(1941-12-19) The Trip and Sonder
Details for The Trip and Sonder
Summary: Horatio, seeking refuge, drops in on Zoe on the advice of a mutual friend.
Date: December 19, 1941
Location: The Sip & Sonder

A pair of soft leather boots patters down the cobbled street outside of the tiny coffee shop. The man who owns the boots wraps his arms tightly about his torso as a chill fall breeze whips down between the buildings, sending the tail of his heavy coat billowing into the air for a moment and cutting through the rest of his clothes. It is not especially cold outside, but Horatio looks up at the gray afternoon sky with its pale and unfriendly sun with a scowl. He has the look about him of a desperate man - anybody in law enforcement would recognize it immediately, the cornered-animal intensity radiating from his powerful frame like heat bleeding into the open air. When his steps take him to the front of the The Sip and Sonder, he pauses briefly to look it over, his swamp-green eyes taking in the building's features skeptically. Then, with a grunt, he pushes the door open and steps inside. The breeze follows him in, and he quickly closes the door behind him, pushing it back into place with a soft mechanical click as the latch catches. "Hello?" he says, his voice low and hoarse and gravelly from much shouting.

In the odd assortment of the witches and wizards in Whimzick Alley, Horatio isn't as out of place as he might be. As he enters, only the young woman behind the counter at the back glances over. A few more look up at his uncertain greeting. But none know him. An elderly witch with spectacles rimmed in bright turquoise peers at him with experienced consideration. But minding her own business, she returns her attention to the Daily Prophet in her hand. Behind the counter, the young woman turns to refill someone's cup.

It had taken a moment for Horatio's eyes to adjust to the light of the place - now that they have, he becomes abruptly aware that he isn't as alone inside the small shop as he initially assumed. He had /thought/ he'd told Cole to make certain the place would be empty - the blockheaded gambler must have neglected that instruction. Horatio grimaces; no matter. He ignores the scattered patrons and marches directly towards the counter, the intense expression on his face remaining firmly affixed once he sets a hand lightly on the wooden surface and directs his attention to the young woman behind it. He has neglected to take off his boots. Once the other patron's drink is poured, he clears his throat and speaks in slow, measured tones: "Excuse me. I'm here to see someone named Zoe. You can tell her that Cole sent me."

Behind the counter, the young woman glances and meets Horatio's gaze with an unimpressed stare. Her dress is simple and dark, matching her eyes. "Zoe? She is sleeping," she answers with an insolent French accent. "I don't know a Cole. But you can wait for her, if you like. Over there." She points at a sofa in the nook tucked around under the winding stairs.

Horatio stares darkly at the French girl for a moment. One corner of his lips twitch into the faintest suggestion of a smirk - a very unamused smirk - and his grip on the edge of the counter tightens until the marks of his fingernails imprint themselves into its wooden surface. Then he takes a slow breath. Some of the red-hot impatience seems to fade from his person, and he nods once. "Very well. I'll wait." Slowly, the jacket-clad man strides towards the indicated couch, not even sparing a single glance at any of the others seated around him. He lowers himself into it slowly, then waits, tapping a set of fingers idly on one of the sofa's arms.

Behind the counter, Marie watches him head off to wait with a level gaze. But it isn't long before she's distracted by another patron. She doesn't have time to bother with him when she has her own duties to tend to. And Zoe should be down before long. As long as she didn't stay out and about too late.

In fact, Zoe is already awake. Just barely. She sits at her kotatsu, still in her pajamas over her dressing gown. There are letters in the middle of the table, delivered by owl earlier that morning. But coffee comes first. The little one is still far too bleary-eyed to make out the words in them. Sipping a from a cup she pulls the first envelope over.

Horatio waits until the snotty French shopkeeper is busy attending customers, making a passable show of leafing through a magazine which has been set out on a table by the sofa while he waits. But as soon as the girl's attention is drawn away elsewhere, he silently rises to his feet and slips up the stairs, dropping the magazine back into place as his attention rises to take in the area into which he ascends. His steps remain relatively silent, his breathing measured and calm. When he catches a glimpse of the young woman seated at the decidedly oriental table, his breath catches in his throat. Cole didn't tell him the woman looked like /that/ - another blundering, foolish inadequacy on his old friend's part. He is briefly spellbound as he stares at his unaware host, but unfortunately this results in the toe of his boot catching nicely on the final step before the landing. He goes crashing down with a muffled cry of surprise in the least subtle way possible, and immediately springs up, red-faced and with a feral look on his face not unlike a cat that has just been caught doing something stupidly clumsy.

The letter flies in the air as Zoe squeaks at the alarming crash. At least she wasn't about to take a sip of coffee. She stares wide-eyed at the stranger springng up into her loft. She blinks. "Are you alright?" Where most girls would be reaching for their wands, shouting about an intruder, Zoe simply watches him. A curious girl.

"Ehm," Horatio grunts, staring openly at the half-asian girl with a perplexed look on his face. He remains fixed in place momentarily, then straightens himself and brushes off his jacket almost delicately, his brown-green eyes sweeping back down the stairs for an instant to ascertain that he wasn't followed. Afterwards, his focus quickly returns to Zoe. He's obviously at a loss on how to respond to her. "I'm all right - er, thank you. My name is Horatio - Cole should have told you that I was coming."

"Oh. Should he? I haven't-" Zoe pauses, glancing to the letters on her table. She sifts through them. "Wait. This is his. Just from this morning, it must be," she says, tearing it open. "Owl must have gotten lost. Would you like to sit?" she invites, nodding to the place across from herself. She smiles at him, catching her lower lip. "Are you hungry? I can have Marie bring us something both to eat."

For a few seconds the tall man stares down at Zoe with a confounded expression that might as well read: 'Are you bloody serious?'. A flash of angry annoyance passes across his features as the fact registers that Cole has failed him again - not intentionally, but simply through his happy-go-lucky nature - but when she invites him to sit, he prowls slowly towards the kotatsu, looking around at the delicate arrangements of the flat like a bull who is fully aware that he's plodding through a China shop. After carefully seating himself, he coughs and lifts a hand to rub at his forehead thoughtfully. "Thank you. I don't need any food," he says quickly, wanting to ward off any possibility of Marie discovering his disobedience. He levels his gaze on the delicate young woman. "You haven't read the letter yet." It is a statement, not a question.

"Mm. Just a moment." Bowing her head, Zoe studies Cole's note. "Horatio," she repeats. Her dark gaze flits across the parchment. It's not long. "You need a place to sleep?" She smiles across at him. "Of course, you're welcome. Another friend of Cole's let me stay in their spare room last month."

Horatio waits for the girl to finish perusing the scrawled missive. When she's done, he nods and exhales. "Yes, I need a place to stay." Somehow he looks both relieved and troubled that this is the extent of their arrangement-making. "Zoe," he says, biting his tongue for a moment before going on: "That's your name, isn't it?"

"Mhm!" Zoe's bright little smile turns impish. Settling forward on her elbows, she takes up her coffee. "I take it, this is your first time. Needing a place to stay. Don't worry. It's safe here. And I won't be asking you why. I can tell you aren't a traveller. You've had a rug pulled out from under your feet. But it's ok. You can rest now."

Once again, the fair-haired prizefighter is taken aback by the girl's apparent lack of concern. He stares at her as she leans over the table, his eyes tracing her features until he tears them away with an effort of will. Lacing his fingers together and setting his hands atop his side of the table, he clears his throat and imitates her pose (if only subconsciously), moving closer to her so that the full force of his gaze rests on her eyes. "I'm really not in a position to refuse any help offered to me - and I'm not refusing," he says softly. "But you're nothing like what I was expecting. Do you understand that I'm dangerous? Trouble?" he says, smiling at her in a not-so-nice manner. But the smile quickly fades, and he bites his lip for an instant as he leans back into his former straight-backed position. "Just so we're square. If you want to give me the boot, now would be the time."

Zoe meets the full force of his gaze with a meek yet unflinching stare. Like a precocious child. She returns his smile, but hers is soft. Her almond eyes, warm and trusting, watch him as if she can see something in him he doesn't know about yet. "I know you're dangerous. And a lot of the best people are dangerous. I'm not very, but I guess I know a lot that are - who would be dangerous for me." She takes a small sip of coffee, watching him from over its brim. "Cole sent you. And you're even warning me. You're dangerous. But dangerous to me?"

Horatio frowns, raising a set of fingers to brush them lightly against his short-cropped beard. "I don't have any intention of harming you, but the people who are after me wouldn't think twice about it," he says bluntly, allowing his words to settle in for a moment before allowing himself to meet the young woman's eyes again. "But if they ever made it in here, they wouldn't get far. I can guarantee you that." He shakes his head and looks at her watchfully, then glances around the loft slowly. "So… where do I stay? I don't have much with me, as you can see. I'll try to stay out of your way."

"Here. You're safe here. Mm. I don't spend most nights here, so you might as well make the bed yours." Zoe scoots out from under the low table. "If I'm here, I'm comfortable sleeping right here under the kotatsu. Warm and cozy." Rising, she shuffles over to the bed where she tugs at the blankets and pillows to dismantle her nest under the glass ceiling.

"I… see," Horatio intones slowly. When the young woman gets up, he quickly follows, still looking vaguely uncertain of himself. "I assumed I'd be in the basement. But this is… very nice," he says. He moves around the kotatsu and makes his way towards the bed, then stops a short distance behind Zoe. For an instant he hears or imagines some creak of feet on the stairs behind them, and he briskly spins, his wand flipping quickly into his hand with practiced effortlessness. When the intrusion turns out to be nothing more than his paranoia, he puts the wand away and turns back around. "Thank you."

Zoe pauses, watching Horatio's defensive stance, wand drawn. "It's an old building. It'll creek and groan in the night. And downstairs doesn't close until well after midnight." She sets pillow after pillow neatly against the wall across from the bed. "It's better here than a basement. If that's where you'd expected to be hiding, isn't that where most would look?" Having stripped the bed, Zoe kneels to fight with the tangled mountain of sheets and blankets. "I /think/ there might be fresh sheets in the wardrobe. Would you check?" Somehow, she manages to free a thick blanket for him.

Horatio does as the girl asks, shaking his head as he walks towards the wardrobe in question. He has certainly never met someone quite so… well, quite so like her.

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