Something in the Air

October 01, 2018:

Meggan introduces Hope to the joys of omelets, the worries of empathy, and the sheer maddening confusion of fandoms.

Stark Apartment - Safehouse

Somehow, despite being owned by Tony Stark, one of the safest places in New York.

Characters

NPCs: None.

Mentions: Rachel Summers, Nathan Summers, Tony Stark

Plot:

Mood Music: [*\# None.]


Fade In…

The balcony window is open, the curtains fluttering in the breeze.

How is the little landing kept clear from demons? Probably the two dozen assorted icons of Our Lord that Meggan has attached to the balcony railing. The location helps too; and perhaps some of it is just plain luck.

The apartment has its own power supply, so the refrigerator has kept running, the same way people are running away from their lives in order to avoid being eaten by devils.

So, lined up on the granite countertop that has been tastefully embossed with a series of novelty Iron Man head patterns - not overtly, just a subtle thing, a lining-up of the gold flecks and the red flecks in the dark granite matrix, something that probably cost a jillion dollars - are a range of stainless steel bowls, probably Japanese or something.

EGGS. Poured out of a pourable container.

MUSHROOMS. Sliced into matchstick-like pieces.

A SINGLE SAD GREEN ONION, HOPEFULLY DICED NONETHELESS.

THREE KINDS OF SHREDDED CHEESE.

TOO MANY KINDS OF HOT SAUCE.

SLICED TOMATO. That's a little unusual.

JUICE PITCHER. The components are orange juice mixed with pineapple juice because neither was sufficiently present to satisfy the nurturing impulses of

MEGGAN PUCEANU

Who is wearing a dirty T-shirt and a slightly sleepy expression as she fries BACON in a fancy cast iron skillet that was carefully given a perfect seasoning by Italian virgins using cold-pressed non-GMO flaxseed oil and which has been damaged because Meggan has no idea about that and has just been using it for a fry up.

There's also coffee, obviously. They'll die before they run out of coffee.

Meggan stares down at the last slices of bacon and holds a pair of copper tongs in one hand, anticipating the moment to flip.

The smell, comparatively, is Heavenly. Meggan herself looks hung over, which, of course, is nothing new for this place.


How is that little landing kept clear from demons? Holy signs, location, luck.

And probably whatever dozens of booby traps Hope Summers has established in this safe house in order to keep it as Demon Free as possible. It's a testament to the fact that she's adjusting to having other people around that she's made sure to keep the others using this space abreast of her activities. For the most part.

Teamwork is harder than it looks. For the longest time, it was just her and Nathan, and they didn't need to warn each other about when they installed a spike pit north-northwest of their makeshift camps. They just knew.

Simpler times.

As it stands, her time here has been sporadic, largely measured in short spurts that punctuated her leaving, heavily armed and heavily armored, for days on end, only to return with a nonchalant expression decorated with the latest fashion trends in infernal giblets. Early to rise, every day, so it is today too — Hope Summers has been up before the sun actually came up to shine down on this Tony Stark (ugh) luxury apartment (kinda cool), largely restrained to her own room cleaning firearms and prepping her bug out bag…

… when the smell of heaven reaches her flaring nostrils.

And that is the story of how Hope Summers emerged from her little hole away from home that has become her war room, wearing a green tank top and yellow shorts and brandishing a more wide-eyed and alert stare than anyone has any right to be at this time of day, especially when other parties might be terribly hung over.

Oh, also the gun. She's brandishing a gun, too. One of those big, overly futuristic dystopia guns. You know the kind.

"Oh. Hey. Meggan, right?" A second passes by, before she can no longer contain that curiosity: "What is that smell??" wonders the soldier who has never had a real breakfast before, or bacon, and only recently coffee. Hope's lips purse.

"That's not, like… fried demon, is it? I wouldn't recommend that."

And her reasons probably have nothing to do with eating sentient hellspawn.


Meggan looks over her shoulder then and the fatigue falls off of her face. Hope may have a sense of some deliberate effort being applied, but after it comes a strong feeling of cheer, pluck. She may feel her upper lip stiffen, palpably.

"Oh, good morning! That's quite true," she says, waving the tongs in a waggle of greeting. "And that is in fact me, and you're Hope, of course; d'you want some eggs?"

She flips a strip of bacon, then another, and actually laughs. "No! God, no. It's bacon, I found it in the freezer." She indicates it with said tongs: "I suppose Mr. Stark enjoyed a good fry up for breakfast. Do you eat meat? If you don't you might be able to use your share as a decoy -"

"OI!" Meggan shouts at the balcony. Something rustles away.

"I think that was just a bird. The poor things; this is hardest on them, I think."

After this, Meggan looks towards Hope in consideration, before asking, "Is that a plasma sort of gun or does it shoot regular bullets?"


"Yep, that's me," confirms Hope, as if it was something Meggan needed to be sure of. It's an odd mix of casualness and social uncertainty that Hope pulls off with aplomb as she makes her way closer, brows inching their curious way up her creasing forehead and lips parting.

"Wait. Eggs? Those are eggs? What kind of eggs are those? Aren't they supposed to have the… y'know?" She makes a shape like an oval. She clearly is not what one might call an egg connoisseur. A second passes by.

"Huh. Well, okay. I've never really had a real breakfast before," excitement enters her smile, lights up her eyes, as she makes her way to the kitchen. "That sounds great!"

She's about ready to set that gun down (for now) with a warm explanation of, "I've had a hamburger, and I've almost had a hotdog, and Nathan and I lived off ratmeat for a couple months one time, but I—"

A rustle. By the time Meggan shouts, Hope is already wheeling in the direction of that window, her weapon humming with an ominously mounting noise, her finger on the trigger. A bird. Probably. A second passes by.

"Well, that's good," she decides, ultimately. "That could've ruined my breakfast." She considers. "And the apartment."

Priorities. Important.

Eventually, she finds a stool to slide into; her weapon settles onto the one next to her as she leans herself into the kitchen counter, seemingly more interested in watching Meggan cook than anything else if the light in that green gaze is any indication. "Mm? Oh, it's a plasma launcher. Variable detonation and charge. Demons seem to stay dead better if you blow them into a lot of parts."

This, too, is explained casually, even as Hope leeeeans over the counter to stare at the proceedings, wide-eyed. "Smells really good," she mumbles, half to herself, before she turns her gaze on Meggan. "And you look really tired. Like death. Something happen?"

Let it not be said that Hope is nothing if not painfully straightforward.


"Oh, well, it's what Mr. Stark left here," Meggan says. "It's like scrambled - d'you know scrambled? Basically you mash it up so the white and the yolk get together, and it looks like this."

She smiles afterwards. "I'd show you if we had any regular. Frankly I like them fried up best -" And then she falters for a moment, lips pursing, brow knitting. She is concerned, sympathetic, and, perhaps, baffled. "What - never? Well you're going to now," she concludes, getting out the bacon and draining the pan into a convenient empty tequila bottle which appears to have been used for this purpose before.

"I see… those are from the future, then? Are you from the future, like Rachel? The bad future, I suppose I should say, though I don't want to -" Meggan then falters, pan in one hand.

"Do I really?" she says, and then she smiles and her face seems to sparkle subtly. And then… she doesn't! "I've just been running myself ragged I suppose. I've never been able to keep it up quite as well as some. It's just difficult, but we've been through difficult before, eh? I mean it sounds like you've been in a much tighter spot than we have here, even with the demons…"

She seems to be losing certainty. "So then," she concludes, "let's see. I'll make you an omelet and you can have it with the bacon and a bit of fried tomato. I murdered the one can of beans and frankly they were rubbish to begin with… (I don't mean literal murder, it's just an expression.)"

Sizzle, frizzle. Meggan picks up a bacon slice with the tong and holds it out. "Here," she says, "for starters. Tell me how you like it."


"Nathan and I mostly lived off rations and whatever else we could find while I was growing up. You'd be surprised what the body can make work for it if it needs to. Better than it trying to eat itself, I guess."

Delightful breakfast talk brought to you by: Hope Summers.

"I mean, the meals weren't always bad. Probably the company helped. But it was never anything like this. This is like…" She shakes her head. "I don't even know. Little yellow miracles?"

This sense of sublime existential wonder over scrambled eggs also brought to you by: Hope Summers.

Pressing herself into the counter, Hope grabs herself a bowl, and whatever utensils she can find on the counter as she converses, green eyes flitting briefly towards that emptied bottle with a faint mote of curiosity. "It's something I put together out of a few different things from the future, yeah," she explains even as she works, her tone of voice like someone discussing the weather. "It's not so hard. I can show you how to use it, if you want. I don't think it'd be a good idea to do it in here because that'd compromise the integrity of the-" pause, consider, "building. But. Maybe outside?"

Plenty of things there for target practice, at least.

It's the question about the future that brings her pause. Her brows furrow inward toward their center, lips pursing. "Mm. Not from Rachel's. When I was born is… it's not all that far away from today, really. Maybe a couple years? Nathan raised me in a few different timelines. It was necessary." A second passes by.

"Very few of them were all that hopeful."

And that's where she leaves that.

Green eyes look up, after a moment. She studies Meggan quietly as she instantly glams away her fatigue, at least on a superficial level. "Mm," she murmurs, a quiet, thoughtful sound — but she doesn't see fit to remark on whatever she might be thinking of. Yet, at least. Instead, as Meggan talks of murdering beans, Hope's lips part —

(I don't mean literal murder, it's just an expression.)

"Oh."

And she quiets once more.

Bacon is offered. Hope blinks. She leans forward, and reaches out with a single hand, pincering bacon between forefinger and thumb; there's a soft hiss at the unexpected heat, but eventually, she brings it to her lips, taking a bite with a single, bacony crunch. Her jaw shifts as she chews…

… and it's like magic, how her eyes widen more and more the more with every chew until they're wide as dinner plates.

"Holy shit," she declares, marveled, "bacon is amazing. Why did no one ever tell me bacon is amazing?? What is this?? Is there a recipe? Can I make it??"


Meggan sprinkles fat handfuls of Ingredients into the omelet as it forms. "You talk about it like it was all one thing," Meggan muses. "I remember when I was on an expedition once, with… Well, never mind; anyway, we had some Frenchmen in the group and they had these most amazing suppers. Better than some fresh stuff I've seen."

The eggs are folded over and moved round.

"That could be fun. Well… fun isn't the right word really… but it'd be good to know how to use it," Meggan says, digging out a pale gray plate and putting the omelet on it. "Just in case."

As she walks round the kitchen island, she beams. "Oh! Bacon's from the belly of pig, I think. They soak it in brine - there's more to it than that, but it might be fun to do some time. You can get it sliced at the market, though, and you just fry up the rashers. It's in a lot of other things, too, it's very flavorful."

But that's enough domesticity for the moment. Having given Hope the blessing of breakfast, Meggan pauses to see how she likes it.

And after that moment of experience, she muses aloud, "'Raised in a few different timelines.' It's like something out of Doctor Who. I have to say you're bearing up well if it was that rough. I suppose we've been very lucky, here."

Meggan looks at the window. "Even with all the demons outside."


"Mm. Eventually, in those sorts of situations, everything just sort of blends together, you know? You stop focusing on all the extraneous stuff and just hone in on the things that are important. Surviving into another day. Everything else is just a matter of how much risk you can afford."

Hope's brows furrow. The act, the expression, seems less a troubled thing now, dulled like a worry that's callused over with the passage of time. "It helps in situations like this. I know what I'm doing in situations like this. But it's not really enough, you know?"

She waves that partially-eaten bacon strip around, expressive features much more enthused. "This. This is what things should be like. Just bacon. All the time."

And that is why she watches with fascination as Meggan works over that omelet and folds it into being. Why she listens with rapt attention as Meggan explains where, exactly, bacon comes from. Why she is all too happy to suggest, "I'd love to do that. Do we have a pig?" … as if wholly prepared to take this lesson in bacon-making straight to the source. Maybe it'd be a good idea to temper her expectations a bit.

"You teach me how to make bacon, I'll teach you how to use these weapons," she decides, with a firm nod. It's an equivalent exchange, in her mind. "You probably ought to know, anyway. You're right — it's a good idea. Nathan taught me from the beginning — you need to know how to use everything and anything. A soldier can't become overly reliant on any tool, even one they think will never fail them." She takes a bite of that bacon, chews.

"Because that's exactly when it does."

A second passes by in silence, as Hope watches Meggan. Listens to her. Her head tilts. "Mm. It was rough, but it was what it was. I wish it was something different every day, but it wasn't, and no amount of wishing could change that. Every time I tried it just kinda made things worse." Her brows furrow. Green eyes focus on Meggan as she brings that plate over. She smiles, faintly.

"Thanks. And you don't have to downplay it, you know," she notes, after a moment. "It's okay. This isn't easy. For anyone. You're running yourself ragged, aren't you?" She looks down at that omelet, considerate. "This is one of those moments where everything can take a turn for the worst. I've seen it enough to know — this is the crunch. Where everything turns on its head. Where you can either save things, or let them fall to hell." She peers at that omelet curiously, poking at it with her fork before tentatively carving free a chunk. "And yet you're still making me breakfast even now."

From the grateful warmth in her voice, to the sweet smile on her lips, though, she doesn't seem to think that's a bad thing. Entirely the opposite.

And so, she takes a bite of that omelet, and —

"Wow. Wow. This is a really good egg!" Her expression alights like fireworks, as she eagerly shovels down more. And in the intervening seconds between bites,

"Doctor who now?"

An important question is raised.


"Well… no," Meggan says, potentially thinking of — No doubt someone topical and incisive.

"Usually it's got from the store," Meggan says, silently weighing in the description of Hope's flow of life, gray as it is. Her lips purse for a moment and she nods along, before she asks, "You were a soldier, then? With whom? I understand it might not be… someone who's around now."

Meggan looks back to the window. Her cheeks puff out. "Well, I remember when," Meggan begins, before faltering, and then breaking out into a laugh and putting a hand behind her neck and saying, "Oh, god, is it really THAT bad, hah! I just - well -"

Meggan stops. And Meggan actually does /stop/. That warm feeling that seemed to be coming off of her is retracted.

"All of this," she says, "feels… I don't know how to put it. It's something in the air."

Meggan does turn towards the balcony again, arm fold tightening up somewhat more. "I'm more sensitive to that than most people," Meggan says. "It used to be much worse…"

A languid breeze from outside, smelling vaguely polluted, flutters the curtains and stirs Meggan's hair.

"What I always used to do is just watch television. 'Veg out' I think they said, though it's been more like Netflix - we didn't have Netflix, or anything, when I was little, since we didn't have the Internet. I suppose you didn't either, given everything," Meggan rambles, before

CRUNCH

Her head turns and she brightens. The smile comes back. With a sort of flickering, so too does the warm regard. And that flickering is probably enough for the strength of PLURIPOTENT ECHOPRAXIA to trigger, however marginally, however subtly.

Meggan, of course, has two powers. The metamorphic ability is not too shocking, which is of course a terrible thing to say about something so wondrous - but it is true. There are at least enough people with the level of corporeal control to fill a local shuttle bus, somewhere in this strange world.

The empathy is a little different.

There is something like feedback as feelings touch feelings and feed on each other, but the emotional landscape inside of Meggan is something like— perhaps it is hard to say exactly; can anyone say what someone else feels like? But there is a fear in there hiding underneath the surface, a shining and mirrored anxiety which seems as if it's gotten awfully strong and prevalent lately. It has some of the character of fatigue to it, battle strain; there is an impression of a strong figure, craved and feared but unseen, and without the beneficial throughput of telepathy there isn't much way to put that further. You cannot hear colors or smell shapes.

That bubble… or is it a sink hole?

Either way it momentarily and completely winks out of existence at that final question. Meggan commits fully here, her eyes widening. "Oh," she says, "this is going to be a bit of a long one. Let me know if you're in a rush."

The most perilous feeling of all: Fandom.


"It's not really like a formal thing or anything," Hope Summers explains of her status and who she might have been affiliated with, tone still conversational despite the topic. "It was mainly just with myself, and Nathan. Nathan Summers. You know, Rachel's brother?" Rachel's younger brother. Who is significantly older than her. Time travel! "Back home — where I was born, in Alaska — Nathan told me the Purifiers had burned down everything — everyone — trying to get to me."

Her brows knit here, as if trying to grasp the enormity of that simple fact. Her bottom lip snagging on her teeth, she just shakes her head after a long moment.

"Anyway, Nathan took me into the future to get away from the people who were after me, and to raise me so I'd know how to survive. I know how to do that just fine now. I could tell you five different ways I could probably kill you right now with this fork. Maybe one or two with the eggs." And this she also says like she was discussing the weather; it helps, at least, that she seems far happier to use said fork in slaying said omelets instead.

"But I kinda would like to know how to do more than just 'survive,' y'know? It's… it's not really enough. Learning how to make omelets sounds much more interesting."

She quiets, though, as Meggan speaks. Her head tilts, red hair pooling against her shoulder with the motion as her brows etch themselves into a more thoughtful expression. "We didn't really do a whole lot of television. They didn't really exist. So I guess we're in the same boat there, kinda," she confirms, with the warmth of a smile. What Meggan says, though. 'Something in the air.' Those keen eyes watch the empath in quiet thought.

She doesn't really understand.

But she can.

All it takes is a little spark. Meggan's genes serve as both conscious and subconscious kindling for Hope Summers' powers, as the genetic template that is the former member of Excalibur becomes overlaid on her own. And for a moment, Hope is Meggan in a way she couldn't normally say of the other people whose powers she inhabits. The idiom 'stepping into someone else's shoes' probably applies here best of all, as that empathy makes Hope a blank canvas to be painted with the emotions of someone else. The anxiety, the stress — the fear, beneath the warmth, beneath the cheer. As if all of that was little more than a bandaid to hide something increasingly fracturing to pull down everything around it —

… know if you're in a rush.

"Buh?"

Hope isn't exactly sure how much time has passed; the flicker of heat off a few stray locks of hair is hardly noticeable as she turns those confused green eyes back on Meggan, as if she had already forgotten her question. She felt it there. For a moment, before it was just gone. Something wrong.

Something in the air.

"Oh, uh, sorry," she says, with a smile she means sincerely. "I've got all the time you need. I've got an omelet to finish, and demons can wait a bit longer."

And she can mull over exactly what she saw later. Hope isn't one to shirk away from a confrontation, but for now —

"So who's Doctor What?"

Maybe omelets and introductions to the world of fandoms will do them both some good, first.

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