Oz Never Did Give Nothing to the Tin Man


deckard_icon.gif francois_icon.gif

Scene Title Oz Never Did Give Nothing to the Tin Man
Synopsis Common experience yields little cause for anything but awkward conversation between two former hosts of the same ability.
Date February 3, 2009


There's a section of America printed out in squiggles and numbers on crisp crinkling paper where the fold lines are no guide at all towards sealing it up without awkwardness. It'll be a couple of hours before it needs to be consulted, as much as men don't need directions, but it's been a long time since Francois has driven from one country to another, particularly these two. Folded as much as it will allow, it's stuffed between them with a wedge of Louisiana, a lot of white space and long highways.

Francois had bought something of a one way ticket to Mexico, if neglect counts as intention. While he had never counted on driving back to New York City with Flint Deckard, he also never counted on going back to New York City. So he'd asked.

"We'll be in Mississippi in an hour," was the last thing he said, and they're closing in fast on said state.

The last time he was in this area, it had been the peak of summer and sweltering. Right now, it's not so cold that Francois hasn't cranked open a window as he drives, rested back into his seat and sick of long roads. Maybe the ability to age has made him more impatient — this never bothered him before. He lets out a sigh, brushing his thumbs over the knobbling indents of the steering wheel, the backs of his hands white as ever and uneven. One is fine, the other something of a mess, knuckles distorted and making the sit of his fingers strange too, a pulling scar between index and middle finger. At least Deckard isn't on the side with the partially missing ear.

The further north they go, the colder it gets. Apparently not one of those overly concerned with global warming or the ever fluctuating price of gasoline these days, Deckard tends to ride with his window down and the heater on close to full blast. Hot air cancels chill wind with uneven breaks for changes in direction. Currently he's slouched his long face tipped towards the door, bridge of his nose prowed against the wind under sunglasses too dark for the cloud cover stirred a smooth and uniformly dreary shade of grey from horizon to horizon.

The wind kicks ash back off the cigarette he has poised slack in his hand rested in the window frame. They're going fast enough it whisks sleekly along with the car's envelope rather than directly back into his long face.

He's in a brown leather jacket and jeans. A dark Lynyrd Skynyrd shirt that nearly saw the end of the world once. Boots. A crinkled bag of cheetos and a plastic bottle of rum vie for space between his knees.

He has not been good company.

Nicks and scrapes mar the near ridge of his cheek and brow; there's an oddly uneven cast to the stubble shaded in around his neck where the part that caved in a few days ago is struggling to catch up. Bandaging crinkles under his shirt when he adjusts his rest against the seat; he scratches at it and checks his watch. It's been thirty-six and a half minutes since the last time he checked. "Do they have running water in Mississippi?"

"Oui. Among other things." One hand is taken off the wheel to rub rough fingertips over the shadow of one eye, forcibly blinking both shut and open again and letting the long road ahead double back into focus. It's been hours, and hours is a long time to have an apology on the tip of one's tongue, and certainly makes for an awkward road trip indeed when it seems to block the flow of natural conversation otherwise. Deckard isn't helping. The head-hallucination version of the Frenchman had been chattier.

And unburdened, at that. The pouring of wind through the open gape of the window roars down the left side of his head, flaps at his jacket and the shirt beneath that. Sorry for shooting you in the chest, it was a necessary evil. "There is a stop I want to make," Francois says instead, shoulders rolling beneath denim. "It is not too out of our way, I don't think, but if you would prefer to continue without me, I can understand."

It probably doesn't help that Deckard doesn't seem the type to be overly interested in apologies. No more than he is most other forms of conversation. Especially in this car. Especially in this car with Francois after all the shit that's happened.

Cigarette returned to a worn out sit at the corner of his mouth, he pulls himself in a few degrees from the window and smokes, irritatingly ignorant of the fact that the haze has a tendency to linger in rather than out until the wind stirs it just right. It stinks. And he coughs. A lot.


To news of a stop, Deckard gives no indication that he's heard. A lazy reach for the map between them might qualify as an ambiguous response if one stretches. The /clack/ of his knuckles against the radio dial to turn it on along the way is easier to interpret as a crude cockblock to talking about Francois' vacation plans.

The only response the radio gets is a flicker interruption in blinking, mouth making a line and nodding once more to himself than his roadtrip companion. Even the cigarette smoke hasn't gotten a rise of complaint from Francois — it's not his car, anyway — although he does wrinkle his nose at the fresh acrid haze of it filling the cab along with staticy radio music and the crinkle of map paper.

"You knew me, in the desert." There's a second spent after these words where Francois glances at Flint, as if to make sure he did actually say that out loud. Perhaps the fact he doesn't have yawning silence desperate to be filled is what prompts him to speak now, voice competing with the tail end of a news report and all the zoomy sound effects that accompany radio transitions. "Is that why you don't talk?"

Crinkle. Scuff. Crinkle. Flint gets the map partway open and turns it over, right side up. There's Texas, there's Arkansas and Louisiana. There's Mississippi. He tips his sunglasses down his nose with a bob of paired fingers to squint at the highway they're on, then nudges them back, shoulders restless in their stiff sit against ancient, worn out leather. He folds the map back over again, bored or satisfied or otherwise apathetic. Rather than put it back where he found it, he flops it lazily onto the floorboard and crinkles a hand into his cheetos bag.

"I hallucinate sometimes."

When chosen carefully, honest answers can occasionally serve to deflect from the truth, and in finding his cheetos bag empty, Flint holds it out the open window and lets go. It flags and flutters all orange and foil as it scraps along the pavement in their wake.

"You hallucinate me sometimes," is the subsequent conclusion, spoken out loud without expectation that it'll carry the conversation currently limping along. Francois keeps his green eyes focused forward, dulled out by the low sunlight that seems to make everything a variation of grey, including the ramshackle little rural buildings that zoom by and the duller rural setting mapping out around them which only translates to negative space on the map now fallen among Deckard's feet.

Francois is envious — he could use a drink too. "I don't know you," he feels moved to point out, a glance down at the plastic bottle of rum Deckard still has pinned between his knees, but doesn't ask, just dreams of handing over the steering wheel and using gas money for liquor at the next stop they make.

The absence of confirmation one way or the other is confirmation in itself. Flint hallucinates Francois sometimes, it is true. At least, he did. Whether or not he will continue to remains to be seen. Hopefully it's the kind of phenomena mainly relegated to having a psychic parasite. Also, alcohol withdrawal.

Sleep deprivation. And drug use. Sometimes. This mental list of potential is longer than Deckard originally imagined it might be and he sighs, smoke filtered in a tattered stream from the corner of his mouth. He looks as tired and grey as he does undeniably alive; restless tension works stiff in his hands and through the sullen knit of his brow and hollow jaw. "I know."

A casual flick of longer fingers turns the radio back down — not all the way, because even Francois can admit that tinny music underscoring silence makes it less so, but quieter. He checks the heater, too, while he's there. Not because it's necessary but he's started preferring warmth over cold. Ultimately, he leaves it be. And talks, whether Deckard is interested or not. A journal is just as apathetic to pen scribbles on its pages. "I didn't hallucinate. Not entirely. Stranger dreams, feelings, but I was not interested in waiting to see if it would get worse. I think. To our detriment.

"I'd been planning to die, in Antarctica, and then again when I found you. There are things you stop caring about too much when that becomes your aim, comprenez-vous? People's feelings, for instance — Abby and Teo. Yours, also."

He clears his throat, gone scratchy from chilly air and cigarette smoke, and then lets that be punctuation to stop.

"I've gotten used to it," says Deckard. Flatly. His right hand is still out the window, long fingers splayed into the airstream rushing cold alongside the vehicle's beaten exterior. This is what still being alive feels like. He has had enough to drink that philosophy occurs to him before he can quash it back down into the icy mishmash of things that comprise him that he doesn't like to think about or acknowledge.

His grizzled hair is long enough now to ruffle with the change in air flow that follows the wiry crook of his arm, dark glasses as unfeeling as the hard slant of his mouth when he flicks the spent cigarette out to bounce after his empty bag of cheetos. "People change when you have something they actually want. More than your company or loyalty or sex. Or love."

If Francois were really a hallucination— supposedly, Deckard could blink and find himself behind the car after all and wake up to the knowledge that this is all a dream, that maybe the physical version of the Frenchman had collapsed into so much ash and whirled ahead in the desert noon with purging, healing light flickering through it like lightning in the stormclouds — he might be angry, in a projected kind of way where anger seems like an accurate reaction. That this is what Deckard took with him, after everything.

All the lectures. Threats. This one just smiles a little. "Of course they do," he mutters, glancing out his own window before shutting it, sealing off the blow of wind, bringing that hand back up to ruffle over his own scalp, fingernails harsh and coarse before its set back down on the wheel. The one with ruined knuckles stretches to ease their ache. "You operate very differently?"

"I dunno," kind of sounds like 'Yes.' Deckard pushes his left hand up over uneven stubble growth, tracing the chapped line of his mouth in its way up to sink under his glasses into one shadow-bruised eye socket. "Maybe all I want is loyalty, or trust. Or sex." Funny how sex comes last when it usually trends towards the top of the list of things he wants. Not with Francois, obviously. He is a man. Also, French.

Of course this is what Deckard took with him after everything.

"I thought I had worth," he says after another pause, still rubbing his eye — it must itch or something. "I thought I had earned it. Then, with the ability — with you — I had tangible value. Real meaning. People wanted that. Teo, and Abigail. The Vanguard. People I hardly knew and one or two that have tried to kill me." His hand falls into his lap again and he presses back into his seat, rum cap unscrewed through a croupy cough. "I sound like a hippie."

"Just a little drunk," is meant to be reassurance, smiling managing to filter into his voice until it fades once more. It's not the reassurance Francois could be offering, like about worth and what Abigail or even Teo would want. Despite having kicked up talk enough to pry some words loose from his travel companion, he's unhelpfully silent, jaw set shut and eyes determinedly forward on the road. To say that driving usually relaxes him is a lie — he's stated in journals before that it's when he's in between places that his mind goes into overdrive.

There's a sign that goes by that Francois barely notices. The crossing over a state line is without fanfare or particular interest and works only to jog his memory as to why he's here.

Just a little. Deckard sighs, long and deep and slow and with only a hint of a cough muffled out through his sinuses. The cap is turned over once in his left hand, then again at a roll. "Sorry." He even sounds kind of sorry when he says it, which is nice of him.

That he drinks from the bottle and doesn't once offer to share isn't very nice, though. Once again he recaps the bottle without nudging it over onto Francois' side of the car. Maybe it's because he's driving.

He's quiet after that though, one hand wound around the bottleneck and the other easing back into a rest across the windowsill.

He is driving, and now Deckard is exempt from driving a few sips of rum ago. Francois gives a small shrug, dismissing it, and lapses into the steady silence that had held them for the majority of the drive from Antigua to where Louisiana bleeds into Mississippi. After that, they'll just have to be their own designated drivers, but until then, Francois doesn't offer complaint and only rests his head back against the seat.

The radio turns to fuzzy white noise, and is subsequently switched off. It won't be long 'til Jackson.

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