|Open to Possibilities|
|Location||Open Hands - Mutant Town|
|Summary||This scene is a flashback(!) to when Valerie was only just starting to poach Luka's kids for her criminal activities. He suspects but doesn't have any proof.|
The noonday sun hangs proudly overhead, perpetuating a month-long heat wave that has taken many New Yorkers by surprise. A safety warning has even been issued by the Health Commissioner as of early yesterday morning.
Located in a single three-story townhouse off of a side-street no wider than an alley-way, Open Hands has been open for only three short years. In dire need of new siding, the building is a constant work in progress. Still, window boxes of wildflowers and a newly planted sycamore sapling just out front do give the crumbling city home a warm, even quaint aesthetic.
Popular pop music plays outside, intermingling with the collective hum of countless air conditioner window units. A young man with baby-blue hair and blue-tinged, caucasian skin stands at the base of a ladder that blocks entry to the halfway house. At the top, Luka hammers the final touches on the new awning. Pausing, he turns to squint out over the sunny side-street and wipes his work glove over his brow. His dark hair clings to his forehead and the sides of his face. Svelte and deeply tanned, he wears a sweat-soaked tank-top, worn-out jeans, and tan construction boots. "I think that is it," he calls, sliding the hammer back into his belt.
"Does that mean I can go inside?" The blue teen asks, exasperated.
Valerie isn't exactly a patron of Open Hands - she's a little outside its target demographic, and she never looks quite lost enough to need it - but she's made herself plenty friendly with those who are. Today she's hitched herself up on the roof of a parked car - not hers - to watch Luka and the teen with a lazy smile and an upward squint against the sun. Her blonde hair has been piled high and messy atop her head, leaving the line of her neck bare. In fact, she's wearing as few clothes as possible in the heat; her red tank has the thinnest of spaghetti straps, her cut-off shorts ride high on her thighs, her sandals flip-flip-flip against the soles of her feet as she jiggles one leg. She grins as they finish, calling up, "Looking good, boys!" It's possible this is startling - she slipped in somewhere mid-awning-hang. Her smile lingers around the popsicle she's working on, a half-melted thing that's turned her lips raspberry blue.
"Hey, Val!" Little boy blue smiles eagerly over the to the pretty young woman. His blue eyebrows raise into his slick forehead and for a moment, it might seem as though his blue eyes might pop out at any moment ...like a lovesick cartoon hound.
"Why don't go grab some lemonade, eh? And see when Pookie will have lunch ready," Luka offers after making his way down the ladder. He pats the young mutant on the back, "Hello, Valerie." His accent comes through just a bit in the pronunciation of her name and he offers her a friendly if not very subtle nod.
"Waiting for somebody?" Luka asks. Feigning disinterest, he turns his back to her. The muscles in his shoulders test the thin fabric of his tank top as he folds the ladder up and moves it out of the doorway.
Valerie answers the blue boy's greeting with a smile that knows exactly what it's doing as it settles on him. She pauses for a suck on her popsicle (ahem), then pops it free to say, "Hey back. This place is going to start looking official any day now." Her eyes widen a little, feigning surprise as they flick up to Luka, who gets a smirk as he sends his companion scurrying off. In goes the popsicle again. Valerie uses the moment to appreciate those muscles without a hint of shame. Her eyes linger, and she hums approval to herself before licking a stray drip of sticky-sweet ice from the curve of thumb and forefinger. "Just seeing who's around, Lukes," she answers sweetly. "You know me. I'm open to possibilities."
“Thank you,” Luka huffs, letting the ladder lean against the house for now. He claps his hands together before removing his work gloves, “It is getting there.” He continues to gradually clean up the tools that are scattered about, stacking them into a dented metal toolbox. “Yes, I do know you,” he agrees cooly. His toolbelt clicks as he unbuckles it.
"Uh oh," Valerie says, shifting forward to straighten from her lean on the car's hood. Her brows draw up, but her smile doesn't falter as she traces a few steps toward Luka. "We're in the middle of a heat wave, and I /swear/ the temperature just went straight down to freezing." She circles Luka to lean instead against the house's wall, cocking a hip into it. "Does that mean I'm in trouble?"
“On the contrary.” Letting the belt fall away, he gently tosses it overtop of the open toolbox. Slowly, the turns to consider Valerie. Crossing his strong arms and leaning back very casually. “Clean as a whistle, aren’t you?” A prominent vein becomes visible, snaking its way up the side of Luka’s temple and into his forehead.
There is a brief moment, a bare flicker of a thing, when something flashes in Valerie's eyes that suggests maybe she's just a /little/ concerned about Luka's slow turning and strong arm crossing. It vanishes swiftly behind a smile, positively (and pointedly) lascivious as she couples it with a lick of her popsicle with a flash of blue-stained tongue. "I wouldn't say that," she purrs in answer.
“The police came to me yesterday,” Luka offers in a tone that suggests the beginning of a story. He does not feel the need to move from his place. Instead, he remains where he is as a great pillar of stone set a comfortable distance from Valerie. “They tell me, one of my girls, Mecca, has been arrested.” He tilts his head, “Mecca, who came here straight from her family home. Little Mecca, who has never committed a crime. And I think to myself, where would Mecca get such an idea. Where would Mecca acquire such a skill?” Slowly, he tilts his head the other way, “And then, I think. ...Who?”
Valerie's eyes widen despite herself, and she straightens swiftly against the wall. All that lazy, licentious body language evaporates with the move, and her popsicle drops to her side as she says, sharply, "/Shit/." There's half a second's pause, and Luka can probably see the calculating thoughts spinning through Valerie's head even as her eyes narrow on him. "Are they holding her?"
“Why don’t you go down to the station and find out?” Luka suggests, offering the begging hint of a smile. It’s a smile that never comes to be. “I’m sure that they will be interested to speak with you.”
"Fuck off, Luka," Valerie says in a quick flash of biting irritation. She lifts her popsicle for a bite chomped whole off the end, then strides past him to toss the remains into a trashcan with a sharp gesture. Her back is still toward him when she demands, "Are they holding her or not? If you don't tell me what you know, I can't do a damned thing to help her."
Luka takes his time in forming a response. “I think that you have helped, enough.”
Inside, there is a great clatter. A voice calls out to ask if anyone needs help, followed shortly by a curse of surprise.
Still standing where he has been, Luka’s eyes are black. All kindness and patience has been washed from his face. Replacing them is a look that can only be described as a primal, animalistic hunger.
Valerie spins with a protest on her lips, but it dies in the face of Luka's expression. She meets Luka's eyes, and without thinking, takes a quick step backward, swallowing. Her hand tucks into her back pocket, fingering the photograph tucked there as she watches him. There is a long pause before she says, "Don't let your pride make you stupid, Luka. I /can/ help."
"Luka!" Blue appears in the doorway, pausing only when he catches the look on Valerie's face. "Luka," he continues hesitantly, "Do you know first aid?"
Turning to the boy, Luka's eyes return to normal. He forces up a little twitch of a smile to reassure him, "Yes. I am coming." Stepping towards the house, he looks back over his broad shoulder to Valerie as he makes his way up the short expanse of concrete steps. "Goodbye, Valerie." The farewell has a markedly definite ring to it.
Definite or no, Valerie is not easily put off. She snorts audibly, giving Luka a roll of her eyes as she turns on her heel to stalk in the other direction. It takes her nearly half a block to regain her usual swagger, and much longer than that to decide what exactly she's going to do about this situation.
"Is everything alright?" Blue asks, peaking after Luka as he leads the older man towards the trouble.
"Yeah," Luka blinks. His expression warms and he brings up a hand to pat the teen's back. "You know me."Blue laughs a little, but doesn't understand.