On a sleepy street in the heart of Edinburgh, there lies a tea house that has been in business for over 100 years, despite the sign on the door always proclaiming it closed. It provides a haven for a specific type of traveler: one who journeys, not from place to place, but through time.
Veer pulled a deck of cards out of pocket, his gaze drifting to his two companions: Aoto Aihara and a holographic, yet still annoyingly realistic projection of Lee Jae-wook.
"Fancy a game of cards?" he offered. He looked to Aoto, but his friend was distracted, his gaze fixed on the empty chair next to him. He'd been in an odd mood ever since Shoma had canceled.
"What would we be playing?" Lee asked.
"Poker?" Veer suggested. He pulled the teapot from the center and started to pour himself a cup.
Lee scrunched up his face. "Not with real money, I hope. I've got an alimony to pay."
"You're divorced?" Veer asked. Some of the water missed the cup and hit his metal hand, falling right through it onto the table. Silently, Imlach appeared, handkerchief ready to clean it up. Veer politely waved him away.
Lee nodded. "Been about, oh, three years now." The holograph flickered as he scratched his jaw. "Nothing too scandalous, I'm afraid. She decided that she liked her acupuncturist more than me, and that was that."
"I'm so sorry," Aoto said.
"I can't be too mad," Lee said. "Last I heard, he left her."
Veer wasn't sure if he should laugh or wince. Lee could be a nuisance at times- like a single cricket that won't stop chirping when you're desperately trying to fall asleep- but Veer wouldn't wish a painful divorce upon anyone. He pocketed the deck of cards, leaning back in his chair.
Lee turned to Aoto. "I know Veer's a widower, but what about you?"
Aoto checked to make sure that Veer wasn't offended by Lee's bluntness. Seeing that his friend was fine, he replied, "Ah, no. There was a girl, for a time, but it didn't work out. I'm fairly certain that she hates me now."
A long pause. "Well, we're quite the sorry bunch," Veer remarked. Aoto chuckled. "Perhaps we need something a little stronger than white tea," he mused, looking into his cup.
"A cup of pu-erh, perhaps?" Lee offered, even though he wouldn't be able to have any of it.
"Not quite," Veer said, glancing slyly at Imlach in the corner. A knowing look flashed through the old man's wrinkled face, and he disappeared to the back, only to reappear with a bottle of Scotch and two shot glasses. Lee, catching on, poured himself a glass of red wine.
"Do you have any fun facts about Scotch, Lee?" Aoto asked, earning him a dirty look from Veer.
Leer scowled. The hologram seemed to get brighter whenever he emoted, filling the tea house with a faint bluish tint. "No, I don't," he said. "I only know tea."
"Shame," Aoto said with a grin. He poured a shot for both Veer and himself. As he did, the edge of his tattoos peeked out from beneath his suit sleeves. Lee pointed it out. "I didn't think you'd be the type to get a tattoo," he said.
Aoto bashfully fixed his shirt sleeve so that the tattoos were now covered. "I'm not- not anymore, at least," he said. "But it's not an easy thing to get removed."
"Can I see?" Lee asked.
At a speed too fast to see, Aoto flashed his wrist. Veer laughed.
"Can you do that again?" Lee asked, befuddled. "I couldn't really get a good look."
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The Time Traveler's Tea HouseScience Fiction
(Watty "Wild Card" Winner 2018) In the heart of Edinburgh, there lies a tea house that has been in business for over 100 years, despite the sign on the door always proclaiming it closed. It provides a haven for a specific type of traveler: one who j...