A Question of Trust


benji_icon.gif nora2_icon.gif

Scene Title A Question of Trust
Synopsis Nora is a reluctant envoy between Calvin and Benji.
Date March 17, 2011

Pollepel Island

The ramparts this night do not boast a beautiful view, thanks to the thick gray clouds that cover the canvas of sky and a cold wet fog rolling across the water that obscure the shoreline across the way, but it's not the view Nora's here for — rather, she's here for the quiet that allows her to listen to the sounds unheard by others, and to listen for any voices calling out to her.

She could do so from the comfort of her own bed, but now that it's no longer brutally cold just to breathe the outdoor air, she has taken to sitting on the roof for a couple of hours a night — if only to get away from the claustrophobic sensation of so many souls in so small a space. The open sky and the panoramic view help to quell that the world is a prison.

If only just.

Tonight, there's no voices calling to her, so she surfs and glides from song to song, from voice to voice, an eavesdropper but not a participant. Her arms wrap tightly around her knees in the little niche she's found to sit in, a hood covering her head and fingers tucked into her sleeves.

Eventually, she is joined by another.

Benji doesn't have a radio on him. Or a cellphone. Or much of anything save for layered clothes against the chill, his identification in a slender wallet in his pocket and ever present, a piece of silver jewelry that's currently hidden beneath sweater and home-knitted scarf both, the dorky blue tassles getting fidgeted with, wound around his long fingers as he approaches. He emerges from the inside of the castle, into the elements-exposed courtyard, the fire drum with its blackened insides currently free of flame, and doesn't immediately get within personal space of her, hovering awkwardly with the mouth of the stairwell black behind him.

Picks his way a few steps closer, in small, mincing steps. "Hey," he finally offers, to get her attention, always that strangely nervous, awkward tone where someone wants to be noticed but at the same time, doesn't. "Someone said you were looking for me?"

She looks up just as he speaks, caught more by the feel of someone near rather than from sound or any shadow, and she is up on her feet in a fluid motion, a flash of white teeth for Benji's presence.

"Hey!" she says brightly enough, though there is a slight grimace of nervousness given what she was hoping to talk to him about. "Like hours ago… we've been like ships in the night or something, huh?" That and she's postponed this conversation for a few days.

Nora moves past him, to go lean against the stone wall and peer down at the world below as she chews her lower lip thoughtfully. "You talked to Calvin lately?" she asks abruptly. There's no artful segue into this conversation.

Between friends, artful segues don't have to be necessary. Benji certainly doesn't seem offended, moving towards an ivy stricken wall to pick at a loose tendril of flora, let his hands wander over chilly leaves, toy at its cling to brick and brethren. He doesn't tell her where he was, letting that part of the conversation trickle by without explanation — not sensing he needs to deliver one, and maybe the fact he looks slightly sleepy indicates he was snoozing without him needing to put it in words.

"Calvin? Um. No? Should I have?" isn't sarcastic, but genuine, a line of worry crinkling through his forehead, though he keeps clear blue stare on his own hands, half-turned from her.

The misty water and gray sky make for a boring and monochrome view, so Nora's eyes flit back to Benji, up to his eyes and then down to the ivy leaf in his fingers. Less gently she plucks a leaf of her own from a vine, something for idle fingers to contend with.

"He didn't say when, so he might have been speaking… you know, generally," she says with a shrug. "And it was a few days ago." The last is added with another grimace, since it's possible she should have brought it up sooner.

Dark eyes dart back up to seek blue, and one hand comes to tuck a strand of dark hair, beginning to curl from the damp air. "He … I don't know. He seems stressed, a bit?" she says hesitantly. "And he asked me to tell you to be…"

The words sound wrong even as she says them, and she tips her head curiously toward Benji. "… nicer to him?" It's more of a question than a statement, and her eyes are appraising as they seek his reaction.

Of course Calvin hasn't sounded like himself. Stressed is— n't the best word for it, perhaps, but along the same vein. It's why Benji asked Nora, as long ago as it was, to maybe take note of such things over her nightly conversations with the man. Check in. Make sure all is well. And so therefore, it's standard stuff— expected, almost— right up until that last point. A nasal exhale communicates disbelief, his gaze turning sharp and swift to lock Nora within it.

Leaves tear off vines accidentally when he swivels himself to face her, torn flora pinched between fingers. Blink blink. As tensely indignant as a bow string. "Nicer? Huh." A musical waggle of fingers rids them of mutilated leaf life.

"What else did he say?"

She chews the inside of her lip as she studies the leaf in her hand before tearing it and letting the two ragged halves drop. "Not a lot. He didn't want to talk about it," Nora says quietly, honestly, though she does leave a lot unsaid. Like the fact Calvin told her to be careful, to watch her back, insinuating Benji wasn't to be trusted.

Her brows knit together and she looks up at Benji, shrugging a shoulder. "He said … before I came back here … he's having mental problems, so he might be imagining things," she says quietly, cheeks coloring a little regarding the context of that discussion. "Could be drugs, alcohol. Another day, another mood, he'd probably laugh at himself for saying such a thing." Her dark eyes sweep Benji's face with worry.

"Do you think he'll be okay?" she asks a moment later, voice softer with worry.

His focus on her pries after whatever might be hidden, as if he didn't want to talk about it is a veil to lift back and see what it hides, but it never manifests into words. Listens instead, with puzzled neutrality, a polite but quite definite blink in the wake of mental problems, and then her swift dismissal. A smile, then, at question. Uncertain. "I don't know how often he laughs at himself, but I have no idea if he'll be okay," Benji says, his voice light. A little aloof.

Hands lace together, shoulders curving up to shrug. "I think he can take care of himself. I think he's independent. I think I'd be more worried for the people around him before I start to speculate how okay he is. Just be careful, Nora. Maybe— "

Another shrug, fidgety, and Benji tosses his attention out for the dreary horizon, as loose and aimless as a fishing wire cast out for chance. "Maybe give him space?"

Just be careful. Benji echoes Calvin's words to her, and she twitches her head in a slight shake at the irony of it.

The suggestion of space earns him a narrowed-eyed glance and a derisive snort as she steps away from the wall, closer to him in order to move past him. "Whatever his problem is, it's not because I'm crowding him," she says coolly. "He has more space and time to himself than most of us. So if there's a problem, it's not because of lack of space."

He might have hit a sensitive spot.

"Anyway, just passing it on," Nora continues, tone falsely neutral. "I'd say I'd keep an eye on him but then I'd be crowding him, wouldn't I."

The teen keeps moving, head tipping down so her dark hair swings forward to cover flushing cheeks.

Nora's path for out goes unimpended — as malleable as a grass stalk in the wind, Benji shrinks slightly against the wall to allow her passed, even if a troubled, watchful stare snags on the movement. Tugs him around on a heel-centred pivot. These young things. Usually Howard leaves with just the right amount of energy that if Benji contempated setting his claws on the young man's arm, he might find himself electrocuted and over the side of the rooftop. Nora's quality is different.

A crashing wave, a river, that clasping human hands don't have a chance at steering. But one may follow, and Benji does, for a few paces. "I never said you were crowding him," Benji points out, lightly, letting his voice navigate at a ponderous wander. "Just you." Head tilts. "Did you want to talk about it?"

She walks a few more paces before stopping, and waits a few more beats, a few more breaths, before answering. "Do you," she says softly, pivoting to turn and look up at him, "ever feel like we're undoing who we are by being here? We're a product of so many factors… factors that don't necessarily make sense here. That don't work right here. I don't mean physically but maybe mentally… maybe it just doesn't work right."

A shuddery breath is taken and she looks away, shaking her head. "At least not for him."

It's not what he meant, and Nora knows it — it's an evasion maneuver and she knows Benji's astute enough to fill in the gaps. "I feel like I'm losing my best friend," she adds, less evasive, before she turns her eyes back on him. "You don't trust him?"

"Oh, is that what's wrong with Walter?"

It's a weak joke, and weakly delivered, arms limply going out before hanging again at his sides, Benji's brief smile waning with concern. There is a distracted, icier quality to his stare — something more internal, evaluation of Calvin's claims as filtered through Nora, but he isn't here. "I— well. That's something he and I need to— " Words stall out, stammer into quiet, predictable blush rising before Benji huffs out a sigh, and it's cold enough for it to be a visual puff of white steam in the air. "No, I don't trust him.

"And I'm suggesting you give him space to give yourself some space. The only thing wrong with Calvin is— Calvin." There's an edge of gentle frustration, enough that Benji would probably rather he didn't voice it at all, but. Nora is asking for truth. Via hard questions.

The frustration and honesty are met by Nora's head tipped in curiosity, her eyes narrowed in concentration. Her brows dip for a moment but then she nods. Once. Twice.

"Fair enough," she murmurs, tone a little flat though not angry. "Just… I don't want you two to fight," she adds, the flatness rounded out with a little bit of a plaintive whine, sounding a little like the kid sister she doesn't want to be seen as.

"Help him, okay? I'll leave him alone but I don't think being too alone is good for him." The wind ruffles her dark hair, pulling strands into her eyes which she shoves away impatiently. "Even if it's not good for me to worry about him, I do."

Hands worry together but little else about him is very passive. Eye contact is direct. Voice quiet as ever but firm. Shoulders square. There is a touch of frost at her insistence but it's not argued with, Benji growing silent and still. Eventually, there's the gentle quirk of a half-smile, minimal, breaks some of the chill. "You're very sweet," he tells her, like an observation, with something unspoken as its undercurrent. "And I'll do what I can. But I can't make his choices for him.

"Or keep his secrets forever." A blink's time passes before he adds, his tone teasing even if his words are to be taken as sincere; "I trust you."

Sweet earns Benji a roll of the eyes, but Nora smiles all the same and offers the hook of an elbow as if to escort the man back inside. "There's too many secrets," she murmurs — even if she's kept some of Calvin's to herself tonight. "Let's get inside. The fog is making my hair fat," she says teasingly.

And perhaps a consolation for bothering him at all: "I'll let you do my nails." They're not in as bad a shape these days, thanks to the fact she doesn't have to trail a hand along stone walls to guide herself through the castle's hallways.

Inevitably drawn into the castle by escorting arm and offers of beauty therapy, Benji doesn't reply from when his eyes flickered over the sentiment of too many secrets. The similar argument he'd had with Howard in this very space seems to echo off the walls, as sharply felt as the young man's absence, and so when Benji cuts a smile to her, it's anxious and forced and unfortunately she can see now. But his arm tightens around her's, and he let's her walk him away instead.

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