis as he accepts the Jolly Rancher form Peyton. “Tell Jonah I’m sorry for taking his candy,” he quips as he unwraps it, popping it into his mouth. There’s a softening of his expression as he looks from Peyton to Hollis then, and another, “Thank you.” Simple, but obviously heartfelt. He does look a little better now from the ministrations, and he’s certainly glad to be sitting down.

Orwell’s admission, though, has him looking that way, and there’s an interest laced with some concern. “Really?” He reaches up to rub his face as he considers, then continues, “She was hanging there. Just…suspended, above the building with the mist, with her eyes closed.” There’s a beat, before he adds, “Yours, too?”

Hollis chuckles quietly and looks like she might be resisting patting Jim on the head like he might be a favored sweet nephew. “Had to look after a lot of lost sheep,” she offers as a sort of defense for her actions and her kindness. “I do what I can.”

Orwell pulls her attention away, however. That kindly expression shifts into something a little harder, more serious. That whatever Jim saw was seen by someone else shouldn’t be a shock, should it? That should be how precognitive visions work, but that they can identify similar visuals is unexpected to her. “I thought most’a that was abstract,” she admits. Not that either men experienced a clear vision of what’s to come. Clear vision is her gift. Just only in hindsight, like anybody else, as the saying goes. “Angels, huh? Wonder what that could mean.”

Hollis’ words about looking after lost sheep draws a small, appreciative smile from Peyton — definitely one of her flock for a time. Now the clairvoyant has her own flock to mind.

“Yeah. So weird!” Orwell’s eyes are wide as he looks from Peyton to Jim to Hollis. “I mean, I’m sure it’s abstract… but things like that are usually metaphors for me. Sometimes I get a super clear one that seems to mean what it is without a lot of room for, you know, interpretation. I painted a car accident once. Like, even as I was painting it, wondered why the hell I was painting it. I really appreciate when they’re a little more…”

He looks around before settling on the word, “subtle.”

One hand comes out to lightly punch Jim’s shoulder. “Am I right, man?”

Peyton looks torn between reprimanding Orwell and letting his exuberance lighten the mood. She makes eye contact with Jim to slightly roll her eyes, out of Orwell’s line of sight, then offers him an apologetic smile. “Jonah won’t mind,” she assures Jim. “And I have some headache pills. Orwell, can you be a sweetheart and grab some water? Rick likely knows where you can get some.” That’ll get rid of the rabbit for a few moments, anyway.

Orwell nods and heads for the door, a man on a mission.

Now that he’s been seated for a minute and gotten a sugar shot, Jim looks quite a bit better. He’s still squinting a little bit more than he might usually, those floor-to-ceiling windows that let in the light so well are a double-edged sword right now — but he’s talking normally. “They are,” he agrees with a nod to Hollis after Orwell’s explanation. “Most of the time. I almost never see things like they end up.” The light punch on his shoulder draws a grin, too — again, it’s wry, but genuine. “You’re not wrong,” he continues with a nod.

It’s obvious he likes the young man, though he might appreciate that tiny reprieve from that more enthusiastic energy. At least until he gets his headache under control. He meets Peyton’s gaze as his smile spreads just slightly when the man departs, before it fades again into something more thoughtful as he looks back to Hollis again. “Me, too,” he admits. “I’ve seen angels as protectors before, but this didn’t really feel like that.” Which is probably not surprising. “Death, of course, maybe. Or just something else supernatural represented as an angel instead. Angels can be messengers, too. But this one wasn’t doing much, so…” He shrugs, a little helplessly. “Maybe that mist was the message. I don’t know.”

“Angels and mist and people sleeping,” Hollis murmurs thoughtfully. But she shrugs, because this is not her area of expertise. Her gaze wanders after Orwell absently for a moment. She vibes with his enthusiasm, but she’s also not the one who sees strange visions of the future. At least there seems to be some kind of happy medium, a step below Eve Mas?

With a rueful shake of her head, Hollis admits, “All’a this stuff goes right over my head.” And she clearly wishes it didn’t. “I’m the more… Well, practical’s not the word? But let’s go with it anyway, sure. I’m the more practical sort. If that angel of yours needs a hot meal — or even a punch in the face — I’ve got you covered.”

Peyton crouches beside Jim, butt resting lightly on the back of her boot heels. “I’ll tell some people,” she assures Jim, knowing that helplessness he feels. “But the abstract nature of it makes it hard to, well, prepare for. We don’t know when it is or even what it is.”

Her head tilts a little at the talk of the angel, and she murmurs, “The dreaming, sleeping stuff makes me think of the dream folks. She didn’t have red hair, did she?” Her mind flits to Delia, but she doesn’t mention names. Her thoughts are interrupted by the opening of the door, which brings in a rush of cool air from the outside, ruffling hair and clothing as Orwell returns with a bottle of water in tow.

“Here you go, man. Cold and everything.” Given the temperature outside, that’s probably not a priority.

Peyton shakes out a couple of the pills. Jim can see they’re a prescription, of course, from the amber bottle, but he also knows she understands what his headache is like all too well. “It’s either this or Children’s Tylenol,” she says with a grin, handing him the pills. “Grape flavored.”

She stands and leans against Hollis. “And we appreciate you for both. And also your homemade biscuits.”

“It goes over my head a lot, too, which is kind of weird since it’s in my head,” Jim remarks to Hollis with a rueful chuckle. “But practical is good. She did look like maybe she could use a friend, whoever she is. If she is.” Since it could always be a metaphor. “I don’t know about the punch, but if I find that out I’ll let you know.” Another pause, thoughtful this time, before he adds a little bit more quietly, “She seemed sad.” It’s almost a question, a slight uplift of the tone at the end, but it seems directed at himself more than any of the rest. He shakes his head at the query of red hair, though. “It was white. Silvery, almost. Very pale. It was hard to tell, but definitely light blonde.”

He looks up when Orwell comes back, and he takes the water gratefully. “Thanks,” he says. “Perfect.” The pills are taken, too, though he does add, “Grape flavor was always my favorite when I was a kid. I know that’s kind of weird.” He’s quick to down the pills, taking a long swig from the water, and he’s definitely looking better now.

He looks back up to Orwell, studying him for a moment or two before he asks, “Do you think you could find the painting again so I could look at it?”

Hollis wraps an arm around Peyton’s shoulders and gives her an affectionate squeeze. “Aw, shucks,” she demures. “Someone’s gotta look after y’all who have no time to look after yourselves, right? Just doin’ my part.” Then she nudges the other woman with her elbow gently. “I’ll make a fresh batch tomorrow and bring ‘em by.”

Then she points a finger at Jim, then Orwell. “That goes for y’all, too. You’re both gettin’ biscuits. I gotta make sure you’re keeping up your strength after all this talk of future visionary stuff.” One has to wonder what Hollis Fitzroy’s classroom is like.

“Definitely better than the orange,” Orwell says, shoving his hands in his pockets, his shoulders hunching up a bit as he rocks back on his heels a little. “Yeah! I can dig it out for you. I have to go track it down though. I think it might be in a storage facility in Jersey. Gimme a couple days and I’ll swing it by the school?”

His brows lift with the upward lilt of the question, as he looks from Jim to Peyton and back to Jim.

Peyton nods with a smile, then grins over at Hollis’ offer of the biscuits. She angles a mock-devious look at Jim. “You just gotta mention them, and then, poof, free delicious biscuits,” she stage-whispers.

She offers him a hand to stand him up. “You ready? We can cut the tour short. I mean, we’re only looking out the outsides anyway. The others can go on and we can wait until everyone’s ready to make it back to Brooklyn. I know you’re looking forward to the ride back on the short bus.”

That is true.” Orange Tylenol is the worst. “But I’ll definitely never say no to biscuits, so thank you very much, ma’am.” Jim finishes off the water, and he nods after Peyton at Orwell’s question. “Sounds good,” he says, “thanks. Maybe it won’t tell me anything, but maybe it’ll trigger something. I’ve never tried it before.” There’s a moment’s pause at that, as though he’s suddenly got some idea or other…but he lets it pass, and instead stands up.

“I think I’m ready,” he adds, with a smile tilted a bit crookedly. “I’d better not press my luck too far, right?”

“You’re welcome, young man,” Hollis offers back, a little cheekily. With Peyton handling Jim — meaning he’s in very capable hands — she turns her attention over to the painter. “C’mon, O.G. Why don’t you and I get back on that tour so you can get a look at the other building dimensions?”

Hollis offers her elbow to him with a grin. “Faculty can scoot on back over here any time they please, but we don’t wanna take up any more of your time than you’ve already graciously offered. Shall we?”

Peyton smiles. “We’ll take it at your pace,” she promises.

She looks over to where Hollis is expertly steering Orwell toward the rest of the tour group by allowing him to steer her. The artist takes the proffered arm and grins. “Oh, my time is not as valuable as yours. I’m not molding the minds of the future or anything. Just, you know, painting it.”

Orwell looks over his shoulder to nod to Jim. “If it’s useful, that’d be great. I can’t promise it’s one of my better paintings. I mean I was like… a kid when I made that one. Crazy that we had the same vision so far apart. I really need to understand how this shit works better, huh?”

He nods up to where Rick’s leading the others toward the adult facilities. “Maybe that’s where I can find out, huh?” he says with a bright smile.

Letting Hollis and Orwell lead the way, Peyton tucks her hand in the crook of Jim’s arm — he looks like the gentleman, but she can keep a steadying hand on him that way. “Let’s go look at the future,” she says, smile tipping a little wryly, “but not the, you know, future.

They’ve had enough of that for the day.

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