Three On A Match
⁂ Third on a match. Meaning: bad luck.


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Mid-Summer

It's hot, it's time to hit the beaches!


The Measurer alone knows where the soul must turn in the hereafter
Subway 


Late evening
#1
Max Kuryakin Offline
Wolf Shifter
Mundian
Standing outside in the cool evening air, Max checked his watch for the time. As late as it was, he didn't want to miss the upcoming train, no matter how hungry he was. The tantalising smells of the kebab truck that'd set up shop outside the nearest T-stop to his fire station was seductive, though, so he'd stopped to get a bite before heading home. It'd been a busy day, called in despite being off-duty to fill in for someone else, but he'd been sent home after the crush abated and now he could go back to his remaining day-off. What was left of it.

He cut a glance to the side, at the stairs leading down into the subway station, lit in dirty orange and marked clearly with the station name. He felt a little uneasy around Newton's T-stops. Not only because of his run in, but the subway had been the site of too many unpleasant call-ins when he'd been a full time paramedic. Almost always Newton stops, which had given him a firm superstition about the whole tunnel network.

In a burst of distracting noise, the food truck chef called his order and Max turned away from the gaping maw of the T-station entrance. Eagerly, he wrapped his hands around the kebab stuffed to the brim with everything they'd had on offer and stepped to the side. He ambled in the general direction of the entrance to the subway station, but he was distracted by his food.

Max lifted the big bundle of pita and filling and took a gigantic bite, his elbow brushing against someone as he lowered his arms. With a full mouth, he forced out an apologetic albeit muffled, “Sorry, excuse me,” as he turned to look at whoever he'd bumped, expression apologetic despite his puffed cheeks. He tried to chew and swallow all at once, the big bite of food going painfully down his throat.
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#2
Mina Straus Offline
Possessed Human
Host
Riding the T had become something of a pastime for Mina after her encounter on the tracks, one she derived no joy from nor looked forward to. It was little more than an obligation, a service, and as someone who worked nothing other than the service industry, it smacked of the shift-work she’d come to associate with long hours and fickle reward.

At first, she’d been keen and expectant as she sat in the rocking carriage, anticipating the underworld to belly up against reality again and push. Weeks turned to months and time ate at her resolve until her memories of the Phlegethon were little more than that, just memories. Had she not her hitchhiker poisoning her mind with visions of Hades, and had she not known what she knew, maybe Mina could have written it off.

But here she was, like Orpheus, descending into the underworld. Only he had a clear mission. And tonight’s descent would be like any other; she’d ride the train until she fell asleep and Tisiphone would take her home, but only after a time, for there was much for her to do in the twilight.

Mina threaded briskly through the topside crowd towards the Newton T-stop. She did this to the bustling calls of a food truck and the tantalizing aroma of kebab meat and spices mingling with the smells of the city. She almost made it through unscathed, but misjudged a closing gap in the throng and brushed a little too close to some guy.

As he apologized and she made to the do the same, pulling her expression into something contrite, she caught a look at his chipmunk'd cheeks and startled in recognition. Eyes widening in surprise, her apology floundered to be replaced by a baffled oh of her lips. “Ah, hey—hi…” She stammered, greeting her boyfriend’s roommate.
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#3
Max Kuryakin Offline
Wolf Shifter
Mundian
Eyes watering from his rushed swallow, Max recognised Mina the moment he turned and saw her face, eyes going wide in surprise. He didn't look happy, but that was more the chunk of food going down his esophagus than meeting Mina. He lifted a hand to his mouth, turning his head and coughing to clear his throat.

He could spot Mina's shock at the run-in, too, her expression shifting from apologetic to surprised, before she spoke a stammered greeting. By then, Max had cleared his throat and avoided choking, giving her a wry grin at how they'd run into each other. What were the odds? But he'd bumped into her before, and others. It was just life when you lived in the same city. Chance and luck.

“Hi, hey!” He cleared his throat into his hand again, before dropping it, cradling his kebab close. “Didn't expect to run into you. How're you doing?”
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#4
Mina Straus Offline
Possessed Human
Host
Mina cast a speculative glance down the station stairs as Max recovered, clearing his throat. It felt rude to stare as he sputtered and coughed with tears in his eyes, and he didn’t seem on the verge of actually choking. She adjusted the tote on her shoulder and turned back when he spoke again, smiling at his statement; she hadn’t expected to run into him either.

“Fine, thanks!” Mina replied with customer service peppiness and dark bags beneath her eyes. She looked back down the entrance tunnel, this time expectant for the upcoming train, but figured she had a few more minutes still. “How’s everything with you?”
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#5
Max Kuryakin Offline
Wolf Shifter
Mundian
The pep she was giving him was so different from the other two times they'd run into each other than he couldn't help but immediately think it as faked. The feigned politeness in the face of a sudden social situation, rather than any genuine enthusiasm. Of course, there wasn't anything wrong with that. They didn't really know each other.

And even brushing the tears from his eyes, Max didn't miss her repeated looks to the subway. In a hurry, then, just like he was. The next was in half an hour and he didn't want to sit around waiting for it.

“Good! Pretty good,” he returned, a less peppy than her. They were completing the unspoken social contract of never actually answering the question of how one was with too much honesty or detail, letting them slide over the social niceties and get on with it. “Heading down to the T, actually. You too, huh?”

He gestured to the stairwell with his kebab, bringing a hand up to wipe some sauce off the corner of his mouth as he turned his body to the stairwell. Knew it would be arriving any minute, maybe even early. And it might leave early, like a total bastard. He took a step, eyes still following Mina as they talked, but making it clear he was about to head down.
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#6
Mina Straus Offline
Possessed Human
Host
Mina nodded with a hum of agreement, looking in his indicated direction. If she’d been quicker on her feet, maybe she would have readied an excuse and caught the next train. Mina pictured herself waiting in the tunnel, her entire schedule thrown off because of him. The thought soured in her mind, it was childish to delay her plans just to avoid an awkward silence. Besides, and for all she knew, they would head in different directions. This chance meeting changed little.

So, as Max took a tentative step towards the stairs all while looking her way, Mina nodded again, and followed. “Heading home?” She asked as they descended.
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#7
Max Kuryakin Offline
Wolf Shifter
Mundian
As she moved to join him in walking, Max adopted a bit more of a natural gait, matching her pace even as he walked a little ahead. He nibbled at his kebab, but didn't repeat his big bite. He still had to carry on a conversation. Mina didn't disappoint, prompting him for his plans.

“Yep!” He confirmed, turning a smile to her as he licked some sauce off his lips. It was bright, but not over the top. He was trying to make an effort to not alienate Goki's girlfriend, figuring he'd be running into her more if the pair had upgraded to hanging out at their apartment. “Just got off work, bit of a relief to have a couple of days off now.”

The stairs descended a fair bit under the city streets, interrupted now and again by a landing, the natural light of outside changing for the fluorescents of the overhead lights. The smells changed too. Hot and stale air, creating a bit of a wind tunnel in the stairs leading down as it all rushed outside, calming only as they neared the bottom. The ozone of electricity from the tracks and the mingling scents of BO and perfume.
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#8
Mina Straus Offline
Possessed Human
Host
As Max admitted to having a few days off, Mina hummed in agreement. She knew the relief well, and the shared feeling enamored a little sympathy for the man, her smile touched a little more genuine. If he was heading home, that meant they were travelling in the same direction. Not ideal, but there was little she could do about that now. Besides, maybe some time alone would do them good?

Mina narrowed her eyes at the hot breeze of stale air that swept down the tunnel with enough speed that she could hear it. BO, perfume, and ammonia wafted on the breeze. She wrinkled her nose, but didn’t complain.

They drew closer, and Mina was about to speak when the clattering of tracks echoed from the tunnel, stole her attention. She shot a look at Max, eyebrows raised in alarm, then started fast walking for the platform.
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#9
Max Kuryakin Offline
Wolf Shifter
Mundian
As Max volunteered more about himself, Mina only hummed, but the twist of her smile seemed more genuine than it'd been before. Still, she didn't share any chit-chat of her own, and Max had taken another bite of his kebab finally, so his mouth was too full to tease anything out, even he if wanted to ask her about where she worked. Wasn't it at Lin's place? The silence went for a bit as they walked, nearing awkward, but Max was more or less immune to that.

He heard the indrawn breath as she prepared to speak, finally, but he'd been listening to the train trundling closer as they walked and now it was close enough that the humans around were starting to pick up the pace. When she shot a look at him, Max swallowed and grinned at her, not too worried even if he matched her fast walking pace.

“Eager to get home, huh?” he said, poking a little fun as they speed walked along. “You still, uh, still at the Honey & Ivy? I think I saw you there, once.” He'd started going relatively regularly a while ago, dropping by Lin's table when she wasn't busy. He knew El behind the bar pretty well, but not Mina. Goki hadn't said anything about her moving on, but sue him for trying to make conversation.
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#10
Mina Straus Offline
Possessed Human
Host
Obviously, Max recognized she was unenthused at their chance encounter. He wouldn’t have mentioned her eagerness to get home and away from his company otherwise. He said it easily enough as well; a throw away comment. If she hadn’t been thinking the same thing, she would have missed it. And here she was trying to be polite, but the awkwardness between them remained. A hollow laugh tumbled from her open mouth, and she was about to utter some excuse when he changed the subject.

It took effort to not leer at his innocent comment through a stalkerish lens. She hadn’t known Max frequented the Honey & Ivy, and hadn’t seen him there before, but it wasn’t out of the realm of possibility when she considered it. Goki worked there as well, and they were roommates so… Mina backed away from the ledge. Still, he hadn’t thought to say hello. Goki really was the only common thread between them, and she had to try for him.

“Yeah. I’m still there.” She admitted, if a little uncertainly, and smiled again. “It’s better than my last place.” The car was on the platform with doors open. Mina trotted the last leg, making short work of the distance.
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#11
Max Kuryakin Offline
Wolf Shifter
Mundian
As soon as he seemed to have gotten an actual smile out of her, it seemed to turn on its head. It wasn't a specific thing, but a kinda... vibe. Max wasn't born yesterday. He could pick up someone being uncomfortable, even if he couldn't guess what for without assuming a bunch. He preferred not to, so all he had was the feeling Mina wasn't totally comfortable talking to him. Knowing not to push it, he decided to leave her to her commute.

They still had to get on the train, though, so Max kept an easy jog and slipped in after Mina, as the doors slid shut just behind them. His kebab was safe, but he didn't take another bite as he looked at Mina with a smile, friendly and open, even knowing she wasn't comfortable around him.

“Yeah, Lin runs a tight ship. Excellent dumplings,” Max said, entirely truthful but winding up to leaving that subject behind. “Nice talkin' to ya, though, I'll leave you to it. Don't be a stranger if you see me around.”

Giving her an easy salute, he started left, eyes scanning for a good seat that wouldn't be near anyone, but the subway car was pretty empty. He still went a good distance down the subway car, not wanting crowd Mina if she was nervous around him. Finding a seat with an armrest, he slumped into it, biting into his kebab again. He chewed, idly examining the print on the wrapping, before sliding his eyes upwards to stare listlessly at the advertising. First rule of taking the T. Mind your fuckin' business.
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#12
Mina Straus Offline
Possessed Human
Host
“Yeah,” Mina replied to both the dumplings and the tightness of Lin’s ship, surprised to hear her boss’ name. She hadn’t pegged him as a regular and didn’t know what to make of his comment, but what did she know?

Then, almost as quickly as they met above ground, Max was saying his goodbyes. Mina’s eyes widened and she made a soft noise of protest before he stood and went to find a seat. Torn in that moment between relief their awkward conversation was at an end and a new-founded anxiety that somehow she fucked up.

“Bye, then.” She uttered, unsure what else to say, then added. “See you around.” Because surely she would.

Mina sat as well, keeping to her side of the train with her neck craned over her phone. Alone, like she wanted, and very aware of the space Max put between them, Mina replayed their stunted conversation as she scrolled. Frustrated huffs and uneasy sighs under her breath punctuated her thoughts. The last thing she needed was him poisoning Goki against her.

This was all turning to shit, and she was watching it happen. Mina cast the odd glance down the car, not looking directly at Max, but watching him eat his wrap all the same. More than once she convinced herself against walking over and trying to strike up a conversation. It was too awkward. The practiced lines in her head swirled about an apologetic drain with accusatory splashes.

This was all his fault, after all. She would have happily sat through a stilted and polite conversation over this gulf. Both of them riding in the same car, in the same direction, and pretending not to know each other. It was pathetic. She couldn’t see a future where Max didn’t tell Goki about this.

Unless the Underworld opened to take them both. With a nasally and dismissive laugh, Mina grinned despite herself.
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#13
Max Kuryakin Offline
Wolf Shifter
Mundian
A werewolf was well equipped to notice undue attention, more so when that werewolf was a veteran with an eye for detail. It helped that Max could hear her huffs and sighs. He would've pinned it on something on her phone if she didn't keep looking in his direction. Avoiding looking at him, but when he was the only guy sitting at his end of the subway car, it was obvious. Unless the guy leaning against the grab bar, clearly ready to hop off, was particularly interesting to her.

So what was it? He freely admitted that he didn't really know how to figure her out. She'd been shy–or nervous, maybe?–when he'd met her at the apartment, and she hadn't seemed interested in talking much. Today, too, he'd caught that with an additional undercurrent of her being uncomfortable. He'd disengaged, figuring he shouldn't impose, but with her trying hard to look-but-not, he wasn't so sure what was going on. Puzzling it over, the werewolf devoured his kebab, too hungry to not polish it off even as the subway car rattled to its next stop.

The subway car rolled into the next station, the man hanging off the grab bar waiting for the doors to barely open before he was hopping out. The others on the subway car followed, leaving the pair entirely alone, although separated by a few rows of seats and the doors.

The situation was more than a little funny, Max smiling around his mouthful right before he caught Mina laughing about something too. The same thing, maybe? He looked up, chewing his last mouthful of kebab, taking a moment to swallow, before acknowledging the elephant in the room, raising his voice enough for it to carry, but not so he was yelling.

“Well, this is a little awkward,” he joked, gesturing to the empty space around them, tacking on a light laugh at the end, as he watched for Mina's reaction, cocking his head like a curious dog.
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#14
Mina Straus Offline
Possessed Human
Host
As if things couldn’t get worse, the other passengers in the car departed. It was as if they could feel the tension and escaped to the platform as quickly as they could. She swore one guy clipped the opening doors as he fled. Mina watched them depart, knowing that soon it would only be them left. She bit at a fingernail, awaiting the inevitable.

Mina couldn’t not smile at her dismal luck, and when Max piped up, the only thing she could do was laugh. It was a reedy sound from someone knowing the punchline all too well. An ironic smile followed, welcoming his gesture of the empty carriage. Again, she was in on the joke and accepted the surreal situation with as much sullen grace as she could muster.

“Yeah. You can say that.” She agreed, sharing his tone, and put away her phone. The time for scrolling had passed. It was time to be an adult. Mina pulled herself from her seat by the closest grab bar and crossed the distance. She slid into seats in front of Max and nestled with her back against the window, her long legs stretched across the adjoining seat. Contrite, she looked Max in the eye and asked, “can we start again?”
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#15
Max Kuryakin Offline
Wolf Shifter
Mundian
Mina took his joke well, even laughing with him. As he balled up his food wrapper, she pulled herself up from her seat and crossed the space between them. She picked the seat opposite him, the two facing each other properly now, starkly contrasting to before. She met his eyes as he tucked the balled-up grease paper into his pocket. Her question had a wry grin settling on his face, looking down as he let out a chuckle as she requested a fresh slate for the both of them.

“Yeah, we can start again,” he said softly, looking back up to meet her eyes again. His mouth had curled just a little, just shy of a smirk. “Come here often?” He said it with humour, clearly not expecting an answer to his picking a rote question to lift the mood some more.
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#16
Mina Straus Offline
Possessed Human
Host
Mina smiled courteously as Max agreed to move past this awkwardness. There’d been a panicked moment when she imagined him slapping aside her olive branch, and things only promised to worsen. Now that they had a fresh start, Mina exhaled her relief. On the heels of that, his quick question turned her exhalation into a startled murmur of laughter.

She met his grin but floundered to come up with a witty response. Instead, she continued to laugh and eventually lost steam, settling into her reprieve. “Thanks,” she said, dipping into self-reproach, “I didn’t like how things were going there.”
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