A/N: This is something new for me; it's sort of a character study from an outsider's viewpoint. I don't know. Tell me if it works.
Maude Stewart was too old to be living alone, and certainly too old to be riding the subway alone. Especially when a good portion of the ride she took weekly to visit her friend Jean was in solitude. Her daughter had told her, again and again, of what could happen to an old lady alone on a subway, had tried to get her to go to a nursing home with "group vans." As if group vans were comparable to the subway. No, Maude enjoyed her subway rides in solitude, usually managed to knit or crochet something in only a few rides.
Today, she was working on knitting a baby blanket for her twelfth-thirteenth?- grandchild, and had just gotten out her knitting needles when the subway stopped and someone got on. Surprised, Maude watched suspiciously as the man, tall and young, clearly in good shape, sat across from her. He was dressed in a dirty jacket and jeans, and appeared to be rather out of it. One hand was hidden inside his jacket, and Maude briefly wondered if he held a gun in there. Narrowing her eyes, Maude inspected him.
"Are you high?" She demanded. Oh, goodness. Her daughter would kill her if she found out, but she wouldn't find out and Maude had never been one to hold back. The man blinked, then smiled tiredly at her. His smile was surprisingly…luminescent. It took Maude a moment to realize that it hadn't reached his eyes.
"No, ma'am," he answered, and Maude's eyebrows shot up. The boy had manners.
"Dealer?" The man laughed, a short bark.
"For today." Maude frowned. What on earth did that mean? She inspected the man once again, staring at the way he held himself, at the downcast eyes. He didn't seem like a dealer to her. Maude gasped as her forgotten knitting slid to the floor, sighing as she prepared herself to unfold and pick it up. She was surprised when the man held it out to her, that right hand still hidden, the left gently grasping the half-finished blanket.
"Thank you," she murmured, even more convinced that the man wasn't a dealer. She wondered again what he had meant. For today. Her thoughts were interrupted by a slight, wet cough from the man, followed by a short whimper of pain. Maude furrowed her brows.
"Are you all right?" She demanded. The man looked at her, obviously confused.
"We've just established that I'm a drug dealer," the man said, "and you're asking if I'm okay?"
"Young man, you are still a human being. And I'm not so sure you are a dealer." He stared at her, a strange expression in his green eyes that it took a moment for her to realize was concern.
"You're gonna get yourself hurt, lady," he murmured, his voice quiet. "I'm not gonna do anything to you, but if I were that sort…You'd be in trouble." There was no hint of a threat, just worry. Maude looked at him in concern as he coughed again, left arm coming up to cover his mouth.
"Here you are, dear," she said, holding out a handkerchief. He hesitated before reaching out and holding it gently. He was obviously disconcerted by her kindness. "You remind me of my son," she explained. "He always was polite, but he never took help. He should have." She was startled to see tears in the man's eyes as he coughed into the handkerchief, looking at it apologetically.
"Keep it, love," Maude said. The man nodded and stood up as the subway shuddered to a halt.
"Thank you," he muttered, voice trailing off uncertainly.
"Maude," Maude said firmly.
"Maude," the man repeated quietly. He looked her in the eye, green eyes expressive. "Tony."
"Take care, Tony," Maude called, and Tony smiled gratefully as he stepped off the subway. The doors closed, and her journey began again. It wasn't until the next stop that she noticed the blood spots on the floor, and she knew that it was too late to help the young man she had bonded with in so short a time, and she didn't try to hold back the tear that slid down her cheek. Maybe she should've just ridden on the damn group van.