It was a cold autumn evening, and Eve was in an allyway, staring at a sewer grate.
Zuke had told her that he and his bandmate lived in the sewers, but she thought he was kidding.
A few tense conversations with the locals made it painfully apparent that he wasn't.
...So do I just... knock? Eve glanced around one last time, before awkwardly crouching down to rap her knuckles firmly against the cover. A beat of silence passed, before a muffled "Coming!" signalled that she was heard.
Shuffling back a few steps, she fiddled with the sleeves of her turtleneck.
Eve winced at the abrupt sound of the grate swinging open, loud and jarring.
From the opening, Zuke's band partner ("Mayday") looked up at her, mildly surprised.
"Oh! Eve- er... Nadia...?"
"Eve is fine."
"Well-" Mayday let out a grunt, pulling herself out of the pipe, "- come in! I'll shut the door behind us."
Eve peered over the edge. It looked clean enough, and well lit all the way down. Swallowing her suspicions, she cautiously stepped onto the ladder. Soon after she began to descend, she heard the grate being pulled down above her.
It wasn't as loud as the second time around.
- - -
"Welcome to our humble home! Zuke'll be out in a minute, he's finishing up in the workshop," said Mayday, gesturing to a side room. "...You want anything? Oh! I can make us some hot cocoa!"
"Oh. Sure. ...You have a kitchen?"
Mayday shrugged sheepishly.
"Well, it's more like three microwave ovens, a hot-plate, and some mini-fridges, but we make do!" She laughed awkwardly. "...I'm going to go do hot cocoa now."
And with that, Mayday disappeared into what was presumably the kitchen.
Eve took in her surroundings. The tunnel they'd entered in (which was just shy of scraping the top of her head) opened up into a surprisingly large chamber. The room was lit with gentle pink lights and it was surprisingly warm compared to the temperature above grounds.
Figuring she was in the living room, she made her way over to the couch and sat down, waiting for her hosts to return. The tension of the day slowly began to melt away as she sank into the couch cushions.
A door opened behind her, and she instinctively turned around to look.
"Hey Nadia," Zuke smiled, leaning forward against the back of the couch.
"Zuke." She replied, relaxing again.
"How're you doing?"
"Tired, but it'll pass."
"There was a press conference for all the NSR megastars."
"Oh, ouch," he winced empathetically as he made his way around the couch to sit beside her.
"They are all so... so... ugh*" she huffed, throwing her hands forward in frustration.
"Invasive? Loud?" Zuke supplied.
He sighed, shaking his head. "Sorry you had to deal with that. Tell us if we can do anything, alright? May's getting a bit stir-crazy down here."
"Hey! Who's feeling stir-crazy?" Mayday gasped in mock indignance, walking back into the room with a tray of carefully balanced, steaming mugs.
Soon, Eve was holding her own mug of a rich looking, sweet smelling concoction. She briefly relished the heat seeping into her fingers, before taking a sip.
"...This is good." She licked her lips. Chocolate, a touch of salt, and something else... "What did you put in here, Mayday?"
"Chocolate, milk, a bit of cream, a pinch of salt, and the secret ingredient," Mayday grinned, before taking a large, self-satisfied gulp out of her own mug. "Cinnamon! My grandma used to make it this way." She plopped herself down beside Eve.
Eve hummed in appreciation, before taking longer, slower sips out of her mug. The three of them enjoyed their drinks in comfortable silence, before Zuke piped up.
"You guys want me to get some blankets? If We're gonna huddle on the couch, we may as well go all in." He suggested. Mayday's eyes seemed to almost visibly light up.
"Oooh! Yes! Could you get the thick, fluffy ones in from the big closet?" She said eagerly. Zuke smiled, giving a thumbs-up, before ducking back into the halls.
That just left Mayday and Eve. The silence became a little less comfortable
"...So how was your day?" Mayday started. "We kinda spent the whole day in the sewers. Still waiting for everything to... blow over up there."
"A little bit hectic. There was an press conference today."
"Dang..." Mayday fidgeted with her mug. "...I'm sorry we kind of just... noped off into the sewers, and left the mess on you guys."
Eve shook her head.
"The press conference was mostly about new policies that NSR were implementing, Mayday. Tatiana's got things well under control."
"That's great," Mayday mumbled. "I'm still sorry though."
"I'll be sure to let Tati know." Eve took another sip of her hot cocoa, closing her eyes to really enjoy it.
"...Wait. Tati? You mean Tatiana? You guys call her Tati?!" May said gleefully, immediately perking up. Eve's eyes flew open, her drink going down the wrong pipe.
"N-No! No we don't! You heard wrong!" Eve choked out. Mayday giggled, almost spilling her mug.
"Ohmigosh, you guys DO! I'm totally calling her that the next time I see her! ...I'm going to call her right now." Mayday leapt from her spot on the couch, miraculously setting her mug down before it went flying. Eve was faster, her extra arms shooting out of her back to grapple Mayday back onto the couch.
"Mayday! Don't you dare! Only...! The NSR elite...! Are allowed to call her that...! In *private...!*" Eve growled through grit teeth. Mayday laughed, only being able to hold two arms off.
"Hey! N-No fair! You've got too many arms!" Mayday said through the giggling. Eve paused, suddenly hit by the sheer absurdity of this situation. She tried to hold back a snort, but before she knew it laughter was bubbling from her lips as well. Mayday looked at her with an unreadable expression.
"...What'd I miss?" said Zuke, walking back into the room with his eyes barely peeking over a massive bundle of thick blankets and pillows.
"The NSR boss people call Tatiana, Tati!" Mayday blurts out before Eve can stop her. Zuke raised an eyebrow, looking over to Eve.
"Please don't let her tell anyone," she pleaded. He looked at her for a beat longer, before huffing out a small laugh.
"I'll try my best." He takes the pile of soft things and dumps it onto Mayday. She flails underneath for a second before dragging herself up.
"Aww, cmon!" She whined, though there was no real strength behind it.
After that, they split the blankets amongst themselves, and then rearranged thenselves on the couch. Somehow, Eve still managed to end up sandwiched comfortably between Bunk Bed Junction.
This was nice. The stress of the day was hardly an afterthought, and the sewers had turned out to be a surprisingly warm and quiet place.
The incessant noise in her head quieted down to hardly a whisper.
"Hey Eve?" It was Mayday who spoke up.
"If you'd like, you could just call me May."
"...I will keep that in mind."
"Zuke already told you this, but come around whenever you want, alright? You're great company!"