Vincent Van Goat

Work Release 
The day was cold, a deep chill brought down to the streets by a shrill wind. Do to Janus's instance Elis had opted to have a thick blanket placed over his lap and legs, it actually settled nicely within the confines of the wheelchair and kept him warm during the light train ride to the gallery. He wasn't going to let the weather keep him home though, not when there was an art gallery so close by.
With the help of a nice passerby he was wheeled into the entrance of the gallery. It was still rather early and the place seemed mostly empty. He thanked the nice man who had helped him before pushing himself over to the front desk. Already he was entranced. He could see just the hints of photographs and paintings that lay beyond.

 In the morning hours during the week, in the interest of payroll and mercy, she tended to allow most of the staff crawl in later. Classes were scheduled in the early afternoon for the studio spaces upstairs, the gallery rooms pristine in major part due to the cleaning crews that came in the evening hours after close. Still, she'd finished walking the whole space and had gone through the motions of straightening out maps and brochures, turning the sign, unlocking the doors.

 For now she was rooting through emails, glancing habitually to the other monitor at her right which showed live footage of each room in neatly divided squares. Technically, she could retire to her office in the back - checklist handled, but it was ever so slightly warmer than miserable, so she stayed put and enjoyed the sunlight for the time being.

 The pause in front of the desk, she noticed from her periphery. Glancing over at last, a bit reluctant to tear away from an email she was drafting a response to. "Morning, welcome to Work Release." They were, of course, wheelchair accessible, something she didn't immediately yell at him but was tagged on both the backs of the maps and the inconspicuous decal beside the door.

He smiled at the woman behind the counter, feeling both nervous and embarrassed. It was only his second time at a gallery, and he was a bit unfamiliar with the general rules, so he hoped he was in the right place to buy a pass. A pass was need right? He had no idea. Maybe he should have looked up more information before coming. Either way it was better then being stuck at home, especially as Janus was on another twenty four hour shift. "Sorry to bother you. Do I need to buy a pass?"
That sounded stupid, but the words were already out of his mouth. Next time he was doing his research first. A blush was already making it's way up his face.

 She watched him for a moment, noted the slight shift in color along his cheeks and decided to take mercy. "No, that's not quite how we operate. We're a gallery, not a museum." She pulled one of the pamphlets from the edge of the desk and held it out to him between two fingers.

 "It's free to look and we encourage you to do so, all work unless marked is for sale." She motioned vaguely around, neglected the often steep prices in her spiel. "We offer art classes from beginner to advance, there's a calendar for April on the insert - the map is on the back if you're looking for a particular style of work." Which, it didn't seem he was - but the whole pitch was so well practiced by now she didn't feel like trimming it down.

It seemed the worker was taking pity on him even offering him a pamphlet which he gladly took. "Oh thank you. And if I do want to acquire any of the art would I talk to you?"
With a new house to decorate he was all to happy to buy any art piece he liked, and it was one of the few things Janus seemed unable to argue with him over. So he had a full bank account just waiting to be spent on priceless art. Although the manner of getting the art back to the house may prove a problem, but he supposed he could at least find what pieces he liked even if he couldn't buy them today.
He glanced down at the pamphlet and opened it up to look over the map.

 "If you should find something that speaks to you and you'd care to know more about it, anyone with a name tag would be able to assist you. I spend a good deal of the day in the back, but if I'm out - I'd be happy to help." She left out her title, didn't make an ordeal out of ownership as she came from behind the counter and tugged on the sleeves of her shirt.

"Thank you..Uh I don't think I caught your name" He said rather apologetic. It was a little to embarrassing to look up at her chest for a name tag so he kept his eyes firmly on her face.

It wasn't too often he bothered her at work, but he had a meeting with a contractor in a couple of hours in Cordova and this was just... on the way. Besides, Levka knew for a fact that the morning hours at Work Release were slow and Yana could stand for a little distraction, couldn't she? And also, coffee. Because he'd come here straight from Big Bear, and he knew what she liked without having to ask and ruin the "surprise."

He'd expected to find her in back at her office, but instead she was towards the front, dealing with someone.

Decidedly not caring about this someone, there was little hesitation to interrupt. "Яночка, доброе утро. Пожалуйста, скажи мне, что ты не занят," you know, outside of the sense that she was at work and that was inherently some fashion of busy. A hope offered in Russian because he was incorrigible, and these days she understood a lot more of that than she was willing to admit, he was certain.

Given the chance to approach, he'd offer her the very warm paper coffee cup he'd brought in with him.

"Yanochka, good morning. Please tell me you are not busy."


 There was, of course, a strict policy on food and drink in the gallery space. That rule, however, had a way of not applying to management - like most rules at most jobs, unfortunately. "No, Levka - I was just standing here waiting for you." Almost immediate and dry enough to grate. She would take the cup, lean up to quickly peck him on the cheek before she slipped back into the important then and there.

"Apologies, Yana." She'd offer out her hand as she switched the coffee to her left.

Elis took the offer hand, giving a light shake. "Thank for the help Yana"
He set the brochure on his lap and rolled the wheelchair away. He didn't want to get in the way of their conversation, besides there was a whole gallery open to him and art to buy. Giving them both a nod of his head he started towards where the gallery started.

Levka was not in the least bit bothered by the reception he got, taking the brief show of affection override any of her tone or her words. He kept close as she addressed the wheelchair bound whatever, but his attention went out, peering down further into the gallery as if he might spot someone he knew around and about. He didn't, not immediately, and was drawn back to the immediate when the young man started off.

Not sparing the human so much as a second glance, he instead found his object of interest without anything to keep her standing here. "I have some time and a little news, if you have some time and some interest." But already he was trying to coax her along to her office with a hand to hers.

 She waited until they'd wander far enough away from the newest guest to the gallery, quiet and to herself even as she grinned at the idea of something of interest. "I have a little sliver of time and the slightest tinge of interest - what have I missed?"

"I have been collecting some bears," he admitted in quieter tones, certain enough no one could hear them, but also not trust the acoustics of this place as they neared her office. "But one is my kind. Our kind. Good, understands what he needs and how to behave in spite of no group before. First thing he wanted was to be useful." He was leading up to something, his tone suggesting there was more even as he looked to her expectantly for comment.

 She made no comment on his apparently growing collection of bears, gentle as she reached for the back of his arm and tried to usher him inside. "What's the surprise at the end of this story? Does he have six bear sons? His wife is a cheetah? Husband?" Moving with her coffee to sit down, she didn't bother instructing him to do the same - he should have known by now.

Every time he came into this office it was at least with some small recollection of their first interaction. For all he didn't make a point of interrupting her at work, it had become a familiar place. Oddly comfortable from the start. And so he sat, and with nothing to occupy his own hands he leaned into the arm of the chair and smirked at her.

"I do like where your mind has gone, but no." He would have been floored to meet another bear who shared his fondness for a cheetah in particular. Perhaps he would have dwelt on that thought, but he had his eyes on the purpose of the conversation and would not be deterred. "I think I have found my new Second. I asked him and he said yes, but later when he knows the others at all."

 There was a fine line between loving concern and sticking her nose into business that was ultimately not her own. She watched him as he explained, kept still even when he leaned in and sipped her coffee so that she had a moment to collect and organize her thoughts into something that would hopefully be well received.

 "I'm happy for you." And that much was sincere, pleased to see him pleased. "Does he have any sort of experience to qualify him for such an honor, or were you just wooed by his enthusiasm?"

He laughed, even knowing the laugh was somewhat at himself. "Enthusiasm qualifies him," he insisted, but while he did not share all of Yana's sensibility in how things were run, he did see her point. Nonetheless. "You think that I have not thought about this?" It was fair if she didn't, because he hadn't until after the offer had been made, but that was beside the point he was making. "It is good that he can learn to do it alongside me, I think. Learn my ways rather than bring his own. If nothing else, he is polite and responsible."

Two things Levka knew he himself was occasionally not. And in the end, he just needed the help and the security a Second offered.

 The good thing was that she was so well versed in shelving her opinion and letting people dig their own holes, it wasn't hard to allow him the same courtesy from time to time. So she grinned, listened to him and nodded along with the whole explanation - justification, perhaps a more fitting term. "Well, if you're happy than I am glad to be happy for you."

It wasn't full approval and he knew it, but the fact that Yana didn't make a point of telling him he was being an idiot was enough to hearten him. Levka knew from experience that she was not afraid to speak her mind if it really was necessary...

And as such, he was free to continue to make a complete stranger his most trusted Second hand among the bears.

"It has been something missing, I think. I am happy with it. With him. You will need to meet, sometime." He doubted Knox would be anything but unbearably good towards their closest ally.  The sensibility of the man was almost too much in some ways, but counterbalanced expertly by the forward attitude.

"Any good news for you?"  They talked plenty enough, but sometimes it was moments like these that things actually came up in worthy detail.

 "No, nothing positive - certainly no developments in my pecking order." She sighed, overall grateful for that as she ran down a mental list of all the things that had happened since she'd last sat down to talk shop with him. Staring across the desk, she looked him over closely and cleared her throat as she sat up. "I ran into a particularly backwards and frankly, ungrateful shit of a cheetah not that long ago." And while the words themselves were scalding and rare, her voice kept level.

Oh but he did love her all the more when she got salty. (Not at him, preferably.)

Levka's curiosity was inevitable, and he had no doubt that Yana knew it. "Tell me more."  Leaning forward towards the desk, there was no decorum here, no conscious need to be well mannered. His interest in someone that Yana would see fit to call an ungrateful shit was certainly not kind to anyone but her.

 "So," She cleared her throat, set her coffee cup to the side and sighed as she settled in to take him on an adventure of a story. "I get a tip that there's a cheetah stuck in a bear trap in the outskirts. Naturally, I go to help - he's new and half wild and trying to chew clean through his leg to get it out." She waved it off, mindful not to include any intel about anyone else in attendence for this spectacle.

 "So I get him out and into the car and bring him home - I drag him through the back and go through the whole hassle of laying out clothes for him ... and what do you think he does when he wakes?" Expression devoid of any humor as she glanced from her monitor and back to him.

New weres were a notorious shit-show, it was just the nature of them. Animal-brained and too big for their own good, they were trouble without supervision. The idea of a bear trap anywhere around here, concerning in and of itself--he made the mental note to be certain to keep an eye out for anything of the sort in the Glenn.

Yana had done right by a rogue, and yet she was left to hate verbally on him in a way she rarely indulged. So as she left him with a question as to how the story ended, he almost dared not imagine.

In spite of her seriousness, he smiled wryly. "Sounds too much to hope that he grovelled his thanks for your saving his limbs for him.  Do not tell me you have needed to replace the couch again."

 "That is far too optimistic of an assumption and you tease me with the mere suggestion." She scowled, clicked a pen a few times as she pointed it in his direction. "He wakes up and I tell him where he is, I introduce myself, I tell him I can mend his leg." She sighed, tried to be fair but found it increasingly difficult when she was in such a situation where she could readily keep her guard down.

 "Not only does he refuse my help and suggest that I am running a cult, he has the audacity to ask me if I will hunt him down and kill him, which, ..." She cleared her throat and shifted, sat up a bit straighter in her chair and leaned into the desk, elbows propped on the wood as she kept her voice low. "We both know I wouldn't tell him if I was but I'm not."

It wasn't that he was glad that she was irritated, but he did take some delight in her irritation anyway. As much a testament of their relationship as it was a good show of her potential for ferocity. And the story started out benign enough, typically leadership nonsense where you had to hold the hand of people occasionally too stupid to deserve it.

Cult raised his brows abruptly, and he laughed incredulously at the leap to murder this cat had apparently taken.

Slapping his hand down on her desk as he leaned in a little more, he exclaimed, "Какой идиот!" No wonder Yana had nothing nice to say, this was a right piece of work. "Offer to fix his leg because you want a fair fight as you wring his neck, mm?" Sitting back with a scoff abruptly, his eyes narrowed and he admitted, "Could always send me, he would never know and it sounds very enjoyable."

Not that he was really effectively in that business anymore, not-so-sad to say.

"What an idiot!"


 She shot him a look at the offer of help, rolled her eyes as she reached over to playfully attempt to flick the side of his hand. "That's quite alright, I'm more than capable of skinning my own cats as needed." Which, hopefully, if her luck held out - would be never. She sipped her drink again and shook her head. "I don't want to have to track him down though, keep me in your thoughts."

"Forever and always," he assured. "Did you get his name? I suppose, in case I ever happen to cross your cult cat, I can know better than to try and refer him to you." Not that remembering names was something he was really good for without the face to go with it, but an effort would be made. He leaned back into his chair and crossed his arms, trying to wrap his brain around... cult, still.

That was like calling a family a cult. From his experience, it just didn't line up.

 She was reluctant to make this bigger than it needed to be, worried in a way about what would come of it should the two have the misfortune of running into one another. "His name's Archer Lazlo, from what I've heard he's been applying for culinary positions so - keep an eye on Big Bear, I suppose." But that was probably a bit too close to Belle Vista for him to make the gamble, logically. "Anyway, that's the worst of it - thankfully."

"I will let Esperanza know," he decided, knowing she would be better for making sure that he didn't turn up at Big Bear more than anyone. Truthfully, he was feeling a bit protective in this situation. Of Yana's pride as much as anything, but he didn't make any more verbal gestures of such. Yana didn't need to be protected, and she would remind him of that if he dared suggest otherwise.

Still, a face that unwelcome in Yana's books was unwelcome in his own, and if he thought the Coalition a cult, there was no reason for him to love the Sleuth any more than that. A good clueless creature to ward off until further notice.

"I am glad you are reasonably well, then." Doubtless if there had been anything more pressing he would have heard of it by now. "I am headed into town in about an hour to talk with a contractor, but maybe I bring you dinner tonight?"

 As promising and tempting as dinner was, she let that hang as she leaned back in her seat and looked him over. "A contractor?" Like she didn't know what that meant - she waited for him to continue on with some sort of explanation. A little taken aback from the idea that perhaps she'd overlooked some sort of major development.

He wasn't certain he would call this major... but perhaps it was not minor, either. Having recovered somewhat over a really excellent winter season after acquiring Big Bear, he was making a few aims.

"Just to see what they think that we can do--I am thinking to add onto the lodge, put in some more rooms." As it was, they didn't have a lot of those, and especially in the winter months they tended to book up and have to turn away good money due to no vacancy. "Also try to see if we cannot appeal to the summer tourists more, find room for a pool."

Which, really, was his actual goal and personal ambition. Summer was already threatening him and he didn't like it.

He did watch Yana carefully for her reaction, positive that in spite of all the good advice he got and everything he'd learned, she was always going to be much better at the business of business than he was.

 She stared at him and worried the chain of her necklace, listened to the zip of the pull as she stared and considered what he'd decided. "Sounds like a good way to expand your business, Levka."

 Not that he needed her approval, simply that she could appreciate the critical approach. Slowly, she leaned forward, rolled her shoulders and reached out to flick his hand. "Seven work for you? I'm overseeing a delivery this evening."

The praise--as such the approval was taken--was taken straight to heart and if nothing else it would certainly embolden him in this upcoming meeting. He was... oddly excited about it, as much as he hated the difficulties of being in charge at times. Made him more glad he hadn't sent someone else in his stead, anyway.

Certainly a change from where he'd been floundering a year ago.

Grabbing at her hand, he'd keep it unless she wrested herself free. "Seven is very good," he said, as if any time offered would have put him off. It wouldn't. "I can even stay the night, unless you need me out." It was hit or miss during the week, inevitably, but he had nothing scheduled before noon tomorrow, so...

 She kept still when he caught her hand with his, turned over to squeeze his fingers and made a point to try to hold him there even if he didn't make any immediate protest. "If you'd like to stay the night then you're more than welcome to do so, I'll make up the futon before you come over." Managing straight and form as she squeezed his knuckles before she let go. "It's a date."

Pleased with the permission granted, his scoff at her joke was all the usual play-acting. They both knew what actual offense looked like--this was not it.

Pulling his hand back to himself, he nodded curtly as if they had just agreed on a joint business endeavor and moved to stand. "Perhaps I will let you get back to your work then, so you are not late to your own home this evening." Though him letting himself in would not be a first. "Hopefully when I see you tonight it will be with good news for the pool."

And well, the expansion, but one was just a lot more exciting on a base level than the other.

 She pulled back, straightened up and rolled her shoulders as she looked up at him but didn't move to stand in order to see him out. That was a formality she was glad to be done with, the unnecessary process of dawdling along and showing him where the door (still) was.

 "I will be on time, you will provide me with good news." As if speaking it as such would cement it once and for all as fact. "A pool, because I went on those god awful winter hikes with you and it's only fair." The slightest smile as she lifted a handle, wiggled her fingers in a sort-of wave. "I'll see you later."

He grinned at her and waggled his fingers much the same. Might have tried to steal a kiss from her across the desk if... well, no, there was plenty of time for that tonight. He'd let her keep her composure this morning.

"До скорого. Люблю тебя," he told her in a lilting way that almost didn't fit his language of choice, and then, feeling good, excused himself from her office.

"See you later. Love you."


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