People Like Us

Cast: date: '6 October 2012'
place: Soho
participants: 'Benjamin, Mattie'
synopsis: 'In a chance encounter at a bus station, Benjamin asks Mattie for help with a "recent acquisition" that is more than it appears. '
log: "Bus stops are normally abnormal places. That is, they are almost always abnormal in some way, be it a shifty-eyed individual, a man with pamphlets, or some other oddity that happens to be also waiting to use the transportation system.\n\nThis particular bus stop isn’t well populated at the moment, but the cross section of London life is comforting enough for Benjamin Turner to find his way here. He sits on the red bench, ticket in one hand and a cigarette in the other, doing his best to appear relaxed. It may be a valiant effort - clean, dressed in his usual suit, hair comb, tie straight - but the little things give him away. Dark circles hollow out his eyes, and his pale gauntness is exaggerated by the dark color of his coat and jacket. That same jacket, as well as the rest of suit, bears wrinkles left from an improper ironing job. One sock is navy, while the other is black.\n\nBenjamin stares straight ahead at the empty bench on the other side of the enclosed stop, one foot tapping softly on the pavement in what is either a nervous tic or pronounced impatience.\n\nAs a rule, Mattie Dahl avoids mass transit, or, if she does use the trains and buses, she does so invisibly and thus for free — one of the advantages of being incorporeal at will. Today, however, she’d come to do a follow up interview for a minor Watch assignment, only to find the person she was seeking out ill for the day. Annoyed, she’s moving for the exit of the station when she sees the familiar fellow at the bench.\n\nShe could just keep walking, but the nervousness that’s apparent from the other Touched makes her… well, nervous. And it’s her job to find out if things are Wrong with a capital W. So she moves in his direction, green eyes narrowed slightly in concentration — checking to see that he is, in fact, Touched.\n\n“Everything okay?” the redheaded American asks, a safe distance away in case he feels threatened. “You were in the cafe, right?”\n\nBenjamin grunts, then steals a glance up at Mattie before he clears his throat into the gloved hand that holds the ticket. “What? Oh.” Then, recognize dawns, and his face brightens if only for a moment. “Oh! Oh yes. You were the waitress…when I went down to get the terrarium with the little house in it.” A weak smile settles on his face. “Huh.” Clearing his throat again, he straightens his back and purses his lips momentarily.\n\n“No, no,” he says with a shake of his head and the wrinkled nose of the calm dissident. “Nothing, really. Nothing to trouble you with.” He pauses in thought before continuing in a sort of babble. “I suppose the notion of spilling one’s troubles out to the barkeep may be translatable to other food service staff, but…really, it’s…it’s fine.” Ben brightens again, but it’s a weak bulb in what would be a gloomy room. “How are you, then?”\n\nMattie chuckles and moves a little closer when it’s clear she’s not going to scare the man off. “I’m not usually the type the clientele spouts off their troubles to, unless it’s that the coffee’s burnt or there’s eggshell in their fry-up,” she says, with a shrug.\n\nThere’s a pause, before she adds, words laden with implication, “Normal folks, you know, never quite feel at ease with people like me. Like us.” Brows lift, a tacit ‘Savvy?’ in the expression as she watches his face for any understanding. “But if there were something wrong that doesn’t fall into the ‘normal’ category, I might actually be the type to trouble with it.”\n\nBen’s own eyebrows mimic Mattie’s for a moment before he squints at her. It’s not an unfamiliar sort of look - not for ‘people like us’ as she said - but Ben doesn’t quite go all the way through with it. He blinks, then shakes his head before that veil is lifted back enough to glimpse. He clears his throat again, then takes a long drag from the cigarette. “Would you now,” he comments idly, his foot tapping out it’s tattoo again. “Well, that would be very kind of you, but…”\n\nSomething hits him then, and Ben turns his head to eye Mattie with suspicion. “You’re not part of that little club, are you?”\n\n“Trust me when I say I don’t belong to any ‘clubs,’” says Mattie a bit dryly. “But there are a group of us, yes, that do what we can to try to keep other people safe and the ignorant blissfully unaware about the kinds of things people like you and me’ve seen.”\n\nHer fingers fidget with the threads of a gray sweater that come a little longer than the sleeves of her already-too-big trench coat. Cuffs hit her mid knuckle, fingers tucking within them as if to use them as makeshift gloves in the chilly fall air. “Did you meet some of them? Where?” she asks, unaware that he’s got his very own name on a Watch assignment somewhere in the system.\n\n“Three,” Benjamin answers with a slight lift of his pale eyebrows. “Came ‘round to my shop like a little brigade. They were nice enough, though - I can’t fault them there.” That weak smile returns with a wry edge. “Could have used them years ago.” He sighs, then shakes his head to shake the shop from his mind, but…well, it’s there now.\n\nWith another throat clear, Benjamin shifts his weight on the bench. “I’ve a…recent acquisition that’s troubling me. Incredibly…odd. I’m not sure if it’s.. well.. like that so much as it’s just…well, it’s probably worth some thought, and to be honest, I can hardly stand to be in the same room with it anymore.”\n\n“Ooh,” Mattie says, thinking through recent assignments. “Curiosity shop, right?” The name isn’t there — she doesn’t have a photographic memory, after all — but she recalls the file, vaguely. “We do that, sometimes — if we suspect it’s someone like us. To make sure that’s all it is. As opposed to the alternative.” Like an Other pretending to be human.\n\nThose fidgety fingers move back to her coat’s pockets. “We can get it picked up, if you don’t mind me sending someone for it, or if that bothers you, I can take it myself, if it’s smaller than a bread basket anyway. What is it?”\n\n“It’s a sort of toy,” and Benjamin’s gloved hands move to simulate it’s size in front of him, staring critically at the space it would occupy. “But, well.. it’s the not knowing as much as…what it does that bothers me. So yes, I’d like someone to take a look at it, but…well, the mystery of it you is almost as troubling as…well, it is.”\n\nBenjamin stows his cigarette between his lips and reaches into his jacket to withdraw a business card, handing it over to the waitress. “Just call to see if I’m in, though. Shouldn’t trouble the shop girl with it.” It’s bad enough having to make the rule to leave the office light on and not being able to explain why in any way that makes sense.\n\nThe card is taken and glanced at before being slid into her back pocket. Another card is produced, with nothing more than her name, M. Dahl, and a number on it. This she hands to him in return.\n\n“Why does it bother you?” she asks. “Can you just sense something about it, or is it doing something weird?” Because ‘weird’ is the technical term for such things, right?\n\n“Both,” Benjamin says succinctly before he glances around him, as if the few other people gathered in and around the bus stop could be listening. What with their attention occupied by newspapers, cell phones, and earbuds. Considering this, Ben moves on the bench to give Mattie room to sit next to him without feeling crowded, then flicks ash from his cigarette into the receptacle at the end of the bench.\n\n“It moves,” he whispers. “And it’s not the sort of toy that should move. But that’s not the half of it.”\n\nMattie’s gaze slides along the same path as Benjamin’s, taking in the other commuters and their various activities, so blissfully unaware of the sorts of things the two of them are privy to. She moves to the bench when he slides over.\n\n“I’m not an expert in objects at all,” she says, “so I usually have someone else go deal with that. Have you come across other things like that in your work?”\n\nBenjamin is still for a moment, then he slowly shakes his head. “No, I can’t say that I…have had much experience with this particular sort of thing. Odd things, yes, but…not this odd.” He takes another pull from the cigarette before he screws the butt of it into the provided public tray. “Look, I can’t say I mind much who comes to take a look at it. Someone who can do something, sure,” he babbles, “but…well, if this is the extent of it, then fine. I’ll handle it. But I’d like to know that whatever brain it has won’t come up with new…habits.”\n\nAnother brow arches at the choice of words Benjamin uses, and Mattie tips her head curiously. “If you’re going there now, it’s easy enough for me to just go with you and take it off your hands, probably. I don’t think we can guarantee anything regarding its brain or its habits, and it’s best not to just… you know. Drop it in a trash bin to get rid of it, because you don’t know where it’s going to end up or who it might hurt.”\n\nShe reaches up to push a lock of hair from her eyes. “Can I ask what you can do?” Her voice’s volume drops a little with the rather personal question. “I mean, that’s out of the ordinary. And I don’t mean, like, you can sing the ABCs backwards or do a one-handed cartwheel. Though that might be impressive.”\n\nHe nods his head - that’s the trouble. If he could have just ignored it, could have just left it there…but then there’d be no chance to understand it, and the knowledge of even a potential danger would be too unbearable.\n\nSlowly, Benjamin tucks his ticket into his jacket pocket and pulls one glove off, finger by finger, then gently lays the leather on his knee, not touching it - not touching anything - with his pale, bare hand. Then with just as much care and deliberation, Benjamin rests his hand on the boards of the bench in the space between himself and Mattie.\n\nHe winces, his eyes shut tight.\n\nHis hand is only on the bench for a moment, and it comes away trembling.\n\n“Strong memories are easier,” he whispers thinly. “And…well, not many happy things happen in bus stops, it would seem.”\n\nMattie’s brows rise and she watches the ungloved hand, unsure what he plans to do with it. But it is all a bit anticlimactic — she’s not sure he’s done anything at all until he mentions memories. “The objects tell you memories?” she asks, then tips her head curiously.\n\n“Did this object give you any memories?” is the obvious question to ask. “That’s a skill that could be useful with our little group, if you ever felt like helping out.”\n\nBen turns to look at Mattie again, his eyebrows furrowed. “If necessary,” he says with a small nod. “A trade, perhaps. But yes. It’s my little curse, you could say.”\n\nReplacing the glove, Benjamin takes a deep breath. “That is actually one of the first indicators, to be honest. This…thing. It is missing part of it’s history. Like blank tape.”\n\n“Huh,” is terribly eloquent and confidence-building, surely. “What does the part it does have tell you, then?” Mattie asks, glancing up as someone nears the bench. There’s room for another to sit, but the woman hesitates, then moves away to the next one to share with a woman and a screaming baby.\n\nMattie huffs lightly with some amusement, and returns her curious gaze to Benjamin’s face. “You’re being very vague you know,” she points out.\n\n“Oh, quite intentionally,” Benjamin says in a slightly brighter whisper. “Have you noticed we’re in a bus stop?” His eyebrows lift, but settle after the brief moment of condescension, as if in apology.\n\nHe reaches into his coat and withdraws a pocketwatch, checking the time before glancing out of the bus stop glass for any indication of the transport’s arrival. “Your people know where they can find me,” he nods to Mattie in a general sort of way, “and so do you - and I have no intention of getting rid of this…thing - whatever it turns out to be - before solving its little mystery.”\n\nMattie raises one brow, her head tipping and eyes narrowing. “Have you noticed most people are clueless and also don’t give a fuck about what other people are talking about? Everyone’s too wrapped up in their own personal drama to care about you or me.”\n\nBut the hint is taken and she rises, pulling a knit cap out of her pocket to pull over her hair in preparation for the chilly and damp wind that awaits outside of the station. “If someone shows up to pick it up, whether you’ve solved it or not, it’d be best to hand it over before it does something worse than just make you nervous.”\n\nThere’s no goodbye or farewell from the American. She simply turns and walks toward the exit, leaving the man to wait for his bus.\n\n\n"
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