Cinderella and Matches


wf_ella_icon.gif wf_kay_icon.gif wf_silas_icon.gif

Scene Title Cinderella and Matches
Synopsis Now is not the time to burn bridges.
Date August 15, 2016

The Sterling Hills Haven
Ogdensburg, NJ

While things are still abuzz after the warning of the DoEA closing in, it’s still and quiet outside. ‘Ella Damaris sits on a hillside overlooking the devastated landscape, watching the clouds that block out the sun that refuses to stop shining even though it feels some days as though the world has stopped spinning.

The teenager leans slowly onto her back with a groan. “Fucking stupid selfish—” She lifts her head briefly to glance around, making sure there isn’t anyone around to hear her cursing in all the ways her mother has told her she’s not allowed to. “…bitch,” she finishes at a mutter, flopping back down once she’s satisfied that she’s alone.

She's not as alone as she thinks she is. Someone else has been up on this hilltop twice now, with 'Ella none the wiser. As far as Matches Mackenzie knows, killer robots aren't particularly common out here, but that doesn't mean a stray can't come wandering up — and there are, of course, other things to be on the lookout for out here — so he took a couple of minutes to run some quick reconnaissance. He'd rather not take risks.

Especially when it comes to someone's kid.

Once, he might — might — have gotten a kick out of taking advantage of the element of surprise to drop in on 'Ella Damaris… then again, maybe not. Even as much of a professional boogeyman as he'd been back in the olden days, he'd still had a scruple. Maybe two… although that would probably be pushing it.

So Matches lets the sound of boots crunching through the underbrush announce his approach as he comes up the hill from behind.

“Go away, Mom!” ‘Ella calls out without looking up at first. But when it isn’t the immediate sound of her mother’s frustrated sigh that follows — like it always does — she pushes up on one elbow to look for who’s approaching. She doesn’t have her mother’s poker face and doesn’t cover her surprise. “Oh… Hey, Matches.”

‘Ella doesn’t lay back down, but she doesn’t sit up all the way either. She isn’t sure yet if he’s going to stick around, so why put the effort in yet. “Sorry. She, uh… doesn’t usually leave me alone this long,” she reasons with a frown. She has no idea how many voices of reason it’s taking right now to keep Kaydence Lee from marching up the hill to collect her wayward child.

"Hey 'Ella," Matches says, mustering a tired grin. He settles down cross-legged a few feet away from the girl. "Yeah. She worries about ya," he says at 'Ella's comment about her mother, then falls silent. His eyes stare out somewhere over the landscape, but he's watching 'Ella out of the corner of his eye. He doesn't expect to have to wait very long for her to start venting.

"Mind if I smoke?" he asks after a moment.

The girl pushes herself up when it becomes apparent that she’s being joined. She glances at him, but then away again. She’s always a little bit awkward around her mother’s associates. Especially given that this one has a history that Kay won’t explain. He wasn’t NYPD, and yet they had worked together. That’s the best she’s ever gotten.

But his question has her looking back again him with an uncertainty to her gaze. She eyes him up and down a moment while she works up her nerve to respond. “Only if I can have one too.”

Matches chokes back the chuckle that threatens to erupt from him; 'Ella gets a grin of actual amusement for her pains.

His first, knee-jerk reaction is to say not a chance… but that might not be the best way forward. He studies her for a moment, then makes a raspy noise at the back of his throat that's almost a chuckle. "Fine," he says, pulling out a pack of cigarettes. "But. You see your mom coming, you put that shit out ASAP and don't say a word about it. She'd chew me up one side and down the other if she found out I was givin' you cancer sticks. Okay?"

He makes a stern expression as he says this, pulling out a pack of cigarettes and tapping it against his palm until one slips partway out, then holds it out to 'Ella.

A wide grin cuts across the girl’s face as she leans out to take the cigarette, then scootches over so she can put it between her lips and wait for him to light it up for her. Because that’s what guys do for ladies.

“Not a word,” she promises around the filter, a conspiracy passed between the two of them to let her misbehave just a little bit. ‘Ella’s brows lift and she looks up, patiently waiting for him to be a gentleman.

Matches is definitely not a gentleman, but he can play the part on occasion. He returns his pack of cigarettes to his pocket, then rolls his wrist, passing the other hand in front of it; there's a sharp snap and crackle, and suddenly there's a lit match held between his fingers. It's a well-practiced bit of sleight of hand — palm the match, slip it into the fingers when you roll the wrist, strike it off the thumbnail of your other hand. A little thing, but with enough practice it can be done very quickly, and it looks pretty sharp if it's done correctly.

He carefully extends the match to light 'Ella's cigarette, then his own, before shaking the match out and pocketing it — no traces for the Department goons.

"So. I'm out here for a smoke break " which is a lie; it typically takes more than a cigarette to draw him out of the dark "but seems pretty obvious you aren't, since you didn't have any cigarettes until, oh, 'bout thirty seconds ago. So what brings you out here?"

It shouldn’t be a surprise the way ‘Ella goes starry eyed at the slick display with the match. He earns himself another grin from the teenager as she leans back to puff on her smoke. (And immediately turn into her elbow to cough discreetly.) She bites the inside of her lip while she holds the cigarette in between two fingers, considering how she wants to answer the question.

“I just needed to get away from her,” is the simplest and most honest explanation. “She just wants to run away again. She wants me to run away.” The second drag from the cigarette is taken with a bit more of an idea of what to expect. There’s no coughing this time as she exhales the stream of smoke. “She’s so scared of everything. It’s not like it was before…”

Matches doesn't reply — not immediately. Instead, he takes a drag of his cigarette, pulling smoke deep into his lungs and holding it there while he thinks. He thinks about the past. About his own daughter, and how he had fucked that up. Then, further back, to his own father. It's amusing, in a sort of horrible, soul-crushingly ironic way. The cycle repeats. I couldn't stand Dad, so I left home. Toni couldn't stand me, so she ran off. Except she never got a chance to grow up to be me… He closes his eyes, until that prickling behind his eyelids goes away…

…then he lets out his breath, exhaling a stream of smoke to the heavens.

"Sounds rough," he says, though he doesn't specify which he's referring to.

“Yeah,” ‘Ella replies noncommittally. It all is, so that blanket statement works for them both. “She used to be so brave, you know? I mean, you knew, right? She was a police officer.” That Kay was a dirty cop is a reality that her daughter has been spared, given the dissolution of everything around them.

Once more, she drops back to a prone position on the browned grass, staring up at the way the smoke seems to mingle with the clouds above. “Now she just wants to bury her head in the sand. She won’t let me fight.

Matches does chuckle at that. "Yeah. Your mom didn't flinch from much." Which is absolutely true. Matches would know.

His gaze drifts into the distance. "People've got different ways of coping when they're scared. Some people freeze. Some people rabbit. Some people get a little loopy, or get tunnel vision, or…" he trails off making an expansive wave with his hand; there are a lot of ways fear affects people, and Matches had seen a lot of them, back in the bad old days.

"Your mom, though," he says, then chuckles once — this sounds a lot like the setup for a yo momma joke, even though it isn't. He shakes his head. "She gets mean. She doesn't take shit; she squares up and gets ready to fight. I'd say it was the cop training, but I think it was already there; it's why she was good at policin'."

“So why is she doing this?” It’s very dramatic, the way that ‘Ella throws her head back and drapes her arm over forehead with a groan. “She should be ready to kick ass, not run away upstate!”

But the truth is, ‘Ella is scared too. And it comes out in the tremor in her voice and the way the next stream of smoke that’s expelled from her lips comes in starts and stops. “I don’t want to be a million miles away if something happens to her.”

"When you're a parent… if you're even halfway worth the title… your kid is the most important thing in the world," Matches says slowly. "And that's why."

"Your mom's a tough customer. She ain't afraid of bein' shot, or mauled, or whatever." He pauses, then gives an aside glance. "Well. She is — she ain't crazy, just tough — but she could cope with that."

"But the idea of somethin' happenin' to you… that's somethin' else. You don't wanna be in a situation where you can't help her… but she's terrified of the same thing. She's afraid of fuckin' up and you gettin' hurt for it. Don't matter how much of a hardass you are — the thought of your kid gettin' hurt is hell…"

He falls silent, gaze drifting off into that middle distance; it takes him a moment to pick the thread back up again. "So she does what she always does when she's in a bad situation. Falls back on that old NYPD training. Squares up, lays down the law." He looks over at 'Ella. "Even if that's exactly the wrong goddamn response."

The girl is silent for a long while. He can feel the tension in her, how badly she wants to argue about how it’s cowardice or weakness and not love that’s driving her mother’s actions. But the problem is that he’s right and she knows it.

“Thanks,” ‘Ella deadpans, “I hate it.” Her lip curls, frustrated by how it’s all come into perspective now and it’s just so hard to be mad at her mom anymore. Staying mad is easier. It gives her a sense of purpose. “Did you know her before my dad died?” She doesn’t wait for the response. It feels like no one really did. “I barely remember it anymore, what she was like. But she was just… She used to actually smile and mean it.”

Matches lets out another of those almost-chuckles. "I know. Understandin' doesn't make it any easier, bein' stuck in it."

Her question catches him offguard; fortunately, it seems she's not really expecting an answer. He takes a moment to consider it; a Kay who used to actually smile? He shakes his head. "That was before I knew her," he says quietly.

“For a while there, after Dad died, she just… I mean, she sent me away then, too.” That much ‘Ella remembers vividly. Her mother’s grieving process is a mystery, because she wasn’t allowed to participate in it. “But she just didn’t smile. Didn’t really laugh. She was just sad all the time.

‘Ella sighs out a lungful of smoke. “But for a little bit there, back before the world went to hell? I saw my mom again. The real her. I didn’t really get it at the time, but I think she’d met someone who made her happy again. I thought it was Uncle Matt at first…” Frowning, she studies the burning end of her cigarette. “Then it changed again. I thought it was the fighting and all, but… It’s something else. Even after Matt threw her out on her ass, she’d still managed to find something to smile about. Whatever it was she found, it must’ve… Been lost.”

What she doesn’t know and Silas does is the way that Kay Damaris and Kain Zarek exchanged glances when they thought no one was looking. But when the world went to hell, as ‘Ella put it, Zarek disappeared as well. No more glances. No more surreptitious smiles.

"A lot of people have been lost," Matches agrees quietly. Some of us left behind are lost, too. There is entirely too much depression in that thought to be healthy; he forces himself to muster a grin. "But maybe your mom'll find someone again. She did once, right?" he says. He doubts it, personally, but hey. It's not impossible.

“I don’t think she wants to anymore,” ‘Ella supposes, stubbing out the remains of her cigarette on the hillside. “I think she likes being sad.” Maybe she understands something about the comfort in sadness, in not getting one’s hopes up. Maybe she doesn’t.

The sound of footsteps approaching breaks the sanctity of their quiet reverie. Kay crests the hill with a large black duffle bag slung over one shoulder. “There you are,” she remarks without bitterness or exasperation. “We should get going.”

Colene Marcella pretends not to hear. At least, until she hears the telltale clearing of her mother’s throat that signals her annoyance, and how she might decide to start shouting. “Matches and I were talking,” she offers up lamely.

"No one likes being sad. Not really. They just think it hurts less. That it's easier," Matches says quietly.

He's just about to get up, to go ahead and take his leave since he's just about out of cigarette… but it sounds like it's too late. Ten to one says it's Kay coming up the hill. So instead he stands up, takes another drag and lets out a lungful of smoke. "Hello, Kay," he says.

Kay folds her arms over her chest, shifting a dubious glance between her daughter and the man she’s been idling with. “Matches.” Her head tilts to the side as though her next question might be and what the fuck do you call this? “Thanks for keeping an eye on her,” is what comes out instead, even if the tone doesn’t quite match the words for gratitude.

“I don’t need anyone to keep an eye on me,” ‘Ella grumbles as she pushes herself up to stand. Her lip curls in a sneer that would look (and has looked) just as at-home on her mother’s face. “I’m not a baby.”

Kay’s attention instantly flips back to her daughter, face hardening. “You’re my baby, and if I say I don’t want you out of my sight, that’s how it’s going to be. Now come on, we need to go pack your things. Grandpa Hank’s already on his way down here to pick you up.”

The gasp of incredulity and offense from ‘Ella is immediate. “What?!” Her fingers ball up into fists and color flushes her cheeks. “You aren’t even going yourself?

“No,” Kay replies simply, tone flat. “Because you were wrong about one thing — I’m not a coward. I’m staying here to help. But you? Are getting out of here before the DoEA starts to move in.”

“But I can help!” ‘Ella protests, looking now to Matches for backup.

Is this a disaster? Yes it is. Kay's in full-fledged Boss Bitch Cop Mode and 'Ella… well. Matches doesn't need to be a mind-reader in a moment like this to see that 'Ella is her mama's daughter — that sneer on her lips is carbon-copy inherited from Kay.

And now she's looking at him for backup. That isn't happening. He might be able to talk Kay around… if it was just her. Anything I say now, though, in front of the kid, she's gonna take it like a challenge and tell me to fuck off. Kay's attention is focused on 'Ella, fortunately; all it takes is the tiniest application of his power to keep the elder Damaris from picking up on the tiny shake of his head he gives her.

"Maybe you could… but the way it's lookin' right now, you'd be gettin' in a fight on two fronts if you tried," he points out, his voice a low, slow drawl as he stubs his cigarette out and levers himself to his feet.

“This is so unfair!” ‘Ella shouts, stomping her foot on the grass. And conveniently stepping over her own spent cigarette before her mother might look back down in that direction and spot a pair of filters for the pair of them.

“I do not give a single flying fig, young lady.” That would be comical if not for how very serious this argument is. Maybe it’s still comical. Matches has never heard Kay throw around substitute curse words before.

It’s easy to see that the younger Damaris is bubbling over now. With her fists bunched up, she leans forward as she bellows, “I hate you!” and starts to stomp off, clipping her mother’s shoulder as she pushes past her.

But she’s relenting, which is exactly the result Kay wanted, if not how she wanted that result achieved. She holds her posture rigid for a long moment, until she’s certain her daughter is out of earshot again. Then, she lets out a heavy sigh. “It’s okay if she hates me,” Kay tells herself just as much as she tells Matches. “At least she’ll be alive.”

Matches needs another cigarette. Right now. He wonders, for a split-second, if he could get away with smoking two at once… but that'd just be ridiculous. Instead, he taps one out for himself, then, as an afterthought, offers one to Kay. "How old is she?" he asks absently, sticking the unlit cigarette between his lips.

Kay eyes the pack for a moment before she reaches over to pluck out the loosey. “Thanks,” she murmurs. Unlike her daughter, she doesn’t expect him to light up for her. If he offers on his own, fine, but she can strike a match just as well as he can.

“She’ll be fourteen in December,” Kay responds. The smoke break will give ‘Ella a chance to cool down and get her things together. Might give her a chance to calm down a bit, too. “Going on twenty-four, I guess. Thinks she knows every-fucking-thing. You know how that is.”

She winces as soon as the words leave her lips, but she doesn’t draw any further attention to it, for his sake. Won’t ask him to accept an apology.

The momentary stillness on Matches' face is the only reaction he gives to Kay's last comment. His eyes close…

…and then he strikes a match and lights his cigarette.

"I do," he answers quietly, taking a deep pull. Jesus, I'm burnin' through 'em fast today, he thinks, and that thought prompts an irrational urge to laugh… which would be a bad idea when he's got both lungs full of smoke, so he fights it down.

Instead, he exhales slowly. Pushing out the smoke, trying to push out some of the grief that's got his heart, his lungs caught in a vice grip. Maybe it helps a little; maybe it drives it back just a bit. But most of it stays with him. As heavy and cold and bitter and suffocating as the day he first held his daughter's cold, dead body in his arms.

He wouldn't be rid of the grief even if he could, really. Grief is all he can give her, now. It's all he has left of her.

But now's not the time. He can grieve later — when night has fallen, when everyone else has gone asleep, when he's laying awake, staring at a cold stone ceiling he can't even see in the darkness.

"My little girl… she was the same way," he says through the cloud of smoke, his lips curving up in a tiny smile as he lets himself indulge in that most painful of pastimes — remembrance. "Precocious. Cute as a button. Antonia." His smile broadens as he speaks, actually reaching his eyes; the corners crinkle, his gray eyes seem to sparkle, and for a moment it's as though Kay has been joined on the hilltop by the ghost of a man she never actually met — the Silas Mackenzie that existed before Linderman decided he would serve best in public relations.

Then he sighs, and the light in his eyes begins to dim, to fade. "She disowned me when she was fifteen. Still don't know how she figured me out. Maybe that was the power she got; maybe she was just that clever. Didn't matter, really. It hurt like hell, but I figured it was for the best." The words are smooth, well-practiced… empty. He exhales again, letting out another cloud of smoke. "Wouldn't have to worry about her or Lyndsay gettin' caught in the crossfire if they weren't there," he says, his eyes snapping to Kay… and for just a moment, his expression again seems to belong to a different version of himself — only this time, the ghost staring at her through the smoke is the humorless smile and the cold, lightless eyes of Redd.

It doesn't last. The smoke thins and the smile fades, and the ghost of Redd is just as gone as the ghost of Silas; only Matches remains, tired and worn. "Even if she hates me, she'll be safe," he sighs. "I told myself that one, too." He shrugs. "Maybe you're right to send her off… but take it from me: there's nothing in this world worse than knowin' the last words you'll ever hear from your daughter were her tellin' you how much she hates your guts." His voice is even and something that bears a very close resemblance to calm as he finishes that sentence, but the way his hand trembles as he flicks the ash from his cigarette tells a different story.

Kay strikes up a match for herself and holds the burning tip to the end of her cigarette, half-lidded gaze on the burgeoning ember while he starts down the path she set him on. Only once the match is shaken out, the flame guttering and dying in the air, does she look up at him again.

There’s guilt there for her, too. But she knows some of his pain and knows how even the simplest comments can conjure the dead. The loss of her husband is not the same as the loss of his daughter, she knows that much. But nevertheless, it's still a loss. That the loss of the second man she allowed herself to love was of her own making is something else entirely. If Matches feels even a fraction of that responsibility for Antonia, she would offer a piece of her heart to him to make up for the part of his that’s missing if she could.

She deserves the guilt she carries. He doesn’t.

But when he looks at her like that, Kay’s blood runs cold and the stream of smoke that leaves her lungs comes in starts and stops, the only telltale sign of the shudder she’s suppressed. Redd still properly scares her.

And then it’s over. He’s him again, and the next lungful she draws in is of air unladen with carcinogens, her nerves steady again. “Her best chance is upstate,” Kay reasons, maybe more with herself than with him. “I… I can’t leave here.” There’s an inability to meet his eyes when she lies through her teeth, also mostly to herself, “There’s money to be made here.” Kay Damaris will be the last person to realize she’s fighting for the resistance, not for the money and favors they owe her. “I’ll talk to her before m’dad picks her up.” Maybe they can part on a more hopeful note, with a promise of a reunion.

He nods. He doesn't trust his voice not to betray him if he actually speaks… but he does manage a tight smile.

He takes another drag off the cigarette. Those things'll kill you, the voice of Lyndsay whispers in the back of his mind, bright and teasing. He lets out another stream of smoke — the peril of remembrance is that it invites in shades that are not so easy to cast away again. Part of the charm, love, he thinks — truer now than it ever was in those happier days gone by.

The lump in his throat and the prickling at the corners of his eyes has faded enough he thinks he can manage speech again. "Good," he says. "She's a good kid. Worries that somethin' might happen to her mom while she's not around, though."

He takes a deep breath, his gaze slipping away from her. He recognizes that Kay's lying to herself; that's fine. A little self-deception can go a long way in making do in this rotten world, as far as Matches is concerned. He just hopes she doesn't get her illusions stripped away in the same way that his allegiance was sealed.

Well. He's done all he can here, anyway. 'Ella's safe and Kay is maybe not on a track to repeat Silas's Worst Parenting Screwups; time for him to go disappear for awhile. "I… gotta go. Straighten some stereo wires, put together some presents." The ticking kind, he doesn't feel the need to say aloud. "Maybe bribe one of the plant wizards to grow up some more tobacco." He nods once, meeting Kay's eyes briefly before his gaze slips away. "Later."

Kay shifts her cigarette to her left hand and reaches out to capture his arm with her right before he can slip away. Her gaze holds his for a long moment. They share in this moment of grief. Finally, she says quietly, “Thanks, Silas.” Her grip loosens, slips away. “For looking after her. For the advice.”

She waves the cigarette with a wry smile. “The smoke.”

Then, she grants him the courtesy of turning away so he can escape her notice and exit on his own terms.

Stage left. Pursued by ghosts.

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