Tomato Juice


weasel_icon.gif zachery_icon.gif

Scene Title Tomato Juice
Synopsis It doesn't work.
Date April 17, 2019

Park Slope - Prospect Park Lake

It's a fairly cool evening — a little bit cloudy and overcast, a little bit brisk. But it's still spring, with winter retreating toward the southern half of the globe. Otherwise, it's nice enough, and rain doesn't look like it's something to worry about. Hidden by the overgrown wilderness of the park is a small lake. At one point, it was Prospect Park Lake, part of a small park in the middle of Park Slope with a small zoo within its limits.

Now, though, it's quiet. Most people avoid the overgrown wilds of Park Slope, but for Clara Winters, it's her home, and easily one of her favorite places in the safe zone — if only for the fact that it is largely unregulated, and it's a little haven of nature in the scar that is New York City.

The small woman is crouched at the northern edge of the lake, idly watching a small group of otters playing and splashing in the water. Nearby, a smaller, otter-like creature splashes through the shallows of the lake, occasionally wandering into deeper waters. Next to the girl is a backpack, which is open to reveal several bags of what appears to be ground meat, snacks for the more nocturnal creatures she tends to prefer the company of.

Somehow, Zachery keeps finding himself in Park Slope. He'd hardly ever been near the place before a month ago, and now… he's found himself drawn to it, on evenings where he's neither at work or… at his other work.

The quiet is nice. And if he were the sort to stick to well-beaten paths, both in life and otherwise, he might get to keep said quiet. But as it stands, a curiosity for mapping the place out of his own accord has lead him to follow a barely visible path through trees and greenery, leading directly to this very lake. And the sight of a girl, which brings a frown to his face as he slows his gait, but does not stop walking slowly forward.

He's not quite close enough to see what's in that lake, but it's moving, and therefor, it's interesting. But first, a warning, in the shape of a greeting. "… Evenin'." It's not like he's walking quietly, dress shoes ill suited to the terrain, but you never know.

Before the greeting even comes, the girl quietly reaches down and fiddles with one of her boots, eyes still on the otters. The girl doesn't seem to see him coming, but those otters certainly do — they stop their frolicking and turn to stare at the man, a few heads poking out of the water with beady brown eyes. As his greeting comes, she turns her head to peer over her shoulder at the approaching man.

It looks like she's sizing him up a little bit.

Brows raise slightly, and one hand is raised in a casual wave. "Hi," she replies with a bit of a reserved tone, before she turns back to peer at the staring otters. "Not many people come out this way," she points out in that same quiet tone, before reaching out to pull a gallon baggie of fish from her bag. This is opened up, and the contents are tossed out into the water for the otters to enjoy. Might as well feed the kids before she leaves again.

The way Zachery's pace slows to almost nothing goes a long way to indicate this is not… entirely where he thought his evening would take him. But the otters, once they come into view, certainly do have his attention. He breaks a grin, if an uncertain one, but stops when he's within comfortable earshot. "I guess I'm… not 'many people'. Are those r—" He stops himself, voice laced with confusion and fascination both. "… What are they?"

Whatever they are, he doesn't seem keen to come as close as she is, his fingers restlessly curling in and out at his sides.

"River otters," she replies, tossing another fish out. The creatures, after giving Zachery another good look over, promptly dive, making their way through the water to retrieve their treats. Another fish is tossed toward the smaller creature in the shallows, who is staring at Zachery even more skeptically than the otters were. "That one is a mink."

Once she finishes distributing the fish, she rinses her hands briefly in the water, before straighting up to her full 5'3" and wiping her hands on her already-messy jeans. "They're all rescues from a fur farm on Staten," she adds, peering at the creatures for a moment before turning to peer over at the unexpected guest.

"Like mink fur," may not be the best thing to say, but it leaves Zachery's mouth anyway. The information offered does not seem to change his position on moving closer, but it seems he'll stay standing long enough to meet the girl's gaze with one of his own. Though his looks compromised, mismatched, one eye white where an iris and pupil should be.

His expression still doesn't seem to know what to do with itself. For a moment, it looks like he wants to give her a polite smile, but it never really fully manifests past his mouth pulling into a thin line. Some vague concern shows through one eyebrow quirking. "They're not… secured? Do you do this often?"

"Yes, like mink fur." There's a small note of annoyance in her tone as she confirms his inquiry, turning to peer over at the mink, who is laying half in and half out of the water and devouring her fish. The girl then turns, her eyes skimming the trees for a moment, before her dark eyes look a bit more fully over Zachery. Ew, his eye is gross.

"They're wild animals, why would I secure them?" She frowns. "They live out here, I just come out and give them food whenever I can, and they don't even need that." She glances back out over the water; the otters seem to have finished their fish, and at their look, the creatures let out a little chorus of squeaks, before they disappear into the water — likely going to bed down for the evening.

"Then why give it to them?" This question leaves Zachery without any indication that he's trying to mock her, or judge her, confusion lingering in his tone.

The otters moving away, leans forward… and has slow, calculated steps close a bit more of the distance between him and the lake, his destination somewhere beside the newfound stranger. No intention of invading anyone's personal bubble, giving her a wide berth. That mink catches his eye as he moves, and he stares at it, head swivelled slightly more obviously toward it than might be necessary for most people.

"Because I like them," is the duh reply, a shrug rolling its way across the tiny girl's shoulders. Up closer, she really is miniscule, especially when compared to Zachery's height. "And they're better company than a lot of humans are." She glances over to the little mink; Minerva gives Zachery a rather pointed stare as she bites the fish's head off. Charming.

"Plus, they show their gratitude better than most people. Do something nice for them, they appreciate it and you, and that's where it ends." She glances back over her shoulders at the trees again, brows raising. What's up there that Zachery can't see?

The trees don't seem of particular importance to Zachery, and after that mink is fixed with a narrowing of both of his eyes, he looks out over the lake, instead. Where'd those otters go? Once he feels he's close enough to the lake, he straightens and rolls his shoulders back. "Because you like them."

His hands go behind his back, resting in one another as he peers at the water. When he speaks again, it's in an almost sing-song tone: "Must be difficult. Liking so many things," he presumes she meant not just these otters in particular, "knowing that so many of them don't get a… you," he looks over again, at the girl he's sure is half his age, if that, "to make sure they don't actually need help."

The girl keeps her eyes on the trees for a moment longer — Zachery isn't aware of the veritable colony of stripe-tailed creatures staring him down from between the sprouting leaves of spring. She can't control all of the little creatures gathered, but it's still good to have some backup. Especially since Fat Bob is among them — he's a good 50 lbs easily.

But Zachery doesn't know about Fat Bob.

"I'm not some idealistic little brat," she replies, turning to peer at the much taller man for a moment with a small frown. "I know I can't help every animal on the planet." She tilts her head toward one shoulder, looking every part the nonchalant barely-out-of-her-teenage years kid. "I make a big difference to the ones I do help, though."

Zachery is oblivious. Trees are not where Bobs go, it's where birds are. Birds, if one were to ask him, are boring.

More interesting is his conversation partner's response. He turns to look at her, white eye narrowing a little as he continues his stare. Something of a fascination flashes across his face in the beginnings of a grin. "I never said you were."

He begins to move, slowly, away and along the perimeter of the lake. Shooting that mink a quick look - maybe checking for its location - before continuing with, "People call you a brat a lot?"

“They have in the past, yeah.” She shrugs, moving over to the log of a fallen tree, its branches dipping into the water of the lake. Probably a great home for a number of animals. “To be fair, I was kind of a bratty kid.”

She seats herself on the trunk of the tree, lifting one foot to place on the trunk next to her in a relaxed pose. Really, it puts her ankle closer to her, just in case — something about this fellow is just a bit unsettling, though she can’t really put her finger on what.

The mink is still devouring its fish, chewing loudly as it stares Zachery down.

"The mink is yours?" Zachery stops in his tracks, looking down to toe idly at a patch of grass all too happy to grow in this perfect environment. He seems considerably less happy about its presence. He turns to face the mink in specific.

Something about the mink is unsettling, too, it seems. Voice lowering, head angling, he adds in what may be a slight exaggeration, "It looks rabid."

“She is, as much as any wild animal can belong to someone. I don’t really call her mine, she’s just…my friend.” Weasel replies, watching the man from her spot on the fallen tree. She reaches into a pocket, pulling out a bit of some kind of meat jerky, taking a bite and chewing on it thoughtfully. The raccoons are ready, but are holding off for just a little bit longer. Just in case.

The next remark, though, puts a rather sour look on her face, and the musteloid telepath reaches out for one Pepe Le Pew, making sure he’s close. “She’s not rabid,” she says, her tone betraying her irritation at the accusation. “If she was, she wouldn’t be anywhere near the water, and she would be trying to bite you instead of peacefully eating her fish.”

She scowls at the man. “Rabies causes aquaphobia and aggression.” Apparently, that got her just a little bit mad. Say what you will about raccoons, but don’t talk shit about her babies.

Rather than have a correction sour his mood in turn, Zachery looks… pleased. He turns to face Weasel again, hands still tucked behind him, back straight, mouth pulled into a toothy smile that's only about three-quarters of the way forced and faked. "Very good," he sounds, reminiscent of a teacher to a student. In spite of the situation.

"Though I don't know about 'friend'." When he turns that half-glazed gaze to the side to look at the mustelid once more, his smile takes on a different quality, upper lip pulling toward 'sneer' more than previously, in idle thought. "It's an animal."

Oh man. This guy is a dick. The tone he takes only serves to further irritate the girl, who pulls out another piece of meat jerky and pops it into her mouth. She doesn’t offer him any — in her world, at least, that’s a pretty big snub. No wonder one-eyed dude is out here wandering alone.

The last comment seems to tighten a small knot between Weasel’s shoulders. Not only is he calling Minerva an ‘it’, but he’s implying that she is somehow less. While technically true, it’s not the case for Weasel.

“Humans are animals too,” she replies, sounding a bit more irate than before. “Just because animals don’t communicate the same way humans do doesn’t make them any less than us.” She doesn’t reveal that she’s also inside the minds of these creatures, and thus able to understand them better than most. “She’s my friend.”

The mink has finished her fish, and with what seems like a glare directed at Zachery, she slips off into the water.

"I seem to have struck a nerve." With the subject of his judgement escaped into the water, Zachery's gaze follows its anticipated trail off before it resettles on Weasel, instead. His disingenuous smile is gone now, and his white eye twitches in minute little movements as the other searches the girl's form for… something.

He knows something, but evidently, not enough. Or not the right thing. Bringing his hands forward and sinking them into the pockets of his coat, he stands and stares. "I would hope you have " there is every indication of 'real' being the next word to come out of his mouth, " other friends."

“A bit,” Weasel replies honestly. “I get pissed when people think they know everything, when they clearly don’t.” She shrugs nonchalantly, pulling out another piece of jerky and popping it into her mouth. She regards the fellow thoughtfully, watching his hands go to his pockets. Her own hand moves to rest at her shin, looking nothing more like she’s just holding her leg up on the fallen tree.

“Does something about me imply that I don’t have other friends?” She eyes the man wearily, glancing again toward the trees, then back up to him.

The question seems to catch Zachery off guard, and his eyebrows jump up. His attention drifts to the water in thought, before returning. "I…" He starts, but pauses when confusion knits his brow. "You know what. Maybe not. Maybe it was just… misplaced concern for a fellow human being." His tone is flat. Like he's not sure he believes it, either.

But when he catches Weasel's glance upward, he stiffens. Feeling no need to look up to the trees he already knows are there, and having no reason to believe there to be anything else of importance, he absentmindedly angles his head to center the girl in his sight and asks, "Something wrong?"

Misplaced is about right. “That’s okay. People usually confuse animal people for poorly adjusted people with no social skills.” She frowns, turning to peer over at the lake briefly, then back to Zachery.

At his question about the trees, she shakes her head. “Nothing wrong at all,” she replies. For her, at least. If Zachery were to actually take a glance at the trees she keeps looking at, he might be surprised by the many, many glowing eyes up there — the raccoons have gathered for their evening treat, but are waiting to see what Zachery intends to do.

Maybe it's Weasel's comment. Or maybe it's the fact that 'nothing wrong at all' has so, so rarely been the case in Zachery's life. His hands ball into fists in his pockets before he takes a careful, calculated step to the side in order to shift his weight and turn himself around fully, and to let his face slooowly turn upward.

As it does, his eyes grow wide. A sharp exhale leaves him, in what may have been a chuckle if he wasn't so… dumbstruck. The calm and collected air about him disappears; his hands are pulled back out of his pockets as his shoulders rise, and his one eye scans the canopy above as if his life depends on it. "E-… Excuse me," he laughs, with some amount of incredulity an fear both, and though he seems to want to turn to Weasel, he just can't seem to tear his eye away from all of the ones up there. "Excuse me, what the fucKING HELL ARE THOSE?!"

Weasel can’t help but smile a little bit, watching Zachery’s reaction to the raccoons that have gathered in the tree branches above. Almost as if on cue, a sound suddenly fills the air — it sounds like a strange, unholy combination of dogs and cats growling all at once, those eyes bobbing up and down in the branches.

“They’re my friends.” For all the shit she talks about her mediocre ability, she often underestimates how intimidating a pack of fully grown raccoons can be — especially with the sounds they can make.

One by one, the eyes start to move down the tree trunks, and the owners of those eyes start to reveal themselves: Raccoons, at least a dozen of them. They cautiously make their way around Zachery, glaring up at him as they make those frightening little growls, gathering themselves around the young woman’s feet. She reaches for her bag, pulling out a gallon-sized bag of raw meat, which she promptly opens up and starts distributing among the gathering masked creatures.

"They're not friends, they're VER—" Zachery starts, but even he catches himself. He breathes out another laugh, but whatever is on his face is a long way from amusement on its own. "They're… a pest!"

His feet carry him another stumbling step back, seemingly of their own accord, away from the incoming stream of raccoons. "Okay, okay, all right, yes, okay," these words seem more for himself than anyone else, his eye still locked onto the river of raccoons, gaze flitting from one individual to the next as he steps further and further away, along the lakebed. Words, now, leave him as if each one of them racing to make it out first. Gone is the deliberate tone of composure, leaving him with, instead: "HhhHI'm just going to GET OUT OF YOUR WAY."

The name he gives to the raccoons seems to upset the creatures — he’s met with a chorus of those terrifying growls, all of those eyes suddenly turning his way just as surely as the girl feeding them turns a rather pointed glower at him. “They’re not pests. They’re extremely intelligent wild animals that were here long before our cities were. They’ve adapted to survive with us, rather than being hunted to extinction like other species.”

The man should probably feel lucky — the meat that the girl casually tosses out for them to share is far more of a temptation than biting the man who made Clara Winters angry is. He should also probably follow wherever her gaze is — which suddenly turns off toward the side, where a little black and white creature has suddenly appeared. A skunk.

Whether any of Weasel's words actually reach Zachery remains unclear, a panic further lifting his hands as if in defeat, palms up and outward towards her.

But despite him seemingly having chosen to remove himself from the situation peacefully, his… mouth just sort of keeps going. Maybe it's the anxiety. The sight of the skunk, when he sees it, only serves to speed his words up. "Jesus— okay, all right, you can't possibly tell me that one's not awful, it's— a SKUNK." Spelled T-E-R-R-I-B-L-E! A poorly placed step to the side and back nearly sends him falling back, toward the lake, but he catches himself just in time.

It’s nice, sometimes, being able to teach someone who is being awful a lesson. Zachery is lucky — Weasel cut the achilles tendon of one fellow who dared to have a fur farm. The raccoons are scary, but the girl wouldn’t use them for an attack unless she was in truly dire straits. Instead…Pepe Le Pew is on the scene. Even the raccoons give him a wide berth.

“Actually, he’s not terrible. He’s the best of all of them.” The raccoons don’t seem to be bothered by the little skunk, who has taken a defiant stance, stomping his front feet as he starts to slowly move toward Zachery, that tail up. “But he can be terrible, if that’s all you think of him.” Suddenly Pepe’s butt swings around, giving Zachery a nice view of his imminent fate, fluffy tail and all. The raccoons give the skunk an even wider berth.

He doesn’t spray yet — perhaps giving Zachery a last chance to recant his statements.

Weasel isn’t very hopeful that he will.

Finally, it dawns on Zachery that what is going on around him is not some strange Rural Disney Princess fever dream. The reality of this is that he's met yet another person with an ability, and naturally, they're here to use it against him.

And he, of course, has done nothing to deserve this.

It's like a switch is flipped in his brain— the panicked intention to get away dissipates, though the same amount of energy stays in the way that he just… chuckles, and then laughs, shooting Weasel and Pepe Le Pew disbelieving looks. "Honestly?!" This does not sound like the beginning of a rescinding.

Certainly, there's an anger weaving through his words, but the brunt of his volume appears to be born of something else. Surprise, maybe, which would explain another, slightly nervous laugh that leaves him. "They're not friends! If not for your — GIFT, they'd be in the bins, surviving off of dodgy burger patties and grease, waiting for someone to sink their teeth into. Which would be you if you came close enough."

“They would be in the trash, surviving off of our wasteful ways. They still are, but they’re healthier with me.” Weasel frowns, shaking her head. “You totally missed the point here. They’re just animals, but, their kind has been living here way longer than us. You know what my job is? Officially, I’m in pest control.” Her expression darkens a bit.

“The people who call me are bloodthirsty. They want the raccoons in their attic dead, for having the gall to be opportunistic and move into this perfectly good, perfectly safe structure that was open. They want the raccoons dead for having the gall to get into their garbage of wasted food that they were going to let rot anyhow.” She shakes her head. “They want them dead for simply existing. I don’t kill them — I help them find appropriate homes where they won’t bother anyone.”

She finally turns to meet Zachery’s one-eyed gaze, frowning. “I tried giving you a few chances to rethink, but you’re no better than those murderous douchebags. And unfortunately for you, you aren’t paying me large sums of money to smile and nod.” She smiles. “Tomato juice won’t work.”

And then, that foul-smelling liquid starts spraying at the man.

"You know what, I could have walked." This sentence leaves Zachery like a brick, voice low and steady. He's only just managed to turn his face away, when he realises it's too late to escape now. He's not laughing anymore, sleeve up to his face to try and cover, at least, his nose.

"But I didn't! I didn't. I should have," he decides calmly, almost too quietly to reach Weasel's ears, before once more repeating, "but I didn't." No more stumbling — he starts walking again, but forward, resolute, to move past Weasel and back to where he came from, as if she and the skunk both simply cease to exist.

… Except for the fact that there's a smell that's getting him sort of teary-eyed, now, and causes his throat to close up when he continues to ramble to himself, "I DIDn'T THOUGH. I made a CHOICE and I stuck to it. Didn't I!"

Despite the awful smell that now saturates the area, Weasel has a rather large and amused smirk on her face as she watches his walk of shame. The raccoons aren’t too fond of the smell, either, grabbing up as much food as they can each carry and retreating from the area, scurrying away from Zachery’s feet with irritated chitters.

Weasel stands, gathering her backpack. It smells awful, but it’s also a smell that she’s grown accustomed to. She lifts a hand, plugging her nose. “Man, you reek.” She smirks after the man, and then she’s heading an opposite direction — probably to feed a few more animals before she ends her night.

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