House and Home

Cast: date: '4th November, 2012'
place: 'The Postal Underground'
participants: 'Jack, Mattie'
synopsis: 'Mattie gets to visit Jack''s secret lair down in the underground system.'
log: "On the central line, south and away from Camden the tube train trundles, tracking cantankerously along the path that it's unable to deviate from. Being evening on a Sunday, it's relatively quiet. People sit reading and re-reading the advertizements on the walls, or staring blankly at the reflections in the window, or simply people watching.\n\nJack has chosen option number two, having that vague, middle-distance quality to his expression, shadowed by the ever present hoods. It may be dark, cold and wet outside but for some reason the underground always inspires the raising of hood; perhaps due to that third category of people and the scrutiny his eyes sometimes garner.\n\nAt the next stop, people board and people disembark; a woman with a familiar shock of red hair against familiar black trench coat can be seen giving someone a quick hug before she steps from the platform across the gap. \"See you later,\" the American calls out to the person waving, and then the doors close and she reaches for a pole to keep herself steady for the imminent lurch of the train. \n\nBrows rise in her face as she finds herself facing Jack. \"Hey,\" she says with a nod, a black-and-white striped glove reaching up to push damp hair away from her face.\n\nProof positive that the reflections aren't Jack's focus, it's only the words that snap him from the thoughts that pass by as quickly as the pipes and protrusions on the tunnel walls as the train gets moving once more. \"Alright, darlin'.\" he offers with a small smile. \"Fancy meeting you here.\"\n\nThe smile grows just a touch at that, becoming crooked. A pause follows, stretching shoulders that have tightened while pressed up against the partition. \"Where you off to?\"\n\n\"Making the rounds,\" Mattie says with a shrug. She does her patrols in a circuit of the city, covering a different neighborhood each day until the cycle starts anew, given the ever-changing geography of the Gloom. \n\nShe glances down the car, taking in the other passengers, looking, as usual, for anything out of the ordinary. \"You?\" she asks, stifling a yawn a moment later. \"Home, I guess?\"\n\n\"Time for a beer and the couch, I reackon.\" Jack confirms the destination, looking relieved just by saying it. One of those days. \"Looks like you should be finishing up, an' all. Burning the candle at both ends is going to make you lose your touch eventually, Red.\"\n\nHe's clearly amused by his own teasing as he stuffs one hand into a pocket and grips the handle nearby, ready to rise from the seat although not quite yet. \"You're welcome to stop in, if you want. Just off the next station.\" The offer is somewhat awkward, a little forced perhaps as though it's an invitation rarely, if ever, given.\n\n\"I'm fine,\" Mattie says, the refrain one she's used too often when it's clear she's not. \"I haven't even started today,\" she adds, which makes it all the worse, really. It's a weak argument, and there's a look of irritation that gets tossed to the floor rather than him — it's aimed at herself, really, because she knows he's right. \n\nShe glances up at the doors, waiting for them to open so the awkward conversation can end. \"You live near here?\" she asks, which is also awkward, given that he just said as much. Apparently a flat out 'no' is hard to say. Maybe she knows how hard it was for him to offer.\n\n\"Course you are.\" Jack plays along with her little game, pulling down to lift himself from the not so comfortable seating. \"But there's other people doing the rounds too, an' maybe today you can leave them to it.\" Clearly he knows that sharing the burdens is difficult, yet it's a convenient out as he moves closer and around to the hollow next to the doors as the train begins to slow.\n\nHis back to the doors, the light from the platform shines in, changing the brightness of the flourescent underground glow. The hiss sounds, sucking in a breath that's released as a chuffing sigh as the doors slide back. \"Maybe.\" he replies to the question, as with practiced ease, he hops back over the much minded gap and gives her a last opportunity with a half outstretched hand. \"It's a secret.\" True enough, Jack's mailing address is the garage in Hackney. Another curiosity brought forth to tempt the weary redhead. Tick tock, tick tock. The window of opportunity closes.\n\nShe hesitates, but just as the door begins to slide shut, she takes the hand and slips out, releasing his hand as soon as both feet are on the platform. She moves toward the exit that leads streetside, quiet for a few moments, then tips her head at him, green eyes narrowed a bit. \"Question,\" she starts as a preface, stepping swiftly out of the way of a burly man coming, for some reason, down the exit steps before he plows into her. \n\n\"Do I come off as totally arrogant when I talk about work all the time? Like I don't trust anyone else to be able to do it?\" It's an honest question, and she looks downward, watching her feet instead of him once she tosses it his way.\n\nThe sidestep has some momentum, . There's a shiftiness about him as he moves off toward a side corridor. There's public toilets there, but also another door. A pause, listening to the question while someone moseys into the restrooms and a second later someone else emerges. A conversation before splitting up to use the loo is good cover.\n\nThe question is measured, considered at length. Possible answers are summed in the face of the awkward vulnerability that hangs in the qake of the askance. \"I wouldn't trust half of those twats to do it, either.\" he admits, carefully. Clearly he's acutely aware of the trouble caused last time just from calling her a snob, so the word 'aloof' catches in the throat a little. Not that he'd usually care, but it seems like a waste at this point to go backwards. With the coast clear, he bumps back against a service door and pops a key in it. A low whistle encourages her to enter quickly before anyone else comes along. \"So for me, I get where you're coming from. Others might take it different though.\" Diplomatic responses are such a rarity when this fellow is concerned.\n\nThe door leads to a long tunnel, and after a hit of the switch get the lights on for her benefit, Jack leads the way onwards.\n\nHer brows knit as he leads her not up toward the surface as she expects but deeper into the network below ground. \"You're not luring me off to kill me or anything, are you?\" she says lightly, but somehow the joke doesn't seem very funny. Still, the girl who can go invisible and incorporeal isn't too worried about getting killed by a mad man, it would seem, because she heeds the whistle and follows through the door. \n\n\"That was nicely put,\" she adds after a moment. \"It's not that I don't trust others to do it. We all need to do it, you know? I guess I just figure unless I give as much as I can to it, I'll feel guilty when I find out something happened that didn't have to.\" There's a small shrug, and a bit of a shiver as this area seems chillier than where the trains keep the underground much warmer.\n\nThe tunnel goes on for a bit, before branching off. Another locked door succumbs to Jack's keys, followed by stairs down. \"You've not driven me to murder quite yet, darl'.\" he replies, looking over the shoulder with a wry smile. Talk and walk, there's a sense of minor urgency in the step, as though this little passageway is somewhere that they shouldn't be. Another, older looking door follows and the darkness on the other side is a bit thicker, more pervasive. There's space, another platform with a heavier air. Whatever line this is, it doesn't see use.\n\nHe's quiet for a short while, grabbing a torch from a little rack on the wall and handing it over while waiting to lock the door behind them. \"Don't worry, it ain't far from here. But yeah, I think you you ought to worry less; you work your pretty little arse off, an' if anything happens you got nothing to feel guilty about. If you don't take a break once in a while though, you're going to burn out, get sloppy, make a mistake. Then you'll have reason to feel guilty.\"\n\nMattie looks around curiously, keeping any comments about his choice of neighborhood to herself. The torch is accepted with a soft, \"Cheers,\" and flipped on — he may not need it, but she certainly does. This ghost can't see in the dark. \n\n\"I guess,\" she says quietly, and after a few more beats where nothing but their footfalls can be heard, she adds, \"I'm sorry. If I do come off as … self important. I don't know. I don't think I'm better just because I work all the time. I just… I don't know what to do if I'm not working. I mean, for more than a few hours. I took the other job just to have something else to do or I'd go crazy, you know? And it's good for leads. I've heard a lot of things while wiping up syrup.\"\n\nThe tunnel is strange, in that at the end of the narrow section is blocked by a massive steel door. There's signs of past wrangling, evidence of tampering involving a blowtorch. The thing swings on more recently well oiled hinges, revealing another space beyond. Despite the clandestine jaunt, Jack appears to know where he's going. The next opening, hidden behind the steel door when it opens, looks entirely less proper; it's most certainly a hole in the wall that shouldn't be there and it goes through a good ten feet of concrete. \"Don't reackon you think you are.\" he concurs, \"But yeah. I can see why others might. I've gotten used to it.\" The words seem to have a grin behind them, in the dark. You can always tell.\n\nThrough the tunnel, there's a more modern looking rail line, but the tracks are different from the known underground. Smaller. The platform here is long and wide, with what looks like a freight elevator in the middle. A switch that certainly isn't up to code has been taped to the wall next to a door. \"Welcome to chez moi.\" Of course he mangles the french, pushing open the door and hitting the lights within. It may have once been a sorting office, but it's all been cleared out. This main room is something of a studio, with a bed, a sofa, a tv. The lights aren't the original, but hung from various points, the kind of work lights you'd find at a construction site. A space heater in the corner. Practical. Functional. Complete with stolen electricity. A microwave sits on top of the fridge, but there's no sink in this room at least. \"See, you need a hobby.\" he suggests, trying not to look like he's guaging her reaction. It does seem crazy, in retrospect. Living down here.\n\nWhen they finally get there, she flicks off the torch when the lights come on, and her expression is simply curious; her eyes flit here and there to take in the place, before she tips her head a little questioningly toward him. \n\n\"I'm not much good at anything else,\" she says quietly, moving to set the torch down on the table, then tucking her hands back into her pockets. \"It's nice,\" she adds, and it seems sincere enough. After all, her place is a tiny room in a boarding house. \"But why?\"\n\nThe lure of the sofa is strong. God only knows how it was gotten down here. Certainly not by the route they just used. When the door is closed to the stale air of the platform, it's quite cosy. Dark sheets are hung on the walls, taking away the sterile Post Office atmosphere. It could be anywhere. Jack retrieves two cans of larger from the fridge and offers one over before taking a seat and stretching out legs in front of him.\n\n\"Learning's half the fun, right? Luckily for me, I love working on cars. They make a lot more sense than people most of the time. They come in broken, I can fix 'em.\" He's keenly aware of the fact that while he comes in broken, there's little that can be done. \"Why what? Get a hobby?\"\n\nMattie moves to the sofa, pulling off her gloves to shove in her pocket, and opens her can. \"No fixing broken people, sadly,\" she says a little darkly, lifting the can to sip the bubbling foam from the cap. \"No, I mean, why live here?\" She gestures, then grimaces, realizing it sounds worse than she means.\n\n\"I mean, it's not bad. It's nice, really, but it's hard to get to, and your shop surely has a room that you could crash in?\" The last bit of the statement lilts up into a question and she reaches to set her beer down on the table.\n\nStaring down at his beer for a long while, Jack lifts a shoulder before taking a chug. \"Yeah, there's a flat above the shop. No one lives there.\" He manages to make this a statement of fact and a rule, all at once. The admission of it puts him in a darker, pensive mood for a moment. Until the drink can push it aside, letting out the breath he'd been holding.\n\nThe smile is forced at first, \"It's out of the way. People don't come down here. The whole line is closed off, sealed since 2003. It's quiet, no one bothers me. I can go for long walks an' never see a bleedin' soul. There's no background noise for the most part. It's like an escape, I guess.\" he shrugs again, considering how that sounds when he speaks it aloud.\n\nWhen his mood darkens, Mattie's eyes flit back away, and she reaches for her beer again to take a drink, then stares down at it as she listens. She nods, then huffs a soft, humorless sort of laugh. \"You don't have to feel weird about that. The wanting to be alone thing, not seeing anyone. I walk all over town at night invisible, so that even if I see someone, they don't see me. I'm not going to judge you on that. And I stay at Imogen's safehouse when I don't need to. I guess because part of me doesn't want to be alone all the time. Contradictions. We get so screwed up by what happened to us, by what we are and what's out there — we all deal with it in our own way.\" \n\nShe quiets for a moment, then adds, \"How the hell did you get all this stuff here, though?\"\n\n\"If you go far enough along, you can hear people working in the Post Offices above. Nearby, but just out of reach. Carrying on about their business, not having a clue.\" That works on two levels. There's a wider smile, slightly proud of himself, \"That'd be telling. You're the first person what's ever been down here.\" Here likely meaning this room, since it's been done up, rather than the line in general. \"Not going to give up all my dirty little secrets in one go, you know.\"\n\n\"On the upside, makes it real easy to catch the train in the morning.\" Especially since generally, he doesn't even need to unlock the doors to get out. Lifting his can at an angle toward her, he gives an expression that encompasses a measure of acceptance, \"Here's to being fucked up. Maybe you can start taking more regular days off, and I'll come be alone with you.\"\n\nA very slight smile curves Mattie's lips when he says she's the first person to see the place, and she lifts her can in the toast gesture back at him. \"I'm going to get fat if we keep drinking beer every time we hang out,\" she points out taking another sip and setting it down. She's got a long haul before she approaches being even slightly chubby, of course, but all the running around fighting the Gloom seems to keep their beer bellies in check. \n\nShe raises a brow, leaning her head on one hand, and the elbow on the sofa's back as she watches him. \"No one else? Even non Watch people? What about the chick who made you go to the masquerade?\" Clearly Mattie's got the wrong idea about his patron.\n\"Bah, you could do with eating a pie once in a while. Or just remembering to stop long enough to eat anything. Anyhow, you're nicer to me when you're drunk.\" The latter is added with another grin, while he kicks off his shoes and turns to settle into the corner of the sofa, facing back toward her.\n\n\"I know a bunch of non-Watch people, but not really. People know me, but they don't know me. We ain't friends. Even that kid who I keep about the shop and try to teach things to. We stay at arms length. It's…\" he hunts for the right phrasing, waving the can about as though it'll summon up an answer. \"How it is. Necessities of the condition, some geezer once told me.\" The last bit gets a laugh, \"I don't reackon Mrs. Edgeware would make it down them steps. I'm surprised she even still drives that car of hers, be honest with you. It's only 'cause she has a master mechanic that it still runs at all. She's been coming to my shop for fourt years. Probably break a hip down here.\"\n\nMattie blushes a little when he says she's nicer when she's drunk, but as if to try to bring about some of that kindness, she takes a bigger swallow of the beer. \"Am not,\" she argues anyway, but she listens to the rest, nodding a couple of times in understanding. \n\nShe smirks at the words about Mrs. Edgeware. \"Oh. Sorry. I thought she was your date,\" she says, and glances away at that. \"I know what you mean, though. Imogen, she's the only one who's not like us that I think really gets it. Not even all the people at the Watch who aren't like us do. They can't until they've been through it. And then a lot of those who have, too — I don't know. I don't feel the need to rehash it or get into a whose life sucks more competition. We all win that one, and by win, I mean lose.\" \n\nShe lies her head down on top of her arm. \"Someone once told me I'm so bad at this stuff because I wasn't done becoming a person yet when things went down. But some people are okay. Sunshine, she was younger than I was. She seems okay. But 'seem' and 'is' are two different things, I guess.\"\n\nThe first remark gets her a skeptical look, made just a touch more convincing by the fact that the smile is hidden behind his own drink. \"I don't think Mrs. Edgeware and I are suited for each other, I'm sure she was a looker sixty years ago though. Been a long time since I had a date for anythin'.\" he replies with a laugh. The humour dies down a bit for her response, considering it all thoughtfully while draining the rest of his can. A new one involves getting up, but he manages to leave the gravitational pull of the sofa, strong though it may be.\n\nThere's another set on the floor in front of her, just in case she wants it. \"I ain't talked much with Imogen, really.\" Jack admits as he resettles. \"Good that you got a mate to talk to though.\" he muses thoughtfully, with just the barest pang of envy in the tone; subconscious as it may be. \"You hold it together pretty good.\" he allows, eventually. \"I guess a lot of the poor sods who're worse off than us in the mental department never make it to the Watch in the first place, in't it?\"\n\n\"It's easier not to, I think,\" Mattie says quietly, on the subject of dates, but when that touch of envy comes through, she looks up. \"And here I thought you had a ton of them, you being so cheerful and talkative all the time.\" Cheerful is probably up for debate, but Jack is certainly less 'aloof,' to use the word he hadn't earlier, than Mattie. \n\nShe takes another swallow of her beer, but she's still only halfway through the first. \"I guess. I'm not insane. I might be happier if I were, you know?\" She looks his way and shrugs. \"Probably the same for you. You don't come off as crazy to me.\"\n\n\"My honesty gets the better of me.\" The counter with a smirk, perhaps understandable why there's the lack of dates. It took some serious effort to be diplomatic earlier, after all. \"It's an easy front. Being friendly, keeps customers coming back, keeps questions from being asked, right?\" Just armour of a different kind.\n\nHe gives her a wide eyed look at the last, the too-big eyed stare. \"I just cover it well an' hide the bodies good.\" A snort of amusement follows, ruining his effort to look more insane while he pops open the next drink with a crack and a fizz. \"Surprising that we're not, really.\" A finger taps thoughtfully against the side of the larger, making a dull noise. \"Sure if we told a regular old shrink what we was seeing and doing on a regular basis, like, it'd all go tits up right sharpish. Don't even feel out of the ordinary anymore. Maybe that is crazy.\"\n\nHer brows knit and she nods, taking another swallow of beer before pulling her feet up to sit indian-style on the couch. \"I guess. To willingly put yourself in danger every day is maybe crazy by some standards. But then is every cop or firefighter or soldier insane? At least we're not killing people. I don't need a shrink to tell me I have coping issues and I'm antisocial and that I need to not bottle crap up inside, but I can get a golden retriever if I need someone just to listen to me whine.\" Another gulp of beer is taken and this time the can is finished. \n\n\"So what kind of hobby should I get? Theoretically.\" She looks skeptical.\n\n\"I meant more seeing crazy shit what no one else does and chasing monsters through the sewers. I think that's crazy by most anyone's standards.\" The comment about a dog prompts a thought though, \"I wonder if animals ever get taken.\" Clearly he has no idea and perhaps hopes she has one, to sate his curiosity. \"You're right though, darl'. No chance in fuck of me sitting down with our new shink, unless they drag me in there screaming bloody murder.\"\n\nNow, there's a question. Jack looks her over, trying to divine what kind of hobby would suit the girl best. \"Mrs. Edgeware runs a very successful bridge club. Sure some of the partners will be popping clogs soon.\" he suggests, trying to sound serious but failing. \"I'm not sure; what'd you like doing?\"\n\n\"I'm sure they've been killed or brought in but I don't think they make it out again,\" Mattie says, though she shakes her head with uncertainty. The frown deepens when he asks what she likes doing. She shakes her head again, this time more decisively. \n\n\"Never mind. Stupid question. I should be going.\" She unfolds her feet to put them back on the floor and rises from the sofa. \"I think I can find my way out. Walking through walls comes in handy in mazes like this,\" she says with a small smile.\n\nThe deflection away from that line of inquiry earns her a bout of scrutiny, with Jack setting down his drink and considering. There's no follow up, or push for details. He can be patient. \"Right you are then.\" The beer on the floor can be drunk by him, later. It's a dirty job, but he's probably up to the task.\n\n\"Think 'bout what I said though, is it? Day off. See the sights, do some tourist shit, or something.\" A shrug; he's got no good suggestions. It's not like his free time — what little of it there is — is filled with productivity. Still. There's a smile there for her. \"Don't be a stranger.\"\n\nShe pulls her gloves from her pocket, tugging them on, head down and not looking at him. \"I've seen them. Usually while chasing down an Other. I don't need to spend twenty quid to go ride a ferris wheel to see the real London, right?\" \n\nShe looks back up at him, offering a crooked smile. \"The truth is, this is the only thing I'm good at and I'm a terribly boring person underneath it all, Mitchell. I'm even sort of terrible at being a waitress, but the people at the cafe keep me on because they're afraid it's the only job I can keep and they're doing me some sort of favor, I think,\" she says. \"I can throw knives. I can turn invisible. I can take over people's bodies. I can pour coffee and make change. You think you want to know the real me, but there's just not that much left to know.\" \n\nShe turns transparent, but not invisible, to prepare to leave. \"Thanks for showing me the place. It's good for someone to know. Just in case you get hurt or something,\" she adds in the whispery voice that comes with her ghost form.\n\n\"You say you're boring. We'll see how true that is.\" Jack is apparently a glutton for punishment \"Yeah, mum's the word though. Keep schtum about it, won't you?\" He seems comfortable, ish with trusting her judgment on that. \"G'night, darlin'. I'll see you soon, no doubt.\" The door gets opened, moving to the door and knocking on the other lights so she can find her way back and he leans against the frame for a moment. \"Good having company, once in a while.\" It's a compliment of sorts. She's succeeded in being non-annoying while invading the sanctum. So far, so good.\n"

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