Alone With You



Scene Title Alone With You
Synopsis Joseph goes on an unwilling trip down memory lane.
Date September 11, 2009

Monmouth County Jail

Natural light filters in pure white through the barred window of neighboring cells, deceptively cheerful in its play off concrete walls cracked and worn a smooth, uniform grey above a waist-high band of neutral blue. The floors are clean, for the most part - large drain grates worked into cement flooring every so often likely responsible for that. The cell entrances are barred over as well, chained and padlocked where the original mechanism is chewed over thick with rust. The hallway outside looks exactly like the interior, smooth and lifeless and flat, stretching on for God only knows how long before the next locked door looms out of cold sunlight to cut off any hope of escape.

There is one thing consistent, about being down here. Every time they walk away, every time they leave him behind, trapped as he is, as if deemed no longer worthy of their attention, is disappointing.

Make no mistake that Joseph would prefer to be alone and far out of range of these people that hate him for virtue of what he is, but it's confirmed not by their words and actions, but in that careless sound of foot falls walking away from him, leaving him there. Joseph's voice echoes down the hallway in a useless, indignant, "Hey!" that bleats out unstoppably, but Emile is long gone. He shifts forward, leaning hard against the restraints at his wrists, head bowed as he tries to take in a few calming breaths, cramped as his lungs become beneath a curving back. Butch's presence goes ignored.

The bug bite of the injection still stings and tingles as if poisoned, making him wish he could scratch. Piercing through his clouded thoughts of being discarded, of where Danko is going, of what Joseph should have had the selflessness to do— there's a single, new question. What was that?

It answers itself in a half second. Sickly, chemical giddiness starts to pump warmly through his bloodstream, unfocusing his eyes as the world tips without any acknowledgment as to the laws of gravity. Joseph can no more shake it off than wrench free of his handcuffs, although he tries both, head shaking once, as the chair shudders with the movement. He's succumbed to too much, down here, and this is going to have to be one more thing.

His mind wanders, and veers into a direction of such sudden, sharp, supernatural clarity that it takes his breath away, only for him to steal it back, breathing deeply. Joseph can imagine that it's summery air that tastes of nature and water than sweat and fear.

Smoke, too. Its taint in the air is not unpleasant, until the wind changes and pushes it towards him, becoming overbearing in brief, snatching inhales. For now, it smells earthy and pleasant, a sharper undercurrent. They say that scent is, out of all of the five senses, the one linked most heavily to memory, and whether or not this is true, it comes first in this one case. Firelight dances off his face, though the sun is still a low presence in the sky, bleeding colours before night can completely come down, and he and the rest of them will trudge back up the hill to the ranch, depart to their temporary lodgings.

For now, the ambient sound of youthful talking surrounds him. They are not his friends, exactly, but his peers, ones that share a kinship with him. A shared experience. His had happened perhaps two and a half years ago, and even now— and even in the lonely little cell in New Jersey, a memory on top of a memory— Joseph can recall what that had been like. The shock of cold water, that twist of relief that felt like release, the way the sun bounced shards off light off rippling lake surface and how everything seemed intensely beautiful for those first few moments.

Rebirth. He'd touched each of them, helped them down into the lake upon the pastor's instruction, knowing a glowing sense of pride that he'd been asked to do this. Sure, pride isn't the point. Doesn't mean it's not there.

Though some around the campfire were older than his twenty-six-year-old self, there is a kind of responsibility he feels for them, sinking into a watchful, contentedly quiet silence, as the fire dies down in the circle of the newly made Christians. Joseph sits upon the sandy ground, his arms looped around his knees. Jeans and a T-shirt are fine defense against the cool summer dusk, dark hair ruffled by the ever present breeze that lifts up off the lake some short distance away.

She's broken off from the group a few minutes ago. He's gone quiet in indecision, but now, he's collecting his long, lanky legs beneath him, levering up off the sandy ground and brushing off the seat of his pants. No one really gives a second glance, or at least. Joseph pays no attention if they do, and simply moves away from the dying bonfire, towards the lake. Her hair is still damp with lake water, but still retains its blondeness. Even in this light, he can see golden streaks of where it's dried amongst the brassier, wetter locks pulled back from her face and trailing like rat tails down her back.

"Can I join you?"

She wouldn't say no, which is why he asks. Claira Richards is not someone he's unfamiliar with, and at her welcoming smile, Joseph sits down beside her, and when he does, she rests her head on his shoulder. Which is unfamiliar enough for him to go still, dark eyes turned out towards the round lake stretching out in front of them. He wonders, idly, if those near the fire are watching.

"I like 'em," she starts, after a few seconds of peaceful silence have passed. "All of them. I just needed some time alone to think. No," she adds, as if sensing his inevitable offer to leave her be, "I can be alone with you. I'm just not sure how I'm meant to feel." In opposition to the pure, fire-burn smell of the smoke from before, there's the sharper scent of cigarette smoke, leaking from where the cigarette itself is pinched between her fingers. They weren't meant to bring any on the trip, but Joseph is sure as hell not going to say anything. And when she offers it across to him, he closes his fingers around the white cylinder and takes a lung-burning drag of it too.

He doesn't want her to think anything less of him. So he doesn't refuse, but is quick to offer it back, and clamps down on the fluttery cough threatening to escape his chest. And then she leans against him, and he puts his arm around her, and he's not sure if this is what it's like to be alone with someone. But it feels a strange kind of perfect.

The kiss itself— because make no mistake, they do get around to that, some kind of mutual reward— is sweet, and dry from the smoke and the day. "I'm glad you're here," she whispers, in a voice so secret he's not even sure God could hear it. "I couldn't do this without you."

And when the memory starts to fade, some long time later, Joseph can recall exactly why it is a happy memory. Bowed as low as bound arms will let him, he breathes in small, shuddering breaths, eyes damp and head swimming. The pure and perfect acceptance of each other, some transcendent, indescribable thing underscored with all the earthiness of smoke and sand and water. Maybe only he felt it at the time. Ruined later, of course, gone forever, but he can't think about that now. Doesn't have to.

Comfort and happiness is fleeting, and the high wears away, and he's inevitably dragged back down to this place, silent and subdued. The cuffs come back, the dampness from the spilled water bottle hasn't gone away, and lingering bruises begin to seep back into his reality. There's a reason, why the echoing steps away from his cell always ring bitter in his ears. There is no change on earth, no pledge, no baptisement by water or fire or death, that would ever make him matter more to them than what he is now. Joseph did always want people to like him.

He'd stopped feeling hungry some hours ago. There's another gnawing, now, that takes its place, small and niggling and nothing in comparison to the dull ache that drags him down from the inside. He thinks, maybe, he gets it.

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