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Kaleidoscope
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FinMack
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PostPosted: Sat Aug 05, 2017 11:23 pm    Post subject: Kaleidoscope Reply with quote

Fingers shook where they lay
Stone leeched the rush and heat of his veins
Light cut toward him at sharp angles
Can’t let it touch

Square plots stretched to the horizon
Sterile and cold, dazzling white
Like the sun, until it hurt
Eyes closed, the dark descended

Stinking moldy rushes, the rumble of voices through the walls and floors
{Bring the stock from pen two. Large party tonight.}
Everything was arranged perfectly
A tidal wave of nausea rolled and crashed
Legs trembled

Light pooled in the whites of their eyes --


Footsteps shuffled past his door
Ill-synced metronomes
Black soles marked trails that led nowhere

He couldn’t see their eyes here. Did they plead silently?
Did they narrow with hatred?

A gob of spit splashed against the side of his neck
Slid down to his shoulder, a slick trail of revulsion and contempt

Don’t blink, don’t flinch
They can’t know --

_________________
[He] scares me because he has been the most miserable of all men, jailed & beaten and cheated and starved and sickened and homeless, and still he knows there's such a thing as love.
~Jack Kerouac
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FinMack
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PostPosted: Sun Aug 06, 2017 12:28 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Finlay? Mister Mackenzie?

Pinpoints of light blinded
Fingers gripped tightly
Ghosts tore into the flesh, unshakable

Can you tell me if that’s your name?

Full lips condensed into a thin line

Your friend, Lucy, is very concerned about you.

A dream of kindness
Good as dead

We can’t help you if you don’t talk to us.

Old wounds cautioned silence
He would make you bleed with words

Put him in an observation room, consider him a suicide risk.

If only
Suicide a dream beyond grasp

He loved to twist until it broke
_________________
[He] scares me because he has been the most miserable of all men, jailed & beaten and cheated and starved and sickened and homeless, and still he knows there's such a thing as love.
~Jack Kerouac
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FinMack
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PostPosted: Fri Aug 11, 2017 12:17 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

The cries of the seagulls were faint through the double paned glass. Fin listened at the window, casting a distorted shadow over the thinly carpeted floor and large, comfortable furniture provided. The walls were a soft grey – every effort had been made to appear as if this were any other place than a psychiatric facility.

Silent & withdrawn, Fin’s condition hadn’t changed much since his internment. During the first week of observation, it was perhaps shocking for Lucy to see that Fin slept under his bed, no matter how tight and confining the space. The edge of the thin blanket was pulled over the edge of the mattress to provide an ad hoc privacy curtain. The position was purely defensive, helped to avoid prying eyes. They watched all the time, even in his sleep – he could feel their touch between his shoulders blades and the back of his neck, raising the hairs there.

He was always watching. Anything could be used against the Scot. Fin wouldn’t give the satisfaction.

This game had been won before. Or had it? The fire, Stefin screaming as he burned. Those memories were as vivid as his worst nightmares. Wishful thinking? Pain bloomed in his chest to think it might be so.

Just over the dunes, Fin could see the gentle waters of the sea beckoning him. New whispers joined the constant stream, lulling him with a faint melody that at once was alien and familiar.

He dreamed of water.


Lucy also dreamed of water.

Fin's affinity with water had once broken through her tense relationship with the sea. His reassuring smile coaxed her into the waves. But that comfort was short-lived. As Fin fell away from her, her fear returned. And so did her nightmares. Of the sea swallowing her whole.

She sat in a chair across the room, his shadow just reaching her feet. She watched his back, brow furrowed with the near permanent worry she carried now. "Martta sent cookies today. I think they're the butterscotch kind you like." Lucy paused, waiting for a response she didn't really expect. "She wanted--" Lucy heaved in a deep breath, then let it out slow, "--she wanted me to ask you if there was something special you wanted. Something she could make for you."


That voice was distant, at first, blending with the others. After a pause, it came back again, stronger, urging him to the surface. Brows knit together as he turned his head, meeting her gaze for a long minute before turning back to the window. "No' real," he whispered to himself.


She couldn't quite hear him. Leaned in a bit. Dr. Leister had told her to just try to talk to him like normal. But it wasn't normal. Not even a little bit. That look in his eyes when he looked at her. "Shae was over at the house the other weekend. At the beach. Liath was--she was playing in the water--but--but she obviously misses you."


Not even a little bit.

The glass was warm against his palm. He pushed but it did not yield. Fingertips endured until the tips turned white, frustrated. Relenting at the sound of a word in a language he knew. Not even the soft accent that made it wrong could drown it in the current.

“Liath…” A solemn frown eclipsed his features, trying to hold on to a wisp of memory. A grey blur hovered near, always near to him. Where did she go? She. She?

Bidh an latha glas a 'ruith romham.” Crooning in his native tongue, both palms were set against the glass. “Bidh ea 'cluinntinn rùintean na h-oidhche.

Still, the glass didn’t yield as he thought it should. Shoulders squared, feet braced. Any moment, there would be pliant acceptance of his will.


"Did you--did you want to go outside?" Lucy shifted, rising to her feet. "I could ask the doctor." She wanted a cigarette. A drink. So early in the morning and she already needed some relief. Day after day, she wasn't getting used to seeing him this way. She didn't think she ever would. "Maybe--maybe tomorrow Ben and I could bring Liath with us. Would you like that? To--to see Liath?"


Leaning closer to the glass, it was blasted with a heated glower. Breath fogged the glass, surprising him. Drawing back, Fin canted his head to study this new development, ultimately deciding it was benign. The action was repeated so that he could draw a finger through the condensation in absent swirls.

"No' real," he murmured.


"What did you say?" She asked without thinking about it, crossing towards him. As she neared, she slowed her approach, trying to stay within his peripheral vision. Like approaching a wild animal that might bolt at any moment. "You can--you can talk to me, you know."


"Bi air falbh bho diabhal, na bruidhinnibh rium." That was an admonishment for the red haired lass creeping closer. She wanted to taste his thoughts, hide them under her tongue to carry to Stefin.

Holding his ground, keeping her to his right, Fin's palms kissed the panes one more time. Leaning into it, shoulders pitched and bunched, neck and forearms corded. Through and through, away. Listen listen.

"Yer no' real," he ground out, pushing the words through clenched teeth. "Bi air falbh!"


Lucy cringed at the accusation. She didn't understand what he was saying to her, but she could read the tone. She stepped back, frowning. "I am real. I am." She said it with an almost apologetic tone. As if she were apologizing for her very existence. "I'm not--I'm not going to hurt you. We're friends, Fin. I'm your friend." She spoke quietly, with little hope that he would respond no matter what she said.


"Chan urrainn dhut amadan a dhèanamh orm, Stefin!" Spinning to face Lucy, one step brought him closer. Close enough to grip her shoulders tightly, fingers squeezing muscle and bone. A snarl of hatred twisted his mouth as he hissed at her. "Know this, spirit - I will no' fall prey." The red wraith was shoved backward.

Hefting a nearby end table, the Scot brandished it at the windows. Without hesitation, the rim of the table smashed against the glass, causing a tiny crack on the interior pane.

"Yer no' real!" the words a roar, swinging again and again.

"Yer no' real!" It preceded every crack of wood, even when the door burst open and two orderlies dressed in soft blue tried to restrain the Scot.

Snarling, thrashing, echoing howls until his throat was raw. It took three men to hold him down long enough for Doctor Leister to sedate him. When quiet finally reigned, the doctor stood and looked at Lucy with something akin to pity.


Lucy gasped when he grabbed her and stumbled back at the sudden release. Then she pressed herself back against the wall as he attacked the window, turning her head away to avoid getting hit with anything that might come flying off of the end table or the glass window. She didn't intervene when the orderlies came in. And she didn't intervene when Doctor Leister sedated him. She just watched, eyes damp with tears, one arm around herself, a hand over her mouth.

At his look, she shook her head in disbelief at the doctor, her voice quiet when she finally pulled her hand from her lips. "He thinks I'm not real."


A handy box of tissues was held out for Lucy. "Yes, it seems he has completely dissociated. Intense delusions and violence are often markers of a psychotic break. When he wakes up, we'll start him on a dose of antipsychotics and go from there. I'm afraid this might be a longer journey than initially anticipated. It's going to be a game of trial and error."


She accepted a tissue, bringing it to her nose as she sniffled. "How long?" She asked even though she pretty much knew he wouldn't be able to tell her.


Dr. Leister offered an indulgent smile. "The mind is a fragile thing. I wish it was as easy as surgery, where we could fix things with a few stitches or remove the bad parts. Finlay's progress will depend upon him, if he wants to be helped. All we can do is provide him the tools to get there." A long winded way of giving the expected answer.

"I don't want you to be alarmed but he will be restrained for a few days until we can be sure that the likelihood of another episode is decreased. He will be kept in the same room but strapped to the bed. It might seem cruel but it’s the safest way to make sure he doesn't harm himself."


Lucy nodded, but her eyes welled with tears again at the thought of it. "Alright." She shifted her weight. "I'm going to--to limit his visitor list." She ducked her head to dab at her eyes. "Until he--um--until he's more--" Lucy didn't know what more he needed to be. She shook her head, shifting her weight again. Then looked up at doctor. "Would it be better if I--if I didn't come?"


One hand lifted to pat Lucy's shoulder gently. "That is up to you. I know this is difficult for you to see. However, in my opinion, patients that have family pulling for them often fare better than those without. It will most likely help to pull him back to reality with your presence. Do you think that's something you could face?"

A gurney was brought to the door, Fin's inert body loaded onto it.


Lucy watched them take Fin, her lower lip trembling. But she nodded to the doctor. "Yes." For Fin, she would face almost anything. Almost anything for the hope that he would someday come back to her.



Much thanks to Lucy Mitford for the scene!
_________________
[He] scares me because he has been the most miserable of all men, jailed & beaten and cheated and starved and sickened and homeless, and still he knows there's such a thing as love.
~Jack Kerouac
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FinMack
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PostPosted: Sat Aug 12, 2017 2:28 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Swinging back and forth, something dripped from his toe

Muscles and bones ached
This skin was wrong

Turn turn can’t turn
Niro hovers, taunting smiling delighting


Words like ‘asleep’ and ‘awake’ lost meaning
Everything slid together in one long rush, jagged edges battling

Lucy

Nothing. Dead. Dying stars.

A spasm arched his back
Something held him, odd angles that made him fidget
Testing, he tugged again

The wide belted cuffs were hard to miss.

Faulty wiring slowed the progress of information
Many minutes passed before one axion connected to another.

Holding is not loving
Keeping is not loving
Pain and pain and pain that hurt and healed and hurt again


Pulling became thrashing
Red and white hot, tempered too long in the forge
Brittle blades broke easily

Next time it will be your eye
Squish pop, wet cheek
Broken toy glued back together - did they find all the pieces?


“Niro!”

His own voice rang foreign

“Niro! I am no’ ***’ afraid! Ye canno’ kill me! YE CANNO’ KILL ME!”

Bowing and arching, muscles and tendons strained and pulsed
A battle he would not lose

The first time
Eyes wide, blood warm on the wrist
It was an accident. An accident.
He wanted to kill me first


Throat raw, voice hoarse but still he threatened.
The bed jerked and squealed as it shifted to the left and right
Heels beat on the edge of the mattress
Skin raw, screaming its pain beneath the soft manacles

Noise and movement trickled into the room, touching and poking and droning
Ebb and flow of adrenaline stemmed by the prick of a needle

They left him with the wet sobs that wracked his frame, a soft prayer for death on his lips




(This is part of the Madness In The Skies playable)
_________________
[He] scares me because he has been the most miserable of all men, jailed & beaten and cheated and starved and sickened and homeless, and still he knows there's such a thing as love.
~Jack Kerouac
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PostPosted: Mon Aug 14, 2017 6:13 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

The turntable spun beneath the needle, Lucy holding the arm as she searched for the start of the cut. The speakers crackled as she touched the needle down. Lucy raised her eyes to the window above the record player as the music began.

In the backyard, a gardener cut a plaid pattern into the lawn as he rode his mower back and forth across the expansive green. The motor competed with the music, the growling engine an atonal accompaniment to the warbling voice of Neil Young.

Lucy crossed her arms around herself, drawing in a deep, strained breath as she looked out across the yard to the cliffs and the ocean beyond. It seemed like she couldn’t breathe deeply anymore. Like she couldn’t catch her breath. A vice was slowly turning, tightening on her beating heart.

Her friend was lost. Every morning she watched him. Strapped to a bed. Straining. Screaming words she didn’t understand. Crying for relief she couldn’t give him.

The doctor tried to encourage her. Sit with him. Talk to him.

Instead she cried with him. Apologizing in her mind for his suffering. Whispering the words.

When he settled, she touched him, brushing his sweaty hair back from his forehead, tracing sigils in his palms, on his chest. Peaceful heart. Calm mind. Peaceful heart. Calm mind.

She left gutted. Unable to light the cigarette fast enough. Cigarette shaking between her fingers. She was powerless. Any help that she’d provided Shae was just an illusion. Just like she’d always thought. Unable to save Reg. Unable to save Fin. She was useless.

Lucy looked out at her yard, at the plaid pattern of the lawn under the bright sunlight. Don’t let it bring you down, counseled Neil Young. It’s only castles burning. She shook her head and pushed out the french door suddenly, her hip bumping the record player. The needle scratched and the music came to a stop as she crossed the porch.

“Stop it! Hey!” She waved her hands over her head to get the gardener’s attention. Looking bewildered, he cut the engine on the mower’s motor, pulling off his noise-cancelling headphones as she approached. She stopped barefoot on the lawn, grass cuttings clinging wetly to her ankles. “I don’t want this. I don’t--I don’t want this pattern.”

“The pattern?” The gardener stood up on the mower and looked across the lawn.

“The plaid. I don’t--I don’t *** want it.” Lucy turned, heading back to the house. “Just fix it.”
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PostPosted: Tue Aug 15, 2017 3:21 pm    Post subject: Benjamin Visits Reply with quote

He walked along with a quiet and easy calm, a serenity wrapping around him easily as the old flannel shirt and jeans. He listened to the nurse as she ran down everything that she needed for him to know, nodding carefully. He glanced to her as they neared the room, “Was he injured at all when he came in?” simply. Other than that, he waited at the door, hands at his sides.


"No physical injuries when he came to us. He could use a few good meals and there was some old bruising that was already faded but we were told by Ms. Mitford that there wouldn't be any complications from those." They reached the door and the nurse opened it for Ben to go in first.
Light glowed from underneath the baseboards of the room, giving a soft golden hue to the Scot laying on the bed against the far wall.


“Hello, Fin,” he called in a soft, musical voice, walking slowly to the bedside. Green eyes were bright, then glassy, wet, as he looked the man over. He wanted to pull him into his arms and weep into his hair, but that would likely do more bad than good. He remembered those nightmares Fin had, and remembered how many of them had him bound and … pretty much as he was now. Benjamin exhaled softly, and settled on a chair beside the bed. “It’s me, Benjamin. Had to cut my hair, I look like a dork.” He paused, as if to let Fin reply, and knew there wouldn’t be much of one, if any.


Coming to himself, Fin watched the figures at the door come closer until they were in focus. Shadows swam in his clear blue eyes, obviously trying to place both of the faces. Ben offered his name and it jogged something within him. “Ben?” he whispered before his expression collapsed, turning a shoulder to the opposite wall. “No’ him. Please do no’ use him.”


His brows knit. He glanced to the nurse, but this seemed part of what Lucy had gone through with him. Not him. Don’t use Benjamin. He drew in a breath and straightened somewhat. “…I know where you are,” he whispered softly. Which did not mean he knew how to get him back. His hand curled around his lower face, fingers pressing into his skin firmly for several moments. “…No. No, Fin. I’m just here to tell you a story.”


"Where am I? Can ye tell me?" he whispered back. One watery eye peered cautiously over his shoulder toward the other man. "Are ye real?"


He was quiet for long moments. Was there an open window in the darkness, brief but clear? Or just another hand waving blindly? He pressed his lips together and nodded faintly, “You’re in a hospital room, and I’m real.” He stopped, because that was a lot to say and no way of knowing if Fin would accept it. Because otherwise, he was in some dark, filthy cell, waiting to be beaten and worse.


"How can I know it?" challenging Ben to prove himself.


“I don’t know,” he responded, “When I woke up in the hospital after brother Bull and Brother snake knocked me about, I was a little surprised. I thought I would be in the endless woods and prairies, hunting and taking my ease forever.” he admitted with a soft laughter, “I was terribly uncomfortable, I needed a shower. I was hungry, and I was very confused. But things started making sense the more I was awake.” It wasn’t really an answer, he was certain he would never be able to hit the right pin on the head. But he knew his own experiences.


No, that wasn't much of an answer. Fin wanted something clear-cut and decisive so he never need doubt his reality again. Disappointed wilted him, his cheek falling to the pillow. "I canno' know," he murmured. "Tha mi air a ghlacadh ann am bruadar."


“…Yes.” he replied slowly. “You are.” He paused for a moment, and faltered over a few words. He shook his head. He was too nervous to remember the words and pronunciations. “What do you need to wake up?”


Lids closed, a dart of wetness streaked across his temple toward his hairline. Fin was afraid to wake up, afraid to see which had been the dream and which was his life. "Ye think I should wake? Who will I see?"


“You’ll see you,” he responded, gentle, “And …that’s probably going to be terrifying. I want you to be happy and healthy, there’s fat deer and quail and rabbits and all out in the fields, a lot of crazy old Scotch grannies making haggis and Scotch eggs and just enough of summer left to lay in the sun and drink some cold moonshine and cola.” A mishmash of images, he deliberately left them without the hunting, without the feral grannies chasing him with wooden spoons, without ogling the hotties on the beach. But still warm enough to hopefully give him a little shine.


A long breath left him, tension draining away. "Aye, the forest be flush wit' hinds. It be the season for them to mate an' their musk lingers in the air. The mist creeps up from the loch in the morn until it joins the clouds. Chicks are testin' their wings on the cliffs. I like to hang o'er the edge an' watch them. The harvest has started. Soon, m'uncle will call a Gatherin'. I think Da wants to see me married."


“I remember, you told me some about the woods. Some about your Da.” he picked his words carefully. It was too easy to start sounding like he was there to extract information. “Married, huh? My parents gave up on that with me,” he chuckled softly.


"I would fill our home wit' bairns to see him smile." Fin's tone became dreamy, thinking of his father, forgetting the future that had already unfolded.


“That would be a lot of fun,” he laughed softly, “Laughter and joy and discovery. What was your Da like?” Fin with a lot of Finlings. Benjamin was hard pressed not to laugh at that thought, not at the ridiculousness of it, but at the sheer humor of Fin navigating adorable little sons and daughters.


"Tha mi airson a dhol chun na creige, Athair. Tha mi airson èisteachd ris na h-eòin." A smile formed while lost in his childhood, hearing the voice of his father responding.


His brows knit as he threaded through the words, then nodded slowly. Listening, and not daring to say a thing to break this spell. If nothing else, it was at least a respite of pain and terror. He shifted and regarded the smile with a tilt of head and smile in return. He’d never seen such a smile on Fin’s face before. “Brawd eiliad hapus,” he murmured. A happy moment, brother. Welsh, he wasn’t trusting his very rusty Gaelic.


Hesitation and then eyes opened. "I do no' know those words." The dream was changing again, taking him away from Scotland. Again.


Brawd. Brother. I’ve called you that for a while. You’ve always just seemed to be brother.” That was the easiest part to explain, after all. “Do you remember sitting on the porch, playing music. Singing and laughing.” Trying to skip over the bad years. He never had been able to get Fin to tell him his whole story, and knew exactly why. But he didn’t know how the pieces fit together.


He shook his head. "It was a dream. Music be a dream. I will ne'er hear it again."


He reacted faintly. Holy Grandmother. He had to cover his mouth with his hand to ask what in hell’s name had happened to Fin. But he drew in a breath and calm with it. “Your dreams are yours.” he reminded him gently, “No one can take them.”


"He takes them all," his voice low. Wary. "He will take yers. Have ye watch as he destroys them."


“I am still a Thunderbird,” he murmured, there might be some arrogance in that quiet confidence.


A soft sigh escaped him. "The birds take to their nests when the thunder rolls o'er the waters." Lost to memory once more. "Da does no' like it when I stay out to watch the storms."


“What do you see in the storms?” he asked quietly, head tilting.


"I see God," the whisper reverent. But Fin didn't see God anymore, not since... Twisting away from Ben, Fin let out a low cry against his pillow. Now he remembered his father's death, consumed by it.


He bit his lower lip, restraining himself from touching. He glanced to the nurse before doing anything, however. “…Fin?” he called gently.


Shifting, Fin's wrists tugged against the restraints, igniting the dull pain. Hissing through his teeth, he turned to face Ben. "Do no' tell him...please. Do no' tell him wha' I ha' done. He would turn me away."


“I won’t tell. It’s all right, Fin,” he replied gently. He reached over carefully to press his fingers to Fin’s. He paused, grimacing, “Well, it’s not alright, you’re still here and you don’t know what’s going on, but… You’re safe and I wouldn’t tell on you.”


"Nowhere is safe." Fin stared down at the place where his fingers touched Ben's. The weight of them was a wonder, caught up in the sensation. "They are watchin'." Blue eyes flicked to the nurse and away, curling his fingers into a fist.


“I wish I could just tell you it was okay, but I know it doesn’t work that way,” he whispered, grimacing. He paused, and quirked his brow. “So what do you think of my haircut?” Left field was open for business.


The mists closed over him again. "I cut m'hair when..." Trailing off, he shook his head. "No, they cut m'hair. I did no' want it."


“It’ll grow back,” he smiled, a little sadly, just watching Fin. He exhaled softly. Like watching a man drowning, and unable to toss a rope, but still, he tried. Every contact was a new thought, after all.


"I canno' go back," his voice as sad as Ben's smile. Again, he pulled against the restraints, resigned when he couldn't command his limbs as he wanted.

The nurse leaned forward. "You have five minutes left," she whispered softly to Benjamin.


“Okay,” he replied to the nurse, then turned back to Fin, “Hey. Fin. I have to go, but I’ll be back. I’ll come and tell you stories, if you want. I’ll just listen if you want. But I’ll be here. Lucy will be here soon, too. Probably Saila.” It was all so ordinary, what you’d say to someone stuck in the hospital, but it was all so surreal, in those high class surroundings. Moreso, he knew, for Fin.


"Tell me the story o' the wisp, Da," he murmured, eyes closing. "I want to hear it again."


“Once upon a time…” he murmured, pausing, and sifting through the way too many stories of wisps that he knew. Then he stopped and drew in his breath. “Cluinn an sgeulachd.” Slowly and with an English accent? Well, he tried. ‘Hear the story’. Hoping that it would let him continue to dream of his father telling the tale.


The voice was wrong, the accent mangled, but Fin leaned into it despite silent reservations because he didn't ever trust himself to be right about those sorts of things.

The nurse touched Ben's shoulder when the time was up, giving an apologetic smile.


He nodded and got to his feet, turning with a last look at Fin, a smile despite everything else. The Scot was stronger than he believed. As he stepped out of the room, he looked the nurse in the eye. “I don’t suppose there’s a secret bar here for the staff and visitors?”


The nurse snorted but didn't say anything until they were outside of the room, door closed. "Wouldn't be much of a secret if we let in the visitors, would it?" A wry smile was aimed at Ben before she turned and led him back toward the reception area.

Just before the door that would take Ben out of the secured patient areas, she turned to him. "It may not seem like it, but he is better. It will be a slow process but Dr. Leister has strong hopes that he will have more lucid days."


“I believe it. I’m not expecting a miracle, I’ve seen a few of my siblings through things like this. I’ll be here,” simply, an easy smile and wink.


The door was opened for Ben, the nurse returning his smile. "Good. It's that sort of thing that helps the most. He needs those touchstones now more than ever. I hope to see more of you here."


“No worry,” a wave as he turned to find his car. He actually drove there! And was soon off. Likely home to just get into a jar of ‘shine.
_________________
[He] scares me because he has been the most miserable of all men, jailed & beaten and cheated and starved and sickened and homeless, and still he knows there's such a thing as love.
~Jack Kerouac


Last edited by FinMack on Tue Aug 15, 2017 7:58 pm; edited 1 time in total
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PostPosted: Tue Aug 15, 2017 7:58 pm    Post subject: Cris Visits Reply with quote

A great rush of wings fluttered all around him, filling the silence. A breeze tickled his cheek and that was when his eyes opened on a soft gasp. Three heartbeats later, his breathing evened out and awareness caressed the side of his face with a gentle touch.
Strangers were the norm, now, coming in and out at all hours to poke him or ask him questions or look at the bags hanging above his head. Shadows hovered even now, blighting the edge of his vision. Turning his face, a small frown knit his brows as he focused on the pair of eyes looking down at him.

An earthy hazel, they were, familiar. There was a name attached to them, something he didn't have to think about. "Crispin," he breathed. "Ciamar a thàinig mi a bhith an seo?" He tried to turn toward his friend but the restraints stopped him.


He feels naked. Lighter without the weight of his weapons. He'd been allowed to keep his phone and stele, thank the Angel, but it only soothed some of his discomfort over their absence. He hadn't wanted to perpetuate it by sitting down in the stiff vinyl chair provided by the ward, but with Fin's body prone and restrained in the bed dominating the room, with the sterile silence falling, one in which he asked the nearby nurse if the restraints were truly necessary, twice, he'd taken to pulling the chair near Fin's left side and resigning to sit.

He should have brought a book, he thought. Something to read, aloud, because the Angel knew he could discuss things with his friend, though none of them, save one, were things that would induce mental healing. Mired in a private reverie, Fin's exhalation of his name takes a moment to sink in. Both for that, and the fact that he'd been assured Fin remained completely unresponsive. His hand falls from his face where he'd rested his jaw, he drops the prop of his boot to the floor and leans forward. There's a Mark on the inside of his right elbow that allows him the ability to translate Fin's speech. What he hears wrinkles his brow. "What do you remember?"


The warm touch of lucidity rested briefly upon him, gradually receding with Crispin's question. Blue eyes scaled the walls, studied the ceiling while trying to think of some sort of reply that would make sense. To himself, to Cris.

"Do no' ask me tha'. I will no' remember ye."


"I'm not asking you to remember me. Or anything you can't, actually. I'd like only to know what you do remember." Forearms to his knees, he leans the weight of his upper body down, three knuckles brushing against the thin sheets on the side of Fin's mattress.


"I canno' know," he whispered, dejected. Fin turned his face to the opposite wall, doing his best to avoid the disappointment he'd surely see in Crispin's face. "I canno' trust it." His memory. Never could.


He swallows, watching the tendon in Fin's throat stand out harsh as the other man turns away. He glances aside at the lingering nurse whose presence he's certain he does not need, but it had been a necessary evil to allow him in here at all. "Much like a dream, perhaps. At times one can only make sense of them when one speaks them aloud."

He runs his left hand over the Voyance rune on his right. "Likewise-----if you do not wish to, that's all right."


Shaking his head, it was clear that Cris didn't understand. "I...I canno' know wha' be true. This be the dream? The other? 'Haps..." Fin trailed off, almost afraid to say it. Swallowing hard, he dared a glance at Cris. " 'Haps I be dead?"


Truthfully, it did not matter what he said. Only that he spoke at all. His gaze rises from Fin's neck as the other man's voice petered out. Soon, it meets clear blue. He can't remember the last time he'd seen his friend's face so clearly. Part of his mouth turns up, achingly. He swallows a jest, shaking his head once. "No, Fin. You have not died."


Unable to bear the kindness in Crispin's gaze, Fin's own cut away toward the ceiling. "Could I?" the question more of a plea.


His tongue sticks to the roof of his mouth, swallow going down thick. "Is that what you want?"


"I would no' hurt another." The words were barely audible, offered up to any that might hear them.


Slowly, his brows pull in. "No, Fin. You wouldn't."


"Do no' tell m'Da. He be so ashamed already."


He closes his eyes. Grits his teeth as he bows his head. "I won't say anything."


"Where will I go, Crispin? Where will ye take me?"


It's a strange thing to listen to, the marriage of memory, hallucination, and the waking mind. It takes only a blink to school his features smooth. He looks up, politely curious of Fin's meaning. "Is there anywhere you would like to go?"


"Somewhere I will no' feel this pain. Somewhere m'Da would be proud o' me."


"May I ask.......why do you think he wouldn't be?"


Fin shifted, tension worming its way through him. Blue eyes narrowed, shifted to Crispin and away again. "Ye know it."


His left hand tightens under his right. He presses the curve of one knuckle up against his frown. Licks his lips a moment later. "Have you know him to be a man to hold anything against you?"


Doubt was a demon that crouched on his shoulder, its long tongue tickling his ear as it whispered. He shrank away from Crispin, accusation writ plain in his gaze. "Why d'ye speak wit' his voice?"


Difficult to navigate the rhythm of Fin's mental state, he pauses a moment to try and mine any meaning out of what the other man asks. Did Fin mean the voice of his father? Of someone else? Of his own, yet perhaps Fin somehow now sees another face. He holds Fin's searching, accusatory gaze and raises both eyebrows.


Accusation turned to confusion. "Crispin..." he whispered, blue eyes traveling the perimeter of the room. "Wha' is this place?"


Somehow, throughout it all, Fin managed to keep his name and face up front in his mind. Cris splits his hands, pulls them down his face, drops one while the other rubs his mouth. "It is a facility better equipped than the beach house where you previously resided."


"Wha' be a facility?"


He wills himself against looking at the nurse lingering like a wraith nearby. Watchful and at the ready to administer intravenous interference if Fin became ornery. Sucking his teeth, Cris rises enough to trade places. From seat cushion to the edge of the bed. "It is a place, one that has a specific purpose. In this case, you are here because here they have the ability to help you."


He didn't know whether to press closer or pull away from the body that sat next to him. It was solid, not something to be doubted. One thigh pressed against the Nephilim's hip. "Why do I need help?"


One dark brow pulls up, surprised, at the shift in his direction instead of the opposite. Likewise, he doesn't move away. "I asked you before if you could tell me what you remember. I fear that I may need you to try------if only so that I might explain it to you in the best way possible.
"Do you remember Shae------do you remember agreeing to aid her with some-----troubles----she was having?"


"Shae." The word echoed softly from his lips, trying to chase recognition. "She does no' allow me to see her."


He blinks. "Who does not allow you to see her?"


"Knowledge be a shield where she hides."

"I canno' see around it. I do no' know why. D'ye think she knows wha' I ha' done?"


Searching Fin's face, his gaze arrows at the corners. His frown parts, but Fin's voice comes instead. He cants his head, "I think that the only way anyone would know anything about you, Fin, is if you volunteered that information. I can't tell you if she knows, but what I can tell you------is that she is not ashamed to know you. That weight upon her heart has another source."


Again, Fin turns his face to the opposite wall, away from Cris. "They know an' they know an' they tell it. They tell him everythin'. I..." No, he couldn't finish that sentence. Lids closed over blue eyes. "I know ye will protect me, Crispin."


Cris swallows around a phantom knife that has inserted itself in his throat without his knowledge. His mouth thins out so flatly his lips begin to ache. "Fin," he says, gently at first, but then a second time with a shade more insistence. "Fin, look at me."


He doesn't want to obey but hope plunges its blade into his heart so he does it, eyes guarded. "Aye?"


He wets his lips, red with the pressure of his frown. Drops his gaze to the other man's arm lying between them and lashed down. He puts his hand down near the restraint on Fin's wrist. Experimental, like Cris expect the touch to hurt the other man. Does not yet continue until he knows it won't. "You've said it. You know that I will protect you. Yes?" attempting to catch the other man's gaze as he asks, prompt a nod of comprehension.


Holding the Nephilim's gaze, Fin was awash in guilt. "No, I did no' mean it. I free ye."


"Stop," soft. He shakes his head. The length of every callused finger curves more firmly to Fin's wrist. "Stop. There is no need for that. You did not ask me to, you have never asked me to. The decision is mine. It is mine to make, and I have made it. I have made it long before this moment, and it has not changed, and it will not change. No matter how ardently you wish that it would, or how strongly you feel that you do not deserve it. If there is anything I've learned in my life it is that the one thing that I can't control------is what others will do. Be it for me, or against me.

"You are my friend. Fin. It is that simple. I will protect you----and I certainly will not lie to you."

"You are not dreaming. You have not died. This........" he tightens his hand. ".......this is real. This is real."


Each word twisted in his gut, another stone upon his heart. Shaking his head, he tried to deny Crispin but the man was implacable. Tears sprang to his eyes, face crumpling under the weight of that love being offered. He didn't deserve it, he didn't.


A tremor steals over his brow, down his left cheek. He breathes around the knot in his throat, the tight phantom grip cinching his lungs together. His hand skips down, over the restraint, to find Fin's and grip there instead. Webbing to webbing, callused palm to callused palm, as much of a warrior's clasp as he can manage. His tongue darts out between his lips. He shoots a frigid glance back over his shoulder. "Must he stay restrained as he is? Can you not let him up at all? Five minutes....only five minutes. Please."


The nurse sighed softly, shaking her head. "I'm sorry but it's for his own safety. Dr. Leister has suggested only two more days unless he has another violent episode." Her voice was kept low while Fin cried on the bed, clinging to Crispin's hand.


"Violent episode, by the *** Angel, look at him. One arm. One arm, he can do nothing to himself with one arm that I myself am holding."

"Please. He does not deserve this."


A look of pity crossed the woman's face but her lips pressed in a thin line, shaking her head once more. "I'm sorry but without Dr. Leister's direction, I can't. He's making his rounds at the city hospital right now."


"Son of a bitch...." He tucks the name away, regardless. He hadn't much reason to remember it before, but he did now. With grit teeth hardening his jaw, he turns back to Fin and leans forward. Reaches across the other man with his free hand, gripping the crook between neck and left shoulder. It's as close to an embrace as he can get with the damnable bonds in place, and he hopes that it will be enough to reach through this mercifully long, lucid moment.


Sniffling, Fin couldn't even wipe at his eyes or nose so he tried to suck it all back up. When Cris leaned forward, the Scot breathed his plea so quietly, the nurse couldn't hear him. "Please do no' leave me."


The Scot's fifth word has hardly tripped free of his mouth by the time Cris shakes his head. His hand tightens around Fin's, his other moving to sit flush against the other man's jaw. He does not care how damp it his skin is, how intimate the gesture might look. "I'm not going anywhere. I'm staying right here." He could not promise more than he was allowed. Visiting hours ended at some point, every day, but for now, for the immediate future, he had very little plan to leave.

He feels a slight tug at the muscles of his back. A motion that rolls his left shoulder. He does not know if Fin can see what he himself can't, but Cris can't mistake the sun warmed caress of a phantom mass spreading low, wide, from one side of the bed to the other. "I'm right here." His gaze races across Fin's strained features. He nods, emphatic. "Right here, yes?"


Again, he hears the flutter of dozens of wings around him. The rush of osprey off the cliff, starlings buzzing past as they dance through the sky. For just one second, Fin sucks in a deep breath without his skin feeling too tight. The iron certainty of Crispin's declaration is a balm to Fin's distorted thoughts and he nods along with the Nephilim. "Alrigh'," he whispered, unrelenting in his white-knuckled grip on Cris's hand.


Likewise, he does not mind the stranglehold. Half of his mouth turns up when he hears Fin's answer. He sounds like himself, if tired, perhaps too tired to remain with his back turned toward those that visit him, locked away and trapped under memory, nightmare, and hallucination. This time, the looks he swerves over his shoulder comes slower, with only a few layers of ice shaved off. "Can you, at least, bring a cool cloth?"

"Or must this physician approve it for fear of choking hazards?"


Lucky for Cris the nurse is a veteran of this place and handles the upset family easily, allowing the man's frosty tone to roll right off her shoulders. "I can." With a nod, she pushes to her feet and heads to the small bathroom tucked in the corner of the room. Keeping the door open, a damp cloth is laid upon Fin's forehead.

Fin was tired. The burden he carried was a stone around his neck, surrounded on all fronts by misshaped memories and barbed-wire guilt that cut him no matter how he moved. But the grip on his jaw and hand told him he wasn't alone. With that presence hovering just over him, warm and near, the Scot closed his eyes without fear.
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[He] scares me because he has been the most miserable of all men, jailed & beaten and cheated and starved and sickened and homeless, and still he knows there's such a thing as love.
~Jack Kerouac
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PostPosted: Sun Aug 20, 2017 12:41 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Benjamin exhaled slowly as he knelt before his sacred fire. He bowed his head, placing sage and tobacco into the flames, picking up a small fan of bound crow feathers to direct the smoke around him. Bright green eyes slid shut.

Life continued on, he knew. It was a hard learned lesson, but well learned. Once he began to move around, to find new places and experiences, that everything and everyone would continue to live and grow while he was gone.

It was a hard moment to face, but he did. He opened his eyes and gazed into the flames.

He had expected this. Seen it in the seams, dreaded it, prayed that it would be disarmed and harmless when it was finally shaken loose.

That hadn't happened.

It seemed so long ago, when Benjamin quietly watched over Fin, petting his hair, wiping away tears, and letting him work through the nightmares. A whole other life that Fin never spoke of, yet that Benjamin was intimately familiar with.

What he fought against as best he could, while his mother was a raging bear against the abomination of sex trafficking of children. It did little good, when the crime had happened in the past. There was only healing, if it could be found.

Benjamin exhaled, gently rubbing at his temples. Well. Fin was in the right place for that, for healing. Except Fin simply didn't know where he was. When he was. He shivered and tensed miserably in the asylum room, waiting for the next punishment.

What was worse, Benjamin was positive that Fin's mind supplied that punishment in spades. They had no way to reach him. Not yet. The break in reality insisted on recasting his loved ones as dreams, as ghosts, as torments.

It was part of the healing. Benjamin reminded himself of that grimly. Part of the healing, and it was his choice to stand by and give what support that Fin could accept.

Until then. Until then.

Benjamin smiled, stirring the fire to let it go out. He stood and drew in the last tang of the sage, then drew his cel phone out. He texted Lucy. Warned her that he was coming by and intended to sprawl over her sofa.

It was not a part of Benjamin to dwell in darkness. He was a shining thing, and prayed that light gave hope and comfort where it could.
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PostPosted: Sun Aug 20, 2017 4:45 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

The thick scent of burning peat coated the back of his tongue. Nothing had ever tasted so sweet.

A fire crackled and warmed the small space, its ruddy glow casting merry shadows to dance along the walls. Fin sat curled on the floor, his head resting against his father’s knee - a lingering, loving echo of childhood when the world was no bigger than Ardelve and the cliffs beyond.

Rough fingers stroked Fin’s hair, the sensation going straight to his heart. He drowned in happy contentment and thought if there was a Heaven, this would be his.

“Ach, m’lad, ye cannae fool me wit’ yer stubborn silence.” A wry smile was felt through the gentle chiding. “Even if yer lips be silent, yer mind still be toilin’ away.” The slant of Fin’s lips was rueful, recalling how often those words passed his father’s lips. 'A dreamer ye be, wee Finlay'.

Passed. Used to. The epiphany was kind, it didn’t hurt as it should have. Only a deep breath marked his acceptance that this was a dream.

No, not a dream. More than a dream.

Intuition filled in the gaps, knowing that this was real. It was Geordie Mackenzie’s leg against his cheek, Geordie Mackenzie’s voice rich with affection. Fin’s heart insisted so *** vehemently that this wasn’t a hallucination, not something conjured by the Trickster.

“How are ye here, Da?” Even to his own ears, that voice was young, full of innocent wonder. Was that how he sounded to others?

“I have always been wit’ ye, son. Watchin’ o’er ye as best I could.”

His heart stuttered, skipping grooves before the needle found purchase. “Always?” he whispered, afraid of the answer. Fin’s insides trembled, squeezing his stomach until bile rose in his throat. Shadows encroached as the fire dimmed in response.

A moment of silence seemed an eternity, head bowed as he tried to calm his breathing.

When his father spoke again, Fin flinched. “Always, Finlay.”

Thinking he might actually be ill, Fin leaned away from his Da, pitched himself forward on hands and knees to stem the nausea.

Geordie slid to his knees, fingers hooking under Fin’s arms to lift him off his hands. “Look at me, son. Look. I do no’ deny ye as Peter did to Christ.”

Fear and hope battled viciously across the Scot’s features, forcing himself to meet his father’s gaze. The love he saw there burned like acid, cowering away from it. “No!” he blurted. “No, ye canno’...ye do no’! I hurt people, I led them to their deaths!” Fin thrashed, fighting the iron grip on his arms, but he couldn’t tear away. Tears blurred his vision, blotting out everything but his fear. How could anyone love him when he disgusted himself? “I ha’ shamed ye!”

Strong arms reeled him in, holding him tight. “Tha’ was no’ yer fault, boy. Ye did no’ want to do those things, there was no joy in yer heart for them. Tha’ man forced ye in the sickest ways possible. I would ha’ died again if I could ha’ protected ye from any of it.”

The scent that clung to Geordie’s shirt crumbled Fin’s resistance. The memories came fast and sharp and he wanted to wrap them around himself like a blanket but he didn’t deserve that comfort.

“I should ha’ done more.” Fin choked out the words. “I should ha’ fought for them. I was afraid. A coward. I do no’ deserve to live when they canno’.”

Geordie said nothing until Fin spilled forth his guilt and shame. “D’ye remember when ye were a wee lad an’ ye asked me why the English were lords o’er us? Why they would want to take our lands when they had their own? They forced themselves into our lives an’ our homes, took wha’ they wanted, killed those tha’ complained. Aye, we could ha’ fought but their numbers were greater. We did no’ want to watch our homes an’ our families burn for darin’ to raise a hand. It was no’ willin’ an’ it was no’ wanted but we did it because the payment was too great. It was the same for yerself. I know how he...how he hurt ye.”

Stubbornly, Fin shook his head, not wanting to linger over that dark time. “It does no’ matter now, I be here wit’ ye.” Desperate to draw this out, Fin clung to his father by fistfuls of his shirt. “I do no’ need to leave ye again.”

Geordie sighed softly, squeezing his son tighter. “Aye, ye do,” the words tender with regret.

“No. I will no’ leave. Ye canno’ force me.”

A brief chuckle curled one side of Geordie’s mouth. “Tha’ be yer mother in ye. I ne’er met a more stubborn woman. But it no’ be m’self tha’ keeps ye here or sends ye away. It no’ be yer time.”

“Time? I have had enough time away from ye. Now it can end.”

“No. No’ today, Finlay. I hope it no’ be for many years to come. But we do no’ part ways. When ye think o’ me, I feel it an’ when ye speak m’name, I hear it.” Pulling away, a pained smile painted the older Mackenzie’s face.

“Please, Da, please! I want to stay here wit’ ye. I do no’ want to go back. Everythin’ hurts in tha’ place, I canno’ bear it.”

“It hurts ye because ye will no’ let go o’ the past. Ye made a mistake an’ ha’ paid for it many times o’er. Yer sufferin’ does no’ need to continue.”

“I canno’...” he whispered, unable to finish that sentence.

“Aye, ye can. Ye be stronger than ye realize, son, an' ye will need tha' strength if ye want to heal.” Lips pressed to Fin’s forehead in benediction. “Remember me an' honor yerself. I love ye, m'wee Finlay."

_________________
[He] scares me because he has been the most miserable of all men, jailed & beaten and cheated and starved and sickened and homeless, and still he knows there's such a thing as love.
~Jack Kerouac
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PostPosted: Tue Aug 22, 2017 10:05 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Heaven Sent - Part 1

He does not recognize the path they take after his ritual of disarming at reception. He clips the temporary visitor's badge to the hem of his dark t shirt as he's led, not to Fin's room, but to another corridor, another room altogether. He doesn't know if Fin's relocation has anything to do with what he'd discussed with Lucy the day before, but he's hopeful that he won't find Fin strapped to a chair this time.


He's been in this room already, caused the spider web cracks in one of the window panes, but the Scot doesn't remember any of it. Placed in a chair (strap free), he's facing the window with his back to the door.


Cris squints at the nurse, different than the one who'd kept them company last time and steps over the threshold into the quiet room. Casts his gaze from one corner to the other, then back over his shoulder, expecting that company again before he turns to find Fin in his chair.


Cris is allowed to see Fin without any company, though a male nurse stands right outside the door just in case.

Fin doesn't respond to the sound of anyone coming into the room. Doesn't even twitch.


"Thank you," he tells the nurse when they withdraw. Pull the door closed behind them. The solid thunk of the latch sliding home seals them in the small space together. The air feels still, dry and dusty. Sterile in a way that did not promote life. He rubs his mouth, exhales, and heads to join Fin at the window, looking for another suitable surface to drag near his friend so he might sit too.


There are chairs aplenty in this room, its sole purpose to provide private visiting space for patients and family.

Fin is as still and dry as the air, chest rising and falling automatically with each breath. Blue eyes are clouded, heavy lidded and dull, giving a thousand-yard stare toward the horizon. Slowly, his face turned to acknowledge Cris when a large shadow loomed near. His thoughts were sluggish, lagging behind reality by a minute or so. Swallowing, Fin shifted his shoulders slightly so that he felt as if he were more angled toward the Nephilim.


He tugs the closest chair over with him. Feels the presence of the door at his back even though it's closed and guarded. He sits slowly, dries his palms on the knees of his empty gear. As Fin starts to move, he pauses, looking up. One corner of his mouth curls. He swerves an indicative glance back toward the window. "Have you seen anything interesting?"


Rising brows pull against his low lids but they don't make much of an impact. A deep breath filled his chest before he spoke. "No," his voice soft. "Seen too many things."


He hums an affirmation, nodding. Cups his left hand in his right to still them both from anxious movement. Tension sings in his shoulders instead, spreads along his upper back. "How do you feel?"


The question was regarded somberly for a full minute before he responded. "I do no' feel anythin'." That was better, right? One of the doctors told Fin that the effects could be temporary and they would have to wait and see if the medication displayed full efficacy after a few weeks. He had trouble understanding all of it but Lucy hadn't been offended by the idea so he trusted her opinion on the matter.


"Nothing at all?" gently curious. His left thumbnail digs at the flesh alongside its twin. He looks over at Fin, taking in the sight of him now that he isn't horizontal or tied down. "I suppose that can be a blessing."


Brows knit together as he tried to frame his words correctly so that Cris would understand. And while he stared idly at Cris, a faint memory came back to him. "I heard wings. Before. I know it was...no'...m'self." Not his imagination. "Ye were there."


Fin catches his attention from its meandering over the plain décor, the play at home and comfort the hospital tried to achieve with the furniture and accents. He's glad for it, but at the same time dislikes how little he can feel their gazes connect, how much foggy gauze there is overlapping the Scot's seawater blue. He wonders if Fin has spoken to Lucy like this, yet, or if she's still forced to live with the assumption that he can't, before what Fin says sinks in. Slowly, part of his mouth turns up. "I am glad to hear that you remember."


"I did no' dream it?" he asked after a moment. "Ye saw me?"


He shakes his head. "No, you didn't. I was here, and I saw you. You called me by name. Do you remember that?"


Sorrow stole across his frown, turning his gaze back to the window. "Some o' the time, I remember."


Cris does not look away. "And what of the rest of the time?"


Fin shook his head in response, a slow pendulum of movement that petered out. "Wha' happened?" This question was whispered between them, pulling his eyes back to Cris. "I do no' remember...much."


"When I came?" he assumes so, but Fin could mean another point in time that had escaped him. He sits back in the chair, props his left boot on his right knee. "You spoke Gaelic to me, at first, asking how you came to be here. I struggled to explain it in a way that would not seem wholly confusing. You entertained the notion that you may have died. You spoke to me of your father."


Crispin's vocabulary had never seemed so posh before, the bigger words requiring extra brain power to decipher. It answered some questions but not nearly enough. "I no' be dead?" Hnh. Perhaps if he could feel more, he might be disappointed. "How long have I been here?"


"No, Fin, you are not dead." It begs repeating. "Nearly two weeks, I believe. Prior to that, you were staying with Lucy at her beach house."


Two weeks. It was unsettling to think that he'd lost that much time, perhaps more with his stint at the beach house. "An' before tha'?"


"Before that......you were in the hands of our enemy for nearly a day."


Struggling to follow along, the Scot berated himself when he had to admit defeat. "Who be our enemy?"


He brushes his boot clean of dust only he could see. "Moira. The artificers with their magic and the constructs they created, hunters with their surveillance."


None of those words meant anything to him, they didn't make sense. The name in particular rang hollow. Should he know this Moira? "Ye said they held me?"


He bows his head in a single nod. "Yes. Following the activities of our group at the warehouse-----where Lucy aided Shae in a scrying attempt-------after we returned to Shae's home, we were caught unawares when they abducted you. It was a ploy, orchestrated by Moira to draw Shae out into the open."


"Shae is...no held? Or injured?"


"No," quickly. He leans forward, ignores the cinch of horror in his gut at the mere notion of it. "No, no Fin, she's all right now. She was, in the battle that followed, when we came for you, but she has been healed since, and she's well, I promise."


Nodding, he closed his eyes even though there was no fear or anxiety to quell. Those things were dampened, pushed to the outer rim of his consciousness until he couldn't easily reach them. "How do I find m'way back?" he whispered.
_________________
[He] scares me because he has been the most miserable of all men, jailed & beaten and cheated and starved and sickened and homeless, and still he knows there's such a thing as love.
~Jack Kerouac
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PostPosted: Tue Aug 22, 2017 10:11 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Heaven Sent - Part 2

His hand curves around his ankle. He looks at the thickly Marked runic eye above the scars on his knuckles first, then turns his gaze to Fin. "First.....you must want to," he pauses, considering the other man, "do you want to?"


Silent for many long minutes, Fin finally released a sigh. "Dunno. I know tha' I should want to, tha' m'friends want to see me well. But I am so weary, Crispin." Tears welled in his eyes for reasons he couldn't even name. Eyes squeezed shut to quell them as he reached to the side blindly, looking for Cris's hand.


Patient, he lets the dust settle in the room. Listens to his own pulse and how it churns in the bottom of his ears until Fin sighs, centering him. His gaze skips down to the hand groping through the air over his left thigh. He fills it, immediately, with his own, palms together, fingers wrapped tightly around the back of Fin's thumb. At any other time, in any other place, they would be arm wrestling.


A shuddering breath was sucked in, shaky on the exhale too. When he opened his eyes, two tears tracked down his cheeks, ignored. "I do no' know wha' to believe anymore. I canno' trust m'own mind."

"Have I truly gone mad?"


"No," emphatic, somehow, even without his voice backing it. His grip around Fin's hand reaffirms, solidifying. "Fin, you can't expect to have survived what you have and not feel any aftershock whatsoever. You are not mad, Fin. What you feel now is what was intended by the one who held you. That says nothing of your strength, or your ability to pull through it. Only that it may be more difficult than you'd like it to be."


Strength. What a laughable concept. Fin possessed none of it, failing again and again where stronger individuals would have succeeded. More silent tears flowed down his cheeks, getting lost in the stubble that covered his jaw. "I am weak, Crispin," whispering his confession through a thick throat. "So verra weak."


"I know," he says, strain choking his voice soft, cinching up the space between his brows, "I know that you feel that way now. I know what it is to suffocate beneath the weight of what you believe is expected of you....." He swallows, frowning as he leans aside enough to free his phone from the back pocket of his gear. "You yourself-----said it all better than I can now. Will you look at something with me?" Despite the Scot's impending answer, he unlocks the screen and taps through its menus, folders, until he finds what he's looking for.


Dragging a hand across his eyes, Fin nods and leans a little closer to peer at the little screen. His hold on Cris's hand never lets up.


The screen goes dark with the low light of a summer evening. The sounds of city nightlife filter in soft behind Fin's own Scottish brogue. Turned up with numerous depressions of Cris' thumb, then he holds the device toward the other man so he can see it, hear it, from a third of the way through and on toward the end.

"-------------feel like tha' person anymore. 'Haps ye want to make her or others happy an' try to act like tha' person, the one ye think they want to see, even when ye do no' feel it.

"I do no' pretend to know wha' ye've been through, nor will I ask unless ye say ye want to speak on it. I can only speak to m'own experience.
"I remember...well, as ye know, m'memory be a wee bit faulty---------
"I just wanted ye to know tha' ye should take yer time. There be nothin' to do for yerself but let yer mind heal. Tha' be the real thing tha' needs carin' for the now. Yer body was restin' all this time but yer soul, yer mind...those be wounded. 'Haps still bleedin'......"



Surreal was a word that perhaps could have been overused in the past weeks regarding his experiences but nothing captured that word like watching his own face and hearing his own voice. That was another man on the screen, another life. The Scot barely felt a connection to it except that as he listened, he remembered being so worried for Cris. A sob spasmed inside his chest. Free hand covered his face as he started to cry in earnest, shoulders trembling.


Cris grits his teeth against the phantom blow it is to sit beside the other man as he takes himself apart. The Scot's own sobbing, his ruined breathing, pain so tangible that Cris could breathe it in like smoke and feel it burn in his own lungs, douses the sound of a gentle, recorded voice as it tells the recipient they were missed, that they were thought of, that he'd shared the burden of a dead Warlock's grief and wished not for all the love and care felt to be thought of as a burden. That he'd be waiting.

Cris sets the phone aside behind him. Sinks to a single knee at the corner of Fin's chair, reaches his free hand to clasp the back of the other man's neck and pull him forward until they met in the embrace that he could not give Fin the last time he'd been there.


Humiliated, Fin wished to be anywhere but there so that Cris would not have to bear his mewling or the vulnerability of the moment. It was assumed that the Nephilim was as uncomfortable as ever around displays of emotion - Fin even thought it another mirage when he felt the hand around his neck pull him close for an embrace. Despite a larger frame, that momentum pulled the Scot to his knees, as well, crumpling against the other man to cry against his shoulder. Fists clutched handfuls of Crispin's shirt, guttural wails muffled against the fabric.


Prepared for the lilt of Fin's frame, though not for him to fall, the impact is solid but it only drives him back a few inches. It's the wail so loud it hurts, vibrating into his shoulder, baptized in hot salt tears on his neck that he did not shore up well enough, quickly enough, to withstand. He grits his teeth, glowers through a spasm of his own facial features as he strangles the other man's hand with his own. Grips the space between neck and left shoulder with his other, holding Fin's frame to himself through every quaking sob and seismic gasp of breath.


Time passes unnoticed as Fin pours his guilt and shame and anger onto the Nephilim, who bears it with a patient love angels were known for. A love that Fin does not deserve by any stretch of the imagination. That realization only prolongs the tears. Finally, it started to abate when his stomach felt ill and his throat felt raw and his eyes burned. Cris's right shoulder was a damp mess when Fin gradually pulled away, wiping his eyes and nose on the short sleeves of his hospital shirt. Breaths hiccuped unsteadily, he leaned heavily against the chair at his back. Exhausted physically and emotionally, he could only stare at Cris and try to make his gratitude known silently.


He's gulped down enough useless air to feel sickened by it. Feels the pull and tight strain of the muscles of his back, shoulders, protesting for the length of his tight embrace around the other man, but in response, too, to the way white-gold phantoms shake open and overlap both kneeling figures. They provide a barrier of gentle warmth to the sterile emptiness of the family room around them.

"Listen to me," he says as the volume of Fin's emotion begins to dwindle, privately marveling at the way his own voice does not shake for how knotted it feels. His hands ripple in their grip around Fin. His shoulder, his hand. "You must forget it. Forget it all. Every expectation, every iota of regret brought down upon you by something you feel you can't give. By something you feel you can't be." He feels the pull against his forearm. Lets the lock on it go so that Fin could lean back as he wished, but he puts his palm in the crook of his shoulder, gazing back into the other man's face, damp gratitude meeting steady eagerness. "You are alive. You are here." His hand slips down to the center of Fin's chest and presses where Cris knows his heart beats. "This is real. You are here, as I am. I am here, in fact, because of you. Fin. If you were not here, if you were not real, if you had not been with us that night-------I would not be here right now. I would have been killed, I know that as surely as I know my own name. You saved my life. And you deserve every chance, every chance, to reclaim your own. And if that is not immediately, that is all right. We are, none of us, going anywhere. We will not let you go."


If he hadn't just emptied the well, that speech would have done the trick. Every heartbeat pulsed at his temples, intensifying the pressure behind his face. A lump formed in his throat though he had nothing left to give.

Words spun through his head, privately refuting every point made. Perhaps he dreamed the fight? Perhaps he painted himself a hero in his own story with Cris as a foil to make himself look better? Perhaps perhaps perhaps. Those words turned over and over in his stomach, hard as rocks. Doctor Leister had said something about focusing on the sensations around him whenever he felt lost or unsure if he was hallucinating. Closing his eyes against the shining rope Cris threw to him, Fin measured his breath and concentrated on what he could feel.

The weight and warmth against his shoulder, then his chest, were real. They were there, against his body. Concrete and irrefutable. It was a relief to believe in something as wholly as he did the hold helping to keep him upright. Opening his eyes, something akin to a rueful smile ghosted over his lips. "I do no' deserve ye, Crispin. I canno' fathom why ye care to spend yer time here wit' me but...I hope tha' ye visit me, still."


Never before could he have said that one of his grins could carry more life than someone else's. His own flashes quick with relief, that similar curve to Fin's mouth meaning that his friend is still there, somewhere, drowning behind a weight of sorrow and disorientation. "We have that in common," he tells Fin, matching the other man's hushed tone. "But somehow, you decided that I did." He presses his hand firmly against Fin's chest. "And now I am doing the same. You are my friend. I care about you. That is why I come, and certainly that will not stop."


No words could be found to express the rush of emotion that filled his mouth and drove back all sound. Fingers encircled Cris's wrist where it was planted against his chest, lifting the other man's palm to press it against his stubbled cheek. Tilting his face into the touch, Fin closed his eyes a brief moment, the silent gesture spelling out his gratitude. Crispin's hand was hot against his cheek, sending a shiver down the Scot's spine that ended with a rush of wings stirring the air.

Uncurling himself slowly from the Nephilim, his fingers ached where they'd gripped the other's hand so tightly. "Crispin," he whispered, brows furrowing. "Wha' is tha'?"


Stiff is his natural state, but he doesn't fight Fin's guide when the other man moves his hand. A rush of nostalgia surges through him. Though two years ago, it had been against a wall, not a chair. In a tea shop, not a mental ward. Where they'd had their first real, gritty conversation.

He begins to withdraw as Fin does, feeling the echo of paper fabric on his palm from the Scot's hospital clothes. The dome of sunlit warmth enveloping them splits open and begins to recede. He feels the backward pull of it in the muscles of his back, his own brow creases in the center. "What do you mean?"


Cool air along the back of his neck raises hairs and tightens skin. The bare floor offers more of the same, leeching the warmth from his legs. Pushing himself back into the chair, he sucks in a quick breath. "I hear...wings. Only around yerself." It was possible that it was merely another facet of Fin's mental condition but it didn't hurt to ask. Right?
"Hundreds o' wings in motion at once. I can almost feel them against m'flesh."


Fin rises before him, but Cris remains crouched there at his feet. Slowly, the tip of his tongue splits his frown, wets the crease in the center of the lower tier. His gaze drops as he finally pushes up too. "What do you see?"


"I do no' see anythin'." Fin was happy to focus on anything other than himself. Closing his eyes, head cocked to one side. "I feel...somethin'. Behind ye. Just o'er yer shoulder." Eyes opened again, squinting over the Nephilim's shoulder but still, he saw nothing but the windows. "Is tha' somethin' ye be doin' apurpose?"


He rolls his left shoulder, then his right. Turns to reclaim the chair at Fin's side. "No," gently. "It is not something I can control."


"So there be somethin' there?" Just to confirm the level of his own insanity, if you please. "Are ye...alrigh'? Is it some sort o' curse or geasa?"


He's still, forearms against his knees to support his lean. Fin may be glad the topic of their discussion as changed, but as the new one, he's eager for it to move on once more. For himself as well as Fin's capacity to comprehend what he must tell him for it to make sense. "I'm all right," answering finally. "And you're right, there is something there. Only, not hundreds." He raises two scarred fingers, indicating the correct number.


Let's just blame the meds for the amount of time it took for Fin to work his way from one end of that response to the other. All the while, he frowned and stared at Cris. "No' hundreds...o' wings? Ye have two?" Invisible wings. Okay.


He bows his head in two, slow nods. "I need not tell you this now. We will have plenty of time for it later, Fin."


Later sounded far away and there was no guarantee this information would stick. However, he bowed to Crispin's judgment, nodding twice. "Alrigh'," he murmured. The shadow of a bird gliding past the window caught his attention, drawing his eyes once more toward the ocean. "Would ye sit wit' me a wee bit longer?"


"Of course," quiet, grateful that he does not need to dissuade the Scot any further. "I will stay as long as you like."
_________________
[He] scares me because he has been the most miserable of all men, jailed & beaten and cheated and starved and sickened and homeless, and still he knows there's such a thing as love.
~Jack Kerouac
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PostPosted: Fri Sep 01, 2017 9:25 pm    Post subject: Fox Visits Reply with quote

Fox Visits - Part 1

It was neither the first, nor the last time the redheaded man had come to the facility to call upon the Scotsman. The sign in ledger at the front desk had his name written in block letters every three or four days on average. It had been longer this time. Nearly ten. There were several reasons for that, though he regretted the hiccup to the semblance of routine it might cause. However, his belated visit wasn't the only change to the routine. Having just clipped on the little visitor badge he found the nurse leading him down a new hallway.

The whole of the building was well lit, but a few open doors here let in more natural lighting. It felt less sterile, but only slightly. He found himself studying the bun of the woman walking in front of him. Strawberry blonde hair with a few early grey strands woven in. Foreign. Like the room he was led to.


Fin sat in a chair, already tucked inside the visiting room. The Scot faced the window, staring at nothing in particular, his gaze distant. Eyes were heavy lidded, his expression dull. Were he feeling any fuzzier, he might have been found drooling. His back was to the door, zoned out.


"Hello Fin." Every time started that way, a casual greeting that wasn't hesitant or overly loud. The sort that expected a response naturally, but didn't mind if one wasn't forthcoming. Likewise, his approach towards the area where the Scot sat held an odd comfort despite the unfamiliar surroundings. His lope a thing of practiced ease learned from a lifetime of encounters with that which looked for fear. Whatever distress he'd taken at the sight of the man strapped to a bed in weeks prior had been compartmentalized. Now he approached the nearby chair and angled it closer before dropping his weight onto it with a grunt. "I see you got a better view today."


The meds made everything sound muffled and far away, which was fine because it took that long for his brain to catch up. Turning his face to look at the person in the room with him, Fox was barely recognized. "Ye know me," his voice soft in the room. More statement than question, he just wanted to confirm that this wasn't another hallucination. But those things didn't seem to be plaguing him as much since he started the pills.


"I do. You're Fin. I'm Fox." He slouched in the chair with his elbows on the armrests, lacing his fingers together across his stomach. He always thought better on a full belly, and he'd stopped for a little something before coming here. "Though you don't know me as well. You'd probably recognize me better had I come in here much shorter and covered in russet fur." Glance over his shoulder towards the door and then a more casual one around the room for sign of a camera.


"Fox." The name was murmured to himself, trying to divine if it sounded familiar. Russet fur. Was that a reference to something? These stupid pills made it so hard to think. "Shae?"


"That's right, Shae. I'm Shae's Fox." The ratty leather jacket he wore had once seen more frequent use on the smaller woman's frame, but he'd since commandeered it for his own usage. Now he unfolded his hands from his stomach and reached for an inner pocket. There was the crinkled of greasy paper and he pulled out a rolled paper bag. "Want a taco?"


Taco. It didn't register immediately and then he became absorbed in watching Fox pull something from an inner pocket. A cylinder of brown paper was wrapped around...whatever was inside. "Wha' be tha'?" he murmured.


There were two of them leftover, he unrolled and opened the bag, reaching in to extract one of the remaining affairs wrapped in wax paper. This he offered out to Fin. "Food. Good food. You introduced these to me, actually. Meat, cheese, a little lettuce and some dressings in a flat shell so you can eat it with your hands."


Palm up, he reached to accept the offered gift. The taco was cradled against his stomach while he watched Fox fiddle with the other. It smelled good but he was still confused by the name. Taco. Did he know this food?


Fox allowed himself to be the example, despite already being full, and angled so Fin could see how he held and bit into the food with his head tilted just a bit to the side. "I onsh washed you polish off haff a doshen o' dese."


The tutorial was appreciated. Glancing down at the present in his lap, clumsy fingers unwrapped it slowly. Once he saw the taco in all its glory, resting patiently on the wax paper, tears welled in his eyes. Closing them, he reached blindly to cover it.


"I know, right. So damn delicious you could get emotional about them." Of course, that's not what he thinks is prompting that reaction at all. Still, he kept his tone in the realm of polite ignorance. "Shae likes them too, but she doesn't eat them much anymore. I think she prefers eating them with company. You and Cris, for example."


Both hands covered the taco so he wouldn't have to keep it in the forefront of his mind. There was so little room left there, these days. "Is she here wit' ye?"


"In a sense she's always with me when I come visit you." He raised a hand and tapped one finger just into his hairline above his left temple. "But no, not physically. At least, not today. She came once or twice while you were recovering at Lucy's place, but she'll come here soon. You've my word on that." Even if he had to drag the witch by her hair, he'd see to it.


"Crispin told me of an enemy. Has Shae defeated them?" The details were muddled, of course, but he at least remembered Cris visiting and telling him something about the outcome of the battles.


"Moira and her soldiers. Yes, they've been defeated. They were taken out when we came to get you. Cleaned up while Lucy and I got you back to her house. There's another though, that got away. The one that abducted her in January. We'll deal with him, though, when the time comes." The taco he had rationed himself was wrapped up for later snacking and pushed back into the bag, he didn't reach for the one in Fin's lap.


"Lucy is well?" Yes, he'd seen Lucy several times since checking in to the facility but he couldn't always be sure that he was remembering correctly. "Is anyone lookin' after her?"


"She misses you. She's not been at the gallery much. Shae visits her on the weekends sometimes, and I stop by now and then. Martta's been feeding me all the meat pies she keeps making for you so they don't go bad." Again, he kept his tone easy, but there was a weight behind the start of his answer that suggested he was downplaying something. "Sean has set up proper security at the beach house and has been staying there."


A long minute of silence filled the room. Fin stared out the window at the slice of ocean he could make out from his vantage point. "Sean?"


"Body guard she hired back when we were all being watched from the rooftops. Young fella. Seems to know her and her family some. Was at Church House patrolling the grounds when we were all holed up there." He didn't know if the two of them had ever talked. "He drove us back to the beach house and helped Lucy get you settled."


All of it was a blank slate that stared back at him with pity for his ignorance. Fin should be used to that feeling by now but it still grates at his pride. Makes him feel stupid. Nodding along to show investment in the conversation, his gaze was pulled down until it rested on his hands and the taco behind them. "Shall I live the rest o' m'days here?"
_________________
[He] scares me because he has been the most miserable of all men, jailed & beaten and cheated and starved and sickened and homeless, and still he knows there's such a thing as love.
~Jack Kerouac
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PostPosted: Fri Sep 01, 2017 9:28 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Fox Visits - Part 2

"Not where I'd choose to retire, personally." Fox didn't feed into the sense of woe inherent in that question. "I say you take a rest here for a little while, be patient with yourself, and then go and rescue your forge from your amateur apprentice. Cris is getting better, but it's probably not good for business."


He'd meant to ask if he was ever going to be allowed to leave but it got muddled somewhere along the way. Along with the rest of his thoughts. "I do no' have an apprentice." He focused on that one thing that he knew to be true.


"Not a real one, no, but Cris has been keeping an eye on things for you, yeah? He mentioned you'd been letting him into your forge while you were working." He brought his fist to his mouth to cover a yawn.


If not for the medication, that would have been a punch in the gut. Chemicals softened the blow greatly but still there was a prolonged crinkle as he balled the wax paper between his fingers. "Crispin is at the forge?"


"He didn't tell you?" Faint surprise, but it faded quickly. "Ah, course not. Featherbrain wouldn't want to trouble you. I think he visits for a few hours every day. Keeps the place tidy for you. Taking down names and things when customers come in. Holding the orders he can't fill for when you get back. He does what he can, and makes sure your customers have people to turn to while you're away."


A delayed warmth gradually oozed through his chest. He is going to trouble for me. It struck Fin as possibly the nicest thing anyone had ever done for him. More than would ever have been asked. And then there was a tinge of guilt for forgetting about his forge and the people there that depended upon him, but it was all felt from a distance. "I must thank him," the Scot murmured.
As an afterthought, he asked, "Has somethin' happened?"


"If you like. I doubt he'd ask for it though. Frankly, I think he likes it. Keeps him busy, even if he does have to take extra showers." Grunt, some mumbling about a water bill before the afterthought of a question caught his ear. "Eh? Something happened where? What d'ya mean?"


Crispin would never accept his thanks for keeping the forge open but Fin would give it, none the less. One day.

"Hm?" Jostled from the private string of thought, lids blink twice before he's able to answer coherently. "Oh, eh I was thinkin' tha' somethin' could ha' happened to bring ye here." Why else would Fox come by himself?'


"Isn't the first time I've visited. Though it is the first time you've felt talkative. Usually I just prattle on about stuff that's happened for a while, or tell you stories." Easy shrug followed by a shift and a resettling in his seat. The chairs always made his backside go numb. "Nothing happened. Just wanted to come keep you company."


The stories were lost to the mists, unable to recall a single one of them. "I did no' think ye would care to." It was matter of fact, the medication dulling his empathy. "I did no' think ye considered me a friend." Only because they didn't know each other well and while Shae considered Fin a friend, that didn't necessarily extend to Fox.


Tilting his head back, then turning it to the side, Fox studied the man sitting beside him. "True, we don't know each other very well, yet, but you don't abandon the people that fight with you."


A faint smile hovered and then was gone. "Brothers in arms," murmuring low. "It has been some time since I ha' been considered one."


"Be that as it may, you certainly earned it." He shrugged and gave his gaze back to the window view.


"I fought well?" Tiny flashes came to him of that night but they didn't form a complete picture, nor did he always retain them. "Were any injured tha' nigh'?"


"Yes, you did." Fox had seen the frozen aftermath and he could tell it had made a difference. "Which night?"


Fin frowned, trying to chase those little wisps and bind them together. "How many battles did we fight together?"


"You came to the warehouse and then you fought men at Church House. Then we came to get you and there was fighting at the manor."


Only the warehouse rang a bell, everything else was hidden in a bank of impenetrable fog. Trying to see through it only gave him a headache, as did the self recrimination that followed for not being better, for not remembering when others would. Grunting, he glanced back down at the taco, a faint rumble rippling through his stomach.

Unable to think of a suitable response, blue eyes drifted to the window.


The rumble is a sound Fox is familiar with. It steals his attention back towards the Scot and the untouched food. "Not in the mood for a taco? I can smuggle you in something else."


Fox's voice pulled him back but Fin couldn't say how long he'd been lost in that particular reverie. The food in his lap surprised him but before he could comment on it, a raw scream rent the air on the other side of the door. Heart hammering, Fin flinched and half rose from his chair, the taco falling unnoticed, rolling toward the window. A surge of energy shortened his breath, nearly panting as he stared with wide eyes.

"Eh...did ye hear tha', as well?" whispering his question to Fox without taking his gaze from the door.


Fin's head wasn't the only one whipping around at the unexpected noise. "Yeah, I did," he was rising as he spoke, taking steps towards the door. The handle he pulled out of his pocket was just a hilt, until it didn't have to be one anymore. For now it was just a hilt, and his other hand was on the door handle, opening it a crack to peer out into the hallway.

Fox must have hidden the weapon's true form else they would have confiscated it at the front desk before allowing him inside.
The male nurse on the other side of the door hadn't left his post. He turned to look at Fox when the door opened. "Just one of the patients having a bad day, sir. He's being taken care of."

With the hilt hidden in his palm behind the small of his back, Fox nods amiably to the nurse and shuts the door again. The hilt soon disappears back into a pocket inside his ratty coat. When he turns back to Fin it is with empty hands and a reassuring smile. "Think some fellow saw a spider or something. All's well."


Even in his tenuous state, Fin still managed a flat stare at Fox for the explanation. A spider? He was medicated, not naive. "I only asked because there be times when I...hear things tha' no' be there. No' be real. It no' be the first time I heard those noises here. I think I ha' made them m'self." Not that he could remember but he'd been told his screams echoed off the floors and ceiling in the middle of the night.


"Yeah that's possible." One hand on his hip, the other came up to finger comb his hair. "Shae screamed herself out of dreams quite a few times. Sometimes she didn't wake. Or realize. It happens like that."


Though it was a common occurrence for the Scot, it disturbed him to think of Shae experiencing the same terror and night sweats and regret. Frowning, he swung his gaze back to the window. "When will she come to see me next?"


"Not sure, mate. Soon, I hope. She's been working up the courage." He slid both hands into the front pockets of his jeans, watching the other man.


The frown only deepened. "Courage?" He tried to imagine all the things for which Shae would need courage to set foot in here. "Does she no' like hospitals?" Or maybe she didn't like being around ill people?


Fox shook his head, but the Scots view was beyond the window sill. "It's not like that. Anyway, I'll let her know you asked after her. See if I can get the featherbrain to coax her around. She asks about you every time one of us comes back. She'll be glad to know you're feeling talkative again."


Christ Almighty, Fin had never wanted a cigarette so much as that moment. So much energy and effort was required to navigate the waters of conversation, balancing his own wants against those of the other person with whom he was speaking. Fatigued, it was harder to read subtle cues.

"Wha' is it like? Is everythin' alrigh' wit' her?"


"She went through a lot and hasn't wanted to burden your recovery with her own, or her presence." He started to open the door, paused with it cracked. "But things have been better with her. She's happy recently, in spite of everything."


Normally, Fin would have selflessly pushed his feelings and state of mind aside to make another more comfortable. However, the meds made that more difficult for many reasons. Looking to the door where Fox stood, Fin said, "Tell her she no' be a burden. I am glad to hear of her happiness, she deserves it."
_________________
[He] scares me because he has been the most miserable of all men, jailed & beaten and cheated and starved and sickened and homeless, and still he knows there's such a thing as love.
~Jack Kerouac
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PostPosted: Fri Sep 01, 2017 10:35 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Lucy - Part 1

He sat in a visiting room. This one didn't have a cracked window so they must have more than one. The long, bright hallways all looked the same to him, making him squint against the fluorescent lights as he got lost around the corners.

Someone led him here so he waited for the visitor they implied. He couldn't see the ocean from this window but at least there were sparse grasses and a hint of sand on the farthest dune.


The door opened. Lucy hesitated on the threshold before stepping inside. Her handbag left in the car, she held only a small book in her hands. She kept thinking about the things Benjamin had said. The things Cris had said. As the door shut behind her, she repeated her new determination in her mind. Don't cry.

She glanced behind her, then back at Fin, turning the book around and around in her hands. Watching him watch the world outside. "It was foggy early this morning but--but it's starting to burn off."


He didn't realize anyone was in the room with him until she spoke. Quiet as a church mouse, she snuck in. Dulled blue eyes swung toward the source of the voice, recognizing Lucy as herself this time. A twitch at the corner of his mouth and then a hand held out to her.


Lucy shifted the book in her hand, then stepped forward to take his. She hoped, at least, he was offering it to her. Her eyes searched his, searching for recognition. "Hi."


Mute, a gentle pressure was applied to her hand, implying she should sit next to him on the love seat.


She read the gesture easily enough, moving around to sit beside him. She set the book down on the side table and looked aside at him. Then she worried she might be looking too much, too expectant, so she shifted her gaze to the window. It had never been uncomfortable to be quiet with him before. And with a small sense of surprise, she realized it wasn't uncomfortable now either. So she let the silence fall like a soft blanket over the small room.


There was curiosity for the book set aside but it couldn't be expressed properly right now. Words and images jumbled in his head, too tangled to pick clean apart and he couldn't fight that battle now.

When she sat, Fin squeezed her hand, content to sit like that as long as they could.


She returned the small squeeze to his hand. Glanced aside at him. Then looked back out at the sand dunes. "Martta sends her love." It was something she said almost every day. "She's--she's teaching me to bake those cookies you like." She kept her voice quiet, unwilling to disturb the reassuring peace between them. "I'm not very good at it yet."


There was another twitch at the corner of his mouth for Lucy's determined prattle, trying to smooth over the rough patch between them. Again, Fin squeezed her hand and managed to muster up a reply. "I like all her cookies," he said quietly.


Lucy smiled softly. "I know." She glanced aside at him. "I think it just--it makes her feel better to be doing something specially for you." She looked back out the window. "It makes me feel better too."


"I know it," he whispered. The odd glances were felt but blue eyes remained fixed on the landscape in the distance. "Has she been lookin' after ye?"


"Always." She kept a hold of his hand, and tried to keep her eyes on the window. "Cris has too. And Ben." She almost added Fox too, but she wasn't sure whether he'd remember him.


Fox had been by more recently, after the medication started. He was reacquainted with Fin's memory banks, meager as they were. "An' they ha' been here to see me."


"Yeah." She wanted to say that they all missed him, that they all cared about him and wanted him to get better. But she kept thinking about what Ben said. She didn't want to put any pressure on him. "I know."


Fog drifted through his brain, obscuring some things, blotting out others. But his knowledge of Lucy was so intrinsic that he didn't need to hold it in his hands. He knew what it felt like when she was holding back, he knew the taste of her hesitations and concern. "Wha' is it?" Still, he kept his profile to her.


"I hope the visits haven't been too much." Lucy had been there every day. And as difficult as those visits had been for her emotionally, she wasn't willing to stop.


The arm nearest her lifted to settle over her shoulders, tugging with gentle pressure. An invitation to scoot closer, lean against him. "I am humbled by yer carin'," he muttered.


She practically held her breath when he started to move. And then more so when he drew her near. Lucy shifted a bit so she could more comfortably rest against him. "I'll always be here for you. No matter what."


A brief flare of warmth curled the edges of his mouth. "I know it, lass. I ha' ne'er doubted it. As I be for yerself."


Lucy gently rested her hand on his thigh. She took a breath, then let it out slowly. "Are you still--are you still in a scary place?"


Christ Almighty, what a loaded question. He forced out a mirthless chuckle. "Dunno. I do no' think I e'er left it. But it no' be controllin' me." For the now.


She nodded, her brow furrowed with worry. She wanted to tell him that he wasn't alone, that even when he felt lost and frightened that she was with him. But she suspected that in the twisted darkness of his mind, her presence had not been reassuring at all these past few weeks. She felt like she'd been haunting him more than she had been loving him. She took a breath, then let it out slowly once more.


Nothing could have reassured him in the last few weeks. Fin only half trusted this lull but tried to stay in the moment, as Dr. Leister suggested.

Lucy's breathing didn't fall on deaf ears. "Somethin' be preyin' upon yer mind, lass."


"No." She kept her eyes out at the view, at the world outside. "I'm just thinking." She said it without realizing it was probably the same thing he'd been asking.


The half answer only confirmed his suspicions. "Wha' be the name o' the bee in yer bonnet?"


"I was thinking about the time I was--when I was away. And you came to visit me there." She tugged at the soft pants he was in, fingers tugging the material at the knee. "About how--how cold it was. And how good it felt the way you held me."


The irony was not lost on him. "Seems one of us be comfortin' the other while locked away." ***, he would give anything for a cigarette. "Why can ye still no' say it, lass?"


"I don't--" Lucy sighed. "Because it's my turn to carry the weight. It's my turn." She turned to look at him, eyes on him.


His question must have been lost in translation. When Lucy looked at him, Fin met her gaze, blue eyes cutting down toward hers. "Why can ye still no' say ye were in prison?"


She let out a breath. A moment of surprised understanding. Her eyes dropped. Don't cry. "It's--it's shameful."


"Why d'ye find it so shameful?"


"Because of what I did. The reason I was there." She glanced up at him, somewhat surprised that he wanted to talk about this. "It's in the past anyhow."


"I think it still be hauntin' ye if ye canno' bring yerself to speak on it."


"Shouldn't it always haunt me? At least a little?" Her brow furrowed as she watched him.


Brows rose slightly. "D'ye think m'past should always haunt me?"


"Fin." She sighed, and shook her head. "That's different. Our--our lives are different."


"D'ye no' think it be the same spirit o' things?"


Lucy shook her head. "No." She shifted a bit more to face him, one hand reaching out to touch his face. "You are haunted by something that was done to you. By the cruelty of someone else." She dragged in a breath. "I'm haunted by my own."
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[He] scares me because he has been the most miserable of all men, jailed & beaten and cheated and starved and sickened and homeless, and still he knows there's such a thing as love.
~Jack Kerouac
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PostPosted: Fri Sep 01, 2017 10:37 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Lucy - Part 2

"No," he murmured. "I am haunted by the things I did t'others. I was cruel in m'own turn."


She brushed her fingers against his face and shook her head. "You didn't have a choice."


Fin caught her hand, held her fingers curled within his own. "Everythin' we do requires a choice."


Lucy looked at him, her blue eyes clear. "Do you think I should forgive myself?"


"Dunno. People are tellin' me here tha' I should."


Lucy sighed heavily, she looked down at her hand held in his. "Reg forgave me."


"Did he? How did ye feel after?"


"He never said it. Not--not directly." She raised her eyes to his. "But I know he did."


"Ye did no' answer m'question," he reminded her softly.


Lucy was quiet a moment. "I guess I just--I don't know." She let her head drop to one side. Then sighed softly. "The hard thing is to forgive myself."


Blue eyes dropped to their joined hands and then swept out to the dune on the horizon. "Aye, 'tis. I do no' know if either o' us can do it."


"Maybe then--" Lucy tightened her hold on his hand. "Maybe forgiveness isn't what we should be aiming for."


"Wha' d'ye think we should be tryin' to do wit' ourselves?"


Lucy lifted her shoulder in a little shrug. "Acceptance."


"Accept wha' we ha' done or tha' we canno' forgive ourselves?"


"Of what we have done." She looked at him. "I can't--I can't change what happened--" she paused, took a breath, and corrected herself, "--what I did to Reg. I can't change the past. I just--have to accept it."


"An' do ye? Accept it? Is acceptin' still bein' ashamed?"


Lucy looked at him. "I do. I accept it. Even if I'm still ashamed of it."


Fin didn't have any answers and far too many questions. "I am glad for ye, then." The craving for nicotine had him scratching absently at his chest, just underneath his collar bone.


"What is it?" She didn't find his gladness wholly convincing.


He meant to shrug but instead he yawned, mouth opened wide without a hand to cover it. "Dunno," was all he managed to murmur.


Lucy nodded, eyes searching his face. Then she shifted a little, reaching for the book she brought with her. "I brought a book to read to you." In case you didn't want to talk to me.


"Aye? I would like tha'," offering a faint smile. It was all he could muster under the effects of the medication. Slouching lower on the couch, Fin shifted until his head rested against the back, legs sprawled in front of him.


She pulled the book closer, holding it between them uncertainly. It was a very worn copy of Anne of Green Gables. She hadn't known what to choose. She didn't even think he'd like it. She thought maybe he'd prefer something more hip or challenging. Something with rhythm like Jack Kerouac. But she had never actually finished reading On the Road. She liked mysteries. And she didn't think he'd enjoy a Nancy Drew book. "I read this when--when I was younger."


Fin doesn't care much what it is, he wants to listen to the constant murmur of her voice, assuring him that she's here. That she's real and still next to him. That she's not a ghost or a figment of his imagination. Already feeling drowsy, he hoped it might lull him to a more peaceful sleep than he usually found.


Lucy glanced up at him, then opened the book and flipped to the first page. And then she began to read. She wasn't the best reader, but she managed a clear, steady pace. The words were pretty, she thought. The descriptions of Avonlea, of the house at Green Gables. As a girl it had been a place she wanted to go. A place she wanted to escape to. Wishing she were the redheaded orphan taken in by another, more loving family. She read quietly, steadily, stealing glances at Fin whenever she could, hoping the words were as comforting to him as they were to her when she was a little girl.
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[He] scares me because he has been the most miserable of all men, jailed & beaten and cheated and starved and sickened and homeless, and still he knows there's such a thing as love.
~Jack Kerouac
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PostPosted: Sun Sep 10, 2017 5:04 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Crispin - Part 1

While Cris was reluctantly disarming himself at the front desk, one of the male nurses in the facility came to fetch Fin, telling him that he had a visitor. There were only a handful of faces he'd ever seen here and when he was alerted that the visitor was male, that narrowed it down even more. Either Fox or Cris.

Silently, he ghosted behind the nurse through the long, white hallways. Fin still wasn't familiar with the layout except where his room might be; he couldn't even find a visitor room on his own, there were so many scattered around the building.

Led into a room with a window and walls painted in a dove grey, he was happy to see that at least this one had a view of the ocean. Fin was standing in front of the window, arms wrapped around himself, when Cris entered.


It could have been three days ago for all that he'd changed. He wears the same clothes, the same charcoal grey cotton and black leather gear, the same boots, Marks, the same scattering of scars and scattered, faded bruising on his throat and near his collarbones. He quietly thanks his nurse escort and continues into the room that, like the last one where he'd visited Fin, plays at the same efficacy of comfort and normality. Fin is easy to find at the window, the only sign of life against the grey backdrop, despite how he might feel. Cris pulls the door closed gently at his back.


Someone entered the room, remaining silent while shutting the door softly. Fin's shoulders dropped as he took a deep breath. Crispin. One edge of his mouth twitched. Blue eyes were steady upon the window and the view beyond.


The quiet settles so dry and absolute, he thinks he might hear individual pieces of dust settle. He rubs his jaw, a few days' stubble scratching his palm as he heads further in noticing, beyond Fin's shoulder and the crystal clear glass, that there is blue sea in the distance. "Are you allowed out of doors often?"


It's better than listening to the latent echo of screams and sobs echoing off the sterile walls and floors. Those brought back memories. Crispin's voice washed over him, so familiar and so normal that he closesd his eyes to enjoy it. "Eh, some o' the time. If I be watched. But no' as far as the sea, no' yet."


He nods, finally joining Fin at the window, stepping out from behind the other man's right shoulder. The thick soles of his boots close the small gap between their heights. He raises his chin, squinting at the water too. "Do you miss it?"


Shuffling sideways, Fin moved closer to Cris until their shoulders brushed against one another. "The sea?"


The contact surprises him, but he does not withdraw from it. Glances aside, only, at Fin's request for clarification. He nods.


"How could I? It be righ' there in front o' me." He could see it, at least, and that was enough for him. "It looks cold, today. Stern. I do no' think it would be a good day to visit."


Part of his mouth turns up, "One can miss something within reach. Often that makes it worse." He looks back at the water.


Features darkened, glancing down at the sash of the window and then the floor beneath him. "I know it," he whispered.


He reaches across himself. Lightly touches Fin's shoulder that rests against his own as he turns his back to the sea, electing to lean there against the window sill instead. "Have you seen anyone else?"


The touch brings his attention back to Cris. "Anyone else? From...here?" Or more hallucinations?


"Mhm," bowing his head. He words it another way, "Has anyone else come to see you here?"


"Ah. Aye, they have. Lucy an' Fox an'..." Fin frowned, trying to wrack his brain. "I think, 'haps, Ben came to see me."


"Have you spoken to them, as well?" His arms cross tightly over his chest. "I ask only because there was some time where there was no response no matter who kept you company."


Crispin didn't say that to be cruel or shame Fin, the Scot knew that, but still it was shameful to hear how insensible he'd been. "Aye," he murmured, glancing down again. Arms unfurled, hands joined together in front of him. One thumbnail dug into the opposite palm, sliding back and forth across the lines of his hand with a pressure hard enough to distract. "I responded to them."


He hadn't quite fashioned a better way to ask Fin, either, rue tightening his study of the other man. He nods for the answer Fin gives. "I'm glad to hear that."


Not wanting to think about it anymore than he had to, Fin changed the subject. "I had a dream about m'Da."


The thumb that had fallen into an idle motion against the hem of his sleeve pauses. He lifts one brow, looking up. "Did you?"


"It was before yer last visit. But...I think it may ha' been more than a dream."


He looks between the other man's eyes. "What do you mean?"


"He...it felt real. As if he were truly there, speakin' to me." His thumb moved furiously against his palm, staring down at them as he spoke. It was difficult to put this into words without sounding crazier. After a deep breath, Fin continued. "He told me tha'...tha' he knew of all tha' had happened, before an' here." A lump formed in Fin's throat, brows furrowed together tightly. "Tha'...tha' he forgave me." Vision blurred with the tears that gathered but they didn't fall yet.


His jaw tightens the longer he listens, slight confusion giving way to an achy wrinkle softening his scowl. He doubts that it means anything less than the fact that despite Fin's avid belief that his father wouldn't feel that way, if he truly did know it all, deep down Fin wanted it to be true. Cris counts thirteen beats of his own pulse. "And what did you say?"


Chest and stomach tightened at the same time. Fin wanted to curl up into a little ball but the best he could do was drop down into a crouch to stem the nausea that started to take hold. Head bent, he held it between his hands with fingers threaded through his hair. "I tried to deny him," his head shaking back and forth. Why would he have done that? "He would no' hear it," his voice now a hoarse whisper. "I wanted to stay wit' him but he told me tha' I needed to come back." Fin's voice cracked on the last word, face crumpling beneath his hands. "I think I would ha' died if I stayed wit' him but I did no' care."


He can't explain the distaste he feels when he watches his friend sink before him. He does not want to be taller. He does not want to stand over Fin while he speaks of absolution like he does not want it but is finding it increasingly futile to try and carry on otherwise. Cris wets the crease in his lower lip as he pulls out of his lean against the window. Joins Fin in his crouch, looking over the strain in the other man's wrist under its tasteful ink. "Why did you want to stay?"


There was a great deal of sniffling but it didn't cease the tears the spotted the thin carpeting beneath him. "Because I did no' hurt!" he forced out, barely keeping the bile inside his throat. "Because he would be by m'side for always. I felt...peace wit' him, such as I have no' felt since leavin' Scotland." Lifting his tear streaked face, Fin looked at Crispin, searched those hazel eyes. "Why would he no' allow me to stay?"


He looks up past the bowed curve of Fin's spine to the door he'd come through. If they hadn't heard Fin wail the last time, they likely did not hear him now, or felt it unnecessary to do anything about it. He's glad for it at the same time it feels like the bubble of their privacy while Fin attempts to scale this wall of grief and agony will pop and shred at any moment.

Cris looks back when Fin lifts his head. Swallows for the question he can't answer. Does not want to, for his own relationship with death is more complicated than most. It had not stuck to him, the result of the efforts of several stubborn, tenacious people. It had not been up to him. It never had been, and he did not find himself wishing it different as often lately as he had immediately following his rise, but the damp pain on Fin's face fishhooks memory to the surface. He grits his teeth against it all, gulps it back down before he can get a taste of it.

He shakes his head, short ticks side to side as he holds Fin's eyes.


A curt nod before Fin's gaze drifted back down to the floor. Pitching himself forward gently, he waited until his forehead bumped against the wall beneath the window. Hands clasped over the back of his neck, bowed and curled to hide his face. "I do no' know wha' to do, Crispin." Now, he was quiet, more controlled, but there was a hopeless note. "They say they are helpin' me but I do no' feel better. I feel...trapped. They do no' beat me or starve me but this be a prison all the same." Except, Fin didn't know what to do about that, either, because he had a feeling he would feel trapped in his own skin anywhere else.


All it takes is a swift pivot to allow him to do so. He closes his eyes to the gentle thud of skull on wall. Resigns himself to a seat there to Fin's immediate right where he can feel the shape of the other man's lean shoulder touching his own. "Perhaps, then, it is not this place that is imprisoning you."


Quiet while he digested that, Fin finally closed his eyes to stop more tears from falling. "Where can I be free?"


Softly, he shakes his head where it rests against the wall. "First....you must identify where you are not. Your father gave you that peace, yes? Is there anyone else you feel will not grant you the same?"


"Ketch gave me tha' peace. No' completely, but..." He trailed off, sucking in a slow breath. "An'...yerself. Ben." People that didn't expect anything from him.


"Have we, any of us, done anything that convinces you we will not continue to do so?"


"No' yerself. No' Ben. But everyone leaves."


"And Ketch?" He turns his head toward his hunched friend. "Is that what you believe to be the origin of his disappearance?"


"M'Da left me in death, as did Madi...Salome. Helena found another she wanted to love more, as did Antonia. Calum an' Dair left me behind. I canno' understand why Ketch left this place but it does no' matter. He will no' be back here again."
_________________
[He] scares me because he has been the most miserable of all men, jailed & beaten and cheated and starved and sickened and homeless, and still he knows there's such a thing as love.
~Jack Kerouac
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PostPosted: Sun Sep 10, 2017 5:08 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Crispin - Part 2


Brows tug in toward each other, "Did you think the same of Shae?"


A mirthless chuff of breath left him, finally lifting his head and pushing himself back to sit on his ass, legs held curled in front of his chest. "I...I did no' think she cared for me beyond bein' the friend o' her friends."


He follows a seam of his gear with his middle finger. "What of me?"


A frown formed as he watched Crispin's finger travel over the fabric. "I did no' think ye would come back, either. An' when ye did, but ye would no' see anyone...I understood it but I dared no' hope tha' I held any sort o' significance to ye."


"And yet, still, you reached. Why?"


That was harder to answer. It took him a few minutes to put the words together. "Because if I were in yer place, I would ha' wanted to know tha' someone cared whether or no' I lived. I did no' want ye to feel alone as I ha' felt."


He nods. His hand falls back along his bent leg to rest on his belt. "Can you tell me, then, what part of that compassion and empathy deserves to be denied the opportunity for a good life?"


"Wha' d'ye mean?"


"This weight upon your shoulders, the one that drives you into the ground. I feel it on you now, still. You would not have dreamed of your father if it was not still there. Whatever things that you have done, Fin, whatever evils you have been a part of-----they are not who you are."

"What you've survived, it is not a punishment for crimes. It is a scar of a battle you chose to be a part of. Certainly, you paid a dear price.....but one is never given more than one can't weather."


His head drops, shoulders hunch. "It was no' a dream," he muttered as he stares at the ground. Fin knew it on unexplained instinct. "Tha' sort o' evil, ye canno' walk away withou' it taintin' ye. I carry it wit’ me."


"There it is," softly. Leaning forward, away from the wall, he reaches back to touch the center of Fin's chest. "Your prison is here. Not these walls, or these people."


Cris's hand came into his line of sight but he didn't move, let fingers touch his chest. His only response was to shrug.


"I told you the last time I came----that you must want to pull yourself from it, Fin. Else the efforts of those around you, no matter how fervent, will be for naught. That decision must be yours, and yours alone. I can't be made because you feel as though you should be making it, as though it is the right thing to avoid causing more pain to those around you. If it does not happen immediately, that is all right. You understand, yes....?"


A whispered Aye passed his lips but he didn't lift his head. There was a throbbing in his temples, pressure behind his gritty eyes. Both hands scrubbed over his face several times before they raked back through his hair. "I understand."


"I tell you this, Fin, because I have tried it the other way," he says, softly. "It feels right at first, yes? Soothes that ache that you are doing everything you must, but the motions will, sooner or later, catch up. The benefits, if there are any, will not outweigh drawbacks, and you will know everything you have known at the start, with the extra stain of the knowledge that you tried to delude yourself. You will wonder what it is you're doing. Why you find yourself waking up in the morning, or whenever your body decides it can no longer handle unconsciousness." His hands slips free of Fin's chest. "You will find it. You will find the reason why you are hanging on. For you did not survive what you have, you have not come this far, only to give up now. Your life means something. It means something to Lucy, to Benjamin. To Ketch, to Shae, and to me. To all of us. There may be times where we can not always perform at our best. But that does not mean you have lost significance. You understand that for others, do you not? It is the same, for you. It is the very same."


The delusional part of this story had gone on for the past two years, however long it had been since he escaped Stefin and landed back in RhyDin. More than he cared to admit, the illusion of happiness flirted with him and then pulled the rug out from under him when he grew complacent. This was all the motions catching up. "Wha' does my life mean t'ye, Crispin?"


Cris exhales, rubbing his palm down over his jaw. The tip of his tongue slowly wets the seam of his frown. For some time, he does not know how to answer Fin. He listens to the silence and the dust settle, his own pulse in the absence of a ticking clock for the red second hand glides smoothly around its face instead. He knows he must say something, or risk the misunderstanding that he cared very little despite how differently he'd professed the last time he'd come.

"Hope," he says finally, four minutes and thirty-nine seconds later. "When first we met, regardless of the circumstances, you radiated it. I felt it against me like some sort of-----enemy army, for at the time I did not want to believe it could still exist, at the same time that I did."


Not knowing if he should even expect an answer, the eternal silence dragged out and he wondered if Crispin was going to say anything at all. Why did he come here? Why comfort Fin if there was no answer to his question? A sinking feeling reached the pit of his stomach, every muscle in his torso tightening. A mild flinch affected him when Cris finally spoke. Then confusion won the day. "Hope? After Antonia?" Fin scoffed. "Tha' *** stole it from me."


"She may not have gone about it in the best way possible, but in situations like the one she was mired in, there is rarely a best way. Likely, your hatred of her was part of her reasons for doing it.

"But I spoke of it to you that night. Of the light that I saw in you. Light that does not mean weakness, but a malleable defiance against all the weight the world can put down. No matter if you see it or not, it is the way that you care for those 'round you in the wake of your own anguish, Fin, that makes it visible, perhaps, to those that need it, at the time."

"I wanted to protect you," he says, looking over from where he'd been giving his attention to the door. "Like I had not felt the desire to protect another living being in a long while. Like it did not matter that I had ample evidence to the contrary of my ability to even stand strong in the face of a threat that chose you as its target."


Crispin had him sighing, shoulders drooping. "M'Da said tha'. Tha' there were more here tha' I needed to help. Tha' they needed m'strength." It was spoken as an epithet, obviously not true. Weak was how he was seen in this place, how he was treated, and rightfully so. Even Crispin admitted it, in his own way, when he said that Fin should have protection. "Why did ye want to protect me so much? There be others in greater need."


"Had I the answer to that question, I would give it to you. Perhaps for the pain you felt, at the time. For the way I understood what it was to lose something that you wanted to badly to hold onto and not understand why it happened at all. For the way you questioned yourself, even then, your worth and the point of it all. It did not matter the origin of your state and mine, and how they differed. Only that I knew what it was to live with that pain, and want nothing more than for it to stop."


Heat rushed to his face but he said nothing to refute Crispin's explanation. "An' did ye? Make it stop?"


He shakes his head. "I came close to it, I think. Last year."


"Aye? Wha' happened?" Would he remember any of this, being a part of Cris's life at that time? Hard to tell.


Cris shakes his head. "It was not-----any one thing. I think it was a combination of things, actually. The length of time between my relocation to this town and my death. The people that I'd met, the experiences that I'd acquired. I learned that against all my hopes for the contrary, any desires I had to lock myself away from ever feeling that kind of loss a third time------I was right back where I started, years ago. Lonely. And despite all my better judgement, I found myself, slowly but surely, building a life here. Friends that I enjoyed. Proof that I could still yet live because I had not yet died, in light of all that I'd done to bring about the opposite. I became used to my life. Used to the faces I saw every day. I looked forward to seeing them. I would fight for them, with all that I had if I must, though it was not much. I was moving on."


Fin thought he was there a year ago, slowly starting to move on from the pain and the hurt. The forge was created, filling his days with a craft that brought him some semblance of peace, reminding him of his father with every fall of the hammer. Grief and hurt stripped it all away, taking him back to the same place he started three years ago when he arrived in RhyDin. "An' after ye died? When ye came back?"


He exhales a weak chuckle. "You remember it, do you not? At first, I did not venture out of doors for the sole fact that I was physically incapable of it. I thought that I'd suffered every pain imaginable during my incarceration, but the level of fatigue and weight upon my body once I was given control of it again-----" he shakes his head. "After that, I did not want to see anyone for cowardice. Silly, is it not. To hide from the very connections one seeks so avidly? If you possessed a dictionary-----within which was the definition for epitome of used and tossed aside, you would find a picture of me beside it."


One corner of his mouth twitched. "I think we could both vie for it. But wha' had ye afeared? Why did ye hide for so long?"


"When your ex lover literally ends your life for her own gain----you may have that honor," sharing Fin's smile. He shakes his head to begin his answer to the other man's question. "I did not want to see it."


Head canted to one side, shaggy blonde strands falling across his brow. "Did no' want to see wha'?"


"The aftermath." He could not remember the last time he'd talked about it. If he had at all. He may very well not have, for how foreign it all seemed to his waking mind. "I had no illusions of grandeur, no-----expectation-----regarding the marks that I left upon those that knew me. It was not that I feared what I would not find. It was the opposite. You felt the same, yes? The last time I came. You are not the only one who finds it difficult to reconcile your reflection, nor the only one to find pain where others only mean to give you comfort. I did not want to see it."


It made his heart heavy to hear that Crispin suffered a similar affliction. The Nephilim saved people, Fin didn't want to see him feeling that way about himself. "I am sorry if I made ye feel pain after ye came to see me."


Slight smile. Cris curls a loose fist and thumps it against one of Fin's bent knees.


That knee swayed toward the other with the force of the friendly fist bump. "How be Shae?"


He lifts his chin. Surprised for the change of subject, and he does not know how he feels about the new direction. "She's well," he says after a moment. "She feels responsible, as she is wont to do. Hers is a compassionate heart, as well."


A swift frown formed. "Responsible? For wha'?"


He squints at Fin, dubious. "What do you think?"


Drawing a blank, Fin stared at Crispin for a few minutes. "For...this?" gesturing to himself and the hospital.


"For the events that necessitated it, yes. Despite the fact that it was your decision. She did not want to see anyone hurt, she did not want to see you hurt, Fin, for a war that followed her, and should not have exceeded past her."


Shae's guilt inspired no small amount of wonder in the Scot. "Is tha' why she does no' come to see me?"


"Would you not feel the same if you felt you brought harm to a friend?"


He shook his head. "She did no' make me this way. She did no' torture me for years an' destroy m'mind."


"Nor do you drive those you love to abandon you. Some truths are not as easy to accept, yes?"


Fin had no answer. A grunt would have to do. Sighing, the Scot pushed himself to his feet, offering a hand to Cris. "I am sorry I continue to cry in front o' ye."


Snorting, he slaps his palm into Fin's offered one and lets the other man pull him up. Answers the apology with an open handed clap to his shoulder. "Think nothing of it, Fin."


Keeping their hands clasped, his other rose to cup the back of Crispin's neck. Keep him in place so Fin could lean to touch his brow to the Nephilim's. It only lasted a moment before the other man was released. "Thank ye, Crispin."
_________________
[He] scares me because he has been the most miserable of all men, jailed & beaten and cheated and starved and sickened and homeless, and still he knows there's such a thing as love.
~Jack Kerouac
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PostPosted: Sun Sep 10, 2017 5:12 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Crispin - Part 3


The warm gesture makes him feel half a foot shorter than he really is. He nods stiffly after Fin releases him, his half smile faring better. "I miss you. Fin. I miss not having to strip halfway naked before we can visit in this------" he looks around the room. Offers the other man's hand a last, firm squeeze, then lets it go. "But I would see you ready to see me, to see all of us, and not a moment before, yes?"


That hits him like a blow, knocks him short of breath for a minute. "I miss ye, as well," the words low, barely audible.


He smiles, and gives him a single nod. "Do you think they will allow for a non-staff escort out of doors?" gesturing to himself.


"Dunno. I will ask, aye?"


He gestures toward the door, "Let us both. I've still some time before I'm politely escorted back to reception."


It was difficult not to smile but Fin managed it. "Aye, we can. Dr. Leister will be 'round soon t'speak t'me, we can ask him then."


"What exactly do you mean by soon?" he asks, angling past Fin already. He reaches for the door and tugs it open, looking out into the corridor beyond. If he doesn't see the doctor, the nurse standing guard will do.


Dr. Leister is not standing in front of the door, only the male nurse sitting in a chair next to it. He stands when Crispin opens the door, a Nephilim and a Scot just the other side of it. After a brief conversation, they were given permission to go out into the back courtyard but no farther. He failed to mention that the courtyard was littered with one or two other nurses, chaperoning other patients. Ah well.

Now, at least Fin knew how to get outside, even though the nurse gave them directions. It was like he could sniff out the sunlight that slanted through the windows and follow it to its source. Wide windows flanked the French doors that led out onto the wide patio. It was enclosed by a low stone wall, along which ivy grew. The sun was high in the sky, summer warmth holding steady even as they approached the equinox.

Fin stood in the sunlight, closing his eyes and turning his face to the sun, an eager flower seeking the light.


On the way, he looks somewhat longingly at the reception desk where he knows his weapons wait for him in a plastic bin. He squints when they finally step outside, direct sunlight picking out the truth of dark hair, wet earth brown and not black as most lighting implies. As Fin warms himself, he looks over the others sharing the small courtyard with them. It's an improvement over the visitation room but it's clear to him that the space is still governed by the hospital.


One man close to Fin's age was nearly doubled over in a wheelchair, hands frozen in a strange rictus. A nurse sat next to him, reading softly to her patient. The pair languished under an arbor crawling with bougainvillea that provided spotty shade.

A small fountain resided in the center of the courtyard, filling the air with the light tinkling of water. On the far side of the fountain sat two women holding hands, a nurse reading a magazine a few feet away in a chair to give the illusion of privacy.

Fin led Crispin to the right, toward some metal patio chairs and matching table. One side sat under a canopy of shade, oak leaves dancing in the breeze. Fin chose the other side, wanting to bask in the sun like a lizard.


Cris lags a few paces behind Fin, brows pulling in for the way the man in the wheelchair sits frozen. The passage of his Sight from body to body means to pick out what he can about the other residents here, as he's done previously with every nurse and doctor he meets.


Though he's been out here before, it's the first time Fin hasn't had his own escort hovering at his elbow. If he blocked out everything else, it was like they were sharing a table at the inn or sitting on the roof of his forge. He picked up the conversation right where they left off, keeping his voice low so their conversation wasn't broadcast.

"Doctor Leister comes to see me after e'ery visit. He tells me it be to see how I be doin' wit' the visitors."


Joining Fin where he'd situated himself, he does not take the other chair but elects instead to perch on the edge of the table. Rests his left boot, at least, on the empty seat. "What sort of observations has he made?"


"Eh...tha' I still be allowed visitors." That was really it, seeing if the people that claimed to care for Fin were helping or hurting his progress. For the most part, Fin (now) looked forward to these visits because, as Crispin had so saliently pointed out, his problems were carried on the inside. As long as they continued to have a positive effect, Leister didn't see any point in restricting them.

"He told me tha' soon, we are goin' to be sittin' down together to speak on...m'self." Fin was a little nervous about it, shifting in his seat, crossing his arms over his chest. Wasn't sure how he felt about it and didn't know what to expect. That led to a low simmering anxiety.


Fin's continuation pulls his gaze from the pair of women at the fountain, both, like the mage in the chair, wreathed in wisps of Other that denoted them not wholly mundane. Ignorant to the world, they play a complex game of stacking hands to which only they know the rules. Cris looks over at Fin. "Is that something you want to do?"


Chewing the inside of his cheek, Fin was struck again with a ferocious craving for a smoke and the sweet release once the nicotine hit his system. "Dunno. I do no' know wha' he will say or wha' he will want me t'say on the matter."


"If it is what I presume it to be-----counseling," providing the word, "then he may simply want for you to be honest."


Fin frowned at the tree trunk beyond Crispin, watching as the dappled shadows danced and writhed with each rustle of leaves. "Honest abou' wha'? Have ye e'er had this counseling before?"


"Not in such a professional, sterile sense, but------yes. In a way. Any time one wishes to unburden oneself to another's ear for advice or simply for someone to hear their plight, it is counseling. It is not something I enjoy, but something I understand helps others in times of need."


"Wha' sort o' things d'ye think he will ask me?" Crispin's answer had soothed him somewhat but the idea of people poking through his memories and nightmares was discomfiting.


"I don't know," honestly. "I think that depends on what kind of man he is, and the compilation of what he's observed over your time here."

"They are meant to help you, Fin. But you are not obligated to answer anything you do not wish to."


A soft frown painted his features while he chewed the inside of his cheek. "I do no' have to speak if I do no' want it?" He thought he'd have to do everything he was told here, much like his last place of incarceration. "Will I no' be punished or put out?"


"These people are not meant to force you into anything against your will. You will not be punished for electing not to discuss something." He did not know enough about therapy, and abruptly wished that he did. "And in the slight chance that you are-----I am here all the time, Fin, and so is Lucy. Tell us, and we will take you from here."


Relief raced through him, leaving a tingle in his limbs. He wouldn't be stuck here if he didn't like it. They would come and get him. Brows furrowed, widened eyes turned to Cris. "Ye would believe me?"


He looks away from the two girls and their game at the fountain, "Is there any reason why I should not?"


Casting his eyes down to the table, callused fingertips trace the swirling lines of the pattern, thinking in the back of his mind how he would have done it differently. Lips rolled inward and he shook his head. No reasons he could think of.


His own brows pull in at the center. He watches sunlight streak through the wheat field of Fin's hair. "Then I would believe you. I would not leave you in a place where you were being harmed. Neither would Lucy. You know that, yes?"


The edge of his nail traces a seam in the iron; he could tell this was a later replacement, different from the rest of the metal. Welding left ridge on the underside of the curve. Fin would have done better.

A mute nod is Crispin's response, feeling shamed for doubting them. Their loyalty, their friendship, their existence.


Slight smile. He rolls his shoulders. Forward and back, easing some of the tension running the span of his upper back.


"How long d'ye think I shall need to stay here?" The question is quiet, making sure it doesn't carry beyond their small corner of the courtyard.


"That, I can't answer. You are responsive now, as you were not before, which is what led to your time here in the first place. I suspect that will have something to do with it."


"How d'ye mean?" Blue eyes rose on the wave of curiosity, traveling along the line of Crispin's arm to his shoulder, his chin, his ear, his eye.


"We could not reach you at all. You slept for a long while immediately following your rescue, but that was to be expected. After you awoke, however, you did not acknowledge myself, or Lucy. Fox too, I'm sure, for he's been to look after you.

"Do you recall when you told me you could not trust your own mind?"


Ah. That. Heat rose to the tops of his ears, started to bleed down the sides of his neck. Again, head bowed and eyes were cast to the table, fingers taking up the same routes as before. Trying in vain to think back and hold on to some sort of memory, he had to admit defeat with a shake of his head.


"That is part of it too. You were, for a mercifully short time, thank the Angel, in the hands of one who delights in wreaking havoc upon the mind. Distorting reality until it is no longer discernible from your worst nightmares. Your confusion was to be expected, as well.

"Once you prove to the medical staff that you have overcome those side effects, I do not think they will have any further reason to hold you."


Taking a second to mull that over, Fin chewed the inside of his cheek. "Wha' if I do no' overcome them?"


"You will," without hesitation.


Both hands scrubbed over his face, muffling a deep sigh. "Why d'ye have so much faith in me, Crispin?" Fin truly didn't understand the source of it.


This time, he can't answer right away. "Because I do not think you have any left for yourself. And because, at the moment, that is one of the only things I can provide you. Company, as well, such as it is. But you have done the same for me-----at a time when I could muster absolutely nothing for myself. And perhaps the simplest of reasons I can give is that I want to."


Strange to think that he and Crispin had reversed their roles; too alien to wrap his mind around it completely. Perhaps it was because Fin associated the Nephilim with calm strength instead of the poison seeping through his own brain, tainting every thought.

It was on the tip of his tongue to say that he didn't deserve it but they'd already had that conversation. One that Fin even remembered. "Christ but I would give m'***' arm to have a cigarette." Subject change at its best.


His terse confession sparks a sudden, quiet chuckle. "Do you know if that's something you are allowed here?"


"Eh, I have no' asked." In the wake of everything else, smoking had been the last thing on his mind. Now, the addiction roared to life until Fin was rubbing the spot underneath his collar bone. "D'ye have any tha' I made for ye?"


Another chuckle, softer this time. "Unfortunately, no. I've long since smoked my way through them. I have an abominable excuse for a cigarette, however, if you will not mind the blasphemy."


"I may be so desperate tha' I could be persuaded to ignore the garbage between m'lips." Cute the wry twitch of his mouth.


Half smile. He pries the poor, bent Marlboro from the front pocket of his gear, then the stele in his boot. He'd given up his lighter with the rest of the weapons that were not attached to an article of clothing. The ease with which he lights the cigarette with the device suggests he's had to do it before. Smoke curls from above the contact point between adamas and paper filter. Cris sucks the little sparks in to get them to catch, then offers the cigarette to Fin.


With a grateful nod, the smoke is accepted and put between his lips. It tastes awful, like burned ash and unpleasant scents that float in off the harbor. That didn't stop him from taking a long, slow drag until nearly a third of the cigarette had turned to ash. Fin's eyelids fluttered as the nicotine hit his system, a brief burst of relief. Itching a scratch that had been buried deep. Smoke trickles from him, loathe to release even that though his lungs protest. "***' Christ, tha' be better than sex." He chuckled and took another, brief lungful before handing it back over to Cris.


His smile spreads, light finding the color of his eyes below the dark awning of brows locked in a near perpetual scowl. He lifts his free hand, returns the stele to his boot. "Keep it, I've had my fill of sloppy seconds."


Fin canted his head, looking curiously to his friend. "Aye?" The cigarette stayed between his lips. No one came tearing out to rip it from his hands, not yet.


"Yes. Go ahead." His gaze strays aside to the crippled mage in the chair.


"Wha' be yer sloppy seconds?"


"It was a figure of speech, Fin."


Oh. To that, he nodded and kept smoking the borrowed cigarette.


It's easy to fall back into comfortable silence. He spent most of his life the same way, where the only things passed between him and those around was an air current and some dust. He's content enough to let Fin enjoy his cigarette, and the sunlight afterward, until they were ushered back inside.
_________________
[He] scares me because he has been the most miserable of all men, jailed & beaten and cheated and starved and sickened and homeless, and still he knows there's such a thing as love.
~Jack Kerouac
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PostPosted: Sun Sep 10, 2017 5:15 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Fin sat in a comfortable chair, ambient sunlight filling the room with an inviting warmth. Water trickled and splashed merrily in a small desk fountain but still it seemed quiet. Serene.

None of those things affected the Scot. His knee bounced of its own volition, the movement uncontrolled and manic. Fingers knotted and clenched together against his stomach, already tight and hard with anxiety.

A side door opened. Fin flinched, eyes darting in that direction. Dr. Leister appeared, a warm smile upon his lips in greeting. It did nothing to quell the fear of what was to come.

The doctor sat down behind a large desk that was kept tidy and dust-free. Sunlight warmed the finish, adding to the peace of the room. Leister opened a notebook and took up a pen, jotting something down before looking at Fin.

Finlay, it’s good to see you. You’re looking better every day, how are you feeling?

“Eh...alrigh’.” One shoulder twitched in an ineffectual shrug. Blue eyes were glued to the notebook, shifting his weight in the chair while considering all the different ways this man was judging him. The things he must think.

Dr. Leister chuckled softly. Are you nervous?

Hesitation marked his response. “Aye. I do no’...know wha’ ye want or wha’ will be required o’ m’self.” One dull thumbnail dug into the opposite palm while his knee continued its frantic dance.

Required? Nothing will be required of you here, Finlay. We want to help you. But you must realize that we can only guide you so far, you must also learn to help yourself.

He frowned. “Help m’self? How?” His stomach shrank and he shifted again.

What I am going to do here is give you tools that will help you learn to handle yourself, your past, and the resulting emotions so that they don’t control you. So you can move on.

There was that phrase again. Move on. Like he was supposed to forget what happened or forget the casualties along the way. He said nothing, chewed the inside of his cheek.

The good doctor settled back in his chair. All I want from you, Finlay, is to talk to me. We won’t discuss anything that you’re not ready to handle. I am going to try to build you up and get you to a place where you can think about the trauma without allowing it to hijack you completely.

That sounded almost reasonable but he didn’t know if it was possible. “Wha’ if...I canno’?”

I know that might not seem feasible to you now but if you’ll let me, I think we can get there together.

Fin wanted to believe him, he craved some sort of solution that would ‘fix’ him, but his past told him it wouldn’t be possible. That it would be a desecration of the memory of those he hurt. Hands wrung against each other but his head bobbed in a tenuous nod.

Excellent. To begin, we are going to talk every day at this time, no longer than an hour. If we need to change the schedule for any reason, we will discuss it together.

Another nod.

Do you have any questions for me?

His gaze roved the desk while he tried to churn out something, debating with himself. “Eh...wha’ if m’answers be displeasin’ to ye? Will I be punished?”

The doctor’s face softened. No, Finlay. No one here will punish you. I daresay we couldn’t do half as good a job as you have done yourself.

Though he disagreed with the opinion, still blood warmed the tops of his ears, his chin dropped to nearly touch his chest.

That wasn’t a criticism, merely an observation. Something else for us to work on together, hm?

He couldn’t do anything but nod mutely. The doctor must think him a simpleton.

I can see this is a lot for you to process so let’s consider this talk done for today and you can have the rest of the day to think of something you want to tell me about yourself. For tomorrow’s session.

Relief rippled over his skin, skin prickling in its wake. If he could control the topic, then he never needed to reveal his deepest shame. “Thank ye,” he whispered. Leister stood so Finlay mirrored him, hands shoved into the pockets of his cotton pants.

I’ll see you tomorrow.
_________________
[He] scares me because he has been the most miserable of all men, jailed & beaten and cheated and starved and sickened and homeless, and still he knows there's such a thing as love.
~Jack Kerouac
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PostPosted: Tue Sep 19, 2017 11:26 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Plus One - Part 1

Lucy brought someone along with her for her visit this morning. Which is why, unlike usual, she was waiting for Fin to join her instead of the other way around. She was seated on a bench in the back courtyard, the sun filtering through the trees, the fountain burbling pleasantly. She had Liath on a leash, but the lead was pretty well let-out so the dog could explore the area while they waited for Fin to arrive.


Fin pushed the door open, a nurse hovering a few feet behind. The nurse sat off to the side, taking a chair in the shade and pulling out his phone to give the illusion of privacy to the pair. No one else was out here - Fin assumed that was sheer luck.

Squinting in the sun, he spied Lucy just as a grey blur jumped into his vision. Paws pushed against his chest, hot breath and a slobbering tongue imposing upon his senses. It took only the space of a heartbeat for him to adjust. Taking a knee, Fin wrapped his arms around the wriggling mass of grey wiry fur that was Liath. She danced on her paws, eager to greet him after being parted for so long. Fin crooned quietly in Gaelic, scratching behind her ears and under her chin.


Lucy knew Liath had been missing Fin. She tried so hard to keep the pup active and entertained. But she could see the way Liath bounded to the door whenever someone arrived. And then the way her happy greetings were a little muted when it was anyone other than Fin. So seeing the way that Liath greeted him now, the two of them together. The way she loved him more than anyone Lucy had ever seen her with. Tears rushed to her eyes. Lucy looked down, trying to gather herself, then got to her feet, smiling as she moved towards the pair of them. "She missed you."


Both Liath's enthusiasm and her body mass had forced Fin backward until he sat on his ass, lap full of deerhound. There wasn't even space for a breath between the dog's shoulder and Fin's, but still she tried to squirm closer, sniffing his hair and neck, sliding her cool nose against his neck so that he flinched with the contact every time.

A faint smile and soft chuckle were his responses to Lucy. "Aye, I could tell." Blue eyes traveled up to her, squinting against the sun overhead. "How are ye?"


"I'm good." She smiled more. She felt like maybe she should tug back on Liath's lead some, but she didn't have the heart. "I missed you too." She was casually dressed for her visit like usual, wearing jeans and a t-shirt, her red hair in a loose bun.


Fin didn't mind it in the least, the way his dog tried to burrow into his skin. He pushed to his feet, Liath constantly butting her head against his hip for attention. Reaching over the dog, Fin pulled Lucy in for a hug. Both arms wrapped around her to squeeze gently. The dog tried to squirm between them but Fin ignored her for a second to greet Lucy.


Lucy hugged back, arms wrapped tight around him, breathing him in almost the same way that Liath just had, tucking her face against his neck and shoulder. She drew in a breath, then let it out slow before finally releasing her hold on him and starting to ease back a little. "Hi."


His chin remained tucked over her shoulder but he didn't stop her from curling around him and taking what solace she could. This wasn't easy for Lucy, she wore it in her shadowed gaze. Gesturing toward a chair in the shade, his hand landed on the small of her back to guide her that way. "How are things...out there?" He didn't know how else to say outside of the facility.


It was strange that being with him was starting to feel more normal, even a place like this. She walked with him towards the chair in the shade, careful to keep the leash out from under their feet. "Everything's alright." She settled into the seat, shifting her hold on Liath's leash. "Strange that summer is over."


The leash was eased from Lucy's hands. No one else was out here and even if someone joined them, she was trained off leash. Unhooking the little metal loop from her collar, Fin dug fingers into her ruff again while she wormed between his legs and sat on top of his feet. "Is it?" He glanced up to the sky, squinting through the leafy canopy above. "Has the equinox happened already?"


"Uh... I don't know." She laughed softly and looked over at him, her cheeks flushing with a hint of embarrassment. She never paid attention to that kind of stuff. "But it's getting cold now. Close the windows at night."


"Aye?" He chuckled again, glancing down at Liath, who stared up at Fin adoringly. Her mouth was open, tongue hanging to one side, and he couldn't help the way one corner of his mouth curled. "Ye think this be cold?" Fin was in short sleeves, the nights temperate to his way of thinking. "How be Martta an' her family?"


"They're good. She's good." Lucy's smile softened. She crossed her legs, hand brushing down her knee. "Pietr," her husband, "is going to surprise her with a get-away next month to see the fall colors in Yasuo."


"I ha' ne'er been there but heard many tales. I think she will have a grand time. Who will be there to make sure ye eat a wee bit?"


"I'll eat. You don't have to worry." She patted his knee gently. Though she didn't really have an answer to that question.


He only snorted and pulled Liath a bit closer. Her chin rested on his thigh, tail thumping rhythmically against the stones. "Ye will no' eat if no one be there to watch ye."


After a moment of thought, she looked over at him. "I'll ask Ben to stay over. Okay?"


He nodded, satisfied with that answer. "How long has it been since ye've ridden Dawn Breaker? Or visited her?"


She fell quiet a moment, out of guilt more than lack of memory. "Too long."


"Ye could take Liath wit' ye, she would love to see all the animals again. It has been some time since I ha' been to see Ruadh. Could ye let her know wha' happened?"


"I will." Lucy nodded, looking over at him. Then she reached for his hand. "How have things been in here?"


It would be better for Lucy to go out and stay at Ben's to soak up the comfort that was inherent in that home. His larger hand curled around hers, the other keeping to Liath so the dog wouldn't get antsy. "Eh..." Fin shrugged because he supposed that, all things considered, he was doing well but so many days didn't feel like that. "Better than they were."


"You don't--you don't have to talk about this, if you don't want to." She gave his hand a squeeze. "I know none of this is easy."


"It no' be tha', I merely do no' have the words to say it. I do no' know how to say the things tha' be floatin' 'round in m'mind. But I have been speakin' to Dr. Leister. He tells me tha' it will become easier eventually."


Lucy nodded. "Yeah." She took a breath, then let it out. "I'm sure it will too." Then she smiled faintly, wryly, and looked over at him. "I'm not a doctor or anything, but--"


Brows rose, waiting for the rest of that sentence. "...aye?"


Her voice quieted. "I have faith."


"In m'self or Doctor Leister?"


"In you." She looked at him a moment, then over to the fountain. "I'm trusting Doctor Leister to help you. But I know you're doing all the hard work."


"How are ye doin' wit' all this? I know tha' it...scared ye, before. Is that lad, Sean, still watchin' o'er ye? Have ye seen Shae?"


Lucy nodded, glancing over at him. "Sean comes to the house every morning. Sometimes he stays overnight." More than sometimes. She took a breath and looked down at Liath. "I probably--I probably don't need him there quite so much." But it made her feel better to have him in the house.


Lips twitched. Liath huffed and nudged Fin because his hands had fallen still. "Where does he sleep when he stays o'er?" Cue the side eye towards Lucy.


Lucy did not immediately pick up on the implication. "There's a little room there where he has the security monitors." She glanced over at Fin, then saw that look and blushed. She nudged him. "It's not like that."


"Why should it no' be like tha'?"


"He's--he's so much younger than me." Her cheeks flared up. "And he--he works for me."


"Does age matter so much to ye?"


"He's my employee." Firmly. Her brow furrowed. She looked over at him.


"He is a man, no' the job tha' he does. Does he look at ye?"


She blushed again, deeply. "I don't--I have no idea. I just--" She shook her head. "I don't look at him."


"Wha' have ye been doin' wit' yerself when ye no' be here, lass?"


"I spend time at the house." She hadn’t been doing much. "I've been helping Fox with--with the work he's doing on the carriage house."


"Carriage house?" Lucy was pinned with an inquisitive glance. "Wha' carriage house? Wha' are ye doin'?" Because he remembered when they worked on the gallery and Lucy had overseen the distribution of snacks. Was she suddenly sawing boards and hammering nails?


Now she was blushing again, seemingly out of nowhere. "The carriage house behind Shae's home. She's given it to him to renovate. So--so--I've been helping, a little." She lifted a shoulder in a half shrug. "I mostly just--just keep him company."


Brows rose again as he squinted, leaning in an inch or two to study her closely. "Keepin' his company?"


"Yeah." She glanced aside at him, then saw him looking so closely and leaned to bump into him. "What are you looking at?" A small smile played at the corners of her lips.


"I be lookin' at a woman tha' needs to take wha' be in front o' her. Have yer fun."


She huffed a laugh, her blush deepening, if that's even possible. "You make it sound like I'm desperate."


"No, I did no' say tha'. But I know tha' ye deny yerself."
_________________
[He] scares me because he has been the most miserable of all men, jailed & beaten and cheated and starved and sickened and homeless, and still he knows there's such a thing as love.
~Jack Kerouac
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PostPosted: Tue Sep 19, 2017 11:29 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Plus One - Part 2

Lucy fell quiet a moment. Then she lifted a shoulder in a shrug and looked down at Liath again. "It's not--easy for me."


"Wha' no' be easy for ye?"


"Being--open--to things."


Were he in better spirits, there would be a very lewd joke cued up but Fin didn't have the energy for it. "Ye do no' have to be anymore open than keepin' his company as ye are now."


"Yeah." She sighed softly. Then looked back at him. "So you think it's okay? Me and Fox?"


"I canno' think of any reason to object to it. It be between the two o' ye, nothin' to do wit' m'self."


Lucy looked over at him. "Your opinion matters. To me."


Fin snorted softly, doubling over to rub his nose against Liath's ruff. "An' if I did no' approve? Would ye stop seein' him?"


Lucy frowned a little. "I wouldn't just stop, but I'd hear what you had to say about him."


His lips twitched again. "Do no' fash yerself, sweeting. I do no' have anythin' cross to say about Fox."


"He asked me on a date." Lucy let go his hand so she could give Liath a scritch.


"Aye? Did ye accept the offer?"


"I did, yeah."


"Good. When are ye goin' an' wha' will ye be doin'?"


"I think just dinner." She looked aside at him.


He waited for her to answer the rest of the question.


"Friday." Her cheeks flushed a little.


"How d'ye expect the evenin' to go? Are ye lookin' ahead to it eagerly?"


"I don't know what to wear. I don't--" She sighed, giving in to the confession she'd had no one to share this with. "I don't know what to talk about. I'm so--I'm so uninteresting."


"I do no' think Fox shares this opinion else he would no' have asked ye, aye? He does no' spurn yer company."


"But everything we talked about before--they're all things that you're not supposed to talk about on a date." She twisted her hands together.


Fin paused, arching a brow. "Eh...wha' are ye no' meant to be discussin' on a date?"


"Past relationships..." She looked aside at him.


Both brows furrowed and he looked down at Liath. "Why would ye no' want to discuss tha'? Seems to be rather pertinent, aye?"


"I don't know." She sighed heavily, and then lifted a shoulder with a shrug. "It's just a rule of thumb. Don't--don't talk about your exes on the first date."


"Ye've no' had yer first date wit' him yet so ye have no' broken any rules."


"Yes, but then--then what are we going to talk about on Friday?" She seemed very anxious about this, twisting her fingers together, brow furrowed. "I can't--I can't ask him what movies he likes and--and we come from such different places."


He snorted and Liath followed suit. "Why can ye no' ask him wha' movies he likes? We," gesturing between the two of them, "come from verra different places, different times. Tha' does no' seem to stop us from speakin' to one another."


Lucy was quiet a moment, then conceded. "Yeah. That's true." She looked aside at him.


"Ye go out o' yer way to keep his company while his hands be busy. Ye be afeared o' sittin' down to share food?"


"I mean--we have had dinner together it just--" she blushed, embarrassed about her own anxiety, "--it wasn't a date."


"Wha' is changed by tha' wee word?"


"Expectations?" She lifted a shoulder in a shrug.


"Which o' yer expectations are changed by tha' word?" Lucy was no mind reader, she had no evidence that Fox was a passenger on this train of thought.


Her brow furrowed. She was stumped. She looked at Fin.


"So wha' ye be thinkin' in tha' head o' yers," lifting a finger to tap against her forehead. "Is tha' he will be wantin' different things now tha' ye be callin' this a date." That wasn't a question.


Lucy nodded. "Yeah." Then after a moment. "The song and dance. You know?"


Fin shook his head. "Tell me."


Lucy took a breath, then looked away. "You know, when--when you first meet someone you--you show them your best face. You smile and--and you make it seem like--like everything is good. Like your life is perfect and fun and--and light." She frowned. Her life was the opposite of light. In so many ways.


"Aye, but this no' be the first time ye ha' met him. Ye've battled together, supported each other in danger, grown close as friends. Does tha' no' erase yer fears?"


"Sorta." She lifted a shoulder in a half shrug. Then she sighed again.


"Why d'ye doubt his regard for ye now, but no' before? He would no' have agreed if he did no' ken tha' he finds ye attractive in more than one regard."


"It's just--" She sighed softly. "It's too late to do the song and dance."


"An' wha' does tha' mean to ye? D'ye feel ye've lost some opportunity to do somethin' differently? Make yerself bonnier?"


"I want--" She nodded. "--I want to be that Lucy again sometimes."


"How are ye different now? It be this Lucy tha' Fox has come to know an' wants to spend more time wit'."


"He just doesn't--" Lucy looked aside at him. "--he doesn't know."


The frown tightened, trying to figure out what the hell she was talking about. "He does no' know wha'?"


"The good me." She twisted her hands together.


"Ye think...tha' this be a poor version o' yerself?"


"Not--not bad." But not good apparently. She looked aside at Fin. "I'm not--how I used to be."


"How did ye used to be?"


"I don't know. I was lighter." She didn't know how else to put it.


Liath had calmed, content to lean against him while Fin's arms were looped loosely around her. The Scot stroked her neck and ears while distracted by the conversation. "Lucy, when did I come to know ye?"


Lucy's brow furrowed, looking away, out at the fountain. "I guess--I guess around when I was--when I was--when I was in prison." She still struggled to say the word.


"D'ye feel tha' was the best version o' yerself?"


"Not really."


"D'ye know wha' I saw in ye? I saw a woman tha' I had previously though' vain an' carin' only for herself, tryin' to righ' a wrong she had done. Tha' took bravery an' strength. Despite yer circumstances, ye were kind to me when I came cryin' o'er the wrongs o' tha' time. Ye offered me solace while ye were shut away in a drafty cell. I do no' know who ye think ye used to be but the woman tha' sits next to me now is someone I be glad to know."


Lucy sat there a moment, looking at him. Then she reached for his hand again.


Fin let his hand curl around hers again. "Do no' fash yerself. He has already seen yer mettle, 'tis wha' has him wantin' to see more o' ye."


"Yeah." She looked at him, then gave his hand a little squeeze. "Thank you. I've been--I haven't had anyone to talk to about this."
_________________
[He] scares me because he has been the most miserable of all men, jailed & beaten and cheated and starved and sickened and homeless, and still he knows there's such a thing as love.
~Jack Kerouac
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PostPosted: Tue Sep 19, 2017 11:31 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Plus One - Part 3

"Why have ye been keepin' it inside? Ye could speak on it to Crispin or Shae."


Lucy frowned a little. "Cris and I don't--we don't talk about this kind of stuff." Then she shrugged a shoulder. "And I feel weird talking with Shae about it."


"We did no' speak on these subjects until one of us opened up to the other. Crispin is...he cares. Verra much. He does no' always know how to show it or tell it. I have faith he would listen to ye if ye tried."


"I know." And she did. "He's been--he's been very good to me the last couple months." She wanted to say that it was more than she deserved. But then she thought maybe she did deserve it. Her brow furrowed.


"But some fear still be holdin' ye back, aye? Wha' is it tha' ye be so afeared of?"


"You mean with Cris?"


"Wit' Crispin, wit' Fox....aye."


"Well with Cris--I don't know--I don't think he likes to get too close sometimes."


A faint smile hovered at the edges of his mouth, hugging Liath close. Her tail thumped against the stones again but soon quieted down. "He does. But he be afraid of it, as well, just as ye are wit' gettin' to know others like ye want to know Fox."


"Yeah." She smiled faintly. "But I think--I mean--I think he'd be there if--if anything happened."


"He would." Fin spoke without hesitation. "I once though' tha' Crispin did no' respect me or care for me. I now see his carin' shinin' from him though he does no' know it."


Lucy smiled softly. Then she nodded. "I know."


"He has been a...source o' comfort to me here. He is the only other besides yerself tha' visits me daily."


"Every day?" She hadn't realized that. She knew Cris came nearly as often as she did, but she didn't know he'd been coming every day.


"Aye. He has seen me at m'worst an' still he offers himself to me. I..." Heat rushed to his ears, his hold tightening on Liath as he looked down at the ground. "When he returned after...after his ordeal, he would no' come out o' his home. I would send him messages o'er the phone, a wee video o' m'self speakin' abou' anythin' tha' came to m'mind. I asked him why he was bein' so good to me an' he showed me one o' those videos. He saved it an' showed m'own kindness back to me. I...I lost m'self an' was on the floor, pourin' out m'grief. He held me through it." Crispin Ashwood held someone as they cried.


She gave his hand a squeeze, watching him. She could feel her heart clench at the description. She nodded, and when she was able to find her voice again, she nodded. "He's a--a good man."


"One o' the best men tha' I know. Put yer faith in him, sweeting, he will no' disappoint ye."


Lucy nodded. "I will." Then she looked back at him and smiled softly again. "I do."


Liath was dead weight against his leg - Fin wondered if she'd fallen asleep or was just blissed out. He couldn't deny that he was happier with her here. Too bad she couldn't stay. "Is there any danger o' these people comin' after ye again? After Shae?"


"I don't--" Lucy looked aside at him, then shook her head. "I think mostly no, there isn't."


Nodding slowly, the gears in his mind turned. "Why d'ye no' go stay at Shae's home for a wee bit? Martta be leavin' on her holiday soon, Liath can stay wit' Ben. Ye would have Shae an' Fox to watch o'er ye."


Lucy shook her head. "I don't want to impose."


"I think Fox would be glad to have ye," his tone dry. "If ye say tha' ye be concerned, stayin' on yer own, Shae would have ye."


"It'll be a little--a little crowded there."


"Crowded? Tha' house be quite large."


"Fox said he sleeps on the couch." Her brow furrowed. She lifted a hand to tuck a loose strand of hair behind her ear.


Fin was sidetracked by his imagination, wondering if he slept in human form or fox form. Which was more comfortable? It would be a question he'd have to ask next time he saw the man. "Tell him to curl up at yer feet, he will no' mind." A faint smile tugged at one side of his mouth, keeping his gaze on Liath.


Lucy blushed a little and gave Fin a nudge. Then after a long moment, she looked aside at him. "I don't want to be there that--I don't like being there that long."


That drew a frown, turning his face to look at her. "Why no'?"


She smiled a little, even as her eyes welled. "Cause that's where I was when you were taken for me."


The frown eased, brow puckering. His fingers tightened around hers. "Aye, but ye found me again."


Lucy just nodded.


Fin's voice lowered. "Are ye still thinkin' on it? Wha' could have happened if ye had no' found me?"


She looked aside at him, then down at Liath. She didn't think there was a good way to say it. A way that might soften it, or keep it from having an impact. That she wasn't scared of what would have happened if she had not found him. That what had already happened was terrifying enough. That for a long time, even when she had him in her hands, she wasn't sure if he would ever come back. That even now she feared for him, worried for him. That she still wasn't sure if he was found. "Yeah. A little."


He could feel that something large was being held back but he didn't press the point. After a deep breath, Fin nodded and squeezed her hand again. "It shall fade in time, lass. One day, it will be forgotten."


"I know." She gave his hand a squeeze. Then looked over at him.


Didn't need to make eye contact to know she was looking at him, her gaze tangible against his cheek. "I can hear ye thinkin', lass."


She sniffed a quiet laugh, but then lifted a shoulder in a shrug. "Time. I just need to be patient. That's all."


"Wha' else are ye waitin' for?" It couldn't just be apprehension over himself.


"I haven't--I haven't really been feeling like working or anything." She looked aside at him again. "I guess I'm hoping I'll feel better soon."


"Ye've no' been openin' the gallery?" His frown reappeared, deeper than before. It hadn't occurred to him that just because his life was in limbo, so might hers be. "Wha' about the studio?"


"That's open but--you know--it sorta--runs itself."


"Wha' be troublin' ye, sweeting?"


She didn't know how to answer that. She sighed softly. "It's just--easier to not--to just focus on the things that are--you know--important. Being here, being with you. Taking care of myself. It's just--it's easier to do that."


"Are ye takin' care o' yerself?" the question tenderly asked.


"I do." She looked aside at him, then smiled faintly. "I try."


That meant that she wasn't remembering to eat or something along those lines. Time for a more direct approach. "Lass, I can feel there be somethin' ye no' be wantin' to say. It be an itch along m'back."


Lucy looked over at him. "I just--I don't want to--to go on with my life like--like everything is normal." Her eyes soft and earnest as she looked at him. "It's not normal. Not yet."


It took a few minutes of puzzled staring until he started to connect the dots. "Are ye sayin' tha' ye...do no' want to do anythin' because o' m'self bein' here?"


Lucy lifted a shoulder in a shrug. "It's--it's like I said. I can just focus on the things that matter."


Guilt gnawed at him, feeling as if his presence in her life was a stumbling block for her. Fin's stomach turned over. The arm around Liath tightened, threading fingers through her wiry ruff. "Yer life matters, the things ye do for yerself. Do no' fash yerself o'er me."


Lucy fell quiet for a moment. She looked over at the fountain, then back at him. She hadn't meant to put it on him, but she knew that she had. "I know it does. I know it--it matters. You're an important part of my life. I want to be here. This is--this is what I want."


The air around them tightened its grip on Fin, requiring more effort to breathe. A familiar churning in his gut pushed him to his feet. "Wha' I want is to no' be the reason for yer grief." A half turn and he dropped to one knee, pulling Liath in close for a tight hug. Fin muttered Gaelic into her fur and it seemed as if she listened. Fingers raked through her fur before he stood again. "I am feelin' a wee bit ill, I think I may lie down, aye?"


Lucy looked up at him. Then she nodded. "Alright." She knew she had been too honest. Done exactly what Cris and Ben told her not to do. She frowned and got to her feet. "I'll--I'll see you tomorrow."


The tension between them was his fault, he knew it, but he watched in helpless horror as it unfolded. Powerless to stop it. Wanting to somehow make it up to her, Fin pulled her into a tight embrace. "I love ye, lass," he murmured against her hair.


Her body softened against his, relieved at the embrace. "I love you too." She breathed him in for the second time that day, not eager to let him go. Then murmured quietly, "I'm sorry."


Her apology was like a blow and he cringed. Fin started to shake his head, squeezing her tighter, and then he stepped back. "There be nothin' for ye to be sorry for. I will see ye tomorrow." A tight smile cut across his mouth. "If ye could bring Liath again, I would like tha'."


"I will." She tried to smile too, tried to be reassuring. "Maybe we can take her for a walk." She didn't see any reason why Fin had to stay there in the courtyard rather than out on the grounds. "I'll see you tomorrow." She knew she was repeating herself, but she wanted him to know.


"Aye, tomorrow." The words were a little stilted, too focused on suppressing the urge to run inside. A tidal wave was about to hit, Fin didn't want her to be a casualty. Taking a step back, he turned and hurried to the door to hold it open for her.


Oh, he was waiting for her. She turned and grabbed the leash she'd brought for Liath, then patted her thigh twice. When Liath came to her thigh, she deftly clipped the leash to the collar. She knew Fin wouldn't like it, but she also wanted to be allowed to bring her back the next day. Together, the two of them stepped back inside and started towards the lobby of the facility.
_________________
[He] scares me because he has been the most miserable of all men, jailed & beaten and cheated and starved and sickened and homeless, and still he knows there's such a thing as love.
~Jack Kerouac
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PostPosted: Sun Oct 15, 2017 8:07 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

A voice sounded in the damp darkness, dripping with venom.
Pockmarks dotted the stone where it landed.
“You’ll be dead soon.”




“Finlay?”

A soft voice interrupted the grim tableau. Blinking, brows knit as blue eyes refocused on the face of Dr. Leister. “Aye?”

“I lost you for a few minutes.” A faint smile clung to the doctor’s mouth, an indulgent humor.

“Aye?” He frowned. “Eh...sorry.”

Leister dismissed the apology. “I’m more interested to know what you were thinking about.”

Immediately, Fin angled his gaze away from the other man.

“You know that you don’t have to answer if you don’t want to. But I strongly believe that if you don’t discuss the memories plaguing you, you won’t be able to move past them.”

Fin snorted, a bitter curl to his upper lip. “Move past them. I ha’ heard tha’ so many ***’ times but I still do no’ know wha’ it may mean. You want me to forget them, as if they ne’er happened.”

“No, that’s not what it means. Moving past something enables you to remember what happened without allowing it to destroy your present. It means making amends as you can and forgiving yourself for the things you could not control.”

Fists tightened until they trembled, capped by whitened knuckles. Guilt and shame fueled the sudden rage, his face mottled with it. “Amends?” The Scot’s volume rose. “Wha’ sort o’ ***’ amends can I make to the dead? To those tha’ were sold an’ still suffer? They suffer because o’ wha’ I did! They suffer because I did Stefin’s biddin’ an’ lured them off the streets!” On his feet, Fin didn’t even realize he’d risen from the chair.

Dr. Leister didn’t stir, only watched with raised brows from behind his desk. “What could you have done differently?”

Panting, Fin didn’t know where to direct his rage except inward, toward himself. “Anythin’,” he muttered, turning away sharply to stride toward the window.

“Anything? I find that difficult to believe, considering how much passion you have for the subject.”

Stubbornly silent, Fin stared out the window, arms crossed over his chest.

“So you did nothing? You meekly obeyed every order you were given? Never considered an alternative?”

“No,” he ground out. “I tried to shelter them. Hide them. Help them escape. Stefin twisted them against me.”

“How did he do that?”

Taut as a bowstring, Fin took his time answering. “Made it seem as if I had more than they did, treated better because I dare no’ cross him. Tha’ I was his eager pet.” His stomach rolled with the admission, the betrayal of it still stinging.

“Could you have changed any of those things? Controlled their perception or the things that Stefin said?”

Treated as a rhetorical question, he kept his back to the doctor.

“Then why do you hold yourself responsible?” Leister asked quietly. Again, Fin remained silent.

“Finlay, have you ever heard of something called survivor’s guilt?” This time, Dr. Leister didn’t wait for an answer. “When someone such as yourself survives a traumatic experience, they often feel guilt because if survived when others did not. It’s easy to look back and be able to see all the cracks in our story, places we went wrong, things we shouldn’t have said. What I would like you to consider is that you made the very best decisions you could have in that moment.”

Fin whipped around to face the doctor, baring his teeth in a snarl. “The best decision? D’ye think it was the ***’ best decision t’leave Scotland withou’ a guide? D’ye think it was the ***’ best decision to try an’ bury m’sorrow in haze, become addicted to it? Because those are the decisions tha’ led me to Stefin. I --”

Breathing hard, teeth ground together until his head throbbed.

“You what?” Dr. Leister prompted softly.

“I do no’ want to speak on this anymore.” Two long strides took him to the door and out of the office. The doctor watched him go, brow puckered with concern.
_________________
[He] scares me because he has been the most miserable of all men, jailed & beaten and cheated and starved and sickened and homeless, and still he knows there's such a thing as love.
~Jack Kerouac
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PostPosted: Mon Oct 23, 2017 11:53 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

When - Part 1

Monday October 16th



Lucy was late. It was a cool, rainy autumn day, and she arrived in a hurry, closer to the afternoon than her usual morning visit. She'd forgotten an umbrella, so her hair and the shoulders of her jacket were damp. She was dressed for work, kicky ankle boots, a pencil skirt, and a silk blouse. When she was let into the room to meet him, she was laden with items, her purse hanging on her elbow, a portfolio case on her shoulder, and a foil-covered baking pan in her hands. And she was downright breathless, but smiling. "Hi."


Fin stood at the window, his gaze dull and far away. He saw memories in the fog that hovered over the deep waters, shapes marred by the rivulets clinging to the other side of the glass. His breath further obscured a small patch in front of him, forehead resting against the cool surface. When the door opened, Fin twisted to glance over his shoulder.

Lucy was dripping with things, he didn't know their purpose or contents. There was an attempt at a smile but it failed before it started as his eyes bounced from one carry all to the next, then up to the pan. "Busy day?" he asked softly.


"I'm just running a little behind." She smiled still, despite the way she saw his smile come and go fleetingly. "I forgot to pick up my dry cleaning and my skirt needed to be ironed--" She started off-loading her items, leaning the portfolio case against the wall, then setting her handbag down on a side table, continually moving the pan from hand to hand. "--and I'm not that good at that, as it turns out." Life was perhaps unsurprisingly difficult for Lucy without Martta. "And I was trying to time my arrival so the bread would be warm, but I forgot I had to turn on the oven and not just set the temperature."


Lucy was a blustery autumn wind, the storm riding her aura, the air around her crackling. He almost shrank away but forced himself to take a step toward her, instead. "Have ye been goin' to the gallery, then?"


She nodded. "I haven't really been--you know--getting much done, but--but I've been going." She met his step with one of her own, moving the baking pan aside to lean towards him for a one-armed hug and kiss to the cheek, if he would accept it.


Leaning in to accept the kiss, fingers touched upon her arm but he didn't return the embrace. Instead, he pulled back and glanced down at the pan held in her other arm. "Wha' be tha'?"


"I baked!" She seemed proud if a little uncertain. Stepping back, she balanced the pan in one hand and lifted up the foil. It had been still warm when covered, and the lifted foil released a breath of sweet and spicy scent. "It's pumpkin zucchini bread."

The scent was on point. But there looked to be something not quite right with the rise, the bread sitting rather low in the pan. She looked up at him. "Do you want some? I can have someone bring us some plates."


Brows furrowed, staring at the revealed treat. "Zoo-kee-ni?" He sounded out the word slowly, unsure of it. Was that even a real word?


"Zucchini?" She looked surprised. "It's a vegetable actually but it tastes really good in desserts." Then before he could give her a face she scrunched her nose. "There's chocolate chips in there too."


The corners of his mouth turned up, a small twitch of motion. "Sounds delicious." He didn't reach for it, though. Turning, Fin headed back to the window to resume his position.


Since he seemed uninterested, Lucy recovered the baking pan and set it down next to her bag. "It's raining today." Which, he could obviously see as he stood at the window.


"I am glad tha' ye be goin' back to yer life."


"Yeah." Lucy watched his back, twisting her hands together. "How are--how are things going here?"


A reflexive shrug lifted his shoulders. "Well enough, I s'pose."


She sank to a seat at the edge of the little couch facing the window. "Is it--are you feeling like--like maybe you'll be ready to come home soon?"


Home? Where was home for him, now? Somehow, Fin had become a rootless drifter between worlds, cut loose from all that was familiar. "Dunno." Shoulders inched higher, curled forward. "Ye shall have to ask Doctor Leister."


Lucy sat there a moment, eyes on his back. Then finally she pushed to her feet. She moved towards the window, looking out at the rain a moment, before looking back to Fin. "I'm asking you." Her brow furrowed. "Do you want to come home?"


Closing his eyes, he tensed when she stood near to him, staring with the weight of her question and concern. It was a hand at his throat, squeezing the air from his lungs. "Dunno," he whispered against the glass.


Lucy searched his profile, drawing in a deep breath. Then she exhaled and turned to look at the window. "As long--as long as it takes. I'll be here--you'll--" She looked aside at him. "You don't have to worry about anything."


A yoke of guilt settled across the back of his neck, turning his face away from Lucy so she wouldn't see the strain. "Thank ye, for all tha' ye've done."


"You don't--" Lucy stopped herself mid sentence, "--you're welcome."


"Ye've been kind..." The soft words trailed off. He didn't know how to finish that sentence.


"You're my friend." Maybe it was kindness. It didn't feel kind. It felt like the thing she was just supposed to do. This was what you did for friends. Whatever it took. Whatever you had. Anything. Lucy reached out and gently touched his hand.


Her fingers sparked a flinch, shuffling away to the next window and away from Lucy.


Her brow furrowed. She watched him. It felt like they were moving backwards. "Is--did something happen?"


"Did it?" he asked over his shoulder, not quite catching on to her context.


"I just mean--" She shifted her weight. "--you seem a little--upset today."


Fury slashed through him, muffled just as quickly by the suffocating blanket of weariness that leeched his strength. A soul deep sort of weariness that stole his joy until it was just a dream. "Did no' sleep well," he mumbled.


"Are you--are you comfortable here? I can bring you sheets from home and--and things to make you more comfortable."


Fin swayed as his weight shifted from foot to foot, rolling one shoulder. He shuffled a few more inches to the left. "I am comfortable here."


He kept moving away, so she backed up again. "Have you um--" trying to find something he might want to talk about. "--have you had a chance to use the drawing stuff I brought?"


Shaking his head, Fin wished his dog was here.


Lucy nodded, shifting her weight. "I went to see Ruadh. Took her out for a ride."


"Did ye tell her?"


"I did, yes." Her brow furrowed. Watching him like this wasn't helping any. Lucy took a seat back on the loveseat.


Hanging his head, shoulders slumped though whether in despair or relief was hard to say. "Good. I want her to know."


"I'll keep visiting her." She twisted her fingers together to keep herself from reaching towards him again. She wanted to comfort him, of course.


"Good. Ye will have each other."
_________________
[He] scares me because he has been the most miserable of all men, jailed & beaten and cheated and starved and sickened and homeless, and still he knows there's such a thing as love.
~Jack Kerouac
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PostPosted: Mon Oct 23, 2017 11:56 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

When - Part 2

Monday October 16th



"I'm afraid I'm a poor replacement for you." Lucy frowned, fingers twisting.


Anyone was better, anyone at all. He didn't deserve this loyalty or love that she freely offered. Scratching at his neck, nails scored slowly over his skin, leaving red stripes in their wake. "She will love ye."


"She'll be ready when you want to come back to her." Lucy looked out the window.


Silence welled between them, pinpricks he was sure would be bleeding. "I..." Fin took a step toward the door, then another. "I no' be feelin' well," he mumbled. His pulse beat loud in his hears, pressure building inside his skull. The doorknob was cool against his palm as he wrenched the door open and slipped into the hallway.


Lucy stood when he started for the door. She took a couple hurrying steps in that direction, but stopped just before the door, staring at where Fin had gone out. She looked around at the room. At the things she had brought. The evidence of a life being lived without him. Her brow furrowed.


Fin didn't come back but after ten minutes, Dr. Leister poked his head into the room to see if she was still there. His expression showed sympathy. "Hello, Miss Mitford."


She had retreated to the couch again, just sitting there among her things, gathering her thoughts. When the door poked open, she looked in his direction. "Hi."


Shutting the door behind him, Dr. Leister moved to sit on the small sofa next to Lucy, sure to allow for space between them. "How are you doing?"


"He wasn't--he wasn't feeling well." The ten minutes had not done much to allow her to sort her thoughts. She felt like she had to explain why she was alone.


"What has Fin told you about his history?"


Lucy dragged in a breath. "I know--I know some."


"Let me ask, instead: how much detail has he shared with you about what went on during his internment?"


Lucy was quiet a moment. It was difficult to speak of such things. "He was--he was abused. And I think--I think he had to--to recruit others." She couldn't bring herself to use the real words. Lucy lifted a hand to tuck her hair behind her ear. "I know he feels responsible for the suffering of others."


"Has he told you specifically the things he had to do to others? How he recruited other people to this life?"


"Drugs--I thought." She looked over at the doctor.


"Did he give you details? The names of those he brought in, the orders he was given, things he said to the other slaves?"


Her brow furrowed. "No. Is that--is that important?"


"I think it's very telling. We have skirted much in-depth conversation of that time but as we start to get closer, he has withdrawn more. I believe that his guilt is so great that he can't see beyond it. The more we try to convince him that he isn't responsible, the more he digs in his heels. If we are to break through this self imposed isolation, I think it is safe to assume that he will fall back upon old coping mechanisms until he reaches the point where he no longer needs them."


"What does that mean?" Lucy was struggling to follow.


"I think you should prepare yourself for some bad days, as well as the good. It won't be a straight progression up, his path will be rocky. I hope you don't see it as a failing when those days happen."


Her brow furrowed. She looked down at her hands. "But he was doing so much better before." She got to her feet, pacing towards the window. "He was--he was doing so much better before." She looked back at the doc, her tone turning harder. "It's been months already!"


The doctor smiled sympathetically. "If issues of the mind were as easy to mend as a broken bone, there would be no need for me. Unfortunately, it's much more complicated than that and with the amount of trauma that he has experienced, it may take some time to lance the wound completely, so to speak. Some days he will be much better, other days might be worse. These are triggers and fears that he will always have to deal with. We can get him to a place where he no longer reacts in the same way and is able to handle himself calmly but that doesn't mean they will ever stop being an issue for him."


She turned to look out the window. "Am I here too much?"


"You shouldn't think of it as too much or too little. Fin's progress has everything to do with what is inside him. I think that your being here every day is good for him, to remind him that people care for his well being and are invested in him helping himself."


"Today it sounded like--like he didn't think he would ever leave here." She turned to look at him. "Like he was happy to know life was going on without him."


"As I said, there will be bad days. He bears a large burden of guilt for his past and while it's self imposed, he can't see anything but that."


"Well--well how much time are we talking here? Like--is--is he going to be here for a year? More than that?" Lucy shifted her weight, arms wrapping around herself.


"I wish that I could say but each patient is different. Frankly, I'm amazed that he made it as long as he did without something more serious happening. It also depends upon the effort made by Fin."


She pressed her lips together. Looked back out the window. "You know--" she looked back at him, "--considering how highly recommended you came, you have surprisingly few useful answers."


His expression didn't change. "I know this is difficult for you, it always is for the friends and family. I wish that the mind was a more straightforward matter and I could give you all the answers you seek but all I can tell you is to have patience. This will take time."


Lucy sniffed in frustration. She shifted her weight, looking out at the window again. Pressing her lips together once more. "Would you let him out of here? I mean--would it be alright to take him out for the day sometime?" She looked aside at him. "I think he'd like to see his horse."


Leister's brow furrowed gently. "I would like to see him make some more progress before that point but I will consider it." He hesitated and then continued. "Have you thought about seeing someone, yourself? Recovery takes its toll not just on the patient, but those that love the patient."


"I'm--I'm fine." Lucy moved towards her portfolio case, lifting it up on her shoulder, then moved for her handbag.


Rising to his feet, Doctor Leister offered the same sympathetic smile. "Please think about it, if you find yourself at a dead end. For now, keep coming to see him, I know that he enjoys it."


Abandoning the pan of bread she had baked--such as it was--Lucy just nodded to the doctor and headed for the door.


Moving to pick up the bread pan, he trailed after Lucy to leave the visiting room. It was time to have his visit with Fin.


She signed out at the desk like usual, and disappeared back into the rain.
_________________
[He] scares me because he has been the most miserable of all men, jailed & beaten and cheated and starved and sickened and homeless, and still he knows there's such a thing as love.
~Jack Kerouac
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