Black Dog


s_deckard_icon.gif francois_icon.gif

Scene Title Black Dog
Synopsis Blood slick and feverish, Francois finds that he is less home alone than he hoped.
Date June 12, 2011

Maison d'Allegre

Inside, it's cool, and dry, and quiet. Outside, it rains in feather light sheets, probably pleasant in the near-summer weather, but Francois isn't going outside, like how he isn't drinking while any excuse can set off a fever, and like how he isn't sleeping very well. Bright red has long since broken in around green irises, and red leaking between his teeth, and clotted in the tissues disposed in the waste bins. He hasn't eaten all day and he's not sure when Teo's supposed to be back. From wherever.

He is downstairs, seated at the table near the kitchen, a folded newspaper scanned and discarded with only its news section lifted and checked, folded at his elbow. Francois' focus is on the white sheets of paper, bought on request, a couple already marked and shoved off to the side while he works on his third attempt, to recall the techniques and the control he had learned while on his temporally dislocated vacation. He draws long lines that will eventually be filled out into limbs, torso, a head, but he also skips ahead to follow the curves of the human anatomy as he sees it in his head. Being not a naturally artistic person, this would be more frustrating if he was trying hard at an end product. It had taken him a while to produce to the profiles of Teo, of Delilah, of Deckard, and now, it's some indefinite feminine figure, before moving images had made his brain spin uncomfortable.

Pencil dropping abruptly, hands come up automatically to cup and contain hitching, metallic-tasting coughs. He wears a T-shirt and jeans, bare foot, all hospital-like except for the denim, hair taking on a greasier, damper quality than he'd like. The chair squeaks on the ground as he backs up a few inches from the table, so that dilute red doesn't spatter on clear white sheets.

Somewhere in the bucking of tired lung tissue and viscous muck, between clumped lashes and swollen sinuses, a figure blurs itself grey into the seat opposite Francois. Faceless, chilly, indistinct.

It's gone again before it can be focused upon, taking extrasensory dread with it: little hairs raised all on their own have time to resettle before it's there again.

Standing in the doorway, now, a coyote-eyed presence extant without having 'appeared' in any traditional sense of the word. Flint is in a suit that's seen kinder conditions, dust and grit bit pale across uneven swaths of darker grey. The dress shirt underneath was white, once, salt dried crisp as sand in a ring around the collar.

Hands in his pockets, he watches wordlessly until Francois seems still, voice coarse as the armored scales cracked dry across his boots when he finally says:

"You're sick."

Drawing his hands from his mouth once the coughing fit is over, breathing shallow, Francois works on straightening his sit on the chair, keeping the figment in uneasy periphery as he creeps his fingers across the table. He tugs out a fresh square of soft tissue, wiping his mouth with it. Folds it, crumples it. "So you said," he roughs out, staring down at the unfinished image of— something— on the clean piece of paper.

It takes him that long again to look back towards the doorway, observing first the boots set on the ground in its frame, then dragging up the familiar gaunt figure. He blinks by the time he is observing Flint's face, as if the act would vanish him away.

Flint does not vanish. He doesn't blink, either, glare lit dim in the doorway's shadow, seeing and seeing through.

"You're not getting better."

Dispassionate as an anatomical illustration, he holds his ground, pinstriping piped fine in line with shoulder and lapel as eyes adjust and the horse-sweat and leather stink of him lacquers iself thick through claggy airways. Personal. He's not even close.

"I know."

This gets muffled into his own wrist as Francois palms against his own forehead, briefly obscuring the visage of Flint Deckard in an attempt to grind growing headache away, to no avail. "Laisse-moi tranquille." Telling the hallucination to leave you alone isn't a tactic Francois has read about in any medical journal, but it's grated out anyway, hands coming to plant against the edge of the crowded dining room table and lever himself to stand. The whole structure of the thing judders beneath more weight than he intended to lean against it, body swaying into the momentum before he corrects himself haltingly.

Moving as if through water, Francois absent-mindedly and slowly gathers his pages together, messily. The chair skitters back from where his leg nudges it in stepping back. He isn't sure where he's going except away, potentially. The illogic behind this eluding him.

"There's no reason for you to be alone."

Another thing Flint doesn't do is move to follow. He doesn't have to. Dog on a stoop, following with his eyes, scruffy chin tipped down against the crust at his collar to mask the scarring there. Grime under his eyes and worn dark into the lines around his face makes the staring worse; there's a scarecrow dedication to his unshakably standing there, as undeniable a presence as the table Francois' hands have been on.

"You're loved," he says once flimsy wooden support has been abandoned entirely, giving dubious way to progress nowhere fast. "Your funeral will be lousy with grief."

Paper crumpled between his fingers, Francois finds himself stood uneasily in the centre of the room, eyeing the doorway and the man standing in it. The word funeral brings about grimace, fingertips skidding over the damp slope of his forehead, but no one can really take their own temperature. But if he didn't know any better, he'd say he was running a fever.

Last couple of weeks have tasted primarily of blood, but the smell of dust and leather is, in its own way, a reprieve of it. His bare heels thud against the floor in a tottered step back, but he isn't yet on the retreat as he faces the demon in front of him. "I can't have a funeral," he says, voice hedged up on reckless conversational tones. "I'm meant to be getting married. Are you coming to either?" He turns, then, to see if he left out any ibuprofen on the table, or the kitchen bench just yonder, or if it's all in a drawer upstairs.

"Am I invited?" Deckard can do conversational: his brows lift, etching familiar furrows flat across his forehead while he turns a pair of spent casings over a peso in his pocket. Somehow he doesn't seem to think that he is.

Heat shimmering in the kitchen makes it difficult to see what was left where, mirages mirrored like mercury on the countertops while Flint looks on from the table he is seated at (has always been seated at?) with something blackly (warily) akin to sympathy.

The sun-flare off the steel, the waver warping the air, has Francois staying where he is rather than venturing into it, shying back in a tilt away and blinking rapidly, focus slow to solidify at the corners of his vision but not so much that Flint goes unseen. His hand grips the back of the chair he was sitting at to steady. His house is confusing him.

Coughs start chest deep, turned away (ridiculously) from the figment to muffle into the corner of his elbow before his arm drops slack and he looks across at Flint, maybe to answer him with oui or non or does it matter, but none of these come to surface as he sees the etched lines of— is it pity?— as fleetingly disturbing as the bounce of heat off his countertops. A hoarse exhale might have been the start of words, but defiance shuts him up. And steers Francois away from the table and the man sitting at it, headed for the shape of the staircase.

The grit layered familiar across Flint's long face makes his eyes stand out brighter from the hollows they sit in, watching without blinking with little to give. The fuzzy lines around his mouth do more of the talking, bit in stark when he meets the Frenchman's regard.

Refreshingly, he pushes himself to stand and follow rather than simply manifesting where he needs to be once Francois has wandered far enough to beckon with his back. Overlarge feet fail to leave dusty bootprints despite their scuffing, scratched swing and set across the kitchen floor. His hands turn back down into his pockets.

"Aus den Augen, aus dem Sinn?" he asks in gravel-roughened German, familiar diction prying lazy as the trail he's paving at his heels.

He isn't going fast, taking things gradual. Francois places a clammy hand on the end of the stair rail, pausing there and skimming a look up the angular stairs where he'd bruised his knees in panicky flight that one time. His retreat here is slow in the same way Deckard's chase is slower, and after a couple of barks of wet-sounding coughs, he sneaks a glance over his shoulder, watching the step of feet on his floor. German does not come so easy to him as other languages.

But easy enough to echo understanding when his hallucinations speak it. Shoulders tick up a little in canine defense at the every familiar syllables of the chosen language.

The wooden stairs creak and judder under his feet as he moves up them, hand hauling himself in balance and strength both while the other remains folded against his belly like an injured wing. That would be a yes.

A slow escape makes for even less hurried pursuit. Deckard loiters at the bottom of the stairs as the sensation of a stare prickling sensitive neck hairs, dusty warmth and fading with distance. He's examining the decor; or Francois imagines he might be, prying eyes and hands that are obedient in their stay because they can afford to be.

"Maybe you should move up the date."

"And is that why you're here?"

Voice rough, louder, it happens once he's up on the first landing, shooting a blood-soaked look back down at the figment wandering after him. "To watch?" Deckard is right, on one thing — Francois is resistant to the concept of dying alone. The idea that maybe it's today, or tomorrow, or next week— and that he's yelling at nothing— spurs him on as fast or maybe faster than lazy German, pushing his way around the bend in the stair to haul himself up and up to the second floor. From there, it's a slightly drunken walk for the bedroom, blood smears on the walls from his fingertips. There is medication next to his bed, and also a gun.

Deckard is already waiting, a black assortment of oblong angles looming at a heap of shadow pitched in around the headboard's opposite flank. Unmistakeable even in obscurity, hair spiny with dry sweat and eyes like brands. "That depends."

He doesn't look at the gun same as he doesn't move to help, shoulders still because he doesn't need to breathe.

"Did you come here to die?"

Francois sweeps by amalgamation of human angles and flaring, bright eyes — seeing it because it is where he looks — and passes by black pistol, picking up the clean white container. The contents chatter musically as he twists it open dealing two— three— of the anti-fever meds, and swallows them in two tries. Blood smears off on his knuckles as roiling nausea is fought back, and he sinks onto the edge of the bed. It's a panicky, less than rational gesture.

"Virus will run its course," he mutters into his wrist, hand dropping. "Teo healed. Abigail healed. I came back from the dead. I just don't want to die in a hospital."


Flint resolves gradually into harder detail as the vehemence with which he initially reappeared begins to fade, shoulders and lapels a smudge at his cuff. He's quieter, too, in closer quarters and in the face of bloodslick knuckles. Rolling guts. "You've played your part."

The fact that he says it so reasonably doesn't make it less aggravating.

"Gave up your say. Aie confiance en Dieu," says Deckard, who remains on his feet, chilly glare slivered and slanted down aside after his quarry. "He trusted you."

"Ce qui est injuste."

The bleakly neutral tone underpinning neat French makes it difficult for anyone external to get a sense of how Francois means it, but inside, within the dim room with the rainy sunlight blanked out with heavy curtains, it's quite clear he means that the he that put trust in him wasn't fair for doing so. It's the first time he actually looks at the figment then, the dust caught up in clothing seams and defining the lines in his face. "Do you think if I died, he would forgive?"

"Yeah," says Deckard.

Kind of anticlimactically casually, actually, with only enough pause to give the question a normal amount of thought. A shrug is implied in a subtle turn of his scruffy chin, easy confidence to the affirmative as deeply ingrained as the sun-faded swaths of grey worn into his suit coat.

"I mean. That's what he's all about, right?"

That earns a smile — not a pleasant one this time, teeth tinged pink and redder in the lines of cracked lips, sharkishly remote. Francois is careful not to laugh, respectful of the trigger that sends him easy into painful, bloody coughing. "Oui, oui," is as dismissive as Deckard's yeah and curling upturn of rhetorical question. A hand with stained fingers—

he hasn't had to handle this much blood since the O.R., and since Carlisle

goes up, comes down. "Et toi?"

Harder question. Not prone to verbosity anyway, Flint settles naturally into silence and relative stillness to think. Also to thumb through deflections. Denials.

He keeps a wary eye on Francois while he works it through, probabilities weighed and rattled until he stirs uneasily on his feet. Closed.

"I don't know."

Does it matter? There's defensive accusation at the implication that it does ringed in the form of suspicion around his eyes. Dislike, also. For having to answer. "Go to sleep."

There are a few reasons why it shouldn't matter. For one thing, this Deckard isn't real, even less to be trusted than the one of flesh and bone and some dust left in Mexico.

It does a little, however, but Francois doesn't speak — glances towards half-empty tissue box and tears out a few squares, cleaning down his fingers, his mouth, before scrunching them up and lettiing them fall. With the others. The drugs want him to sleep, as does external fatigue, and he instead resigns himself for about an hour of coughing until sleep takes him, but it's a step in the right direction. There is doubt ringed in his eyes as vivid as the blood, before he eases himself onto the bed, legs up, feet levering into the mattress and tunneling under the spreads.

He turns away from the lanky silhouette in his room, uneasy and resigned.

Doubt measured and accounted for with a sideways look, Flint lingers at the bedside through deliberate clean up.

And after.

He's a presence on the fringes of Francois' perception for as long as he's conscious enough to register obstructed airflow and occasional sifts of physical manifestation in sound or smell. Lambent eyes swivel after coughs and irregular breathing, visible as smears of otherworldly blue between blood-flecked spasms, standing watch until awareness greys into the earliest stages of real sleep.

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