Magic Hollow 
Directly after Yrains

 "We're here," she announced as she pulled the FJ into the narrow driveway, some means to wake him up if he had not stirred already. The house before them was a small one, easily seen from the outside, and while the cheap white siding had seen better days, it was hardly in shambles. Patches of grass were yellowing slightly, but the small lawn was cut short, close enough to bare spots of dirt here and there.

 She'd lead him inside, where everything was much cleaner - as immaculate as an aging rental home could be, anyway. The walls were all painted off-white, with wooden floors that were probably as old as the foundation. The living room contained only a couch with a throw blanket and a coffee table, a small television, and a wood stove. Beyond that, visible from the front door, was an equally small kitchen, counter and stove and fridge and cabinets all crammed together. The dining table was small and still seemed like it barely fit.

 "Bathroom's there to the left," she'd point out to him, down a short hall between the kitchen and the living room. Her bedroom was on the other side of the bathroom, door open to a made bed and a chest of drawers and little else. "Washer and dryer are in there, too." She'd linger, in the event that he had any questions, but would not baby him or tell him to make himself at home, ready to put herself back to bed. With one ear out for him, of course.

By the time they arrived, Mateo wasn't sure where 'here' even was. He'd lost track of what city lines they passed, how long they were driving for. Larkspur, maybe. Or maybe somewhere else entirely. It didn't matter, it was a house. He'd follow her up, head on a swivel as he took in what detail he could. Inside, he'd blink around, squinting at the cramped living quarters. Definitely a house only one person lived in. "Aight." He'd say with a nod at the direction, and would shuffle off to the bathroom, tugging at his shirt already before he even got to the door.

It wouldn't be the most graceful process. A lot of focusing on trying to figure out the dials and nobs that were involved in both getting his clothing in the washer and turning on the shower. He would put in both his shirt and pants, but had the mind to keep the underwear. More or less on auto pilot after that as he stood under steaming water with his arm braced against the shower tile. The floor took turns falling in and out of focus, and eventually he managed to find something he was pretty sure was body wash? It smelled like fucking plants. But it worked, he managed to feel a little more alive when he stepped out of the shower, tracking down a cabinet that had a towel for him to use. Situating it around his waist, he'd shuffle toward the sink, and lift his eyes to his ugly mug. "Pft." He said numbly, after a few prolonged moments, "Pendejo."

With that, he'd slide on his boxers, switch over the shirt and pants into the dryer, and exit the bathroom to head for the couch. Unceremoniously, he'd collapse and pass out within a minute.

 Ingrid had been largely alone for long enough now that laying in bed with the sound of water singing through the pipes was alien. Almost unpleasantly so. It was a minor inconvenience, really, but she still laid awake as she listened to his movements on the other side of the wall, shower curtain squeaking, his voice muttering something unintelligible, washing machine opening and closing, dryer opening an closing. Footsteps down the short hall, the muffled sound of a body plopping onto the couch. Certainly he was out cold - but Ingrid would lie awake a little longer all the same, ears strained for any sign of misconduct.

 Eventually, satisfied that Mateo was asleep and therefore behaving, Ingrid would be able to rest as well. It was a light sleep, and she woke frequently through the night, lion and woman alike on high alert every time. It would seem, each time, that nothing was amiss.

 Her alarm squawked at six thirty, and she turned it off and rolled out from under the covers in one solid motion. She was feeling a bit like she hadn't slept at all, left somehow tired and restless all at once. At least it was her day off, but even that was not so soothing in the face of knowing she'd have obligations anyway.

 She'd slept in her shirt and cotton shorts, prepared for the worst, and would shuffle to the kitchen looking much the same as she had when she'd gone to bed, with the exception of now-tangled hair. Weary eyes trailed to Mateo, wondering when his mental clock would tick him upright, but she continued on to her tight little kitchen and dragged out the coffee pot. There was a beacon of hope in the scent of it brewing. Afterward, the woman would sit at her dining table and drink slowly, watching the back of the couch for a sign of life.

Mateo, for all the signs that might suggest it, was not a heavy sleeper. He'd woken up to possibly every scenario imaginable in his life; screaming, yelling, gun shots, being smacked with pillows, being pinched, pushed, slapped, having his hair stroked, his nose kissed, a blow job. Waking up to the smell of coffee was high on the list of preferred ways to wake up. Especially when the idea of opening his eyes was possibly lowest on his list of things he wanted to do. He still did, peeling open the eyelids that felt like they weighed eighty pounds each. His head ached, and his throat was dry, but he didn't immediately feel like he wanted to be hit by a bus. Not his worst hangover, pretty standard.

Mateo would grumble to himself, shift around where he lay face down on the couch so that he could stare up at the ceiling. Waking up in a strange home was commonplace. Thankfully, he had enough of last night's memories to clue him in on where he was. Ingrid's. He sighed heavily, and after a moment, he'd hoist himself up to a sitting position, grabbing for the blanket he'd neglected all night to bundle in his lap. It was the morning, and all he had on was underwear, so. With a sleepy frown, he'd blink around the small home. Ingrid wasn't hard to spot, sitting at her little kitchen table, watching him. After a beat, he'd clear his throat, and look down at himself. He smelled like flowers. "Morning."

 Ingrid heard him waking before he sat up - the subtle changes in breathing and heartbeat, easy for her to hear across the relatively small space between table and couch. Eventually, he righted himself and grabbed at the blanket, greeting her simply. "There's coffee if you'd like a cup before we hunt down your vehicle," she said as a way of response, considering his sleep-disheveled appearance for a moment longer before she finished off her current mug, rising for another. He should probably eat something, but Ingrid was not going to invite him to anything beyond caffeine from her kitchen.

No good morning back, but a good enough greeting all the same. Mateo would not, regretting it immediately due to the sharp pang at the back of his eyes. It would take him a moment to feel comfortable in moving to stand, keeping the blanket around his shoulders like a shawl as he moved into the kitchen after her, watching as she poured herself a second cup.

There was a pregnant silence here, a no-man's-land of things that probably should be said. Mateo wasn't sure where to start with that, but a simple, "Sorry," Was probably an alright start.

 He approached as she poured, and she would fish out another mug from the tiny cabinet in front of her, setting it down and filling it up for him as he apologized. Just in case his hangover disabled him from pouring a cup without any sort of spilling or breaking. She set the carafe back on its heating plate and looked toward his face. "Do you make a habit of getting that drunk regularly?" she asked him, tone bordering condescending.

How kind. He'd take the coffee, sip it despite the steam that rolled off of the surface and caressed his nose hairs. At the question, he fixed her with a frown, then shrugged. "Only when shit's too fucked to deal with it." He said, took a heavy swig of the coffee, felt a little better. "It's fuckin' Iago." He'd grumble as some sort of explanation.

 Ingrid could not pretend that she had never felt such a way, though she hardly made a habit of drinking her woes off her mind. It was a poor coping mechanism, she thought. Mateo went on, confirming that he was mourning Iago in some way. She was not a therapist by a long shot, but couldn't deny some stretch of curiosity, a certain selfish desire to know more.

 She gestured toward the table as a way of silent invitation and moved to sit in one of the chairs. "You want to talk about it?"

Did he want to talk about it? The question in itself inspired an internal, impulsive rejection. No, he didn't need to fucking talk about it like she was his therapist. But he was an adult, that understood saying things out loud was something that was good for you. One of the lessons he'd learned from his time with the girl that drove him out of Arizona.

So, he'd exhale heavily, and sit himself down on the kitchen table that felt too small for the both of them. Like he was crouched down at a little girl's play tea table. Just throw him in a tutu, it couldn't be more embarrassing than this. "Not much to really say. I text him, he asked what I wanted. Told him you gave it to me, and then he started playing dumb." Or something. Mateo lifted the coffee to take another sip. "Then I call him, yeah? And I'm sure I hear him breathing, but he doesn't say nothing." His eyes rolled, and he huffed shortly. "I was gonna tell him... or ask him, I dunno, tell him I don't got anywhere else to go but here. See if he wanted to meet up. But he wouldn't even say a fucking word to me."

 Ingrid wondered why Iago had bothered to answer the phone call at all. She sat straight as she listened, expression neutral. Mateo had nothing, nowhere else to go - just his job sweeping the floors and the pillow in the back seat of his truck. He'd come all this way, to what? Mooch off his brother or something? Maybe that was another reason Iago wanted nothing to do with him.

 "That's unfortunate," she said over the rim of her mug. "What are you going to do now?" Did he even have a backup plan? Or was he just going to resign himself to drowning, now that the island he'd reached proved fruitless?

Unfortunate, yeah. He pressed his tongue against the backside of his lip, huffing out something of a laugh as he tilted his head to the side and looked to the linoleum flooring. At the question, he pulled in a breath, and let it out like a horse would, his lips flapping as he leaned back in his chair and slid down a bit so he could fully recline to tilt his head back and stare at the ceiling. "Dunno..." He said to the popcorn texture, head shaking and eyes falling shut. What now? He was pretty sure that bartender girl asked him the same question. What now, huh? He had no desire to pine after his shitty brother, there was no pride in calling multiple times a day until he picked up. But he was pretty much stuck here, he didn't have the money to make another move, really. He'd blown all his cash last night. So, what choices did he have? It occurred to him that one was sitting right in front of him.

Mateo perked up suddenly and opened his eyes. His boxer covered ass slid back in the seat, and he leaned forward instead to rest his forearms on the table. His sleepy gaze rested on her, and he pointed a single, slightly crooked finger in her direction, "How well you know him?" He questioned, then pulled the finger back in a swift movement, his hands then moving to circle around his warm mug, "Can you talk to him? See what his deal is?" His disheveled brows pricked upward as he lifted the coffee mug to take a sip, though his mud colored eyes never left her.

 Ingrid watched him as he huffed and rolled his head around to look from floor to ceiling. He did not have a plan. She hid a frown behind her mug. How careless.

 He popped back up suddenly, and she watched him with a guarded sort of look as he pointed at her. How well did she know Iago? More than she would allow herself to say, sorry Mateo. Could she talk to him? She certainly would - but perhaps not in the way this man expected. Still, her expression shifted into something that could be described as uncomfortable. That was sticking more than just her nose where it didn't belong.

 "I don't know him well enough to play middleman for this," she informed Mateo wearily. She didn't know where Iago worked or lived, what he did in his spare time that did not involve earning concussions or affectionately wrestling a silver lion.

Of course, she wasn't immediately down for it. He really should have thought about that outcome before he asked. But, she was treating it as being a hell of a lot more than he was asking. Middle man? Nah. "Look, I'm not asking you to pull together no family reunion," He said as he set his mug down with a muted 'clink', and held up one hand to flash a reassuring palm at her, "Just ask him if he talked to me, see what he says about it. He already knows you gave me his number." He was a little surprised Iago hadn't already questioned her about it, really. If he were Iago, he'd be calling her right after demanding to know why she was just giving out his number left and right. But maybe that was just a Mateo thing.

 Ingrid was having a somewhat similar thought, unknowingly - Iago hadn't mentioned this to her at all. Maybe it was her turn to apologize. Her eyes wandered elsewhere in the kitchen as Mateo sought to pressure her with a different angle, and she sighed. She certainly would be asking Iago about this, but most likely only after eating crow. Whether or not she wanted to let Mateo know she'd reach out was another story - it put an expectation on her. He would want a report of some kind.

 "And what would you do with that information?" she retorted, frowning slightly. "What if you don't like what you hear?"

She was making this more difficult than it really needed to be. "See if its worth it to try and reach out again." He told her with a shrug, then finished off his drink before adding, "Sooner I know, sooner you don't gotta deal with it anymore."

 Her frown darkened some for his words. "I don't have to deal with it at all if I choose not to," she informed him coolly. She would not put up with him behaving as if he was entitled to her help in this way. But, she was going to speak to Iago about this anyway - she didn't have to frame this for either herself or the other lion that she was fishing for answers for Mateo. The most important thing for her was to relay an apology to her fellow Were, and if she got something out of it for the man across the little dining table, that was that.

 "But. I will ask him for you when I can."

But here she was, choosing to. He wouldn't point that out, not willing to push his luck. A nod would follow along her words, and he'd drum his fingers against the table top. "Aight, that's all I ask. I still owe you big time, Ingrid." Big fucking time, and he wouldn't complain about whatever it was she needed from him, either. Well, within reason.

 That was all he asked! Like it was some small favor. Still, Ingrid could not deny that she'd put herself in this situation to begin with. Opening her big mouth, and not to mention hunting this drunkard down when he'd needed help. Still, having left him high and dry could have brought on worse consequences.

 "I know," she assured him quietly. At least she had that - maybe being expected of something was worth being owed something. She set her empty mug down and rose from her seat. "I'm going to shower, and then we're going to find your truck."

"Aight, throw me my clothes, will you?" Honestly, he was impressed he'd managed to get them switched over into the dryer last night.

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