|Location||Chinatown - Lower East Side|
|Summary||Manners maketh man. Or not.|
|Prompt||Random Scene Mikhail & Irene @ Chinatown. Mikhail's word is: tense; Irene's word is: introduce. Irene sets.|
| New York's Chinatown is no tourist attraction, although its many storefronts selling trendy imported goods and authentic Chinese cuisine makes it a hot spot for visitors and locals alike. It is instead a lively district full of businesses that cater to New York's increased Chinese population, from Hong Kong fashions to imported produce. Many of the sidewalks are lined with markets that appear each morning and disappear every evening, and the air often carries the smell of fresh fish.
The signs that decorate nearly every surface bear a mishmash of English and Chinese characters announcing goods and services, while red lanterns strung over the street sway in the slightest breeze. At night, many of the shops close, and the area lights with neon announcing the location of popular bars and clubs.
| It is a winter day. The weather is cold and fair.|
Some places are closed, or close early, on a Sunday, but the shops and market stalls of Chinatown don't. Those undeterred by the winter's chill are out and about, shopping whether it be because they are tourists with little time to spare or locals just trying to get errands done. Irene falls into the latter category of visitors to this part of Manhattan, bundled up a leather jacket and a green scarf looped around her neck. A cloth bag of already purchased items hands from one of her shoulders as she currently engages in a spirited haggle with someone over the price of some fish. It's a discussion that is mostly not happening in English and is happening very loudly, so it looks and sounds much more like an argument than anything else. A few people definitely stare as they pass by, probably tourists.
Mikhail is not quite as nervous in large crowds as he once was, but there's still a visible edge of discomfort to him as he navigates particularly close presses of people. Chinatown on a Sunday afternoon is one such, and he's doing a bit of dodging and weaving to avoid getting too awful close to anyone else. His luck stretches out, forming a little bubble of 'wouldn't you really rather step over there?' around him, which looks a little odd given the general state of the crowd. He stops at the stand next to Irene's in search of a dumpling (or two or three), and the liveliness of her- ah. Discussion. Turns his head. He considers her with a worried frown.
The 'discussion' has reached the point now where Irene has taken to pointing over in a different direction with a straight shot of her arm that is more aware of her surroundings (and people) than it appears from the swiftness of the motion. If one follows the direction of the pointing, it leads to someone else who appears to be selling similar items. There is a little more quick back and forth and then something breaks and suddenly it's all smiles and laughter. She breaths out a sigh, a bit of that smile still hanging off her mouth when she turns and notes Mikhail's frowny consideration. "He's not as tough as he seems," she assures.
Mikhail startles as Irene's gaze swings his way, and he answers with a quick, self-conscious smile. He ducks his head a little, his hand coming up to rub at the back of his neck. "That is good," he answers. "Because he seems-- um. Angry."
Maybe it's the startle or the self-consciousness, but it softens Irene's smile from something sharp with the satisfaction of a good haggle to something milder and kinder. "He's not, I promise. It's just a..thing we do. He wouldn't, hm, be so spritzed with you." She shrugs. "Mr. Fong has some of the best fish in the city for the best prices, though, if that's what you're after."
"Yeah?" Mikhail's gaze lifts to check out the stall opposite for a beat before he's distracted by the arrival of his dumplings. It takes him a moment to return his attention to Irene, and when he does, he's got half a steaming-hot dumpling in his mouth. "I ike ish," he mumbles in agreement.
"Well, he was being a little funny with me about the sea bass, but yeah." Which, speaking of...Irene turns away for a moment as well, to complete paying for said haggled over fish, which has now been wrapped up for her so she can tuck it in her grocery bag. "And dumplings," she observes, just a little dry if vaguely amused still. "You shouldn't talk with your mouth full, though."
"--y not?" Mikhail wonders, swallowing. He pauses to lick his thumb, then gives Irene a look. The sort that rubs uncomfortable against authority and presents challenge instead. "Talking with my mouth full never got anyone killed." There's a particular dryness to this claim.
"Because," Irene says and seems to leave it at that for a moment like the Most Parental Answer Ever. She finishes tucking the fish away with the rest of her groceries and resettles the bag on a shoulder. "Most people consider that kind of thing rude," she points out. "You could choke to death on your food trying to talk and eat at the same time." Cheerful.
"I don't think that will be a problem," Mikhail answers Irene, broadly cocky as he stuffs the second half of the dumpling in his mouth. Indeed, even now, with his mouth full, he seems 1) unlikely to choke and 2) awfully difficult to resist. Just look at that adorable flop of his hair.
"Don't say I didn't warn you," Irene replies dryly, in that way people do when they are thinking 'ugh, teenagers' regardless of actual ages. She sighs, a little defeated, but repeats herself anyway. "Either way, it's still not considered good manners."
Mikhail takes pity on Irene, because he swallows completely before saying, seriously, "I appreciate the concern." There is a beat, and then he admits, "It has been a very long time since I have had to care about my mannners."
Good job, Mikhail. Irene nods, then her expression twists with a hint of sympathy for the second statement. "Ah, I'm sorry." After a beat she adds, "Sometimes that's nice, when it's not annoying."
"It is," Mikhail agrees after a moment. He breaks his next dumpling down into smaller pieces, all polite-like. "I hadn't really thought of it that way."
"That's because it means someone cares," Irene begins, crossing her arms and looking like she'd be leaning on a wall if one was closer and less questionably clean. "But it's really annoying when they turn out to be right."
A shadow settles across Mikhail's face at that, and his next answer comes with another mouthful. Sorry, Irene. At least it's a smaller bite, allowing him to enunciate around the dumpling. "Right about what? Mumbling? Please and thank you?"
Well, he tried. Irene's brows lift a touch and though she sighs at the mouthful, she answers his questions instead of rebuking his manners, "Well, that's mostly what I meant. You'd be surprised how far some politeness can take you." Maybe he wouldn't. It's not like he /needs/ it.
"It doesn't take everyone very far," Mikhail objects, sort of automatically, like what else would he do? He swallows, studying Irene skeptically. There's a pause before he allows, "I do not think you should be rude on /purpose/. But manners are no magic."
"Hey, I never said /very/ far. I said you'd be surprised /how/ far," Irene corrects without actually disagreeing with Mikhail. "That's good at least," she says like she never rude on purpose. "They aren't magic, but people generally respond more favorably to politeness. It's not even conscious, usually."
"Some people," Mikhail objects, with a stubborn edge that suggests this is a sticking point for him. He frowns at Irene for a moment, chewing on a bit of dumpling, and then says, "Sometimes 'thank you' makes people uncomfortable."
"Yeah, that would be the 'generally'," Irene replies, once again not really disagreeing, but also seeming unmoved by that stubbornness for the moment. She does seem a touch surprised by the second remark, "...when does that happen?"
Mikhail shrugs, one shoulder edging upward in a lopsided gesture. "I don't know," he says, just a touch defensive. "When they do not think you should, maybe. Or. When they do not like how you do it. I'm not sure."
Irene tilts her head just a little to the side, considering Mikhail for a few moments while she considers a response. "I suppose that happens," she says slowly, thoughtfully. "Sometimes people need to hear it anyway, even when they don't think it's necessary. And sometimes it won't help anyone. You can't make everyone happy."
"I guess it depends on how hard I try," Mikhail says, his gaze narrowing as if this thought has just occurred to him. It catches him by such surprise that for a moment, he forgets to eat.
"No, not always. That's just not how things work," Irene says carefully, because she mistakenly thinks this is a somewhat normal conversation with a somewhat normal person.
Mikhail helps disprove that notion somewhat with the sudden flash of his smile and the shake of his head. "Sometimes it is."
"Erm," says Irene, at a loss for a moment. "I guess. Sometimes."
Mikhail rocks back on his heels, and he gives Irene a close look before he grins swiftly and says, "Thanks!" and then he turns, headed off as he shoves the last mouthful of dumpling between his lips.Irene hasn't move a lot during this exchange and she doesn't now, either, still standing there with arms crossed. "Sure, kid," she says, with a slight smile. "Good luck?" She replies without any irony as he turns away, leaving her with more shopping to get done and the feeling like she missed something.