Wanna play stuffed animal parade?

Who: Esme and Leo
When: Mid-afternoon
Where: Living room

Well, it was something different at least.

Esme had been as surprised as anyone to find the box of stuffed animals when she woke up. It had already been opened, so someone had at least gotten into it, but with a bit of digging, (and falling into the box briefly), she'd figured that there were two of everything. And, of course, the ark. She thought they were kind of cute, really. It reminded her of her room at home, with all of her own dolls. Figuring what the hell, it would only be a matter of time before they were taken away like everything else, she got down on the floor with them.

She'd managed to get a pretty decent line going around the room. It was kind of like they were waiting in line at the bank or something instead of getting on a boat, actually. They'd taken turns getting on and off the boat, even getting squished in there like sardines. Pookie and War had wandered in to investigate, but didn't seem so keen on getting in the boat themselves.

"Gaw shed ta Noah, deh'sh gonna be a fyoody, fyoody," she sang to herself, loading a pair of stuffed lions onto the ark.. As dorky as it was, she was actually enjoying herself for a change. Happiness had been a rare commodity lately, so she was happy to have some, even if just for a little while.

 - .

Leo was cold - and damp. He'd tried to get outside, intent on building something in the snow. He needed to get in some exercise this afternoon - part of his routine. Afternoon = exercise. And snowman building would qualify for that. If jogging round and round in circles in his room in the experiment had qualified, then building a snowman, being a lot more fun, would do so as well, damnit. But - it was, in fact, fucking freezing out there, and without gloves (he'd stuck socks over his hands to try and keep them warm) he hadn't lasted that long. He'd made himself stay out for an hour (his bare minimum for daily exercise) and they he'd hightailed it back inside, leaving a big old lump of snow that may or may not have looked like a snowman, rather than, well, a lump of snow.

He was headed for the kitchen to grab a coffee or something to warm himself up when he heard the singing and diverted, walking into the room and joining in on the next line, "Get those children out of the muddy, muddy." He hadn't heard that song for years, and it made him smile.

 - ..

Esme looked around, not quite sure if she'd actually heard something. She tried not to jump too much when she saw the newcomer. "Oh!" she squeaked, maneuvering herself up to more of a sitting position. "Um, uh, hi!" So they'd added someone else. How nice. "I'm gueshin you musht be nnew?" She said, still sizing him up. He looked cold. Maybe he was just someone from another house who'd wandered over in the cold? "Oh aw you in one of da udder houshesh?"

 - .

"Nah - I'm new. Arrived this morning. Or, well, less 'arrived' and more 'woke up in my bed having been moved here overnight'. I'm Leo," he said, heading over and about to hold out a hand before he caught himself and realised she may have trouble shaking it - maybe, maybe not, he wasn't sure, but he figured he could play it safe and safe both of them embarrassment.

 - ..

Esme caught the awkwardness but let it go. She was quite used to people not being sure how to react to her. "I'm..." she made sure to concentrate as she said her name so he wouldn't screw it up. "... Essme." Why did her parents give her a name like that when they knew she'd probably have trouble talking? At least it was better than Esmerelda. "Dat shounsh about paw foh da courshe. I jusht got heah a few daysh ago myshef." She looked around at the stuffed animals around and hoped that he didn't think she was retarded or something. Cause, you know, the "special" kid playing with her toys? Such a stereotype. "I guessh I shoud put deshe away oh shomefin..." she said, blushing a little.

 - .

He speech was a little hard to get through, but Leo managed the gist of what she was saying alright. "Esme? Well, nice to meet you Esme." he looked at the ark and caught the slight blush. "It's... weird isn't it? Me and...Emma? We found it this morning - and the animals went in two by two and whatnot, y'know? You any idea what it's all about?" he asked her, picking up a giraffe.

 - ..

Esme nodded and smiled as he got her name right. He'd looked away some as he talked, but she'd caught enough to get through the conversation. "No idea. Dey yike ta do wead sshit dough. Jush to keep ush on ow toesh oh whateva." She picked up the other giraffe and gave it a wobbly lob over to him. "Yong ash weah shtil in da houshe, dough, ish a good fing. Dish ish one of dere bettah shupwishesh." In a moment of silliness, she took one of the tigers and made it "hump" the other one. She giggled and brushed her hair back behind her ears, revealing the hearing aid as she did.

 - .

Leo laughed as he watched her, ducking so the other giraffe sailed over his shoulder and landed behind him. "I guess there's not much particularly foreboding or dramatic about a load of toys, right? I take it you were in one of the experiments then? I'm still getting used to the fact that there were others. I was in isolation and I kinda knew there were others like me, but this whole thing's a lot bigger than I expected it to be..."

 - .

"Itsh bigga den any of ush fought, I fink," Esme said, focusing on him as he talked. Having the additional help of reading lips always made it easier to understand people. "I wash in what dere shayin ish Shpewiment A. Houshe on fiah, shtuff yike dat. Den dey took me out fo a whiya to twy to 'hep' me." She motioned down to her braces, just visible between the bottom of her jeans and her sneakers. "I can wawk a yitta betta now, but becaushe of udda shtuff, I can't heah neayee ash weh ash I coud when dish shtawted." She tapped her hearing aid for emphasis.

 - .

"Sorry, did you say house on fire?" Leo asked, wide-eyed. He tried to imagine that - what would have happened, stuck in his room, unable to get out, if there was a fire. He decided that it was probably better if he try to imagine that after a moment or two.

 - .

Esme nodded. "Yep. Midda of da night, houshe burnsh down. Dey had ta cawwy me out caushe I coud hawdyee move. The ayawmsh meshed up my eash pwetty bad, too." She sighed as she disengaged the copulating tigers. "But shomehow? Aw my shtuff dat I had befow da fiyah? Wash aw waitin fo me when I woke up heah. Sho, yeah. Da shientish can do pwetty mush whateva dey want, to hep oh hut you."

 - .

"usually hurt, right? Not exactly been a walk in the park. Though if they're going to innudate us with soft toys, I guess there're worse ways to go," he said, jokingly. "Sorry to hear about the fire, though - that must have been really shitty. I..." No, her really wasn't considering that, but he wasn't trapped in a box anymore, was he. "yeah, that must have been shit."

 - .

She smiled. Leo seemed like a nice guy- hell, everyone in her house seemed nice, thankfully. "No kiddin'. An dey haven't pyayed any of da twicksh on ush yet yike tyin peopa up oh kidnappin at yeasht." She sighed, sitting back a little and messing with an elephant. "Shtiw, I'd yike it bettah if we weh aww in one pyashe inshtead of shpwead out yike we aw now. Makesh it eashiah to keep twack of whosh wheah." She thought for a moment. "Yeeo? Aw you da one who poshted da fing about you twip to Abu Dabi? Dat wash pwetty neat shoundin!"

 - .

"Kidnapping?" Leo asked, wide-eyed. "Tying people up? The... shit, I think maybe I got off lightly," he said, though he figured they'd all been through their own individual type of hell. "That's... jeeze..." He picked up a grizzly bear and hugged it to his chest. Better to concentrate on the rest for now. "And yeah, that was mine - but it was actually less of a trip there, than a 'passing through' - got stuck at the airport for most of the night. Missed my connection on my way to India."

 - .

"Yep. One guy wash tied to a big oh shide a beef and yeft dangyin fwom the sheiying. Good timesh." She moved a little closer to him, making the other bear "walk" over to him as she did. "Shounsh yike you've sheen a yot, weayee. Dat'sh cool. Ashide fwom dish yitta avensha, the fathesht I'd evah been fwom home ayone ish Aushtin."

 - .

"Yeah - sounds it," Leo agreed, wincing at the thought. "And yeah, I've travelled around a bit - well, most of the world. Last five years or so - been most places. Well, the interesting places though. And Austin in Texas? He checked, her speaking problems made it difficult to really define an accent there.

 - ..

She nodded with a smile. "Dash da one! I'm fwom Dayash. Unifershity Pawk, whish ish a shuburb. Nofin yike dish!" She took a pair of alligators and jammed them into the ark, her hands shaking a bit as she did. At least these toys were nice and big. Easier for her to deal with than small items.

 - .

"I..... Really don't know where that is," Leo admitted. "I'm from London, originally. Or, actually, still - haven't settled anywhere else since I left, just kind of bumming round the world, one place to another, y'know. Not seen very much of suburbs, well, ever actually."

 - ..

"Oh, I bet you've hud of Dal-lash," Esme said, again making an effort to enunciate. Most people had at least heard of the show or the Cowboys, even if they'd never been to Texas. "Yondon'sh pwetty shweet dough. I'd yove to go deah shomeday." She gave him the once over again, her head bobbing a little as she did. He sounded like he'd been so many places, but he couldn't be any older than she was, could he? "How ode aw you, anywaysh?" She left the animals behind and scooted a bit closer. Leo was definitely one of the more interesting people she'd met since getting thrown to the wolves.

 - .

"Oh! Oh - shit, yes, sorry, I just... Your accent," Leo said, blushing badly. God, he felt like an idiot right then and there. Fuck. He should have been able to work that one out. "Er, er - I'm 23," he told her, fighting to get over his momentary attack of flailing stupidity. God.

 - ..

Esme smiled, a little resignedly. "Ish okay, I'm ushe to it. Awdough my shpeesh din't ushe ta be dish bad befow I came heah." She tried to change the subject. "Twenny-fwee? An you've twaveled dat mush? Vewy impweshive!" Then again, I was nearly 20 before my parents let me go down to the store by myself, so what do I know? She had to admit, he was kind of cute. But there was no way in hell he'd be interested in someone like her. She'd learned that the hard way with Aamir. Besides, most of the pretty guys in this experiment were gay anyways.

 - .

Leo shrugged, fiddling with one of the toy snakes. "I left home at eighteen - seeing the world seemed to be the most exciting thing I could do with my life, y'know? It was either than or go to uni or something and, yeah - not really me." It didn't help that school had been a living hell for him. It wasn't like he'd got good marks or anything, so he probably have made the right grades in his A-levels to be able to get onto anything that would have even vaguely interested him.

 - ..

"Dat shounsh eshiting! My pawensh aw weally nishe an aw," she said, moving her hair out of her face with her twitchy hand. "But deya vewy ovapwotective of me. My dad got me a job at hish yaw firm, but i awayshs wanted to do more. Sho I shigned up fo dish. Got moah den I bagained foh!" She chuckled a little darkly at the last comment. "I awaysh wanted ta be independat yike dat, but now... I'm not sho shuah I can be."