The Kindness Of Strangers


jj_icon.gif ygraine_icon.gif

Scene Title
Synopsis “In prosperity, our friends know us; in adversity, we know our friends." Two dome survivors meet for food and camaraderie.
Date March 8, 2011

Red Hook

Bringing her little Japanese curvy-box-on-wheels to a halt by the kerb, Ygraine carefully goes through the still-unfamiliar process of putting it one-handedly into neutral, setting the hand brake, and then slipping out onto the sidewalk. Hunching slightly against the chill in the air, she nudges shut the door with one foot, then activates the remote locking - before peering quizzically around.

For those who last saw her in the Dome, her appearance is quite markedly different. Gone are the dirty reinforced leathers in which she lived her time in the supernatural prison. In their place, a heavy coat - archaically military in style - is draped over her shoulders, while beneath it she wears second-skin black riding breeches, over-the-knee boots, and a tight waistcoat (dark green, and decorated with brass buttons arranged to show off her figure), worn over a decidedly fancy white shirt, while leather gloves adorn her hands. But her features are still pale and somewhat pinched, with tension visible around her eyes… and one arm is wholly immobilised in a sturdy sling.

When she peers around, she will see JJ rising from a bench near the front of the "all American" style buffet he'd suggested they meet at. Unlike her, he looks better than the last time she saw him, by quite a bit; there's color in his face and when he nears her, his eyes aren't dilated from a dosing of morphine, their pale green color all the more startling in his tan and freckled face. The stubble is gone, giving him once more his baby face. Most importantly, he moves without wincing as he strides toward her.

"What happened to you?" he says immediately, concern furrowing his brow as he moves toward her, bending to give her a ginger hug around her "good side," and looping a hand through her good arm to "escort" her toward the door, of course opening that for her like a gentleman.

With the forewarning of his approach and concerned expression, Ygraine is ready to accept the gentle hug - even leaning into somewhat, before mustering a wry smile for him. "I got shot, while trying to negotiate for food for people. The idiots managed to spark off a riot, that… well. I'd be surprised if any of them fared any better than the supplies the rioters destroyed."

As she talks, her voice is kept low, not wanting to unduly spook the other diners - though her unusual attire and visibly-unhealthy appearance are drawing at least a few glances. "But… I'm trying not to let my mind stay trapped there", she murmurs to her companion as she lets herself be guided towards his table, tone apologetically guilty. "I… I'm glad to see that you're doing a lot better."

"I probably shouldn't have picked a place you have to put your own food on your plate," JJ says, wrinkling his nose a bit at her sling. "I'm sorry you got hurt. Good people don't deserve things like that to happen to them." He narrows his eyes angrily and shakes his head again, setting down his coat and nodding toward the buffet line once they've claimed a seat.

There's another wry grin as he juts his chin toward the buffet tables full of food. "Donno about you but having to eat on rations and such in the dome, that's kinda why I like places like this. All the food you can eat for ten bucks? If I were a chipmunk, I'd store extra in my cheeks. As it is, I think it'll just go to the other cheeks, but work'll run that off me soon enough, right?" He's trying to cheer her up, nudging her away from the psychological damage the dome may have done to her — or him.

"You got someone to help you wherever you're staying?" JJ asks a little more seriously, nodding to her arm as he starts at the soup station, ladling some clam chowder into a little white cup. "Lemme know if you need me to grab you anything. Or you can tell me what you'd like and I'll fill up a plate for you of that and whatever else I think you should have."

There's a definite pause, before Ygraine manages to muster a low chuckle. Carefully slipping out of her coat, she folds it to and fro onto itself beside her, before offering JJ a rueful smile. "I've never had so many people deliver me bundles of supplies first thing in the morning before they go to work. Fortunately, years as a professional sportswoman got me into the habit of getting up early, but… food, I have in plentiful supply for the time being. And my basic level of fitness makes me quite resilient in some ways."

"As for help? I might well make use of a native bearer while I'm here", she assures JJ, smile turning somewhat teasing, "but… I'm coping at home. I had help for the first few days out, but… after that, well. My love life became rather simpler, and my list of friends somewhat shorter. But I don't think that your boss would approve if I began taking up your time. I fear she'll have more than enough real work for you to do."

He moves through the buffet, letting her point out whatever she wants for her plate, while piling his own high. "I'm sorry to hear that," JJ says with a frown at the decrease in friends. "I've been through that recently too — the number of people who give a shit about me in this world drastically dropped when I came to New York. I probably burnt some pretty important bridges leaving, but you do what you have to, right?"

There's a pained grimace at that, and he sighs, but then flashes a more cheerful smile her way. "But I can add at least one more to that number. And I get some free time. I gotta girl that I gotta spend some of it with but she's off doing her own thing, too, and I'm not gonna be Neanderthal man assuming she'll spend it all with me. We can hang out."

Laughing softly, Ygraine ducks her head, flashing a grateful smile to the cop by her side. "Thank you. In fact - those are the words I wanted to meet you to say. Thank you. I'm… very sorry that you lost people coming here. And for the, ah, the warmth of the reception you got in the Dome. But I'm glad that you were there. We'd have been worse off without you."

His cheeks grow a bit rosy and he shakes his head. "I'd say it was my job but it's not like I was there on duty. It's just what any decent person would do. What you did. What Jaiden did. That kid Devon. Melissa. Anyone who tried to help and didn't try to hurt other people to their own advantage."

There's a twitch in his jaw and he looks away. "Don't thank me. I had some moments in there I'm not proud of either. If I did anything good, it's because it's the humane thing to do. And if I made mistakes, well, it's because I'm human. Just like anyone else." He gives a nod to her before picking up both their plates and moving back to their booth. "You and people like you — people that weren't expected to try to make sense out of the chaos? You're the real heroes, for sure. So thank you."

Clearly concerned, Ygraine moves her available hand to JJ's shoulder, head canting to one side as she studies him. "What on Earth would you have to be ashamed about?", she asks quietly. "Christ. I had to bully you out of toddling out to save the world while you were blitzed on morphine and still bleeding into your bandages."

"Nothing," JJ says, sliding into the booth after placing her tray in front of her seat. "I'm rambling, I guess. A little post-traumatic delusions of failure or something of the sort." He gives a rueful grin as he begins to poke at his food with a fork.

"Tell any of that lot thanks by the way. Warm welcome or not — I know I work for the man, so that makes me inherently suspicious and all, but I appreciated having you guys alongside me. Jaiden, Melissa — everyone made it out okay? I didn't get all their names."

"There were… disagreements", Ygraine says dryly - her expression strongly hinting that she thinks she's being a given a brush-off, but that she's willing to pretend to accept it, at least for now. "When I said that myself and Jaiden wouldn't help anyone who preyed on others, in the hope that our ability to provide clean water and to run people to and fro across the water would give us some leverage in stopping violence, we were publicly accused of 'witholding supplies' from those in need. But a chap called Pericles deserves a lot of credit. He was very helpful in setting things up, once the flood of refugees had reached Queens. And he disapproved of the violence that had kicked off when they did. Too many people were ready to see anyone with a gun, who wasn't with them, as Humanis."

The young man grimaces at that. "It's the problem in a world full of extremists. Everything's black or white and there's no potential for anything in the middle. I'm probably lucky I didn't get gunned down for being FRONTLINE specifically; it maybe wasn't the smartest move to let that be known, but I wasn't expecting to be in there that many days either. I know a lot of people assumed that I'm working for the government, it means that I'm the devil, right?"

He shakes his head, picking up his soda to sip from the straw. "That thing wasn't government's doing — but everyone assumed it was because we're willing to point fingers at whoever's handy to be a villain. Not that the government isn't a likely culprit but it's the same with 'First. Gotta gun? Got no ability? Must be the enemy. Gotta ability? Must be a terrorist. It's ridiculous."

More food is speared, and JJ's usual sunny disposition seems a bit darker for all the time in the dome. "I'd say it has to get better… but I'm not sure it's true. Human nature doesn't seem to evolve as easily as our powers."

"Is that why you feel you failed? That you have things to atone for?", Ygraine asks quietly. "Heck - I'm a student of conflict, in part. I've studied how systems and structures of communication become warped by fear and tension. How people's perspectives change the more they feel under threat - and how the more anxious they are the more ready they are to see things as threats."

Gently shaking her head, she offers another wry smile. "That's partly why I particularly mentioned Pericles. He saw the violence against the unfortunate Queens-siders not as something they 'deserved', nor even as something that was 'unfortunate' or 'regrettable' - but as something that should not have happened. In the midst of a situation that was causing others to stride along the path of conflict, he actively strove to see more clearly. And that, as we've both seen and as my studies confirm, is all too rare. It's a rare sign of empathy, to be able - when you are yourself frightened - to look at a stranger with a gun barring your way and to recognise that they are almost certainly just acting out of fear, and to protect what little they have left themselves."

"Just, I would say", she adds, gesturing to JJ with her fork, "as I would say that while it's possible that it was bloody stupid of you to let people know about your job, the fact that you did so without hesitation suggests rather strongly that you wanted to help. You weren't bragging about it, or using it to give orders - at least, not that I saw - but you instantly provided a point of focus for people. Someone from whom direction could be sought. Because in a crisis, most people freeze. So a font of authority of any kind? It'll be listened to. And you had the guts and inclination to fill the vacuum - and to do so by being helpful. Others, as we saw, were eager to build a following for their own ends."

He smirks at the term bloody stupid and shakes his head at her praise. "You give me too much credit, Ygraine, but it's nice to meet someone who sees the best in people instead of the worst. Like those people you had your 'disagreements with.'" A bit of potato is brought to his mouth and chewed.

"Oh, well. It's in the past. Try and not dwell on it — you did the best you could and I'm sure there are people alive today who wouldn't be because of you, Ygraine."

Ygraine chuckles, then inclines her head. "True", she says simply. "And not just the ones I hauled out of Eastview. But there… there'll always be the fear that you missed people, won't there? That I failed to spot someone in Eastview, and left them to burn alive. That I could have done a better job of sorting out housing or food or fetching supplies from Roosevelt for the refugees in Queens. That if I'd taken on a job myself, it might have been done without violence. That if I hadn't got shot I could have done more in the last days in there. That I left too soon after the Dome came down…."

Shaking her head, she offers a decidedly rueful little smile. "I wish that 'the best we can do' was enough, far more often. But… I have faith in the potential of people. I tend to be deeply bloody cynical about how they are actually likely to behave. There was a reason I studied how the world went wrong, you know. But that's part of the reason I try to treasure those who get things right. Even if they also get things wrong. And I'm still to be convinced that you got anything wrong in there."

JJ gives her a weary smile, finally pushing away a still half full plate. Someone's eyes are bigger than their stomach. "Can't play the coulda woulda shoulda game, Ygraine. If I did that, I'd drive myself mad, given what my ability can do. I did that once upon a time. Touched everything to try to find out everything I could. Passed out a few times from it, too. My mother literally grounded me from touching things until I could learn to use my power with 'responsibility,'" he says with a fond smile. "Anyway, we can't always rely on the kindness of strangers — more often than not, we're gonna get hurt by their fear and their prejudice. But once in a while, you can find a kindred spirit in a bad place. So here's to that."

JJ lifts his glass in a mock toast and smiles gently at her. "You did what you could — you did more than anyone should have to, and it has to be enough. Let the rest go." The last is said softer.

laughing softly, Ygraine sets down her fork and raises her own glass in response to the toast. "My knack has never given me that kind of… feedback. It's a tool, far more than an interaction. But… I used it to excess, in there. I… used to ride professionally. Spent years monitoring not just every calorie I ate, but the kind of food as well - slow release energy, rapid impact, and everything else. As a result, when I wound up in the Dome, I figured that I knew what I was doing. I knew how much I needed, when active and when not, and how much weight I could afford to lose at what sort of rate without doing myself harm."

"All carefully thought-out and clear. I'd done my arithmetic well." She offers a rather disparaging one-shouldered shrug. "Idiot that I am, I hadn't previously figured out that my ability uses calories. So my careful rationing was actually a starvation diet. But, since I'd been expecting to feel comparatively tired and to lose weight anyway, it took me too long to realise. And then I got shot, but was still one of just two methods we had of getting to and from the Island. So… whenever, months down the line, I'm actually able to ride my bike again - I think I'll make sure to have a good supply of energy bars wherever I go. Along with the medkit. And the wind-up tech. And a change of clothes. And…"

He chuckles. "Coulda woulda shoulda," he shrugs. "I was lucky I had my car in the dome so I had a duffel and wasn't in as bad a state as others. Next time just eat." His fork jabs at her plate. "We'll fatten you up with a few lunches like this, right?"

Another sip of his soda is taken, and he shrugs. "All right. For the rest of the meal, we're going to talk about stuff that has nothing to do with the dome, lost friends, or complicated love lives. Deal?" Whether she agrees or not, JJ moves on. "Tell me about riding. Maybe I'll let you take me out and teach me a thing or two."

"Believe it or not, I've put on a good deal of weight since I got out", Ygraine responds, tone markedly dry. "And… heh. I'm trying not to dwell too much on all the crap. Hence, in part, coming here. My effort to do a little good and let you know that you were appreciated. Because so few people ever actually say so - and… well. I want to stay in touch with someone who made it a great deal less horrible than it could have been."

"But riding? Heh. Sadly, I kind of need to hold onto the handlebars if I'm to go at all first. And certainly if I'm to ride a motorcycle. But… I'm a speed-freak, in large part. My brother got me into cycling as a child, and I discovered that I was good at it - that I loved to go fast, and that I could go faster than people expected, and that I loved even more to go fast while competing against other people. But… as of late 2008? The International Olympic Committee put a ban on Evolved with 'relevant abilities', so… I just have the love of speed left. Unless I manage to find a way to get Evolved sporting contests going, which I have thought about. Don't suppose you know any sports promoters, do you?"

His cheeks color again at the gratitude and he waves it away, eyes dropping to his abandoned plate. At her question, he chuckles. "Hell, no, I'm just a poor kid from California. I don't have any connections. But I'll keep an ear and eye out for any and point 'em your way if I find any, how's that for a deal?"

He smiles and reaches for her hand, giving it a brief squeeze. "We'll stay in touch. Like I said, I lost a lot of people in making the move to New York, so I'm not about to look down my nose at anyone wanting to spend time with li'l ol' me."

Arching a brow, the young man says in a horrible impression: "I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship." His eyes sparkle and he cringes as if waiting for a piece of bread (or perhaps cheese) to be thrown at him:

"We'll always have the dome."

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