1965-03-04 - Tinkering Over Tea
Summary: Elmo visits Alex Cohen to see how he's settling in.
Related: If there are no related logs, put 'None', — please don't leave blank!
Theme Song: None
elmo lindon 


Lindon is at his apartment, doing some work from home away from the house guest who finds him disconcertingly tall. Puck is with Lindon, leaving the two 'normal' kittens here at the manor. Not that Alex Cohen has complained a lot since coming over. Just some kvetching here and there to maintain some sense of control where there is none. Lindon took it in good humor and had the work to do anyway, no feelings hurt.

Alex has ventured out of his room to the kitchen to stare at the cupboards. Does he dare feed himself? Will his host allow it? They haven't starved him so far, but with the tall one gone (he wasn't supposed to leave!), Alex isn't sure who to ask.

Elmo is here to talk with Cohen, more or less to keep him occupied while this awful situation is happening. He comes in to find him in the kitchen, staring down the cupboards. "Hey, Mr. Cohen. …Something wrong?" He looks at the cupboards too, since Alex finds them so interesting.

Alex looks up, and he squares his shoulders, but also seems to relax somewhat. "You'd think they'd feed a man," he tells Elmo. "The beanpole said there were sandwiches, but I don't want them. They always put cheese on the beef." He's tired around the eyes, but unlike last night, he isn't staring into a thousand yards, barely restraining himself from shaking. Nor is he quite at home, either.

Elmo studies Cohen for a moment, noting those changes. What could have spooked the old guy so badly last night? He's not sure. "Yeah, they don't keep kosher here." 'Beanpole' makes him snicker a tiny bit. Lindon is a beanpole, there's no lie there. "They dunno stuff like that." He starts opening cupboards, checks the fridge, rummaging around for things that are /pareve/, always kosher (until they touch plates that served meat, but, whatever). "Are you okay, Mr. Cohen?"

There are sandwiches in the fridge, wrapped up and ready for whoever wants a sandwich. Roasted chicken, vegetables, no cheese, on a light rye bread. Lindon doesn't keep the kitchen kosher, but he knows not to put dairy with meat. Alex steps aside to let Elmo do this. He is, himself, not comfortable enough to try. "I miss my shop," he says, "and there's nothing for me to do here, nothing for my hands. But they've got books. So many books."

Elmo's not comfortable, exactly, but Mr. Cohen looking so helpless has inspired him. "This is okay," he says, pulling out the sandwich. "He had you in mind." Lindon is so thoughtful. He brings it over. "I know how to make tea, you want some?" Learned at great pain in this very kitchen. "Oh, yeah, I thought you might be bored, so I brought some of your stuff," he adds, rattling around Lindon's tea stuff. "I mean, /I'd/ be bored."

"You're a good boy, Elmotshik," Mr. Cohen says. He perks up. There's food he can eat! The gentile came through for him. This is what's called being pleasantly surprised. "That was nice of him," he says as he comes over to take one of the sandwiches. "It's too bad he's too tall." Mr. Cohen himself is only about 5'9" so plenty of people are taller than he is. Just that, skinny as he is, Lindon looks 'too' tall. "I've tried to stay out of the way," he says, "but my hands haven't gone this long with something to do since before I was your age."

"He's kinda tall," Elmo says, amused. "I told him so when we met." He starts the tea making process because, why not, really, it's something to do. Mr. Cohen isn't the only one who doesn't know what to do with idle hands. "I'd hate bein' cooped up too."

"Everyone should tell him," Mr. Cohen says. He takes the sandwich to the kitchen table, steering clear of the nice dining room. He's at least at home enough to help himself to a plate and he finds a napkin in a basket right there on the table. "At least they put me in a big room. There's a draft, these houses are so old, but I slept all right last night."

Elmo fetches the big canvas bag he'd brought, full of tools and what material he thought might be useful. It's extremely heavy. "Mighta been I overpacked," he grunts, hauling the thing over to one of the kitchen chairs and setting it on the seat. "I dunno what you use every day, so I just kinda tossed things in." What seemed likely, anyway. He glances at Mr. Cohen, wanting to ask him all kinds of things, but he doesn't, not yet.

Alex smiles faintly and says, "Let's see what you've got." He doesn't tuck into his sandwich yet, pleasantly distracted by the goodies Elmo unpacks. "I use what I find," he says. "And look at this, I've found it right here on the table." He takes up an abandoned bracket and some screws, then looks among the other stuff, those tired eyes sharpening as his mind races after potential hosts for his spirit friends. "I do not think you only came to bring me these things, though, Elmotshik."

Elmo pokes around in the bag, laying out some tools and materials: tinsnips, wire, an awl, some scrap leather, wheels, a dainty screwdriver and accompanying tiny screws, pilers and slim metal plates. "Sorry I couldn't bring the bandsaw. Maybe Lamont will let me install one," he says, only half joking. "Tons more in there." The kettle whistles and he goes to tend to it, making the tea precisely as Morbius taught him. When he comes back, he offers Mr. Cohen a mug of it, and has one for himself. Usually his caffeine of choice is coffee, but he feels weird about making it in Lamont's kitchen. He sits down, fiddling with the mug. "Maybe not only. Mr. Cohen, all these years and nobody knew you could do anything, you know, unusual."

Mr. Cohen takes up each tool in turn to hold it, as though memorizing it to his hands. "Yes, yes," he murmurs. "A bandsaw is nice, but these are good. I can do a lot with these." He looks up at Elmo, eyes crinkling in a smile that doesn't quite touch his lips. "Thank you," he says. Then Elmo is off to make tea, and Mr. Cohen has made his hands busy; the result is that the bracket he picked up is soon a backbone and neck, with screws securing a makeshift head and wires forming spindly legs. Only when the tea is brought does he set it aside for the moment. "No, I didn't tell anyone. It was my secret."

"I got a secret, too." Elmo holds his hand out, palm-up. A miniature lightning bolt dances up, then dissipates with a pop. "I'm a mutant. What you can do—what exactly is it?" He watches Mr. Cohen work, with the same avid interest he had as a kid.

Mr. Cohen's brows lift as he watches the display. "A mutant," he says, sampling the idea. "Does your mother know?" He takes a sip of his tea, and his eyes lid briefly in satisfaction. Tea mends a lot. "Mine is a wild talent. It ran in my family, every other generation. My Oma was teaching me a simple spell, to animate the toys, but then the war came." Another thing taken from him, but these days? These days he just sounds resigned.

Elmo sighs. "There's a lot about me that Ma don't know." Oh boy, is there. "You understand, right?" Even a nice Jewish boy needs to get out and spread his gay rainbow wings. Listening, he nods. "It's magic? I don't know much about magic, other than it causes a lotta trouble for everybody."

Mr. Cohen says, "Who am I to meddle in a mother's relationship with her son?" It's all right, Elmo, Mr. Cohen has you. He nods then and says, "It's magic. That's what my Oma called it. She could make the broom sweep the floor just by telling it to, and she could ask the lights to turn off and on, and they would." Nostalgia give shis eyes a distant look, warm as he remembers some other time. "She had friends who knew other tricks, and she was going to have them teach me, but I only ever learned the one thing."

Elmo drops his eyes away, not watching Mr. Cohen have that expression. It's an expression he's all too familiar with: 'before the war', when things were good. Unlike they are now, is always the unspoken corollary. Now, times are tough. Now, we all have to live with the fact that our neighbors wanted us dead. He was born after the war, but he's its child in so many ways. "Did you ever try to figure out more on your own?"

Mr. Cohen's gaze drifts back to the present, and he takes another drink of tea. Tea is a good drink for reminiscence. "No, I ran away to fight," he says. "After the war, Oma was gone, I never met her friends. That entire community was gone, and I didn't know anyone when I got here. I kept it to myself."

Elmo picks up the spool of wire and almost absently makes it glow and spark. "Enough to make you a target," he says, brooding over the wire. He's pissed off about this Hargrove cat. "Yeah. I can see why you kept it secret." Another Jewish refugee, but this one a mage, no matter how minor? He knows it wouldn't have gone over so well.

Mr. Cohen says gently, "They say I'm in good hands here." Whether he believes things will work out for him, he's not going to tell Elmotshik anything but that it will be okay. "I didn't know what they were going to do with me last night. I still don't know what they're going to do with me, but they have been kinder than the last ones who told me to pack my things and to come with them."

A discharge leaps off the wire spool as Elmo starts. "/What?/ Oh, oh /no/." He drops it and stares at Cohen. "You thoughtoy vey ist mir! Mr. Cohen, I didn't even thinkoh my God." Helplessly, he spreads his hands, dropping into Yiddish to beg Mr. Cohen's pardon and calling himself an idiot, in the cultural tradition.

Mr. Cohen glances to the discharge, brows lifting, and then to Elmo's face. Briefly. He drops his gaze to his teacup. "No, no, it's fine, Elmotshik. Why would you know?" Haven't men like him lived their lives in such a way that boys like Elmo could come up never knowing? He waves a hand and shakes his head. "S 'iz akei, Elmotshik. Please. You have been so good to an old fool."

"I really, /really/ shoulda thought of it." Elmo's desperately unhappy with himself, but he also doesn't want to upset Mr. Cohen. Someone, maybe several someones, have made it clear to him that his reactions don't do anybody any favors. "Okay, I just—I'm sorry, okay?" He drinks some of the tea to give himself time.

Mr. Cohen nods solemnly and says, "All is forgiven, you've brought me these things to work with." He gestures with his teacup to the tools and scrap. Finally, he looks at Elmo. "I believe this man is trying to save my life. I am not so sure about his friend. I don't fully understand the danger, but I know that it's safer here than at home." His poor shop, closed all day. He sets down his tea so that he can finally tuck into that sandwich, and he makes a surprised sound. "The beanpole isn't so bad," he decides.

"Lamont's a good guy," Elmo murmurs. "That other guy, Constantine, not so sure about him. But Lamont trusts him." He hitches a shoulder. He hasn't forgotten what Morbius said about Lamont being insane, but he also can't judge such things for himself. Lindon's trust doesn't give him any clues, the man sleeps with vampires and angels. (And cranky mutant electricians.) Speaking of Lindon, he smiles, unable to help it. "He ain't so bad."

Mr. Cohen grunts as he chews his sandwich in apparent grudging agreement. He's not so bad, fine. "They've given me food I can eat," he says, comparing this to the last time he was taken away from home. It's not hard for the manor to get a glowing review by comparison. "They even gave me a room in my own wing. A wing to myself! Who needs that much room? But they leave me alone. Now that I have things to do with my hands, I'll be better. And I can bring some of my friends to life. I don't think the beanpole and the silent one will notice."

Elmo snorts. "A wing? Lamont should quit bein' so modest." Shy suddenly, he asks, "Can I see 'em, when you do? I'd love to see what they're like. I got this friend, he could make toys move too, but he's a mutant. It's not the same."

Mr. Cohen says, "If they'll come. They're shy, my friends." He takes another bite of sandwich, not willing to admit he's refused to eat for hours and is starving. He just didn't think the sandwiches would be kosher! After washing the bite down with a drink of tea, he says with a shake of his head, "I can't make the toys move. I can only open the door so that the spirits can come inside. When it's a toy I've made myself, it means more to them. It forms a connection."

"Spirits," Elmo repeats, fascinated. "Like ghosts? Spirits go in the toys? You talk to them?" This is all new to him. "Can you see them when they're not in a toy? Is that how your Oma did it?" So many questions, this kid.

Mr. Cohen shakes his head and says, "Not ghosts. My Oma told me if I meet a ghost, I must finish its business on this Earth so it can rest. These are just little spirits, maybe little magical beings?" He waves a hand and shakes his head again. "I don't see them, but I can sense them. I talk to them. Oma said if you speak, they will come, so mind what you say and who you say it to."

"My bubbe said that too, but I think she meant I should quit mouthin' off," Elmo says, half grinning. He was a mouthy, inquisitive kid and he hasn't changed so much. "Wow. That's so cool. I hope they come, I really wanna see 'em."

Mr. Cohen laughs quietly. "Always listen to your bubbe," he says. Advice for any young man. He lifts his head and looks around the place. "They may need some coaxing," he says. "This place is strange, and there are magicks here that try to keep them out. I may ask the silent man if he can let them in for me. See if that will get him talking." Lindon is too tall, Lamont doesn't say enough.

Elmo tips his hand back and forth in the classic 'eh' gesture. "Ask, but I dunno if he will. That's supposed to keep you safe. Lindon, too, /if he was HERE/." He glares at the couch Lindon's often on, as if it can be held responsible. "Can't believe that guy, wanderin' off like he don't know he's got problems."

"He probably doesn't get a lot of oxygen up there," says Mr. Cohen. He finishes off the sandwich, not complaining about the beanpole's cooking at least. "Is he hunted, too? You know, his parents naming him after a tree, that was foresight." With tea and sandwich done, he starts sorting through his new goodies to put stuff together. His hands move sure and steady. This is something he knows. This is comfortable.

Elmo snickers. He appreciates Lindon getting insulted in the friendly-hostile Yiddish manner. But it's a serious question and deserves a serious answer. "Yeah, he is. Same reason you are. That Hargrove guy wants to do what you and him can do. Except he don't got no sense." Rubbing his forehead, he sighs. "Nobody can force him to keep himself safe, but oy gevalt. He's givin' me tsuris."

"I'm sure the silent man wouldn't let him out if he wasn't going to be all right," Mr. Cohen says. "You're too young to worry so much. He said he had work to do. At least he's got a work ethic." In his hands, scrap becomes a body and neck, spindly legs, with a tail to act as a counterbalance. It's no creature of this Earth, but it has notes of both octopus and dog. It's not like his normal fare, but it's still made with a skilled hand, just a stranger result. "Though if he's responsible for dinner, I hope he gets back safely."

Elmo grunts. He can't exactly tell Mr. Cohen the reason he's worried so much about Lindon. "Should I not worry? You see what he's like." Can't complain about Lindon working too much, though. It's one of the things he admires about him. "Like a giraffe on roller skates." However he pauses kvetching to lean forward, raptly watching Mr. Cohen's hands.

"Ha, that's a good one," Mr. Cohen says. "It was nice that he made us food we can eat." He sets the contraption on the table. "I will talk to whatsis about letting me have at least one spirit friend. This looks so sad with no one to make it dance." He looks at the toy, and sadness creeps back upon his features. "Who could use something like this to do harm, Elmotshik? Is nothing scared anymore?"

Elmo studies the little figure. It's wrought with charm and personality, and a very high degree of technical skill. Exactly what made him so fascinated with Mr. Cohen and his work in the first place. Even with what he can do now, he knows he's got a long way to go before he's so accomplished. Reaching out, he taps one of the little limbs, lightly. "I'm just a technician. You're an artist." He glances over, mouth pulled down. "It don't feel like it." But Mr. Cohen knows that far more intimately than he.

That tap sends a shiver down the limb and causes them all, ever just so not equal in length, to bounce just a little, and the spindly legs skitter a few 'steps' on the table in a 'dance.' Mr. Cohen smiles to see his little octo-dog performing as he'd hoped. He rarely smiles that openly, but it's always good to see work done well, even one's own. Then he sighs. "Less and less, Elmotshik. Find what you can of the sacred, and keep it close to your heart. It's rarer than gold."

Elmo almost tells him. Almost. About Lindon, about Jay, about his team. About how it turns out he's not irreperably broken, just different, and different in an amazing way at that. About how he's sure they can change the world. But he is still too new at being himself, and he's legitimately afraid of Mr. Cohen's censure. He's seen how people who seem perfectly kind and loving become monsters when faced with someone they've been told is monstrous. Enough kids in juvie talked about that. So he doesn't. He bows his head. "I'm workin' on it, Mr. Cohen."

"I know you are," Mr. Cohen says gently. He doesn't pry. Elmo has always been different, and even though he's gotten himself in some trouble, he's always worked hard. If there are details (and of course there are) he doesn't request them. "You're a special boy, Elmotshik. I could tell from the first day you came into my shop and climbed the shelves looking for the most complicated thing to pull apart. I'm not surprised, you know? That you've got a little extra in your genes."

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