Unwanted Employment Offers


cardinal_icon.gif kayla_icon.gif

Scene Title Unwanted Employment Offers
Synopsis A certain businessman finally catches up with Kayla in person, both of them all unwitting. So do the various offers made in his name.
Date December 29, 2010

A Burger King somewhere in Manhattan

Despite the number of fast food locations in Manhattan, the city's population is far greater — and when they all turn out for lunch on this fine, chilly day, the queues can be nothing but long. With no good options, the woman picked this Burger King essentially at random; now she stands at the back of a line that winds around the dining room, only a few more people away from extending out the very door. Dressed in soot-gray pants and a knee-length coat only a bit lighter in color, she waits with sullen acceptance that doesn't in any way imply patience, arms folded and the hint of a grimace twisting her lips. It's perhaps surprising that Kayla isn't tapping a foot against the floor; that would complete the picture of waiting with poor grace.

There's pain, behind her. Richard Cardinal's no stranger to suffering, certainly, and he hasn't exactly been living a safe or comfortable lifestyle. The fracture in his arm is mostly healed by now, but he's been sleeping on a desk, so his back is in terrible shape, he stepped on a stray carpet nail the other day, and he's pulled a muscle in his arm from chopping through a wall with an axe.

He can't help but think other people don't have his problems.

He's stepped along into line behind her, dressed in an ankle-length trenchcoat and fedora as if he were hoping to look as suspicious as humanly possible.

Kayla's quite certain other people don't have her problems. Even if a subset of said problems are no more than a reflection of theirs.

As Cardinal steps into the small shop, the woman glances back over her shoulder at him with the kind of irritated glower normal people reserve for acquaintances who have delivered substantial personal offense. Yet it's quite certain he hasn't seen this person before in his life. The line moves forward all of 1.5 steps, and Kayla with it, a miniscule distance that does nothing to separate her from the shadowmorph behind her heels.

Maybe it's his suspiciously concealing attire, but there's a definite hitch to her shoulders and a stiff tension in her posture as she resolutely doesn't look at him anymore.

The glare's noticed, of course. Cardinal's used to getting glared at, but when it's by strangers, well… he has to wonder. He does have a price on his head, after all. One brow raises a little at the glower, his head tilting slightly to one side as he steps forward that miniscule amount offered by the line's advancement.

Never someone that could be called shy, he exhales a chuckle. "What, did I forget my antiperspirant this morning?"

She shifts to take her weight off her heel, but of course that doesn't do a thing to help. Cardinal's quip earns him another cast-back glance, a thoroughly unappreciative scowl. "The hell should I know?" Kayla grumbles, anything but playing along; probably no surprise there. She turns back forward, arms unfolding so that one gloved hand can rest on the other arm, consciously reminding herself not to be obvious and massage it, though the impulse is hard to quash.

The line shuffles forward another position, the young woman glancing aside to look down its length. Long. "Fucking stupid line goes on forever," she mutters. Another glance is given past Cardinal to the door, so much closer than the counter and visibly far more tempting as of now… but, exhaling a frustrated huff, she doesn't break for it.

Instead, her gaze flicks to Cardinal, gray eyes narrowed.

At the grumbling dismissal, Cardinal lifts one shoulder up in a shrug; just someone in a bad mood, apparently. He rolls his shoulder back and forth briefly, fingers flexing as he stretches the strained muscle, and then cranes his neck to look down the length of the line that she's commenting on.

"Tell me about it," he admits wryly, "Lunch rush around here is ridiculous."

There's a slow exhalation of breath as Cardinal works his own protesting muscles, followed by an inhalation that finds itself applied to muttered profanity. Seemingly self-directed criticism this time, rather than applied to Cardinal himself or even the line that moves forward once more without Kayla's notice. The grumbling stops shortly after only because it's hard to speak with cloth interposed between teeth: the woman catches the fingertips of her right glove in her mouth, pulling it free from her hand.

Two bare fingers reach abruptly up towards Cardinal, the others curled in against her palm.

The length of the line is being eyed, as is the languid attention of the servers that don't seem to care if people are getting served in a timely manner — and why would they, at the minimum wage they're getting? — and so he doesn't really notice the woman in front of him removing her glove before she's reaching up to press her fingers against the side of his face.

"Whoa-" Instinct, as he jerks back, but not before she's contacted him. A blink down to her, "Uh. Can I help you?" In the momentary rush of adrenaline (another thing that most people probably don't have to deal with from such a simple thing as touch) he doesn't notice the reduced pain just yet.

Withdrawing her hand, Kayla takes the glove out of her mouth. "No," is her brusque reply. Turning away from Cardinal, she closes the gap now between herself and the next person up in line — a whole four feet, people having shuffled forward yet again during her distraction. She feels the same, of course, but now when Kayla shifts her weight to her toes, it actually feels better.

The set of her shoulders acquires more of a drawn-in, defensive air, as she again avoids looking back at the shadowmorph. After pulling the glove back over her hand, she reaches into a coat pocket, withdrawing a small plastic bottle that rattles familiarly. The healer shakes two out into a cloth-covered palm, dry-swallowing each in the rapid succession that comes from too much practice.

"Uh… huh." There's open suspicion there in Cardinal's voice as he watches her, a frown deepening upon his face as he watches her start to pull the glove over her hand once more, moving to step along forward as the line progresses closer to the counter. One of his own hands — similarly gloved — reaches up to brush against his cheek where she touched him. "So what was that all about, then, lady?"

Sliding the pill bottle back into its pocket — leaving the flap unbuttoned — Kayla gives Cardinal a flat look. Only momentarily, in short order facing forward once again. There's a beat where it seems like she's going to be rude enough to not answer at all. "If I have to put up with the fucking line all day," the woman grouches, a bit defensively, "I'm not going to do it with your damn scrapes and scratches looming over my shoulder."

It's not like Cardinal won't figure out what's gone missing eventually.

Oh, Cardinal's a bright boy. It only takes him a couple moments to realize what she means — and what she's done, once he thinks to flex his arm a little, to shift his other. There's a momentary furrowing of his brow, and then he exhales a faint little chuckle. "You're an empath," he murmurs, reaching across himself to rub his arm. "Sorry about that. Not that I could help it, at all."

"No," Kayla says again, flat correction delivered without looking back towards Cardinal. "Empath is emotions." And just because he couldn't help it doesn't mean she's prepared to forgive the offense, at least if her unchanging manner is any indication. Water under the bridge is probably not a proverb in her lexicon. It just as probably should be.

The line inches forward. The counter actually seems close — relative to waiting at the opposite end of the room, it is. "Wouldn't want to be one," Kayla adds, perhaps not meaning to speak aloud.

"Sorry," Cardinal echoes with a shrug of his shoulder — this time with no pain — and a faint chuckle woven through his voice, "I don't know the right word. I never actually made it through Chandra's book." Chandra he says, as if he were more familiar with the man than the average person off the street.

As he overhears the other part, he snorts faintly, "Me either. I have enough trouble with people as it is, without knowing what they're feeling."

Kayla huffs in turn. "The book doesn't cover everything," she remarks. Though the healer admits a moment later that "I didn't read it all either," shrugging dismissively. And yet she thinks she can pass judgment on its content — but maybe she stopped reading because of some lack?

The counter becomes closer still; they may even get to place orders soon. The woman falls quiet, watching the people ahead go through the motions of monetary exchange. "Should move out of the city," she muses, with the casual air of an oft-retreaded whimsy.

"Probably," Cardinal admits without any attempt made to talk her out of it; shuffling forward with the line as it edges even closer to the counter and the cash register. "It's a dangerous town, after all. Between terrorism, natural disasters, and racists trying to bomb buildings… I'm surprised anyone lives in New York anymore."

The young woman's shoulders twitch in a shrug, simultaneously acknowledging his point and reflecting her inertial on the subject: she's not actually going anywhere. Dangers, population density, or no. "If it wasn't here, it'd be somewhere else."

Finally, she reaches the counter, ordering a Whopper value meal with fries and a soda. Which of course means taking the receipt and empty cup and going off to wait more, loitering in the vicinity of the soda fountain like everyone else. At least this time it isn't a line as such, and Kayla is free to find a place where she isn't in arm's reach of anyone else's problems.

Once she's made her order and steps off to one side, Richard makes his own - a chicken sandwich combo - and then steps along with the cup in his hand to meander over towards the soda machine in her wake. She's not getting away from conversation that easy, it seems. "True," he admits, continuing the thread of conversation, "I suppose New Yorkers might be the only people who could take this for long, too."

Kayla looks up as Richard reappears beside her, but without the overt animosity of her original greeting. He at least, of all the people in the room, has already been as cleared as possible by her ability. "I guess," she says, neither agreement nor refutation. "You native?"

"Born and bred." The cup in Cardinal's hand is set beneath the nozzles, and he fills it with iced tea rather than soda, "I was born here… as far as I know…. and I'll probably die here." A snort of breath. "There are worse places to live and die in, I suppose."

Kayla nods in acknowledgment of his answer. "Sometimes I wonder about worse places to live," she admits. "Figure dying is kind of equal-opportunity. 'Good' and 'bad' is just academic." Turning her own filled cup around in her hands, she unnecessarily checks the receipt. No, that wasn't her number just called. Of course. "Me, too," Kayla offers belatedly.

A straw's shoved through the 'x' at the middle of the cup's lid, and Cardinal takes a sip from it before gesturing her way, "I've seen some of the worse places. Trust me, New York ain't that bad…" He grins, then. "Richard, by the way."

The healer shrugs, not really accepting Cardinal's assurances. She looks back at him, then takes a drink from her own straw before finally offering her own introduction. "Kayla." And at last her number is called, which means she can step up to the counter and collect lunch. Finally.

Of course, that leaves the subsequent issue of seating.

Right after her order comes Cardinal's, and he's collecting the tray and setting the cup atop it before stepping away. It's crowded at this hour, and seating is at a premium… but there is at least one booth open. After surveying the place for a moment, he glances over to the healer, propositioning, "Share a table?"

Kayla squints over at Cardinal's offer, clearly not immediately motivated to accept it despite the dearth of available seats. After a moment, she nods once, a sharp dip of her chin. "Sure." The table in question is readily apparent, and she starts off towards it, ultimately claiming one side for herself. She doesn't move to take off either coat or gloves — despite the fact that french fries are certain to leave grease spots on the latter. Kayla occupies herself with arranging and unwrapping the items on her tray as Cardinal takes his own seat.

A glove's tugged off once Richard settles in across from her, then the other, laid next to him on the table as he unwraps the chicken sandwich. "So what is it that you do for a living," he asks with a brow's lift, bringing the sandwich up to his lips. Just making small-talk. Sometimes it's good to do, in a life filled with business.

If only they knew the business talk they could be having. Fortunately for both, neither has those dots to connect just now. Gray eyes flicker in Cardinal's direction. "Receptionist," she replies briefly. "Paperwork, filing, database entry, the usual bureaucratic nonsense." Passionate about her work, Kayla isn't. She eats a couple of french fries, then sends the question back his way. "You?"

"You don't use your ability in it?" A brow lifts slightly; he knows full well how valuable healers can be. A shrug, and he admits, "I'm in the security business, mostly." He takes a sip of the iced tea. "It pays the bills."

That flat look reappears, directed towards Cardinal in an instant expression of stupid question. Kayla picks up her burger, but doesn't take an immediate bite out of it. "'Healing' someone," she says, the quotes self-disparagingly audible in her voice, "transfers what they've got to me. No, I don't use it in my job." Then she starts on the sandwich.

It explains why she took the aspirin after repairing Cardinal.

"Ah." At that, Cardinal grimaces ever so slightly. "Yeah, I can see how that would… be unpleasant. Every ability has its downside, I suppose…" He's about to take a bite of his sandwich when he pauses. "And— thanks, for what you did. Knowing what you paid for it."

Kayla shrugs a bit, deflecting the gratitude — more importantly, any sympathy or pity it implies. "Lesser of two bad choices," she dismisses, rather not a synonym for you're welcome. "It didn't have anything to do with you" is less neutrally delivered, a verbal shove against implications of goodwill. Distancing, as is her ensuing preoccupation with the meal at hand.

"I've got my own problems," Cardinal admits, taking a bite, chewing and swallowing, "We all do, I imagine. Anyhow… bureaucracy, eh? Could never live like that myself, I have enough paperwork to do as it is. Drives me nuts."

It's a long moment before Kayla relents enough to rejoin the conversation, which has the side effect of giving them both a bit of time to eat undistracted. "It pays the bills," she says, deliberate echo of his own words; though as she looks over at the shadowmorph, there's no accompanying smile on the young woman's face. One expression that seems to be chronically absent. "And there's a limit to how choosy I can afford to be."

"In this economy." An agreement, there, Cardinal's head cocking a little to one side as he looks back to her; shrugging one shoulder, he offers, "If you're ever in the market for another job with less boring paperwork, I'm sure our records department is far less boring than yours."

Oddly enough, that offer earns Cardinal a suddenly suspicious, narrow-eyed scrutiny. Setting the remaining portion of her burger down, Kayla is quiet for a bit, then finally answers: "I think I'll pass." Picking up a fry, she glances briefly to him, then looks out around the crowded room as if for something in particular. Whatever that is, Kayla doesn't find it.

"S'fine with me." There's no pressure there, Cardinal's smile tugging up a bit, "Just saying, is all." Another bite of his sandwich is taken, and he chews slowly, glancing across the room as he notices her doing it. As if searching for whatever drew her attention.

Both of their visual searches bear no fruit; Kayla reluctantly turns her attention back to the previously-abandoned sandwich. She finishes the remainder of it before speaking up again. "I don't need it," sounds more like she's trying to convince herself. The healer looks across at Cardinal as if to challenge any disagreement, picking up her soda without drinking any.

"I didn't say you did," Cardinal points out, reaching over to pick up a double of fries. "It was just a stray thought, is all." The pair are bitten into at the same time with a crunch; he chews and swallows. "You don't sound too happy with what you do, though."

"No," Kayla says, and for all that it's a grouchy complaint, it's not meant as confirmation. "I'm not happy with people who meddle in my life." She gives him a pointed look across the table, then starts on her own fries. "It's my business."

A lift of Cardinal's hands offer surrender. "Not meddling, got it," he provides with a shrug of his shoulders, reaching back for his fries. "Just trying to make conversation, is all, you know?"

Kayla looks over at Cardinal again, then nods once, tacit acceptance of his surrender. Glancing back down to her tray, she finishes the rest of her fries before sorting the tray to one hand and what's left of her drink to the other. "I should get going."

"Alright." Cardinal offers an easy smile, wiping his hand off on his jeans before offering it out to her. "It was good meeting you, Kayla. Sorry for, you know, meddling." He grins. "It's a habit."

Kayla gives Cardinal's hand a long look, clearly not thrilled by the prospect of shaking it. Then she realizes she's already healed him (and is wearing gloves besides) — what the heck. Releasing the cup, she accepts the handshake, though it's kept as brief as possible. Nodding to Cardinal as she reclaims her hand, the young woman disposes of her trash and works her way back out of the restaurant.

It was a brief handshake, but there was a business card in his hand that was deftly slipped into hers. One that, quite possibly, she's seen before. As she heads out of the fast food joint, Cardinal's picking over his fries, just back to enjoying his meal now that he's run out of conversation.

The angular shape in her palm was an unexpected surprise, which Kayla glances at as she approaches the door. For a beat, she's startled motionless by the reappearance of an all too familiar business logo. Her verbal reaction is rendered incoherent to Cardinal's ears by distance and direction, but doesn't sound positive — and neither is the way the healer shoves her way out the door, headed down the street with renewed intent.

The intent to be anywhere else.

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