He hates sitting in a chair instead of in a booth. Anyone can walk behind him, there’s no safe comfortable wall behind his back. It’s unnerving.
It’s especially unnerving when you’re trying to stay calm in front of people who could potentially be allies. Or enemies. Depending on how well this meeting goes.
It’s a circular table, though his three lunch companions are noticeably seated closer to each other than to him. They’re a panel, judging him. He thinks he’s doing okay, though.
He’s made the eldest laugh, honest surprised laughter. And while the one on the left hasn’t stopped glaring at him for the past forty-five minutes, the one in the middle is invoking some sort of kindergarten teacher zen.
There’s two more points they need to discuss, and he’s feeling fairly optimistic about the entire deal, until he hears it. That voice.
He can feel his face spasm, genial smile quickly morphing into a grimace. The three of them across the table now have matching expressions–riveted interest mixed with mild amusement.
“Well isn’t this a pleasant surprise? It’s been a while, Paul.”
He shuts his eyes, stupidly, because that bastard is behind him and if anything blocking his sight makes that voice all the more detailed. When he realizes that and opens his eyes, the looks on their faces are worse. Concerned.
“Won’t you introduce me to your companions?”
Heedlessly, recklessly, his hands fly to cover his ears like a child. It doesn’t help. It blocks out everyone’s voices, but now all he can hear is his rabbit-quick pulse.