A Warrior's Hand


adam_icon.gif joy_icon.gif skye_icon.gif

Scene Title A Warrior's Hand
Synopsis They are always stained in blood.
Date April 12, 2019

Ferrymen's Bay

Under a rare moment of cloudlessness, a skinny cigarette boat skims the ocean as it jettisons away from New York City.

It is headed in a predetermined direction, helmed by someone operating out of Ferrymen's Bay, given enough money for both their competence and their discretion, and he's keeping an eye on the horizon, and a little bit the two figures who have chartered his vessel. Ku Dalei is also watching the horizon, and the surrounding waters, and his ward sitting ahead of him, all at the same time in the way his senses are keyed to alertness even as he sits with only the poised tension of someone unused to little boats like this. Every time it skips against a chopping wave, his hand tightens against the edge, and he casts a vaguely accusing look at the white guy helming the rudder.

The second is Skye Archer and they are not looking towards what they expect to see on approach. Instead, they sit backwards and watch, with a feline fixedness, the mainland gradually shrink, that broken trash heap of a skyline, the way all city sound is gone so quickly. Though it's warm, out, the slicing wind compels them to huddle within their coat. Some of their hair is caught safely in the collar — the rest whips and tangles freely.

"There it is," says their companion. Mandarin. The boatman doesn't seem to speak it.

Skye doesn't reply, but takes a big breath in, having heard and understood. They bring their knees up, wrapping their arms around, as the motor of the boat dies down. Instructions are yelled over head. A rope is thrown, so as to reel the boat inwards towards the much larger vessel, sitting like an iceberg in the blue.

Now, Skye finally breaks their focus on the city, and looks to their guard; "Nǐ xiān zǒu."

Dalei goes first, then, climbing up the necessary few feet to hoist himself up and over. Skye waits until they hear his two feet connect on the deck, before turning, bony fingers gripping onto silver rungs, long wrists flexing. Reaching for assistance, upon reaching the edge.

A familiar hand not belonging to Ku takes hold of Skye’s wrist. Tanned against Skye’s pale, but of not dissimilarly delicate bone structure. Joy is possessed of a strength that defies her small frame, helping Skye up with one arm and a fond smile painted across an often stoic facade. Today her name matches her demeanor, and her wind-whipped hair creates dark horizontal banding where it crosses her face.

“He's in a good mood,” Joy says, a shared concern among the passengers of this old yacht. The commander — but not captain — of this vessel can often be as tempestuous as the seas it plies, and the two women who live aboard the ship with him have long since learned how to negotiate those waters. Siobhan is nowhere to be seen, however, so it is merely Joy to greet Skye.

“He's also expecting you down below,” Joy indicates, only then disengaging her hand from Skye’s and even that seems reluctant. Briefly, her attention squares on the boat that ferried Skye and Ku here, and her pupils momentarily dilate before the cigarette boat captain excused himself and his ship on a return trip to the mainland that he will have no memory of. “Would you like company?”

As Joy's hand slips free of Skye's, their own hovers in the air, fingers flexing, blue eyes set in a middle distance of inward thought. Enough that there is a lapse in conversation as they fall silent, mouth parted as if on the cusp of saying something.

And Ku is moved to say, in his halting accent, "I wouldn't say no." And smiles white.

It's enough to spur Skye into response, drawing their hand inward and smoothing the front of their coat of thrift store tweed. A useless gesture, in many ways, given the wildness of wind-tossed blonde, the rumpled quality of their clothes. Their attention switches sharper to Joy's face, some unknown tension that knits through their brow easing for a moment. "No," they say, with a glance to Ku that is in part chiding and also inclusive — stay put. "I want to talk to him."

…is an obvious thing to say, but being said, carries a tinge of significance. "I could use some of that," they add. "The mood."

“I’ll keep the company up here warm, then,” Joy says with an incline of her head toward Ku. “Siobhan’s been holding on to a bottle of Port for too long,” comes with a reach of one arm around Ku’s shoulders, “how about you and I go liberate it and let it breathe a little.” Excising Ku from Skye’s side and escorting him to the cabin, Joy leaves space for Skye to breathe on their own, and to make the trek below decks to where they are expected.

For a yacht, this vessel isn’t particularly large below decks. Much of its accomodations reside above decks in a luxury suite and cabin fit for entertaining guests. Few are had here, not since the days this was a Ferrymen vessel used to secret Evolved out of the United States and to France, back when that was the better alternative. Times have changed, and the ship has as well.

Down the narrow stairs from the deck, the veneer is literally peeling off of the facade. Rust stains mar the walls, the wood paneling of the floor is chipped and scuffed from too many boots and too many hurried escapes over the years. The illusion of wealth above is betrayed by the reality of the situation below, and it is in these cramped confines that Skye finds themselves navigating familiar hallways and darkened rooms to the rear of the ship where their long-suffering employer tends to roost.

Adam Monroe’s quarters are not what most would expect when they imagine the residence of a man several hundred years old. There are no antiques on display, no memorabilia from centuries of conflicts, no fond keepsakes of the past. In his heart Adam is a sentimental man, but he does not willingly wear that on his sleeve. His quarters are Spartan by comparison, with a metal cot for one behind a folding screen with a sunset design stenciled on it. A single table sits directly across from the door, low-backed wooden chairs arranged around it enough to seat four. He rarely uses them all.

The only affectation of his sentimentality is, perhaps, also a window into his truer self. A sheathed katana sits on the table, bearing a brass-inlaid symbol on its grip of a half helix. Next to it, a battered old compass that looks decades old. Adam is seated to the side of the sword, reading a dog-eared paperback copy of Slaughterhouse Five and drinking a glass of that Port that Joy assumed hadn’t been broken into yet. At least he hasn’t brought the entire bottle down with him.

“I didn’t expect you until tomorrow,” Adam says with a look up at Skye as they enter, closing his book and setting it down next to the compass. “Not to say it isn’t good to see you. You’ve been missed around here.”

Skye rather likes the confines of the inner bowels of the yacht — they stand in the little doorway with its narrow stairs, feeling large, hands wandered onto either side to keep balance. They look at all defining features within the room, as if counting them each in their place, sword and port and book, before focusing on Adam. Now, they permit a marginal smile to soften their features around eyes the colour of glaciers.

"Joy said you were in a good mood," they say, now slinking further into the cabin, towards the chairs, where they place their hands against the top of the back of one, leaning their weight. "Maybe I'm here tomorrow, and you're not."

Wood creaks beneath their weight, shoulders rolling beneath tweed. Restless already. Or maybe always.

"Did anyone tell you how the party went, yet?"

Adam exhales a sigh and shakes his head, “I’ve been afraid to ask,” he admits with a tongue-in-cheek tone. “‘Fraid it might sully my otherwise sunny mood.” Setting aside his glass of wine, he watches Skye settle against the chair and motions for her to join him. He slides the sheathed sword further down the table away from them both, then sets his book aside next to it.

“I’ve been focused on the escapee,” Adam admits, which is surprising given that he’s ultimately in a good mood. “Clendaniel getting away is a colossal misstep, but I suppose in the grand scheme of things small. Everything we’ve learned from him is so…” Adam shakes his head. “We’re well ahead of where I expected to be at this time of year, so I can’t complain. And, I’ve your company… which in and of itself is a blessing often in a curious number of disguises.”

Slouching back into his chair, Adam folds his hands into his lap. “But,” he lifts his shoulders, “I suppose I should hear how it all went. The party,” he says with a wag of one hand in the air as if physically clearing up any confusion. “Tell me a story,” he says wistfully, though it carries more meaning than Skye realizes.

Skye drags the chair backwards, takes a seat, a lack of irony in their clear expression as they listen to Adam's reflection on Clendaniel, the loss and the gain both — which is so often how things work. Everything has their price. Skye might almost forget why they are here, when Adam speaks of an accelerated future—

Almost. They place their hands on the top of the table, fingers splayed wide, shoulders rolled forward, thinking back.

"Garza spoke well," they say, eyes tracked to the glass of port on the table, the way the thick wine has left its sheen on the inside curve where Adam tipped it to sip from last. "He speaks well. You chose well. They listened, all seated, waiting for purpose, like fallowed land. They're there because they want to listen to something like the things he is saying, to the things no one ever says. But he— "

Skye pauses, trapping their bottom lip with blunt teeth. Brow creased. Troubled. They look to Adam.

"Garza said the same things. The things they've heard before. About our suffering, and their jealousy. About shared trauma. About defending ourselves." Finally, that strange, pensive unhappiness has an outlet — but it isn't anger. There is almost a hint of confusion within what is otherwise an earnest appeal. "He made us sound weak. He could have told them anything, and he didn't tell them how strong they are."

Adam nods, leaning forward and lacing his hands together. He doesn't seem surprised by the description of how things went. But he doesn't seem entirely pleased either. “He's not my first choice,” Adam admits with a look to the sword sitting beside them at the table, then back to Skye. “But he is a good speaker, he just… speaks to his own baggage like it's a universal experience. Fostering strength isn't his strong suit.” Adam creases his brows in thought. “He expects strength.”

Lifting one hand up, Adam holds aloft an unseen idea in his palm. “On the one hand, they've never been tested before. These are people who have a shaky foundation, come from a place of vulnerability. Maybe some cheerleading is necessary…” Then, he lifts the other hand. “Then we have our long-term goals. Garza knows we don't have the luxury of time on our side. It's possible he wants to see who can succeed and fail on their own merits, before he rewards and elevates them.”

Adam shrugs, as though he were somewhere between those two ideals. “In a way this is a test of Garza, too. He's a decent man, but if he can't inspire loyalty and reliability, the entire cell is going to fall apart.”

Skye is listening. They did not come here with an agenda to push, but for understanding. Blue eyes switch to that empty hand, then the other, then back to Adam, and the firmness that had grew into their expression— yields, a little.

Silent, for a time, before they speak again. "I see the threads of their lives, winding together, forming a pattern." They slide their eyes closed, as if seeing it now. "Each little pluck disrupts the others, vibrates through them as they weave together, They could all make themselves stronger, if they wanted, bind themselves like rope. If one of them breaks, they're all going to unravel. I think they just need to see the tapestry." They open their eyes again, but even then, seems to look through Adam. "The bigger picture."

Focus sharpens. "I'll work on them," in a slightly querying way, testing waters. Approval.

There, Adam smiles. Not one of smug satisfaction, Skye has never had to see that mask in person. Heard of it, seen it in echoes and eddies, but never experienced the facade he protects himself with. Instead, Adam’s smile is a small one; thoughtful and born of appreciation in the way one might smile at a particularly clever painting. His smile is the approval, in so much as Skye has come to know him.

“There's or other matter,” Adam says, sidestepping talk of rope and chain; the bonds of family. It is an implicit step of trust — trusting Skye with that responsibility — rather than shirking one of his own. “This one might put you more at risk, so… take it as you will. But I have a persistent shadow I'd like you to become familiar with.”

Adam folds his hands in his lap. “Eve Mas,” is a recognizable name. “She's one of the only survivors of the group that liberated me — however unintentionally — from Company captivity some years ago. She’s… wild, unpredictable. But she has a soft spot for precognitives.” Adam looks down to his hands, then back up to Skye. “She also is an inch away from the edge at all times. Any edge, pick one.”

And that, also, is the definition of Skye’s task. Pick one. “Wind her up,” Adam suggests, “keep her away from us. If you can do so without putting yourself in any danger.”

Skye brings their hand up, edging overgrown nails between teeth as they think, tuning back in at the name Eve Mas. Recognisable, yes, without being familiar.

They cut a smile across their face, the kind that doesn't pattern soft crinkles around their eyes, at news of someone who likes precognitives, and Adam can see the wheels and cogs already in motion. They reach out, then, and pick up Adam's half-finished glass of heavy wine, fingers spidered delicately around it. "I can do that," they say. "After I drink your wine.

"And spend a night or two on your yacht." They probably do not have to enter into the kinds of deprivations they do to fit in among New York City, but Adam has long since learned that Skye knows what steps they need to take, to get what they want. A strange and winding path, as ever.

But these things are listed with a hint of humour, which gentles but doesn't ebb as they add, "Do you want to see it again?"

Their other hand, flat on the table, ekes towards Adam in quiet offer.

Disquieted are the eyes that look down at Skye’s hand. Adam is transfixed by the creases in their palm, the curve of their nails, the way in which their fingers rest just so. It is like understanding the contours of the sword sheathed beside them, the fold of the silk on the grip, the imperfections in the brass fittings, the notches in the steel tsuba. Skye’s hand is as much — if not more — of a weapon than the Kensei sword could ever be.

But Adam is, and will always be, a warrior. When he lays his hand atop Skye’s, it is with the weight of a warrior settling their hand atop a sheathed sword; only ever done with the intent to draw it and strike. He takes in a breath, then allows himself one out as well.

“Take all the time you need,” Adam says, of many things.

Skye brings the glass to their lips, and tips back a long drink of port, until there is a shallow disc of it left, gathered at the bottom of the glass. That's definitely not how you're meant to appreciate fine liquor, but there it goes, staining lips darker than they were before, held in their cheeks before going swallowed.

Their fingers flex beneath Adam's palm, cool, familiar, finding equally familiar places to setting in the dips and planes of Adam's hand. Time is taken, in this moment, a long breath in, before their eyes flicker closed.

And so do Adam's.

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