Yours To Give Away

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deckard3_icon.gif francois_icon.gif

Scene Title Yours To Give Away
Synopsis Who knew losing your mind could be this educational?
Date September 5, 2009

Somewhere In Manhattan… Supposedly


What time is it? Deckard doesn't even know. No clue. Not even a guess. The face of his watch smears pale past hour and minute hands too slivered to focus on against the blue and pink light cast off the bar sign he just got pushed out into the street from underneath. The door swings shut at a rush after him

The lock turns; the sign dies at the flick of a switch. …There's someone still cursing him on the other side, too. Asshole.

His time-telling efforts thus pitched into a hopeless gradient of shadow between light pollution and the lurid orange glow creeping over his shoulder from the nearest street lamp, he's left to baffle after what time curfew was last time he checked all by his lonesome self. Left hand scuffed up hazily over the back of his head, he keeps it there for longer than he should, blearily fascinated with the bristle brush buzz and its texture against splayed fingers.

He should probably go home.

Home is where the heart is, conveniently also it has locked doors and comfortable flat surfaces to fall asleep on until dawn or later. But home is about to become a long way away, because it's only recently fall, and it's beginning to snow.

It falls like dandruff at first, tiny little white specks in the air buffeted about by the slightest of wind changes; random patterns of drifting. It graduates to a different simile, and starts to fall like ash, thickening the air with white. If Deckard should look up to see where this early Christmas is coming from, he'll be treated to the always pretty sight of thin snow dancing down from the black sky. It touches his skin like tiny pinpricks of ice.

The world is already coated in white and slush. That was fast. Beneath snow fall, buildings have apparently melted to resemble some other town— some other landscape entirely. There's a tree when there wasn't a tree. It's much colder than it was a minute ago. Neon light doesn't play off ice particles, because there's none of that anymore.

There's the sting of something wet and cold on the back of the bare hand Deckard's busy using to initiate the beginnings of a particularly sad and alcohol fuzzed Herbal Essences commercial — familiar, if out of place in…time of year, mainly. He studies his hand rather than the sky, slow on the uptake until a chance glance off to the side registers the whorl and drift of delicate flakes on the wind. Soft and slow at first, then thicker. Clumpier.

The last breath of warm air he's taken to holding furls out over itself in a noxious fog of whiskey vapor and stink, slow to expand in the no man's land between bafflement and resigned exasperation.

It's close to curfew. And it's snowing.

He turns his snow-dusted, scruffy head sideways enough to peer at where the bar stands off to his side, only to find that the 'stands' is actually more like 'stood.' There is no bar.

It's close to curfew, it's snowing, and he's lost.

The shadows are starting to thicken, to gain definition in the way the snow shapes it. There's black brush, leafless, struggling out of the white blanket of snow, and then thicker trees, and also lights in the distance. There's civilisation, somewhere uphill, but otherwise as far as the eye can see, there's snow, trees, and—

Something moves. A scrape of leather against bark, and the silhouette of a particular thick tree trunk breaks apart to reveal that somewhere between Deckard and village lights, there's another man making a staggering path. Towards or away is anyone's guess, at first.

It's close to curfew, it's snowing, and he's lost in a forest.

Contrary to something as simple as sanity, Deckard stands oddly still, resolved to quiescence as the world and warmth he knows hazes away into black bark and white snow drifted thick around his boots. As far as nightmare landscapes go, this one seems pretty peaceful so far — but there's no hiding the way he stiffens and bristles against the scrape and stagger of someone else moving through the dead brush and deader weather up ahead. Fear rings in around his eyes with paranoid, animalistic clarity. He hunches in on himself, head ducked and face long against the cold and the strangeness that he was doing a pretty good job of pretending to be okay with up until a few seconds ago.

Boots slip in ice and snow, and a pale hand snags out to grip a low branch. Closer, coming closer, and with that comes details. Dark hair is plastered to a high, pale forehead, and jacket of leather is pulled around a huddled torso as legs work. Eyes are twin points of glimmering moisture, and he's long since seen Deckard before the time it took Deckard to see him. There is also a sway to his step. Deckard, perhaps, is not the only one who's been drinking.

There's a sound that Deckard will know well. It's the scrape of metal, a sharp click, and then an arm goes out as the man moves closer, braces his free hand against the trunk of a black tree. The revolver, a heavy thing of silver and black, is aimed towards Deckard's chest through the snow. "«Why are you following me»?" The words aren't English - that sibilant smooth assortment of syllables could never be English.

Deckard understands it perfectly.

Upon seeing that the man is just a man, Deckard relaxes enough to resume being all 6'2" of himself at something more slouch than cower. Adrenaline backlash lingers on after his initial jolt of fear has corroded to nothing, chilling clear at his his eyes and in the rapid puff and fade of air forced out through his sinuses.

Curfew, snowing, lost. Now he understands words he doesn't know for the second time in a week. There's no stopping the downward tug of disquiet at the corners of his mouth and around the hood of his brow and neither transition reads as particularly friendly or charming, what with his jaw slung simian and forehead shortened by the virtual absence of wiry hair to balance them both out. The buzz of his hair is thuggish — the beard growth struggling to catch up maybe even moreso. Nevermind the fact that he's standing alone calf-deep in snow in the woods in a grey business suit. A shiver rails up his spine only to be forcirbly quashed out between his shoulders. He has armed robbery written all over him.

"I've been thinking of killing myself," he tells this guy who may or may not actually exist, "but then I thought it might be easier to find someone to do it for me.

"Also, I don't speak French."

Armed robbery, perhaps, in another era. But then, snow and trees pretty much stay the same no matter when the hell you are, and it's dark enough that a generic jacket, pants, boots hold reasonably the same timelessness when age is measured only in decades. Francois All├Ęgre says nothing, as if perhaps he, in turn, does not speak English. Then, a wry smile, and a chuckle that sounds wet from sickness, if nothing worse than what walking through the snow will bring.

"«If you are looking for death, you walk in the wrong foot steps. The cold will do that for you, if you wish.»"

The gun is lowered, but only enough to point itself at the snow between them. There's a skittishness to the other man, suspicious beneath his brow, but no longer willing to shoot the man because of it.

"You don't speak English," realized in a tone generally reserved for things like realizing you forgot to buy milk at the grocery store five minutes after getting back home, Deckard closes his eyes.

When he opens them again some twenty or thirty seconds later, he's still here. In the cold and in the snow. So is Francois.

"What do you want?"

By the time twenty or thirty seconds have passed, gravity has drawn that revolver down, down, down, until it hangs limp at Francois' side. Skittishness has drained away, a confidence in the square of his shoulders and a searching expression on his clean features, a small smile at the corners of his mouth. Which isn't to say he's not cold - he's probably even colder than Deckard. He's been here longer. Way longer.

"«It is a bad time for us»." That's not an answer to Deckard's question. It's an answer to one that hasn't been spoken. "«But not so bad we'd wish for death. No one does, not even those who achieve it. That is why there's so much to be done. I think it's why it is so tiring.»"

He takes a step back, the crunch and snap of snow sounding impossibly real. "«Come with me. Please. That is what I want.»"

Fingerpads already burning their way towards no feeling at all against cold air and the dampness taking hold through the sleeves of his suit coat, Deckard doesn't look overly inclined to go much of anywhere. He's gaunt and dissociated, unfocused eyes raking dull through the surrounding landscape in search of a cord to pull or a button to push. But the trees are trees and the snow is snow and the Frenchman is a Frenchman. There is no escape hatch.

Left without options, for all that Deckard doesn't complain much lately, he's mastered the art of projecting an absent kind of misery in the slope of his shoulders and avoidance of eye contact. He was going to go home and go to sleep. Work in the morning. Early.

When he finally resolves to start after Francois, it could well be in hope of escaping the cold or finding a mattress at the end of this rainbow. He's quiet in his compliance, boots creaking over and through snow that's too loose to support his weight at the surface.

Francois' smile widens a little, perhaps out of a need to encourage, before they're both moving, side by side, through the winding trees and the spiralling snow. The Frenchmen affords the American some quiet, and every look up from trhe trudging of boots through the snow is met with the promise of hospitality. "«We are somewhere between Kaluga and Moscow, and a long way from both, at least on foot. Even further from home, I think, for the both of us. It will take me some time to get to America, and longer to see New York. I'm not one for the bigger cities.»"

Steam whips in and out of his mouth, breathless as they trek. Everything smells of ice and water, but at this range, Deckard may detect the scent of whiskey from his traveling companion. "«But I find myself there all the same. I have less time to think there. When you put so many people in one space, they start to break against each other.»"

Something invisible abruptly slams into Deckard's shoulder, and for a moment, a city street cuts obscenely through the unlikely forest. Someone who wasn't there before but is now scowls, and a voice complains like it is coming from a long way away over a dodgy radio line.

By the time Francois lifts a hand to steady him, the forest is back. "«Careful. The ice.»"

For lack of anything better to do while the snow sinks in jagged starts under the crush of his boots and the cold starts to eat its way down into his toes, Deckard listens. "Nobody thinks in New York," is an unflattering generalization to make, particularly when it's laced with cold gravel and damp grit cementing itself into his sinuses. "«Even the people who did don't anymore.»"

Then he's jarring sideways, shoulder snapped back and torso turning with the force of blunt impact. The world lilts — the street fades in, orange and familiar as the expression on a face scowling into the aimless lift of his breath through air that tastes like winter. He's still looking back after it once it's faded, path winding and paranoia leeching distracted at his forward progress when he brushes Francois' offending hand off his side.

"I think I'm sick."

Francois hesitates, studying him with a furrow making a ladder in his brow, as if assessing this claim of sickness. Finally, he says, "«I don't think I could make you well again. That's yours, now. Your talent. Your…»" He trails off, blankly, before twitching a glance forwards again. He draws in a breath of air and ice, sniffs once, wetly. "«Come. You can be sick later.»" He starts to walk again, as the only guide to the only source of light, everything else darkness and chill. For that reason, he appears to trust Deckard to follow.

"«I do most of my thinking between places. Between the big cities. This thing I have— this thing you have— it takes a piece of you. Breaks it into pieces to give. It leaves you tired for a reason. And there are so many people. You don't like them much, do you? Sometimes, I don't either.»"

Francois leads, Deckard follows. Can't feel his nose or the jut of overlarge ears away from grey and dusty brown anymore. His breath is thinner too, fast to fade against the black as his body temperature crawls down towards a closer parallel to below freezing conditions that he can't possibly be experiencing.

"It doesn't fix the things I need it to," seems like a dismal thing to say even among all the other dismal things he's said, but he doesn't stop walking when he glances back over his shoulder again. There are only trees.

"They don't like me," isn't much better. "I don't even get along with all the imaginary French people I meet."

That gets laughter. Breathless, sore laughter, but there it is, too quiet to justify the way steam curls around his breath. "«I'm not imaginary. No more than memory is imaginary. You, Flint, did not create me. The other way around would not be accurate either, but less wrong than that.»" Eventually, there's a beaten trail. It seems to appear beneath their feet without warning, the forest ground clearing into cobbled group and paved lines, even with the slush and the dirt and the ice.

"«My name is Francois. You should talk more. If you cannot talk to your own imagination— »" And his eyes crinkle a little in silent mirth, though he keeps his gaze forward and chin ducked against the cold. "«Then who can you talk to?»"

Deckard doesn't care for that. The laughter or idea that there's something real about this. To this. His nose rankles and his fingers block up into fists ill-crafted by stiff joints and burning cold, one rising out of its set at his side to push itself up after a leak under his nose. He looks away, too — slate eyes scraping over slaggy ice and snow gone grey with filth on either side of the cobbled path scraping slick under his boots.

"You just said you weren't imaginary." Pause, scrape, scuff, scrape. "I dunno what to talk about."

Probably a pretty common problem with him, but at least he looks back over at the Frenchman when he says it, gaze honest and expression at a loss. "Nobody calls me Flint."

"«It's your name. My apologies.»" The smile he gives Deckard is a little bit apologetic, and a whole lot of tired. "«I suppose I am a little imaginary. This is not how it went. How it goes is something like this: I walk on my own for a long time. It doesn't get any warmer. I do not talk to you or even myself. So we walk now, something that is a memory and a dream or perhaps neither. Our own devising. And I suppose this is where you learn something of value.»"

Francois brings a hand up to his mouth, curls his fingers, coughs into it in hacking, sickly jerks, though his pace doesn't slow as he does so. "«You could tell me what you like to be called, and talk about what it is like for you. To share this burden. And then perhaps I can share what it was like for me. It might help, it might not.»"

"Flint's fine." Not objection then. Just vacant observation clouded with fuzzy lines that look like worry etched in deep around his mouth. "Why are we walking? Why not a car, or…" he looks Francois over with doubt casting around behind everything else, "a unicorn." Who knows. He looks forward again to mark the path ahead, evasive in the face of the other things he's supposed to be talking about.

Folding his arms across his chest isn't enough to keep the cold from knifing into healthy pink that was charred tarry and black not all that long ago. "People need me, now. Or they think they do. I undo everything from broken arms to bullets in brains. Make people functional and whole. They always say 'thank you.'" Dialogue muttered cruddy and coarse against the gunk finally clagging its way down into the back of his throat, he trudges on at Francois' side and is quiet for a time before he picks up again. "At first I helped them because Abigail helped them. Now I don't know."

Francois nods, once. Flint's fine. Good. "«Or you do know.» And that is why you help them." The switch to English is abrupt, and isn't thick with accent as it would have a right to be. Formal, gentle, not quite American, but clear and practiced. "There is value in life. Even during bad times, it is a knowledge that is a part of you. And like all knowledge, it shapes you. It leaves its mark. It is not a bad thing, I think.

"Flint." His slow trudging comes to a halt, his head canted to the side as he regards the other man. Snow has peppered them both in its minute white crystals, trapped in hair and stubble and the collars of shirts, and Francois brings a hand up to ruffle through his own rather raggedly cut locks to free it of the ice, before his hand dips into his jacket.

From a deep pocket, he works free the leather bound book, small but thin paged and tied shut. Snow hits its cover and melts, thanks to bodily warmth, leaving tiny specks of water that do nothing to ruin the leather. "A long time from now, I will give this away. For now, perhaps it will be worth more to you than a few coins will be worth to me."

Already flat mouth twitched sidelong against talk of the value of life the way it always does when people try to preach to him about anything important, Flint manages to avoid rolling his eyes. Too glum. Not enough energy. Maybe he's right. Avoidance closed in around his shoulders and the harsh angles of his face makes his reasoning difficult to read past a furtive glance up at the sound of his name.

Snow has an easier time settling once they're still. He ignores it — frowns down in silence at the offered book instead, arms still folded stiff against his chest to buffer the thin fog of his breath.

He lets them fall slow back to his sides after a moment's consideration, but doesn't reach to grasp at damp leather or
flat-pressed pages. "None of this is mine."

"No," Francois agrees. "It isn't." He doesn't retract the journal despite the cold air nipping at his bared fingertips, his nails slightly blue beneath the veneer of bone at the ends of them, not to mention packed dirt, though there's no trembling when there could be. "It wasn't Abigail's either. It wasn't mine. But it is also not yours to refuse. Someday, it may be yours to give away."

His arm extends out a little further, blinking once, slow, an earnest gaze fixed on Deckard's face that doesn't flutter or start-stop despite the snow that gets caught in eyelashes, the cold that stings eyes. His face is about as pale as the ashy substance, eyes dark and imploring. His smile becomes a little crooked, and he shifts his weight from foot to foot, as if to put some warmth back in them, when he adds; "That time is not now."

Why not? And how does he know? The only skepticism Deckard can muster is dull edged and short-lived — directed at the journal drifting patiently in the space between them rather than at Francois. Doesn't matter, though. He can feel dark eyes imploring and earnestness and crooked smile without having to see them and none of it stands to make him feel any less cold.

He takes the book. Quick and clipped after the fashion of a drug transaction taking place on an open street.

"I wouldn't get my hopes up. About any of this."

The journal is tugged free of a loose hold, quick enough that Francois' hand ends up drifting between them for a short moment before reeled back in, tucked beneath an arm for warmth, and finally, a shiver racks his body. "«I will not and can not.»" Useless warmth, French again, in his voice, for lack of anything better. "«But perhaps you should. It would be good for you. When there is nothing else, there is hope. If you think I am wrong— well.»" He shrugs. There's nothing more to say, not here.

Francois steps away, a last smile delivered as easily as he'd pointed the revolver what seems like a long time ago, before turning his back and trudging back up the path, leaving Deckard alone with the journal still slightly warm in his hand.

"«Optimism breeds disappointment.»" Deckard's personal philosophy on hope is as predictable as his philosophy on whores or drinking. Or drinking with whores. Francois' last smile is fended off with a scowl, warmth failing to find purchase on ice that's clouded dirty and opaque through the core of Flint's person. All the way up to the clarion blue of his eyes, still muzzy with the after effects of a buzz that has been killed several times over in the last few minutes.

He stays where he is when Francois moves to go, ghastly grim and gaunt in the snow with a book in one hand and the other stinging numb and cold at his side. Eventually he scrubs at his nose again; looks off sideways. Scratches his head. "Theeere's…no place like home."

If anything, the snow agrees, and comes down a little harder. There is no place like home. This is no place like home. Deckard is left with very much what he started with - darkness and ice and trees where there shouldn't be. No Frenchman, this time, to point guns at him, and even the lights in the distance seems to have vanished. Snowflakes come down like so many elipses.

And all at once, with an unfair abruptness that does not bookend the gradual descent into maaadness with which this journey began, Flint is looking into a hazy reflection of himself. The glass of the window in the door is a little grimy, and though he does not hold a book in his hand, his fingers are hooked around a doorhandle. The noise of near-curfew traffic and general New York ambience, which did not see so noisy before, comes crashing around his head. A siren is going off somewhere.

It's not cold anymore, and the antique bookstore which he stands in front of does not belong in a Russian forest between Kaluga and Moscow.

There's nothing in the way of surprise on Deckard's face when he doesn't seem to go anywhere. Falling snow is taken in with a patient brand of tired dismay, brows tilted up and face long for the sink of every wet flake into his collar and down the back of his neck.

His fingers are too stiff to do much with the book — a glance down after them and it leads to nothing. It's when he looks up again that the world falls away around him, one last damp breath huffed out in a startled blast that vanishes into warm air before it attains substance. The reflection he's level with is wild-eyed and deathly pale, cold sweat glistening in a sheen across his brow and through coarse stubble. Of greater concern is the ruddy stuff drying into a sluggish, sticky drip under his nose and blotched across the hand and sleeve he's been using to wipe at it.

"Ungh — dammit," is his hoarse response to this and everything more generally, that same hand lifted to paw rough at his nose while the hand he has at the door pries at the handle. Someone on the opposite street corner is staring at him. There's a siren.

In he goes into the murk, shoulders bumping past the frame a little too hastily for him to be sober. Or sane. Both.


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