1182/Where Nothing Terrible Happens For A Change

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Where Nothing Terrible Happens For A Change
Date of Scene: 15 April 2020
Location: Titan's Tower - Lobby
Synopsis: This is when Terry finds out what caffeine does to bird-people.
Cast of Characters: Terry O'Neil, Kian

Terry O'Neil has posed:
    There's the smell of coffee permeating the kitchen, paired with the sweet smell of pancakes and maple syrup.  It's just a regular morning on Terry's Day Off, and the cub reporter has decided to start it off by making breakfast at the tower.  Nothing fancy—he hasn't gotten to the full level of experimentation that his mother favors, which can create godly treats or doomed delicacies, and you never knew quite what might come out.  To her credit, Agatha O'Neil was using chocolate and bacon long before that was discovered by the fashionable chocolatiers.
    But then there was also that incident with the avocado that nobody in the household—not April, not Terry—have ever discussed again.
    Lady Gaga is blasting through the radio, and Terry is singing along—knowing that the distance between the kitchen and the dorm floors is too great for his admittedly amateurish singing to disturb anyone.
    "Come to mamaaaaaa… tell me who hurt yaaaaa…
    There's gonna be no fuuutuuure… if we don't figure this oooout!"
    At one moment, the spatula is used as a microphone as he pours the batter.  Dinner and a show.

Kian has posed:
    Anywhere else, having a birdman drop out of the sky and land at the front doors might elicit comment, but this is Titans Tower and probably not all that weird.  It could have as easily been a random green creature, a hole in spacetime, a tentacular ineffable blackness swirling up out of nowhere… take your pick.  If you stop and think about it, a birdman landing is probably not as strange as all that.
    Also, there is absolutely zero possiblity that Kían would even consider using the elevator.  No.  Way.  In.  Hell.
    So Kían drops out of the sky, lands delicately at the main entrance, and lets himself in.  He needs to get away from English for a while.  It's not getting easier.  May as well try to make sense out of his new home, and… what's that smell?  And that sound?
    Led by his nose and ears, the birdman ultimately finds himself watching curiously while Terry makes strange noises at a kitchen implement.  He waits for the end of the song before saying, "Kié, Téri.  How iss hyu, good?"

Terry O'Neil has posed:
    Terry turns around at he sound of Kian's voice and smiles rather self-consciously.  "Hello, Kian!  I am good, you?"  He gestures to the table.  "I'm making breakfast.  Morning food," he adds, in case Kian hasn't gotten that word yet.  "No birds cooked," he also clarifies.
    Terry always begins his breakfast with scrambled eggs.  Today is an exception—he thought ahead of time at the potentially horrified face of the poor avian if he stopped by for breakfast and decided that it was a pancakes sort of day.  While the pancakes are in process, he walks over to his phone (which he had paired to the sound system in the kitchen—the Titans were all fancy while his apartment looked like it had been used as the set for 'Rhoda' in the seventies) and switches to some soothing Enya.  A random shuffle of the Shepherds Moon album.  Kian seemed so high-strung, this might be better.

Kian has posed:
    "I iss… nnh.  I am good," Kían corrects himself.  "Iss… nnh.  Not haf wor'd.  Iss good here," he adds, touching the side of his nose, hoping the pantomime is clear.
    He comes closer to watch the process.  "Iss bread?" he asks, picking up the box of mix and clearly not getting much more than one out of every ten words.  Somewhat laboriously, he sounds out one of the words.  "Pan-kah-kee."  As has been commented before, his English is a work in progress—but at least this appears to mean he's got the alphabet and its sounds memorized.
    He sets the box back down.  "House do this, for me.  At home."

Terry O'Neil has posed:
    Terry raises an eyebrow.  He is about to introduce Kian to the vagaries of English… as if he needed it at this point.  "By house, do you mean the people in the house," household, "Or the building?"  He gestures to the place as he reaches for the syrup.  Terry is aware of Kian's alien origins, and it sounds like they had smart houses down to a much greater degree.  "Yes, pancakes are bread."  He doesn't want to go into the difference between 'quick breads' and other types, to spare the bird-man.  By now, there is a healthy stack of pancakes to which he has been adding new recruits, and it is this large plate which he brings over to the counter.  "Have some, and let's see if you like them!"  They are properly syrupy, just enough.

Kian has posed:
    "House do," Kían says.  "Liff self, no… nnh.  No wor'd.  No tenár to me, tenár iss… nnh."  He has to think a moment to explain the alien word, and only once hesitantly starts to reach towards Terry for the telepathic shortcut—but does not.  He needs to learn this language; he can't always count on someone to be willing to allow the mind-touch.
    His expression brightens.  "Ah!  Gar is tenár to you.  Yis?"  He goes on; he's confident of his explanation.  "I am haf no yet tenár, am liff self."
    He picks up one of the pancakes and folds it over, taco-style, examines it, sniffs it, and takes a bite.  Eyes widen.
    "Iss good!"

Terry O'Neil has posed:
    Terry ponders this for a second, and then realizes that Kian might be assuming his relationship with Gar is a lot more formal than it is at this moment.  Still, he gets the gist of it, "Ah, I see.  So…," to clarify, "a tenar lives with you.  Shares life with you?"
    He goes over to the coffee pot and serves himself a cup, and then one for Kian.  This one is tempered with non-dairy creamer, almond-flavored.  He is not quite sure how the bird would take to a purely unadulterated cup of O'Neil coffee, which has been known to bring people out of comas.
    "Here is some coffee."  He slides the mug over to him.  "It's made from beans!"

Kian has posed:
    Kían hesitates, but sometimes you just have to accept the limits of your knowledge and what you can and cannot do, and reaches over to put his hand on Terry's arm.  {This is too complicated for my incomplete Ing-lis,} he explains.  {A tenár is a lover, a partner.  The family you choose as opposed to the family you were born with.  Does that make sense?}
    He blinks once, and adds, {Have I assumed too much of you and Gar?}

Terry O'Neil has posed:
    Terry ahs, as he sits down next to Kian so as to have breakfast and maintain the contact.  {I see what you mean.  Well… I think that as of two nights ago, that is an accurate description… but I can never tell with Gar.  He doesn't seem inclined to use such words, whereas I take comfort in them.} It's almost as if his lineage comes from a world where words are important enough to shape the reality of the world itself, huh?  {So I am left in a state where I am never quite sure if he's staying, or if he'll flee if I dare put words around something.}
    He points to the mug, "Drink!" he says with a smile.  He's curious to see what alien taste buds make of his life water.

Kian has posed:
    Kían chuckles softly.  {The advantages of a telepathic society.  I never had to doubt where Raká and I stood with regard to each other… honestly, if I hadn't been going to the homeworld, we probably would have ended up together within a year.  You might have gotten a glimpse of him when I shared my dream… I don't know how much of that you saw, if any, but I think I was sharing it.}  The Earthly rule about not talking with your mouth full?  Yeah, apparently that doesn't apply to mental conversations.
    Granted, there's no choking hazard to thinking and chewing at the same time.  One wonders what family dinners must be like on his world.
    Obliviously, Kían carries on: {I don't know what the social rules are here, but I think you're a good match for each other.}  He snickers, and adds, {Even if your colors clash badly.}
    He picks up the coffee mug, sniffs it, gives no impression of any sort of recognition.  {What is this?}

Terry O'Neil has posed:
    {Oh, I think we're a great match.  But he's—I don't now.  He's suffered a lot of loss.  He hides a lot behind the smiles and the jokes.} He grabs a fork and starts digging into his pancake.  {He used to be part of the previous Titans, and also the Doom Patrol before that.  It might sound pathetic, but I had a crush on him way back when, when he was nothing more than photographs in newspapers and clips on interviews.  I also watched any serial story that he acted in,} because that is the best way to explain movies and television.  {I sound pathetic, don't I?  Carrying a torch for a guy I never even met, nor really had much of a chance to meet?} And yet, here he is.
    He grins and raises an eyebrow {That, Kian, is coffee.  Brewed drink prepared from roasted coffee beans.  It is somewhat bitter but I have sweetened it for you.  People drink it because it gives them energy and helps them wake up in the morning.  My boss, Lois Lane, practically lives on this stuff when she's on a tough case.}

Kian has posed:
    {What's pathetic about that?  I know there were a couple qihár stars that made my heart speed up, even though I knew I'd almost certainly never get to meet them.  Oh, qihár is a sport we play,} he explains, realizing he'd 'sent a word that has no translation.
    He starts in on another pancake.  {Anyway, I really don't know.  I think he's very fond of you, whatever words you do or don't apply… but I have to admit, I don't know the social rules.  I have figured out this much: this Titans thing is an insane and dangerous way to live, and now you have a rhy'thar too.  Maybe he used to worry about you being around this craziness.  Now he doesn't have to.  You can take care of yourself.  And, you both understand changing forms, yes?}
    He takes a sip of the 'kófi'.  {Is there more sweetener?}

Terry O'Neil has posed:
    {Right here!}.  He slides the creamer to Kian with a slight smirk, {Too strong still?  I'll learn your tastes soon enough.  As for Gar… well.  I am not going to try to predict what he'll say or think.  I don't think he's that concerned with social rules, to be honest, and neither am I.  But I can't pretend there isn't a wall there… well.  I guess I'll know how serious it is the day he actually says the word 'love'.  If that day ever comes.}
    He pouts himself some more coffee, and hmmms.  He takes it unsweetened.  It's almost like the liquid equivalent of Raven's disdain—dark and bitter.
    {So… how do you play this… qihar?}

Kian has posed:
    {It tastes kind of like… smoke?  And something creamy, and something nutty, and I don't know.  I haven't eaten often since coming to this world, partly because I don't need to, mostly because I don't know if anything is going to affect me badly.  The researchers that Captain Marvel took me to said I'm broadly similar to Earth people and didn't think anything should be dangerous.}  Kían shrugs; feathers rustle.  {I don't know.  I've been careful anyway.  And as for you and Gar, I don't know, but it's also been only what, two days?  It's a little early to worry about what will and won't happen.  Enjoy the flight, even if the winds are unpredictable.}
    Careful what questions you ask, you might get answers: {It's a flying game,} he begins, relative to qihár's rules.  {I played in the intra-clan league.  I was hoping to get promoted to inter-clan play, but… things intervened.  It's really pretty simple—every player has two ribbons tied to their belt.  Remove those of the opposing team, avoid having yours removed.  With your permission, I can deepen the mind-touch and show you what it's like.}
    He's about doubled the amount of creamer and sweetener, and now it appears to meet with his approval.

Terry O'Neil has posed:
    {By all means!  I've never been on another world, much less even seen what sports in another world must be like!  When I was at school, I was in the swimming team… which is as close to flying as I am ever going to get.} He grins, takes a sip of his mug, and nods, {All right, I am ready!}

Kian has posed:
    {I think if you close your eyes, it will help.  I'm used to both sides making the mindlink closer, and that can't happen here.}  Kían too closes his eyes and concentrates, and a memory comes into view.
    There are many birdfolk around, looks like an even mix of men and women, eight or ten total, standing in a field of not quite grass, but a lot like it.  An official checks the ribbons on Kían's belt, is satisfied with the length and that won't just fall off, it will need to be tugged off.  She moves on to the next.  Kían looks upward—the playing space is defined by several aerial "buoys", marking out a vast cube in the air, below whice is an even larger net.  On the other side of the net is another cluster of birdfolk; Kian's ribbons are blue, theirs are yellow.
    At a signal, both teams take to the air on opposite 'surfaces' of the cube.  At a second signal—if Terry recalls the way Kian shot skyward at his first meeting with he and Gar, this is where he learned it.  He rockets up to a position near a corner of the playing space, where he cannot have someone sneak up on him and where he can pick and choose among targets.  Someone from Team Yellow is giving chase to one of Kían's teammates: he dives to the attack, the wind roaring past, just misses snatching the yellow ribbon away, angles upwards catches movement out of the corner of his eye and spreads his wings to snap to a near-halt, grabbing the yellow ribbon off a player that didn't forecast his maneuver.
    It is insanely fast, a whirlwind of wings and winds and near-collisions and Gods but the safety net looks impossibly small from here….

Terry O'Neil has posed:
    Terry's heartbeat accelerates some.  Enmeshed in the memory of the game, he is actually experiencing what flight feels like as if it were his own experience.  Eyes firmly closed, he is both terrified and exhilarated at once, and he does his best to keep his breath even.  Now he knows where Kian learned the kind of maneuvers that kept both of them alive during the demon assault within the inner world of Raven.  He thought he was at a whole new level when experiencing how agile and nimble his new feline body was… he had absolutely no idea.  No idea at all. 

Kian has posed:
    Weaving through a cluster of birdfolk, Kían reaches the (relative) safety of a corner and stashes his prize, the yellow ribbon of an opponent.  Doublechecks that his own are still safely attached—yes.  They hang about half a meter past his feet.  It's always gratifying to strike first, but that's his role, he's one of the team's hunters—strike fast, strike surgically and get the hell out of the way.
    Seeking another target, he spots an opposing hunter closing in on one of the blue protectors, and stoops to the attack… yes!  Another yellow ribbon and--
    When his head clears a second or two later, Kían realizes he's spiraling downward towards the net—closer now, but still looks obscenely small for the purpose, but there's no sense of fear whatsoever from the falling birdman—alongside someone from the other team.  There's quite an ache in Kían's left shoulder.  And then they're intercepted by the playfield guards, who escort them both down to the ground to make sure they're not badly hurt.
    Kían is still elated—the score counted, even if he's grounded for the rest of the game.

Terry O'Neil has posed:
    Terry's eyes snap open, "Wow!…"
    And then he remembers.  {Wow.  That's… quite a game.  Amazing in fact.  I don't think Earth has anything even remotely like that.  Unless the super-people have come up with their own flying variant… I'll have to ask.}
    He grins and gets an idea, {You know… I could write a feature about your world.  I am sure people on Earth would love to know what a day in the like of someone across the universe is like.  What the culture is like, etcetera.  I could write it as a series of articles… like a travelogue.  Only I wouldn't be traveling, except maybe through your memories.}

Kian has posed:
    Kían considers that, taking a longer pull on his coffee.  {I'd like to teach other flyers how to play, but I don't know where to get a safety net, and you need as many playfield guards as you have players.  In fact, I can't think of any time I actually fell all the way to the net without being intercepted,} he muses.  Terry may or may not have noticed that the guard used the same carrying hold on Kían that Kían had used on him.
    Another drink.
    {It might be interesting to get some stuff down about my world… will anyone care, if I can't say where it is from here?  And we might want to clear it with Már-vel q'ten first, she seemed very worried about the idea of aliens on this world and Earth people knowing about them.  Us.}
    The birdman's thoughts seem a little fuzzy around the edges, and he peers into his coffee cup… then takes another drink.  He likes it, but it seems to be having an effect on him.
    {Anyway, what was I thinking at you?  Oh yes.  Even if it can't be published, it might be good to have what I know on the record somewhere.  It might be useful if I ever need care, physical or psychological.}
    He blinks, and wavers slightly in his seat.

Terry O'Neil has posed:
    {Yes, we can definitely talk to her about this.  Although it seems she does not trust me because I am a member of the press.  There's apparently this special school Colette teaches at that Marvel told her never to tell me about.  I guess she must be afraid I'd blow the lid on that…} He smirks, though there's no amusement there, {If she only knew all the secrets I've been carrying that haven't made it to the light of the press.  A single one.  I wonder what she'll do should she find out I have a… a… thing you said.  But yes, we can work on chronicling you, even if it never sees the light of day, we can put it in the Titan archives for referenc--}
    And speaking of physical care, Terry grows concerned at the wavering, {Kian?  What is it?}

Kian has posed:
    {I was at that school for a while.  It didn't work out for me.}  Kían's thoughts are starting to run together, almost stream of consciousness.  {They want their students to pretend they don't have rhy'thar'yw… I can't do that.  Wanted me to hide my wings with a hologram.  Blasphemy.  I--}
    Kían tries to stand up, and fails, sitting back down.  "I… not know," he says aloud.  "Iss kófi… nnh!"  He reverts to telepathic contact.  {Is kófi alcoholic?  I don't mind a drink, but this seems to be hitting very hard….}

Terry O'Neil has posed:
    Congratulations, Terry, you've gotten the alien drunk.  {It… isn't, and you probably shouldn't tell me more about the school.  Maybe coffee gets bird-men drunk?} Terry huhs, and reaches over to pull him gently out of the chair, {Here… why don't we go to your room for you to lie down a bit?  I'll stay with you to make sure it's not having a bad effect, okay?} He looks at the stack of pancakes, and then makes sure the equipment is shut off.  Someone was going to wander into the kitchen and believe the breakfast fairy left a whole bunch of stuff here for them. 

Kian has posed:
    {It's… nnh… not like being drunk,} Kían replies.  {I've been drunk, I know.  Flying lesson for you—if you see two identical trees, don't try to fly between them if you've had a couple spicewines.}  Welcome to Free Association Theater, Birdman Edition.  His eyes are half closed; he actually sounds more tired than he does drunk, the kind of tired you hit after an all-nighter writing a term paper, or deciding to get through just one more level of a game and holy shit, when did the sun come up?
    He allows himself to be hoisted to his feet.  Frankly, he couldn't do much about it if he objected.  {That little room that moves between floors—please don't use that,} he asks, with a definite mental note of pleading.  {Too small.}
    He tries to rally, to enforce some order on his mind and body.  {Feels like a sleep aid,} he 'sends, trying to stand on his own.
    He can't.

Terry O'Neil has posed:
    {Okay, now we know that coffee has the opposite action on you than on humans.  Good to know.  Don't worry, we won't be using the elevator.}  The mirror comes out and the words are spoken, and then there's a Cheshire cat holding Kian up.  {We'll go the Cheshire way.}
    He picks Kian off his feet before he can collapse right then and there.  It's a little tricky, because he has to make sure to account for the wings, so he opts for the fireman carry.  The Rabbit Hole opens to reveal Kian's room, and the Cheshire steps through, {Every day is a surprise with you, bird.}

Kian has posed:
    {Is it?  Good.  I'd hate to be boring.}
    Kían's room is double-height, and almost devoid of furnishings—a desk and a bed, both near the floor-to-ceiling window, and almost nothing else  There is, in fact, only just enough room to fly in.
    Maybe in the future, coffee won't clobber the bird, once he's gotten a little more used to it—for now, it's like the first time taking… well, any drug, and it's hit him hard.  Poor thing has no tolerance.
    Before being poured into his bed, Kían rallies just enough to plant a kiss on Terry's cheek.  {Thank you, friend Téri.  I'm going to sleep now.}
    No kidding, like he has any choice in the matter.
    {Maybe I should do that more often….}