Cast Your Coat


bao-wei2_icon.gif bella_icon.gif

Scene Title Cast Your Coat
Synopsis Bella tries to help. It works. Sort of.
Date August 21, 2010

Jamaica Bay

Connected with the Lower New York Bay through the Rockaway Inlet, Jamaica Bay is a saline estuary dominated by open water and low-lying islands covered in fertile saltwater marshes and mudflats that are home to a wide variety of plant and animal life even though the habitat is continuously flooded, making it a perfect environment for scruffy glassworts, meter-high cordgrass and salt-tolerant trees. Sea lavender blooms white and dark purple at the right time of year, while migratory birds and the Bay's permanent residents - grasshopper sparrows, ring-necked pheasants, oyster toadfish and cottontail rabbits - attract nature enthusiasts to the lagoon throughout the year, no matter what the season.

Where the bay connects with the borough of Brooklyn, it expands into Marine Park, roughly eight-hundred acres of land which features decrepit playgrounds that have fallen into disuse over the past few years and are in the process of being reclaimed by the marshland as well as a mile-long running path still used by joggers that winds through what was once an ancient Keshawchqueren burial ground. Since the bomb, the area has been abused by the borough's residence and there are some areas that have come to resemble junkyards with refuse piled as high as sixty feet. Arson is common in these places, and amongst the reeds, rusty hulks of burned-out cars are as familiar a sight as the horseshoe crabs crawling all over them.

The hum and buzz of the swampy bay create an inhuman chorus that reverberates in walls of sound around the winding jogging path. This is Bella's second trip into this domain, and the moments where she is alone on the path seem so fitting, so proper for her venture, she is always shocked to run past a fellow jogger - she feels like their presence is somehow desecratory. And she is the furthest thing from a religious woman.

Her jogging outfit is much the same as when last she took this path, but with one crucial addition and a somewhat less crucial subtraction. The chitinous choir is clear to her ears because she's forgone her mp3 player, and her pace is slower because she has a backpack strapped to her, small but definitely carrying something. As she reaches what she believes is the segment of road where she made her kismetic encounter of last time, she drops from a jog to a walk, head turning, eyes roving out into the swampy surroundings.

He said he'd know she was there. She's not sure how, but she trusts that it is true.
He knows only because it is likely that he either has not moved much at all- though perhaps there is a chance that he feels only temperature in such a state. Most probable is the former. He had told her before, that he drifted for days. A couple more would be nothing, compared. As long as he returned to the place every so often, surely she would show. Bella did not ever seem the type to rescind offers or go back on even such vague promises. Add onto that the fact she is the only thing tethering him, and of course he will be around.

Granted, she is standing around at the spot for more than ten minutes before anything out of the ordinary occurs. The weeds and bilge on the surface of the marsh lift with pressure from below, smearing over a spine that breaches up. They freeze there, tinging heightening tines green and brown. Instead of curling up calmly as before, the broad back of a reptilian shape climbs swiftly up over the reeds and onto the bank. This time, he has adopted a crocodilian shape- perhaps as to not draw attention to his shape swimming in the water? But at this size? It may get him in trouble anyway, having a mouth big enough to probably fit Bella inside. With wiggle room. His shoulder comes to about the same level as her own. The construct lands on the bank and part of the path ahead with a great thud and a hiss of air, the ground frosting over beneath, short legs and long claws digging into the earth.

It takes a moment, it appears, for him to orient himself with the land, golden eye roving along the marsh horizon before settling onto Bella.

Bella's relationships are founded on trust. Trust in her. Not necessarily the other way around, though she rarely mistrusts a client. Is that, then, what Bao is to her, how his strange case has been filed in her mind? She has never had a truly normal doctor/client relationship - ever since starting with the Company she has been a liar and a spy. By this standard, strangely, what she endeavors with her former colleague may, in fact, be closer to the traditional mold. She has nothing to hide from him. No one to report to.

Hard to miss the appearance of great, prehistoric monstrosity. If the tabloids got a shot of him there would be public outcry. Fuck the sewers, the real crocs are out in the bay! Bella starts at the thud, but when she realizes that it's just Bao (just a twelve meter long ice monster), her heart rate dips to something closer to normal. Bella paces over to the edge of the trail, thumbs looped into the straps of her backpack.

"You've changed your form," Bella comments, sort of unnecessarily, since he's probably noticed, "you're making progress. I… don't want to jump the gun but, I brought you something. Something to work towards." She glances down the jogging path, either way. "I worry about us being spotted, though. Is there… I don't know… some safe, more private spot?"

He only lies on the bank from about his waist up, though that is enough. Jagged, convoluted teeth line the muzzle, a spiny brow hooding the glint of his eye as he watches her register him.

"Not particularly, since you cannot cross the water." The lower jaw moves as if through speech, though nothing visible is as per lips to make it so. Nothing visible to Bella, anyway. "Even if we were, who would stop?" Really? Most people would turn their arse back around to where they came from. Bao-Wei shifts on the frozen mud, squashing an indent into the reeds and dirt, sliding part of himself back into the water, as if to ready an escape. This may have to do, for now.

"Something to work towards? It is not hard for me to change this, though, I admit that today-" For a second, it sounds like the creature speaks sheepishly. "I have been purposely stretching my limits."

"Are we really going to bank on the 'no one will tell and if they did no one would believe them' defense? That might have worked before all of everything happened," Bella says, pursing her lips, clearly skeptical, "but this city is past the limits of skepticism. I don't want anything to happen to you. It's much better that you're thought dead. Both sides of the coin will be after you if they know you survived. They'll hunt you out of fear and fascination."

Bella frowns. Stretching his limits? "You should be trying to reign in your bounds. We don't need you bigger. It is very impressive, but an impression is the last thing we want to leave. Here…" she slides the backpack off her shoulders, "I don't know where you can store these. Frozen somewhere on your person, maybe. But if you can shrink yourself down to a more sane size…" she unzips the bag and tugs out a mass of brown cloth. She stands, shakes it loose. It's a long coat, brown, the sort of thing that, with boots, would easily conceal most of its wearer. A flasher's raincoat, to be unflattering.

She sounds truly concerned. It troubles him, for some reason. Her admonishing also gets somewhere; Bella appeals directly to his pragmatism when she reminds him that he does not need to be bigger, and that he needs to be normal. Power gets away from him. She knows this all too well. Cong's head tilts with her dropping of her pack, and he watches the redhead rifle through it and pull out that veritable parachute of heavy brown cloth. Initially, he thinks it looks like something out of the 1800s, with its thick hide and length. Does she expect him to get a wagon to go with it?

It takes a short time for him to realize that she is doing her best to be accommodating. This isn't something underhanded- this is Bella making attempts at building a bridge.

Bao-Wei says nothing while he watches. His own hide, however, begins to crack and collapse in on itself; there is a central point in his solar plexus, ice buckling inward, dense and heavy, forming closer around it. In just a few moments, he pushes himself from the water midway through his collapse.

He's half a foot higher than he used to be, more broad-shouldered, and covered in malformed growths of ice- and featureless in the most righteous of places- but the purely humanoid silhouette is unmistakable, down to facial features that look like they have been chiseled out of rock. Granted, he has a stoop, as monsters are apt to have, but his seems attributed to the heavy, dark ice and the awkward spines on his back. All that is left behind of his prior state are claw marks on the path, and the big run of frozen ground where he had surfaced.

If only psychological changes were so quickly effected! Bella has no notion as to how difficult this feat may be for Bao, no idea as to whether or not it is painful, whether or not the act has exhausted him. Those impassive, chiseled features give her no clues. She steps back, though, to indicate her respect and deference. Need some space? She extends the rain-resistant duster before her, two fingers and a thumb on either shoulder of the garment. A ginger hold.

"This isn't all I have," Bella adds. And that's good, because he needs more. For concealment, not for theme. Though maybe a lariat is hidden in there somewhere, maybe a six shooter too.

Probably best that she has such a hold, as when he steps closer to snatch it from her grasp, the frigid cold follows for a split second, drifting with him as he backs away again. His own grip is first tight, lightening in both weight and color after another moment. The ice holding it seems brittle- his hand there the consistency of icicles, acting more like a hanger than a limb. Best to not freeze the coat before he can use it As such, the air directly behind him has gone to temperatures of another planet's poles; the ground and plant life behind him begins to freeze over, grabbing moisture from the air and creating inches of roughly hewn ice for at least twelve feet.

"This is not actually modern fantasy, Bella. I do hope you realize." Cong's rumbling sounds less hollow, more gravelly. Giving him something out of Harry Dresden's closet is not helping the matter at all, in any case.

Bella flinches at the cold, but she keeps her hold until he draws the coat from her grasp. Then she's stooping, digging into the backpack again. The next thing she removes is a pair of pants, thick woolen things that she probably got from a Goodwill. They are big, baggy and look pretty warm which is great for everyone outside of them. She sets them on the ground, letting Bao-Wei grab them on his own time and without further risk to her digits.

"I realize that you are a large man who freezes everything he touches," Bella snarks, "Which asks a great deal of fashion be sacrificed for the sake of keeping you incognito. And really, the crazier you look, the less likely people will be to approach you, which will reduce the chances of incidental frostbite."

The next thing she pulls from her bag of goodies, however, will do nothing to allay fears of appearing as a Dresden Files cosplayer. It is, in fact, a wide brimmed hat that quite perfectly fits that theme. Perfect for pulling down to obscure inhuman features.

His life is beginning to feel like something out of a comic book, however much he detests the very idea. Then again, it was the same way the moment he met Chang Ye, years ago. It has- ironically- snowballed ever since. He leaves the coat down with the pants, and makes a visible glower when she tosses up a hat. Purposefully, his features grimace with a crack and snap. Is she taking this seriously? Likely. It isn't like he can wear a suit, if he does somehow turn back- something like that would indeed make him approachable. Doctor Cong recalls quickly the man on Swinburne-

Samson, wasn't it? The minutes are a blur. He obviously had some kind of power- powers? And though he had such ability, he looked crazy enough to avoid, if one were on the street with him. Bao-Wei is not keen on the idea of being a homeless person. At this juncture there may not be much of a choice in the matter.

"…You are lucky that I need your help." The man sounds sarcastic about this, but there is always a chance he has some seriousness put behind it.

Bella has wanted no real part of this comic book plotline for some time. She, at least, has no desire to play the part that was clearly set out for her, has aspirations towards some other genre at least, where maybe the bad do not need to end badly. Where, while nothing to kitschy as redemption is expected, that can at least be some meaningful closure that does not involve some hero standing over her corpse.

That's all, it seems. Coat, pants, hat. Only wait, just one more item. Bella stoops and removes a blue glove, like a heavy duty oven mitt, the sort of thing used to handle liquid nitrogen. She holds it between her hands, look up at Bao-Wei with an arched brow. "I'm not going to disagree," she says, words that mean approximately nothing on their own.

She tugs the glove on, fingers finding their places, flexing. And then she offers Dr. Cong a handshake. "For practice," she states.

In all the time that Bella Sheridan has known Doctor Cong, she has never heard him do what he does next-

He laughs.

In his normal state, one might suppose it could sound appropriately like a mad scientist. Like this, it is still deep, a choppy thrumming of his hollow voice against the resonance of his chest. The gash that makes up his mouth quirks.

An icy paw finds the hefty blue glove. He knows what it is. But even then, he does not make contact for long. Long enough for her to feel the rigidness of a seemingly flexible hand, the firmness of a rocky grip. For however long she's known him, has he even ever shaken her hand? It's a foreign notion. It feels like breaking some rule scribbled under all of the others.

"For practice."

Bella's smile quivers a bit. She almost, almost wants to laugh along, but she knows that, despite her best efforts, she would sound nervous. Very nervous. She now knows the sound of a glacier's laughter. And when she feels the glacier's grip, she shakes its hand rather than shake with cold, thanks to the briefness of the contact. "We both need it," she says, taking back her hand, tugging off the glove, reassuring him that she won't be attempting further pawings, "we both need to start passing as human." Which may, on average, be easier for her. Not being a living manifestation of chill. "Not that we aren't. But people have such ridiculous requirements."

"That is why I enjoy this so much. There are no requirements." Bao-Wei lifts the hand he had shaken the glove with, drawing fingertips over his chest, leaving nail marks as they drag. His mouth gash purses, thoughtful, golden eye on Bella. "Though I know that you are correct. There may be something that I need to conclude, and I cannot do it without." He steps back some feet, breathing out a plume of cold. It looks like holding breath underwater- or as close a parallel as he can manage.

"Well, I'm glad to be inhuman for your sake," Bella remarks, taking her turn at sarcasm. Though not without a more sophisticated touch of irony. For her own part she, too, would once again not disagree. She drops the glove back into the backpack, a hand going up to adjust her sweatband. "We should talk about this conclusion, if you're willing. Next time." Because, it would seem, there will be a next time.

"Perhaps next time, I will have learned." Bao-Wei considers the pile of clothes at once, squinting the one shining eye half shut. "We shall see." He steps over to the water's edge, crunching ice as he moves. Appearances are deceiving- he moves like an old man. When he gets to the water, feet first, it immediately freezes underfoot, climbing up to his arms. He reaches back for the pile, limb crackling with movement. The ice branches out, hooked claws taking them up, and back to him, where he is able to freeze them betwixt the heavy reeds. Unless someone were to look, they would not see it.

He is going to give himself until that ice melts from around them- and he is already oh, so close.

Bella moves back to the path behind her, picking up the backpack and slinging it back over her shoulders. She lifts a hand in farewell. "I hope so," she says, on the edge between address to him, and addressed to herself. It is a 'we' that shall see, after all. Excluding the royal we (which maybe one shouldn't in Bao's case), this includes her. She waits for him to disappear entirely before turning back to the path and starting to jog away. She has to finish, after all. She hates to leave loose ends.

Bao-Wei disappears under the water rather quickly, lifting his eye to where she departs. Being so clandestine, it makes this all feel as terrible as things he would do with the Triad. Surreptitious, like snakes. His underwater world grants a short release from thinking about her and what she may be getting into, thankfully. He does not need some form of residual guilt right now. Not for getting her involved. She found him, didn't she?

Cong sits down at the bottom of the marsh, between fishes and weeds, casting a limb out in front of himself. He cannot start feeling off now. He has to concentrate on this, not what he is going to do, or who may get into trouble for helping him figure that out.

Encrusted fingertips mould into corpse-colored flesh.

Or, just maybe, that is exactly what he needs to think about.

Ice flickers across nail, skin. One set of fingers forms, tensing like claws in the murky water.

Unless otherwise stated, the content of this page is licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 License