All the Time in the World

Who: Esme and Tobias
When: around lunchtime
Where: 2 Maple Street, the living room and later Esme's room

Esme had enjoyed talking to Leo. There was something that just felt so good when he was around. He actually treated her like a person, not a project or special case. But he'd gone off to paint his room or whatever, and she wasn't exactly good with stairs. So instead she'd curled up in the living room with the book he'd recommended. It really was very good. She'd found herself getting a bit lost in it, losing track of time, and before she knew it, it had to be around lunchtime.

She needed the escape, too. For some reason the house seemed very empty, and a quick check of the computer had confirmed her deepest suspicions: Emma and Jason were not in the house, and neither were their animals. She hoped they were all right, especially in Emma's condition. She'd thought the woman was crazy for getting pregnant in a situation like this. But she was used to people appearing and disappearing for no reason, and knew that unless there was some cute little note from the scientists, looking for them would do no good. She'd said a little prayer for their safety, although she wasn't entirely convinced that God was even listening here.

Reluctantly, she finally put down the book, leaving it open face down on the table so she wouldn't lose her place. Yep. Food would be good. Or something. She didn't know what.

 - .

When he managed to escape from Cheyenne, he decided to escape the house and find a way to escape the world. Some girl named Esme had posted about some books. Romance novels or something. They weren't really his thing but maybe... Well, any escape was a good escape. So he'd thrown on a black waist coat with silver silk brocade (he didn't normally wear it as it was his spare and he wasn't sure why he'd brought it in the first place - something about a hope for a formal event. It seemed so foolish in retrospect) and disappeared into the snow.

Passing the town hall made him want to throw up so Tobias had walked extremely fast past it. In fact, he'd nearly run. He found his way to 2 Maple Street rather easily. It wasn't like it was some tiny hidden street. It was just getting through the snow and past the town hall that bothered him the most. Pausing on the doorstep, he took a moment to adjust the frills of his shirt at his neck and pull them out of his sleeves. He had to be presentable and had put on heavier eye-liner than normal to hide the redness from crying. Kind of hard to do but he'd attempted it.

Swallowing kind of hard, he knocked firmly on the door and hoped hoped that both no one and someone would answer.

 - ..

If Esme hadn't been heading to the kitchen, she probably wouldn't have heard the knocking at the door. But she was, and she did. It took her a moment to realize what it was, since no one had really come a-knocking at the front door in a while. Figuring that she had nothing to lose by opening it, she waddled over and pulled the door open. Standing there was a young man, who was... well, for lack of a better word, pretty. With his eyeliner and rather formal attire, he looked like something out of a My Chemical Romance video or one of those bands. Not what she was expecting, and quite the contrast to her sneakers, jeans, and t-shirt with "Latina" in glittery letters across the front. Puzzled, she addressed the newcomer. "Can I hep you?" she said, a little apprehensively.

 - .

For a moment it really did seem that no one was going to answer the door. Well, you win some and you lose some. This would fall into one of those cat--oh crap. He smiled kind of pleasantly at the girl who had answered the door but it seemed to be lacking something to make it whole. She looked or at least dressed like the type to slam the door in his face and he took a deep breath hoping she wouldn't. Her voice was... muffled but the rhythm and what little hearing he'd regained in the walk helped him puzzle it out. When he spoke it was a little louder and very careful in a way that it might seem like he was making fun of her (poor Esme), "Um, I'm looking for Esh-- Esme."

 - ..

Esme was a little unsure about the man at the door. She wasn't used to random people coming to the door and asking for her, especially here. "I'm Eshme," she said, shakily opening the door, her head bobbing a little as she examined the visitor. "I'm showwy, ann you aw?" There was something a little awkward about him, but she couldn't quite place what it was. Nervously, she pulled her hair back behind her ears, revealing her hearing aid.

 - .

He paid very close attention to the movement of her mouth and unconsciously he sort of formed the words she said with her own in an effort to assist understanding. Tobias breathed a heavy, frustrated sigh which was not helped by the hearing aid he noticed. Crap. So they were both fucked. "I'm Tobias. From the library journal? The Mopey One." His own description made him smile and he sort of motioned between his ear and her's, "Kind of in the same boat right now. It comes and goes."

 - ..

Once Tobias had introduced himself, Esme's eyes lit up. "Oh! Youah Tobiash!" She waddled backwards, opening up the door wider so he could enter. "Come on in, I wemembeah you now. You wanted to bowwow shome booksh wight?" She made sure to look at him as she talked. No one had told her there was another hearing impaired person here. "Do I nee to shign too? I can twy but ish not dat gweat caushe of my hansh." She knew she wasn't always the easier person to read the lips of, and although she was fluent in sign, doing it herself was a little difficult.

 - .

He smiled when his name was recognized and he was invited in. Stepping in side he noted how she walked but didn't make much of it. A lot of 'disabled' people worked at Wal-Mart like he did and his supposed ableness so he knew what people were capable of despite so called disabilities. "Yeah," he answered as he looked around the entrance hall. Nice house. Nicer than the farm. He managed to catch when she spoke again and looked at her so quick one might think that he was about to get whiplash. "Oh, no... I don't know it. It's a... rrecent development. It'll... end. Eventually."

 - ..

She looked at him a little concerned, but if he said it'd go away, he probably knew better than she did. "Weh, we'ah jusht hafta be caefuh den, huh." She reached around him and closed the door, making sure she locked it, just in case. "Foyow me. Dey'a aw in my bedwoom back dish way." Esme motioned to him with a little bit of a smile as she headed towards her bedroom. This is the second time I've had a boy in my bedroom today. Papi would be so proud.

 - .

It was sweet of her to be concerned but he steadfastly ignored it. It seemed like it was amazing that Tobias was understanding her at all especially in this state but he was really, really paying attention because he didn't want to miss anything. Sometimes the words didn't make sense but if he carefully pieced them together, he could get the gist of what she was saying. He glanced back when she locked the door and while he understood the sentiment, he whimpered softly. Hopefully she wouldn't hear it. "Yeah, sure... Lead the way," and indeed, he followed her though occasionally, he glanced back in the direction of the locked door. He could unlock it. It wasn't permanent. He could get out at any time.

 - ..

Esme carefully led the way. It wasn't far, but she didn't want to lose him. She stopped in front of her door and turned, making sure she was looking at him. "Wecome to da yibewy," she said, opening the door after fumbling with the handle for a second. Stupid hands. The opening door revealed the shelves and shelves of books, each one with a little bow on the spine. "Have anyfing in mine?"

 - .

Tobias wanted to offer to help her with the doorknob but tactfully didn't say anything. After all, she was capable. It just took her a moment. "Wow," he said in a low voice, staring at the shelves and rows of books. He hadn't known there had ever been that many romance novels... Ever. "God, it's like a bun-ker of tawdry porn," well that was an understatement. Did he have anything in mind? Carefully he stepped around her and settled in front of a series of shelves though he looked at her when he spoke, "Is there a system of sorrting here?"

 - ..

Esme giggled a little at his awe over the amount of books that had appeared in her room. "I shweah, it'sh yike dey found copiesh of neayee evwy bodishe-wippa eva witten." She looked at the shelves, not really having worried about a sorting system. "I fink deayah aw afabetica and by shewiesh." That looked right- all the Harlequins were together, and so on. "Ish deah shomefin youah yookin fow? Oh jusht bwowshin?" She felt a little silly, really- like she was back in grade school and playing "bookstore" or something like that.

 - .

"I certainly hope they did," he noted mostly to himself. If they really got every single one... Not all of them would be ripping bodices. But he knew fuck all about romance novels and that was the damned truth. "Well, I was hoping that... Maybe the might have deigned to put in something that wasn't... at least entirely," he didn't know this girl, didn't know her religious persuasions. Didn't know personal feelings and so he was understandably a bit nervous. "Something not entirely hetero."

 - ..

Oh, well that explains the outfit, then. "Um, I'm not shuah desh any gay shtuff..." Esme waddled down the row of shelves, holding on more out of habit than any actual need. She looked over the books. She was pretty sure there wasn't anything like that here, although she had found a couple of lesbian books, so who knew? It seemed Santa had known her tastes pretty well. "I know deah wash a few yeshbian onesh ova heah, but guy on guy..." Her eyes lit up as she saw one, just barely in her reach. "Heash one!" she said, reaching up and almost losing her balance. "'Beshta Bofe Woouds.' Dat'sh pwobayee at yeasht bi. Oh twanny." She looked at the cover. Typical, this was one of those that didn't help with the cover picture. She held it out to him anyways, hoping it would do.

 - .

That was disappointing. So many books and no gay fiction? What was wrong with these scientists? Tobias browsed the shelves as she did, looking for promising titles but whatever he looked at ended up having some supposedly perfect chick on the cover. He snickered at one though and held it up for Esme to see, "Check it out! It's Fabio!" And he really was on the cover... In a sing-song voice he added in a gentle taunt, "You have Fabio booooks." Then he put it back.

"Tranny is always fun," he noted and took the book from her when she held it out. Rather casually he took to flipping through the pages trying to catch anything interesting written there. He never even bothered reading the description on the back of the cover. You couldn't trust those.

 - ..

Esme giggled a little at the Fabio. He wasn't really her type, although he was pretty. But too muscular. She waddled over to the bed and sat down, letting him look through the books at his leisure. "Sho, wheah wuh you befoah dey bwought you heah anywaysh? I wash in Eshpewiment A, I fink eveyone'sh cawwin it."

 - .

Fabio wasn't anyone's type as far as he knew unless he was getting hit in the face by a bird. That was so hilarious that he wished he had that on film somewhere so he could just watch it over and over again. Tobias only caught the last sentence. He hadn't been focusing enough to actually ear anything and the pressure was building in his head... "Um, Experiment C. The isolation one." He looked down at his toes like hiding the way his jaw was working rather involuntarily back and forth...

 - ..

Esme knew all about isolation. "I know aww about ishoyashun," she said, a little sadly. "Afta dey took me out of my Eshpewiment, dey deshided to put me into hawdcoah physhica ferapy." She looked down at her legs, kicking them a little. "I mean, I wawk a yitta betta now, but I fink my hansh aw woshe now and I know I can't heah foh shit anymoah." She shuddered a little, remembering the "boot camp" she'd been through, "for her own good". "Sho, yeah. Good timesh." She gave him a sarcastic little smile.

 - .

Strange that they'd try to help her. God, he knew he wasn't trying to make friends but... He settled on the edge of her bed beside her and wrapped Esme in a gentle hug. It looked like she needed one though he didn't know if that was okay. Tobias was curious though. "If... you don't mind me asking, and please feel free to tell me to fuck off - besides deafness what do you have?" He was not going to say 'what's wrong with you'. Fuck No.

 - ..

Esme accepted the hug. Hugs were always good. "I have shewebah pawshy. I ushed to ushe a wheelshaiuh mosht of da time." she motioned to the blue power chair in the corner with a slightly shaky finger. "I didn't ushed to be dish deaf, but when da houshe we weh in caught fiyah, da ayawmsh weayee did a numbah on my eahs, an I haven't been da shame shinshe." She wiped her mouth with the back of her hand before continuing. It was still so weird to her that they were still kind of in the experiments, but there were people here now with so many different experiences. "Sho, you shaid you deafnesh comesh and goesh? Dat'sh kinda odd."

 - .

"Oh yeah... there's a guy where I... used to work with spastic diplegia. He needs crutches but he's totally fine otherwise. But they only let him be a fuckin' door greeter. Wal-Mart," if they were outside, he would have spat in archaic insult but none of that now. His eyes went wide when she started talking about his deafness. He knew she was. Tobias sighed heavily, "It's... a side-effect. From s-something they --" It was very clear that he was trying to say more from the way his jaw was working but it seemed that everything had locked up. And it was so fucking frustrating.

 - ..

"Dat shounsh about wight. Ish weayee hawd foh peopa wif dishabiyitiesh to get zhobs." She sighed. "Dash why I wook foh my dad inshtead of gettin weal wook." She put her arm back around Tobias. "Ish okay. You don't hafta tew me if you don't wanna. None of dish ish eashy to deah wif. We've aw been frough da winga." She couldn't believe that the roles had reversed like this. Earlier she was clinging to Leo getting comforted, now she was having to do the same for Tobias.

 - .

He snorted a little, shaking his head, "I would think working for a parent would be real work. Crazy expectations and all that." But he could never know that. His mother had been a school teacher and his father was... some sort of archaeologist or sociologist... And he was off in Africa all the damned time. Tobias gave her a sad sort of smile, "I was trying to tell you. But I... physically can't talk or write about... What happened. Something in my brain." Just like the hearing loss.

Speaking of which. 3... 2... 1... His ears quite suddenly popped very loudly (to him) and very painfully. "OW! Son of a bitch!" He covered his ears and closed his eyes.

 - ..

"Not when you kid ish dishabled and kind of a dishapointment. Den you jusht keep heh bushy and out of you haiuh and yet evewyone shay what a gweat fader you aw foh takin cawe of youah-" Esme's emo moment was interrupted by a shout that she probably could have heard without her hearing aids. "What? Whash wong?" She looked at him worried as he covered his ears.

 - .

Tobias made a face at her story. That was awful. But before he could say anything his ears popped. He rubbed them a little, nose scrunched up. The sound was all tinny and strange... The sound! "Hearing came back. Painfully," while it was a pleasant development, that meant Cheyenne would talk at him again. "I don't know what's worse out of the two of us... Having your dad around or having mine not be around."

 - ..

"Oh, weh, good," Esme said, wishing her hearing could pop back on so easily. His next comment had made her think, though. Which was better? Uberprotective dad or nonexistent dad? "Wow, showwy. Teh me you at yeasht had a mom awound, dough. Caushe, yeah..." She didn't know quite what to say beyond that.

 - .

Tobias shrugged a little, kind of glad he didn't have to stare at her to catch her words now. It made him uncomfortable to stare at people like that. He'd gotten enough of it himself, "Don't apologize... Last I heard he was off in the Congo learning about some crazy tribe..." How long ago had that been? Just before the experiment started he'd gotten a letter. He smiled faintly at the mention of his mother and shook his head, "I lived with my aunt and uncle. My mother... Died. When I was five. Pneumonia." Normally, he didn't talk about it but she had asked and it wasn't like it was some great big secret.

 - ..

"Dat shucksh," Esme said, shifting a little on the bed, her legs kicking slightly. She really didn't know what to say. As much as she sometimes felt like life had taken a big dump in her lap, at least she hadn't been through anything like that. So instead she just kind of patted his hand, trying not to seem too patronizing, but she had a feeling it might seem that way anyways.

 - .

Tobias snorted sharply at her simple words. "Yeah well. I don't even remember her that much so I guess it doesn't hurt as much as it should." Not like it hurt with Jenny... He felt the weight of the photographs hidden in his inner coat pocket. Now that he had them, he was not going to travel without some of them on him at all times. "I get neat artifacts out of my dad though. You wouldn't believe how many weird idols I have in my room at home."

 - ..

"Weh, dash kinda cooah den," Esme said with a little bit of a smile. "I guesh ish not eveyone dat can shay dey have shomefin yike dat." Her stomach growled a little, reminding her of what she had been planning to do when Tobais knocked. "Schushe me," she said with a little embarrassed giggle as she scooted off the bed. "I wash jusht about to get shome yunsh when you showed up. Wanna join me? I'm not a gweat cook, but I do awight."

 - .

He glanced rather automatically at Esme's stomach... And then smiled faintly. Oh no, he'd interrupted her lunch. Tobias felt horrible now. "No, I better just... pick something and get back. People might start thinking I marched out into the snow and just decided never to return," he stood up and started to peruse the books again.

 - ..

"Shuit youshef," Esme said, still blushing a bit. If his hearing really had returned, there was no doubt he had heard that. "Weh, deh'sh no wush, jusht wheneva you can bwing dem back, dash fine. Oh, if you jusht need a shyightye defectif eah to bend," she said with a smile.