chanter_greenie: a Pringles can with the words 'you can't write just one' written across it (drabbles are like pringles)
[personal profile] chanter_greenie
This fic has been sponsored by [personal profile] fyreharper. As a note to readers, the half-price sale I had running has now ended.


The thing about Carlos is, there's a candor to him like fine sandpaper. Not too rough, not slippery smooth. Brush up against him and maybe you come away a little more even.

That's not what Carlos thinks. That's what other people seem to end up telling him time after time, and he supposes he can't deny it. He's no saint, but he's heard it enough, he guesses there's gotta be at least a little something to it.

Quinn, bless him for every year he's got, Quinn's a lot for some people to take in. He can do amazing things, oh yes he can, but he can also ruffle feathers and unsettle the already unsettled, and it's an evil honesty but that can be bad news when individual stakes are this high. Quinn knows each one of the people they're helping has a story of their own. He's been Q-so plenty of times and Résistance longer; if he didn't get that, he'd be a cold-hearted jackass just about for sure. It's not that he doesn't try, and not that his heart isn't smack bang in the most right of right places. It's that Quinn's a little much (or a little more than a little much, which is a damn shame but true) for some folks. Body, soul, both

Sandy? Man oh man, Sandy means as well as anybody's ever meant well, ever. He's a great big Scout, he's somebody's grade one teacher in the most literal sense of the idea, he's got a heart that's pure gold down to the last molecule and a flat-out compulsion to take care of everything someone needs, no second thoughts, no waiting. It shows all over him, straight off, the second you meet him. It's great, lord almighty is it great, but he can't help any of it either. Leigh's the same, gold to the soles of her feet; she'll do everything her husband will, up to and including Q-so runs and speeding station wagons, and she'll sing you a lullaby to cap it all and never miss a note.

Andi runs hot and sharp, like strong tea with a double share of lemon and no sugar sunk in it. She's coarse, clean kindness underneath all the rough bits sticking out of her, and her face's got the laugh lines and the eyes to prove it if you look. But some folks don't look, or can't, or might if they weren't running scared, and that means all they get is the scalding water, lemon tea sting of Andi up against their skin, soaking into the hundred cuts they're wearing. Add to that a brown lady with a second language all over her voice and--yeah. Love her every single day of her life, but anabella can make a few people cower for one reason or another. It's not right on about five levels, but it happens. Carlos's seen it.

Helen. Man alive. It's no wonder she and Leigh and Sandy are all friends for life, and it's a seriously good thing she sticks to the Windsor side of the border. It's not that she doesn't know people; she does. It's just that more than anything, Helen knows kids, and so what if those kids are thirty-five and trying to reconcile the idea of guys liking guys with three decades of hearing that that's an abomination, graphic details included, or twenty and pregnant and running from somebody who beat them black and blue every day, or... hell, anything? Helen's not bent for black and white. She's bent for sunshine yellow, green like early morning grass, blue Sask lakewater. the woman was a kindergarten teacher for thirty years and more; she knows nursery stories and music, animals and don't eat too many cookies and let's pretend, and she's amazing, amazing, at picking up the very first of somebody's pieces once they hit safety. But she'd be beyond godawful on the multifaceted, dangerous end of things, and she has enough self-awareness to realize it. Thank God. Carlos hates to think of what Helen's heartbroken earnest expression would look like if anyone had to break that news to her from the outside. Might make him cry, relent or both if he were the one who got the task of telling her, and that'd be a double armload of no good to anybody anywhere.

The thing is, the people they're dealing with, they come from wherever, they're running maybe for their lives, maybe for things just as important, and they get help, sure, but their help also slaps them in the brain with a whole lot of top-level unexpected all at once, and like it or not, that's gonna throw a fair number of them. Case in point, tonight. What these folks're coming out of doesn't exactly encourage blurry gender lines or odd-colored hair, and Quinn, bless his marvelous competent soul, is a bit loud and a lot bold on the very best of days. Weird is good, unusual is great and plenty so but to the people they're dealing with, it can be like jumping from the ankle-deep shallows straight into the part of the pool where your feet don't touch bottom without your head going under up to your eyeballs, and that's no fun all at once. It's not fair and it's not right, not to the refugees and not to quinn (and not to Carlos himself, try though he might to ignore that little bit of cruelty), but that's how it is. That's the world the boat people, and the border people, and just about the whole of the States grew up knowing, and trying to force bend one reality around another all in one can break things in unhealthy places. One side, other side, both.

Fact is, his own brown skin's going to be plenty for some of these folks. That sucks too, realmente, sucks like anything, but again, what's anybody gonna do about it in the next minute except what they're doing already?

Thank God Q-sos work in pairs as often as they work alone.

This is where his jigsaw piece goes. This is where Carlos excels while his friends falter. This is the line he treads, the face he presents, the world he inhabits and it's all as bone-deep honest as Leigh's lullabies, muito obrigado. This is what Carlos brings to being Q-so. Forget spicy or sexy, forget wild and dashing and over the top chivalrous, forget flirting till the cows come home or coddling folk or making their heads spin round; forget it all. This is Carlos's perview. This is Carlos's way to walk, this is his style from the day he was born, and to hell with what's expected of a guy with his looks and his accent and his name. Some people would resent being other people's gateway drug by virtue of personality. Some people aren't him. Good thing, too.

The woman they're meeting is wearing a sweater - handmade, the part of his mind that's been listening to all the knitters in their crowd suggests - in a shade of garish orange just this side of a deer hunter's vest. There is, when she lifts her arm to take a drink of whatever's in her glass, the outline of an inch-wide bell picked out in nobbly white yarn on the inside forearm of her sleeve. Use what you got to hand, he thinks, and do the best you can manage with it. So don't we all? He casually drops his cue, thump, onto the pool table's felt. Quinn cuts a look at him that says 'the hell, mon ami?' Carlos gives him half a shrug in response and sidles sideways. It's his turn to take a shot--a pool shot, his brain almost immediately supplies in answer to a quip his partner for the trip never makes, not a booze shot, and this is a mission, man, not a pub crawl! Oh well. It can wait. It can all wait.

Ambling across a smoky bar room without looking conspicuous is damn near impossible. Carlos does his best, sneakers on ash-ground carpet and hands at his sides. He's a little bit to look at in a sea of white faces, but eh--he flips his hair over one shoulder with the bearest jerk of his head--he can deal with that. It's not confidence he's projecting; that'd be about eighty-five percent a lie. His drink's on the edge of the table, forgotten until a second too late to turn around. Oh well, screw it. Get it in a minute.

The woman - dishwater grey-blonde, shorter and thinner than him, left front tooth sticking out just a little from the rest - has got the sort of frizzed out curly hair that only comes with summer humidity, time in front of a hot stove, or maybe both, like she's logged long hours in a sticky kitchen in August. She's just this side of clutching her glass in spidery fingers. She's... maybe fifty, maybe a tired forty-five. Maybe, Carlos thinks, he should stop picking her apart like a Brasileiro Sherlock Holmes looking for clues to whodunit and get over there. His drifting pace picks up a little speed.

She's not sizing him up. He pegs that from about three meters away. She's eyeing him, but it's the half-shrewd, half rabbit-scared expression of someone who's afraid they've been singled out as an easy mark and is trying their weak 'n' wobbly best not to show it. Carlos lifts both hands at once, turns them palms up toward the ceiling, shrugs short and open and visible. Not me, ma'am. I'm not a threat. At least he hopes that's what he's saying.

He knows he's got a couple of accents tangled up together in his voice, knotted like twenty years of string. Yank one way or the other and one of the two might ascend for a while but the second is still there, and nothing short of a sort of shears they haven't invented yet's going to split them for good. Pull the blue thread, Carlozinho. When he opens his mouth this time, it's the audibly Canadian side of him talking; it's not excessive, but it is as obvious as he can consciously make it. No need to throw this lady any more than she is when his face is likely doing plenty of that work already.

"Hi," he says, plain and simple and just below the level of the guitars howling through the bar speakers. She leans in, just her head and only a little, but it's enough to suggest he go on, or at least enough to not suggest he shut up this instant. She's hearing him. "I'm Carlos."

Her smile takes three seconds to form. He's counting in the back of his head without quite realizing he's about it; um, dois, três--and then it sparks, uncertain and a little bit desperately cheerful, as tentative as the hand she offers him. Her fingers are ice cold and clammy with condensation, and the ice cubes are clinking in her switched-hand glass. "Carlos can't time a handshake to perfection, but he tries, and given she doesn't run away when he lets go and drops his own arm to his side, he figures he's done alright.

"Carrie," she says, and there's a clicking sort of catch in her voice that means dry lips, dry mouth. "Caryn, with a C and a Y in it, but I suppose that doesn't really matter?" the word 'matter' comes out on half a giggle. "Carlos, you said?" She's talking a little obviously fast, and the bravado cheer is as audible as it is visible in her face. The hand holding her glass lifts a few centimeters, stops, lowers again, then raises up all the way. There's about three quarters of a pale gold, mixed-looking something in that glass, but once she's done with the straw it's down to about five eighths instead. He can't blame her much at all.

"Uh-huh," he says, frank and simple and not too over the top reassuring, he hopes. "I'm Carlos, and you're Carrie. I've got a friend I was playing pool with just now; he's Quinn. Don't look behind me yet, eh? And--" He's careful about the next bit. His accent isn't the greatest ever heard - wrong countries of origin, verdad - but he's been hanging around and listening to Eric long enough that he at least doesn't make an ass of himself tongue-first. "We komen uit Canada. Wij kunnen u helpen." The same hand he shook with ten seconds ago lifts again, just far enough to gesture at the bell on her sleeve. He's treading a fine line between being too understated with that motion for her to follow and being obvious enough that some half-lit barfly picks it, and her, and them out.

Carrie's eyes get big. They're a little slower in tracking to his gesturing hand, but they do it. Then they get a little bit bigger. "Hooooooo-lyshit," she murmurs, all but splitting it into two words a syllable early. "You? You can help me? You're one of--you can help? With--with that? I mean--you can help?" Her voice has dropped low enough that he has to strain his ears or lose what she's saying to the guitar riff on the sound system.

God, she sounds really desperate, notes the back of his brain. What would make someone that--shut up and quit speculating, snaps the rest of it. "Yeah," he says aloud, "we can, and if it sounds like it's too good to be true it isn't. We're the real thing, which means danger's a possibility, and lying about that'd make me king of the a--the... donkeys." He forces a laugh for the benefit of anybody watching - just felt like talking to the lady, dudes, move along. "But the stories about dark alleys and blood money or the Detroit police or... whatever else don't start with us." Someone else - Andi, Quinn over there, Terry - might make a joke at the end of a sentence like that. One forms in Carlos's head (If they do, I'll be having words with so-and-so) but that's as far as it gets.

Carrie's expression twitches, then evens out again. "So you're not the ones who--" and this time she laughs, half liquor, half embarrassment. "Those stories must be more common than I realized. If you've heard them too, I mean--god." She leans in again, just her head, and Carlos catches a whiff of whatever she's using to fortify her courage. "You're really not? I mean you're really--? Yay, jij bent--" Her accent's five times worse than his, and whatever she's drinking isn't helping it. He lifts one hand, again palm up, and cuts her off.

"Ja," he confirms. "We are, really. I can sing 'O, Canada' to prove it if you want?" His grin's a little lopsided on the last, but it's not forced. Carrie coughs, once, snickers at the floor, then sobers, for a given value of the word.

"I got two hundred and twenty dollars American in my wallet," she starts. Carlos is getting plenty of practice at that cutting off gesture tonight.

"Not doing this to steal people's savings," he insists, kind and final. "Honestly, no blood money. Some folks out there do that; we don't. We're geese, not coyotes. Please, keep your money." Confusion flicks across her face, but it's faint and doesn't last. Carlos doesn't elaborate. Maybe that term isn't in use everywhere, he thinks, then shoves the thought backwards and sideways, straight into the 'ask Adrian, or Twan, or Lise later' file.

"Altruism?" it's a full second before Carrie says that, and she makes a pretty effective question out of one word. Carlos can't blame her for the disbelief he both sees and hears, even as he's stepping on the spark of surprise the word itself causes him. He's not sure he'd believe him, if he were on the opposite end of this conversation. What's that expression about if it looks too good to be true, again?

"Not entirely," he says. "Call it... just being decent people. More straightforward than altruism, if that makes any sense. I can't speak for anybody but me, but... Kinda like altruism in blue jeans? Ah jeez." Then he just plain has to laugh at himself, because come on, Carlozinho. How ridiculous was that?

Carrie's giggling too, tipsy but still under her own control. "Ah God--I'm a librarian," she manages, and it's a few seconds before Carlos realizes that that's more explanation than plain information. "Every, everyday decency," she coughs, and the last S-sound is the tiniest bit slurred. "Love thy neighbor, but practiced. If you mean it, God must like you."

He's not quite sure what to say to that, what with the flattery and the embarrassment and the dollop of 'I'm not worthy' feeling knotting up somewhere just south of his chest. He shrugs, huffs out a breath's worth of laughter through his nose, shakes his head. "No sainthood here," he assures. "Definitely not. But I do mean it about the decency." A beat, half of another. "C'mon," he adds, and turns a fraction in place. His gesture's on the subtle end again, and Carrie takes a slightly blurry extra second to follow it. Fine details wait until we're both sober, says the part of him that's used to making runs across the border and then drinking either Jilly and Quinn's good liquor or Terry's horrible beer in the aftermath, and the rest of him agrees in less than an eyeblink. Safer, better all round. "I'll introduce you to Quinn."

Carrie frowns a little hazily, then - by the way it looks to him - actively forces the expression off her face. Bony shoulders waver slightly as they square, but her voice is determinedly steady, or at least determinedly free of glaringly obvious shakes. "Okay." When Carlos moves, she's a step behind him.

E agora, the Canada geese are in formation, he thinks, and crosses the fingers she's less likely to see, just for a second.


Notes talk below the speakers, pun alert:

*Carlos is speaking and thinking in Brazilian Portuguese, as well as speaking Dutch. Caryn is at least trying to speak Dutch. Translations:

We komen uit Canada. Wij kunnen u helpen.: We're from Canada. We can help you.

Um, dois, três: one, two, three

Jij bent--: You are--

E agora: and now

*Coyote is a term for people smugglers of the far less scrupulous kind.

Date: 2017-09-21 03:45 am (UTC)
kengr: (Default)
From: [personal profile] kengr
The Orangeverse is "interesting. In the *bad* sense. Like the Chinese curse.

Also, for some reason this story reminded me of a standalone I wrote a while back...

https://kengr.dreamwidth.org/807467.html

Date: 2017-09-21 09:01 am (UTC)
kengr: (Default)
From: [personal profile] kengr
Well, the OCA got a ballot measure to overturn the Governor's anti-discrimination order passed.

They failed to pass any of the measures they put on the ballot after that. Thank god.

But it was not looking good for a while and was pretty scary.

Eventually it all became moot when the state passed a law adding sexual orientation and gender identity to existing anti discrimination laws.

And several cities/counties had done so before then. Portland & Multnomah county did so at least 10 years before the state did.

The OCA may have been pretty scary for a while, but they managed to rally and unite the LGBT community and their allies.

They also managed to paint themselves in a bad light several times. They and their leader got in trouble for some financial shenanigans with the campaign and organizational donations being misused and improperly reported.

They also got a lot of bad press when they got sued for *literally* throwing lesbian reporter (who'd been *invited*) out of a meeting.

As in the second in command (Scott Lively, a nasty person who has moved on to inciting hate in other countries) physically picked her up tossed her out the door and down some steps.

She sued and won. And part of the financial shenanigans was an effort to hide money so they wouldn't have to pay the (rather large) judgement against them.

But we didn't see the last of them until the 90s.

Oh yeah, on of the more amusing (and somewhat effective) tactics used against them was some people putting statements in "support" of the OCA measures in the voter's pamphlet. Most were paid, but a few may have gotten enough signatures to get them in for free.

Support is in quotes, because they ratcheted up the rhetoric to the point where only the rabid sorts could still agree with it. Or they took the ideas to their logical conclusions which the OCA had carefully been avoiding. :-)

That tactic is *still* being used now against some things.

Date: 2017-09-21 03:48 am (UTC)
mirrorofsmoke: The words "We are Groot" and a picture of Baby Groot on an icon with a swirly galaxy background. (Default)
From: [personal profile] mirrorofsmoke
SQUEEE. I love this universe. I'd love to know more about it. Is there like a masterpost somewhere?

Yay!

Date: 2017-09-21 07:51 am (UTC)
ysabetwordsmith: Cartoon of me in Wordsmith persona (Default)
From: [personal profile] ysabetwordsmith
I love the character descriptions in this, so evocative.

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