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A Thousand Words (Merry Christmas, Ketch)

 
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Crispin
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Ancient Wyrm
Ancient Wyrm


Joined: 30 Jun 2013
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PostPosted: Wed Jan 10, 2018 4:03 am    Post subject: A Thousand Words (Merry Christmas, Ketch) Reply with quote

It's hard to say goodbye
And leave a part of me
These walls will hold so many memories
Underneath my smile
Holding back a scream
Packing up a box of broken dreams

I wish I had a choice
I wish that I could stay
I wish I had a voice so I could say

A thousand words
Trapped inside of me
A thousand words
A thousand words

Hoobastank -- A Thousand Words





The utility door popped and moaned open, guided by the skid of Cris' half curled fist against its steel body. The journey up had not been long, but he was grateful anyway for the restless breeze that washed clean the scents of dust and stale flowers from his nose. He'd been told the apartment below had fallen under new management, an elusive cousin named Billie who had, thank the Angel, been out when he'd passed through. Despite that, he'd still detected traceries of a feminine presence in a space that had, at one point, been the seat of early morning, masculine listlessness.

He stepped over the threshold, the soles of his boots leaving wells in the thin spray of gravel underfoot. His hand slipped. He caught the door's edge briefly on two fingertips to slow its back swing, letting go before he changed his mind. It thunked solidly home, air tight and undeniable, the kind of sound he'd make on purpose to prick Ketch's attention and announce himself.

There was no fire, the air totally devoid of any inviting smoke. The miserable arrangement of furniture was empty yet it still took effort not to see the other man lounging there. Half of Ketch's great height had been legs alone and he recalled vividly the way they'd bridged the gap between adirondack and low table, thick tethers of muscle, dirt, and denim; a hair's breadth from careless, as the rest of the other man's ease often was. Grins affable, but sharp, like the flash of teeth in the black muzzle of a dog. Quick wit and humor betrayed an ever vigilant mind that acted as a seive for information, no matter how small the particles were.

He'd look, Cris thought, still eight feet from the horseshoe of broken furniture. Another slat had lost its grip resting in the hollow of the adirondack's frame at an angle. Dried and weathered. Abandoned, as he endeavored not to label the rest of the rooftop refuge and the home below. But he'd look. Look up in time, perhaps, with the descent of one massive work boot to the roof, facilitating a lean forward. Prefacing the production of a bottle of liquor and a shotglass set down at a distance choked enough to avoid obligation, but still an offer all the same. He'd forgotten how much of Ketch's supply of Bulleit he'd actually imbibed and not just held onto for politeness' sake.

Cris' other hand closed tighter around the neck of an unopened bottle. Force from his grip set the neighboring rocks glass clinking into it, pressed flush to hide half of a pair of wings outlined thinly in black and its contrasting counterpart: the word ANGEL in bold white typeface. He rounded the end of the loveseat, dragging two fingertips across the perch he'd made his own on every visit. Back then, he'd chosen it without thinking, meant for ease of conversation, and nothing more. Where the whole of his focus would be given to the other man in his predator's sprawl, his own back to the door. He could barely feel it now, the vacuum of empty space behind him home to nothing more than another wandering breeze making its way south. Instead, the pressure in his chest, the discomfort on his skin, the phantom noose around his neck was sourced by the wrongness of Ketch's absence. Setting his jaw, he resumed his place like it had not been more than a year since he'd done so. Cold wood moaned under the weight of his boot on the seat, that of the rest of his body atop the loveseat's arm. He felt abruptly incongruous, like he'd wandered past a sacred boundary of privacy and solitude, despite how alone he was. How he knew there to be little chance he'd be caught here, drinking alone, yet at the same time felt that he could have company at any time.

With bitter amusement, he likened the sensation to the anxiety he felt upon setting foot in Remion Vincent's bedroom without the elder boy's knowledge. As a boy himself, he often wondered what it would have been like had he been born second. Certainly his home would not have been so empty with an older sibling for company. If they'd gotten along, at least, and there was a high likelihood that they wouldn't have. Frowning against the the sour twist making itself home on his mouth, he set the rocks glass down beside his bootheel. The tip of his thumb gouged a furrow through the thin grey seal on the bottle. With it broken, he twisted the cork to and fro until it came free with a damp release of suction.

"I've given this visit more thought than was probably necessary," he said aloud, retrieving the glass. A single shot's worth of bourbon splashed into its well. He forced the cork back into place, leaning the bottle up into the corner of the loveseat. "In the end, given your absence, it wouldn't have mattered either way if I'd come or not." He brought his other boot up onto the seat, forearms against his knees to the support the weight of his lean, rocks glass resting uneven on a loose net of scarred fingers. His shoulders pulled up high enough to feel the chilled leather collar of his coat against his jaw. Resigned, he looked up and gave the vacant adirondack the full weight of his gaze.

Slush grey clouds overlapped the sky overhead like strips of gauze, a dressing too thick to let the warm blood of sunlight leak through in anything wider than wan patches. It was early afternoon, though it looked and felt more like early evening, the mercurial patina of lifelessness picked out every dirty patch and grimey smudge of the structures around him.

There was no fire.

The air totally devoid of any inviting smoke.

The liquor he smelled came only from his own glass.

And there was empty space. Too much of it.

Too much in a place where it should not be, where it should never have been. Cris closed his eyes, bowed his head until his chin touched the zipper teeth of his coat. The flat of his thumb pressed against the rim of his glass, slid along its thin, smooth shape. He wanted so much to be angry, because he knew the flash-bang eruption of it would consume him, then just as swiftly leave him spent and relieved with only char and bad memories left behind instead of an ever-broadening sinkhole of dread.

His exhale hissed from a thin slit in his frown. He took a firmer hold of the glass and brought it to his mouth, swallowing the measure down. Lukewarm fire scorched its way to his belly. He shoved the back of his hand across his lips.

"We have much to discuss," he began again, reaching for the bottle he'd set aside. A second shot's worth splashed into the glass like a contained, amber tsunami. "But I will not allow you to cheat. You will hear it from me in detail when you are present and accounted for. Preferably with all your limbs and most of your sanity intact." He set the recorked bottle aside, the second measure down by his boot and dug out the only cigarette he'd brought with him, one of Shae's private stash of Fin's handrolleds, from his coat pocket. A royal purple lighter followed, and he lit up behind the battleworn cup of his hand. Fragrant blue smoke rose, smearing itself to nothing a beat later as the wind took it along. The town's mid-lunch rush two stories below did nothing to fill the silent void across from him. It was too large, to specifically shaped like a man he did not want to forget.

We must trust that he knows what he's doing. Else we will go mad with the unknowing of it.

Quarantined on a dreary rooftop, he didn't hear the same conviction in his head that he did when he said the same aloud.




***



Fifty-three minutes later, the only indication of his presence was the resealed bottle of Angel's Envy he'd left tucked into the loveseat's corner and the upturned rocks glass shielding a slip of paper folded in fourths. When opened, it read:

To avoid a potentially awkward future exchange, I've taken the liberty of replacing the bottle you keep for me with something new. When last we spoke, neither one of us were much ourselves. I can only hope that when this finds you, that will no longer be the case.

My number has not changed.

Merry Christmas.

----Cris

_________________


"A gentle boy with a gentle soul,
but every soul contains its own
opposite, and the opposite of
gentleness was ruthlessness:
the beautiful wreckage of mercy."
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