Fandom: Cities (Anthropomorphic)
Summary: It's a small world after all.
Author's Notes: A Yuletide Madness treat for TriffidsandCuckoos.
Paris, London, and San Francisco were already seated when Chicago arrived at the Café du Monde.
"Sorry I'm late," he said. "The El really takes it out of me during morning rush hour. Gives me heartburn like you wouldn't believe."
"Too true," London said. "The Piccadilly line to Heathrow goes straight up my nose, all day long!" He sneezed miserably. Paris squirmed, but said nothing. After a moment, all three cities looked at San Francisco, who was idly scratching her arm.
London shook his head and turned back toward Chicago. "So, how've you been managing lately?"
"God, I am so sick of this weather." Chicago pulled his collar away from his neck. "Summers are hell."
"Mais oui," Paris said. "I, too, am experiencing a heat wave. C'est horrible."
London and San Francisco raised their eyebrows. "It's been quite a lovely summer, I thought," London finally said.
"Me, too," San Francisco chimed in. "Nice temperatures, cooling breezes…"
Chicago frowned. "Oh, please. You hardly even have a real summer."
"Or winter, either," San Francisco beamed, but withered under the ferocity of her friends' glares.
The waitress came over to take their order. Paris consulted the menu briefly, and then ordered. "Du pain avec du fromage, et la soupe de concombre. Merci."
"Of course," Chicago said.
London went next. "I'll have boiled beef, stewed tomato, and mashed peas."
"Why would you eat that?" Chicago asked.
London shrugged. "Not much choice, really."
"Man, I've got it all," Chicago said. "Being a melting pot is the best—different people, different cuisines." He grinned at San Francisco, who smiled right back. "I'll have deep-dish pizza with the works, and a whiskey sour."
London blinked. "A bit early for that, isn't it?"
"What's your point?" Chicago growled. London became engrossed in a painting on the far side of the room.
The waitress turned toward San Francisco. "And you?"
"A salad, please." She closed her menu. "With balsamic vinaigrette."
"You're kidding," Chicago said. "With all the choices you have? Your seafood alone could fill two pages!"
"I had Italian food for dinner last night, and who knows where the day's headed? The Germans seem to be getting festive, and you know what that's like."
"Yeah," Chicago said. "Delicious!"
"Hmm." San Francisco toyed with her fork. "Not the word I would have chosen."
"Eh," he said. "You worry too much." He pulled a cigar and a lighter out of his pocket.
London blanched. "Oh god, not that again. I've told you."
The waitress hurried over. "I'm sorry, sir, but there's no smoking in the restaurant."
"Whattaya mean?" Chicago pointed his cigar at a distant table. "Beijing's smoking an entire manufacturing district over there!"
"Beijing is on the patio," the waitress said.
Chicago scowled and put his cigar back in his pocket.
London sat up suddenly. "Hold on now, who's that chap with the clipboard?"
"He's doing research, trying to find the prettiest city," San Francisco said. "Which is silly, because of course, it's me."
Paris laughed. "What would you know about prettiness, when you have not even had your 200th birthday? I have historical buildings, parks, museums, a beautiful river—"
"—and a pointy metal tower." San Francisco put in.
"I have the beauty of the ages," Paris finished.
London waved his hands in negation. "I have all of those things, apart from the pointy tower, and a Ferris Wheel to boot!"
"Oh, please," Chicago said. "Seattle has a Ferris Wheel. And what is that even about?"
London looked skeptical. "You're just jealous because you don't have one."
"I had the first Ferris Wheel ever!" Chicago said. "At the 1893 World's Fair—I hosted its debut."
"So where's your Ferris Wheel now, then?" London asked.
Chicago sulked in silence.
In a stroke of irony, or perhaps malice, Venice passed by the table. "Bon giorno," she said, her voice musical and sultry. Even in her mature years, she was almost as beautiful as in her youth, with her blue-green canals, her arching bridges, her gondolas, and her profusion of flowerboxes full of pink and red geraniums.
The other cities waved in return. Venice was barely out of earshot before London started in. "I hear she's had work done."
Paris leaned in. "Vraiment. I hear there is more to come."
Chicago just rolled his eyes, while San Francisco picked at the hem of her dress, trying to think of a new direction to steer the conversation. "Prague is looking awfully good these days," she ventured.
"He's getting out more, certainly. Showing a bit of colour, keeping his own hours," London said. "He seems to hang about with Brussels a fair bit."
"And there's Moscow, sitting in the corner by himself," Chicago said.
San Francisco sniffed. "He deserves it, too. Though no one ever really got along with him all that well before."
London nodded toward Moscow over the brim of his teacup. "Do you remember when he used to keep Budapest and Kiev with him for hours, tied to their chairs? Nasty business."
"Still…" Paris regarded Moscow thoughtfully. "His people are strong, and he has had many great artists over the years, in spite of everything. He may yet grow beyond this phase."
"You're dreaming," Chicago snorted.
Paris raised her shoulders expressively. "Perhaps." She glanced about the room. "Helsinki also sits alone..."
"Yes, but it's his own choosing, isn't it?" London said. "He's friendly enough, just keeps to himself."
"It's true—I said Hello to him on the way in," San Francisco offered. "He's very nice."
Chicago eyed Helsinki suspiciously. "What's he so caught up in over there, anyway?"
San Francisco shrugged. "Probably writing in his dream journal, I expect."
"Dream journal?" Chicago laughed. "The guy needs a couple of good sports teams, like football or basketball or something. That'd get him out of his own head once in a while."
"Oh, give it a rest," London said. Paris sneered, while San Francisco blushed and looked away. Her heart was soothed by the sight of Guadalajara tenderly offering a rose to Toronto, while Sidney and Dusseldorf clinked glasses in celebration.
Hearty laughter broke out across the room, where Nairobi and Kumasi sat with Rio de Janeiro. Rio had one foot on a chair and seemed on the verge of climbing onto the table and dancing, but a waiter hastened over to stop her before she could begin. Dallas tried to pick a fight with Calgary at the next table over, but Calgary ignored him. New Orleans and Atlanta sat with them, smoothing their skirts warily.
"You still going out with Uppsala?" London asked quietly.
San Francisco turned around. "Oh, yes," she said. "We had dinner just last night."
"Ah. Everything looking rosy, then?"
"Yes." She breathed a happy sigh. "He just gets me, you know?"
"You are most fortunate," Paris said. "I only wish that I could find le grand amour!"
The waitress arrived with their food, and they began eating. "I'd settle for a couple of mates who like drinking and darts," London said after a moment. "I mean, it's not exactly the moon, is it? Why is it so hard?"
"Thought you and Madrid used to get together? And Geneva, back in the day?" Chicago asked
"Madrid's wife says he has to stay home, now that the baby's come. And Geneva never wants to do anything anymore, not for decades. He just sits around humming to himself and contemplating his lake."
San Francisco looked at Chicago. "You have a few friends close to home, don't you?"
"Yeah, I get together with Cleveland and New York City, once in a while. DeKalb keeps trying to horn in—he's like a kid brother, always tagging along. New York's pretty busy, though."
"Yes, I have not seen him in ages," Paris said.
Chicago nodded. "He only comes around here on Tuesdays. Not as bad as Bangalore or Mumbai—they're always working."
A brawl broke out near the kitchen, where Beirut and Jerusalem scuffled on the floor.
"Merde," Paris said, "not again!"
Portland and Madison watched the fight approach their table, and then veer away. They resumed talking about film and food festivals. Taos sat off to the side and gazed into the distance, his eyes full of horses and open plains.
Suddenly, Pyongyang came in through the front door, talking loudly to himself. He searched the room erratically until he spotted Moscow's table, then went over and sat down.
London stood up abruptly. "I'm afraid I really must go," he said. He threw some money on the table and fled out the door.
Chicago stared at the pile of random pounds and pence. "Seriously?" he said. Even he carried a supply of Euros for places like this.
Paris looked uncomfortable, perhaps the result of Bastille Day celebrations earlier in the week, perhaps something else. She rose and slipped off toward the restroom.
"She's taking her purse," San Francisco said.
"Don't I know it," Chicago groused. "How much you want to bet she goes out the back way?"
The discussion at Moscow's table grew wilder. San Francisco and Chicago traded looks.
"Here's my share," San Francisco said, eying the front door.
"Let's do it." Chicago caught the eye of their waitress, and waved her over. "Hey girlie! Bring us the check, willya?"
He had to yell to be heard over the noise of other customers rushing to leave. "The check, like pronto, ya dig?"
"Of course, was everything to your—"
"It was great, but we gotta go."
"I'll just be one minute."
"Ah, forget it." Chicago left a heap of bills on the table and grabbed San Francisco's hand. "C'mon, babe, hurry."
"Sir!" the waitress called.
"Sorry, Atlantic City, we're outta here. But hey, you can keep the change."
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