Diametric Opposition


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Scene Title Diametric Opposition
Synopsis Finn takes Eileen on a scavenging tour.
Date January 25, 2018

Somewhere in the Pacific Northwest

It's a gray day, the sky covered with a thick, relentless blanket of clouds, though they aren't the heavy sort that promise immediate rain — which makes it fair enough weather for flying. These days, there's little worry of air traffic to contend with, but even so, the helicopter is low enough that pilot doesn't have to worry about the cloud cover hiding any other sky traffic. Below, the foothills of the mountains below gleam with the verdant damp the Pacific Northwest is known for — there may be no rain today, but there was last night, and there will most likely be rain tomorrow.

The pilot controls the mechanical bird with the cyclic, the joystick like control, with ease and joy, grinning as he cuts a curving swath through the sky, following the contour of the hillside as it builds up to the mountain. "And on your left, you'll see the Whogivesafuck foothills, which are mostly made of igneous and sandstone, but the natives all take it for granite," Finn's voice comes through the headphones over the thrum and hum of the machine that holds them hundreds of feet in the air.

The woman beside Finn in the cockpit isn't having a good time.

That's not his fault. It's the fault of the altitude, the roar of the helicopter's rotors, and Eileen's fear of being trapped inside what she calls the flying coffin.

Birds are hollow-boned and genetically designed to rise without effort into the sky. They are as at home there as shoaling fish in the ocean. Human beings, on the other hand, were not built to fly.

Her fingers form a vice around a metal bar above her head so that she has something to grip that isn't the restraint keeping her safely locked in her seat. She hasn't said much since liftoff on account of looking like she might dip her head between her legs at any given moment and vomit, but now she does speak in a high, tight voice.

"Is that a joke?"

No sarcasm here.

"Tough room," Finn says, but glances her way. His smirk softens into a fonder sort of smile. "Well, I don't know what the fuck Whatthefuck foothills are made of, honestly. I'm not a geologist. Wait — is it geography or geology? No, geology's right," he babbles a little, tipping the cyclic stick a little more gently than he might have if Eileen didn't look like she was about to be sick.

"Look, we're as safe as if we were in a car. Maybe safer. I've only crashed the one time. And I was shot down, so it wasn't even my fault. I won't let anything happen to you," his voice comes through the headphones again. "What can I do to make you feel less nervous? Aside from landing. I mean, I'll do that too, but between now and then? You wanna tell me about something, take your mind off, you know, the fact we're in this thing?" He rolls his eyes at himself as he speaks, cheeks growing a little rosy.

Eileen has to dig down past her immediate fear of plummeting to a fiery death in order to find something worth talking about. Not incidentally, it's something she wouldn't consider worth talking about under literally any other circumstances.

She looks out the other window, past the vast valleys and marshland that defines Washington's rocky coastline. "I wanted to study ballet when I was a little girl," she says, too preoccupied with the distance between the helicopter and the ground to think of anything else, or to regret sharing something that's both inconsequential and private, "I dreamed of moving to Copenhagen. The Royal Danish Theatre. That was my plan. That was the escape."

He's quiet for a moment, mulling it over in his mind. Ballet isn't a subject he knows much about.

Escape, he can relate to.

"You would've rocked a tutu," he says with a solemn nod. "Me, I just wanted to fly. I was up in the sky every weekend. I was a klutzy kid. A little robust, if you know what I'm saying. Not like, Chunk in Goonies level, but a well-rounded child. Rubanesque, you might say."

He flicks a switch and then takes another curving swath through the air. "So the sky was freedom, you know? It didn't matter in the air that that I could barely walk ten steps without running into a wall or tripping over my own shoelaces." His green eyes slide sideways, watching her for a moment, before turning his eyes back to the large windshield. "I imagine dance was a little like that? Did you take lessons or just want to?"

"Some," Eileen answers, "twice a week, six to thirteen." Which would be seven years of her life. Not an insignificant period of time, definitely more deserving than the word some, except: "I wasn't very good at it."

As the helicopter banks left, opening Eileen's view of the Puget Sound, she sucks in a sharp, shaky breath that produces a static pop and hiss. Her cheek brushes against the microphone. "The first real life lesson I learned, I think. It doesn't matter how disciplined you are, or if you put in more time and effort than anyone else— you don't always get what you want, even if you do everything right."

When she gasps, Finn glances over at her, a quiet, "You're all right. We're all right," that the headphones make harsher than they would be without.

He nods, thoughtfully, in an effort to do his part to keep up the conversation, keep her from focusing too much on their altitude or the fact that a thousand things could go wrong in the machine that doesn't seem like it should be capable of flight, and yet is.

"That's a harsh lesson for a little kid, but a good one, I think. Life's not fair. It's a kick in the teeth half the time," he says. "What was your favorite… I don't know… song, I guess, to dance to? I mean… I probably won't have heard about it. The only classical music I know was on Loony Toons cartoons." He hums a few bars of The Barber of Seville. He's surprisingly on key.

Eileen doesn't realize she's smiling until it's too late. She barks out a hoarse laugh in spite of herself, and although it's coloured by the same fear that has the muscles in her neck and shoulders drawn and tense, it's the real thing.

Also: The first time he's ever heard it.

"Tchaikovsky," she says, sounding embarrassed, because of course that's her favourite. "Swan Lake. It's everything. Princesses, swans, curses— a romantic tragedy in four acts. What little girl doesn't want to be Odette."

"She does laugh," he says teasingly in faux-wonder, but he looks fucking pleased with himself, chin lifting slightly like a peacock puffing up its chest.

He nods. "I think I remember a movie about that one that was super fucked up and gave me nightmares. Before you make me turn over my man card, the girl I was dating wanted to see it. Also the ballerinas in that were pretty hot."

Something catches his eye on the ground and he reaches out to flick some switches, very gradually taking them a bit lower to see whether it's anything salvageable. "Odette's the white swan? I don't remember a redheaded swan."

The look Eileen cuts across the cockpit at Finn is sharp but lacks the admonishment he's come to expect from her when she's been caught off-guard. It's the look of someone who's said something she shouldn't and doesn't know whether she has enough leverage to lay the blame at the other person's feet.

"I don't think the color of her hair matters," she says, very carefully, expression settling back into something more neutral, "but yes. She is."

Finn's brows rise comically in his face, eyes too widening at her like a schoolboy who isn't sure what he's said wrong, but then nods. "Just the color of the floofy thing and the tutu," he says, reaching up to touch the top of his head, the tap of his hand against the band of the headphones making a soft dull sound in the headset.

"Nothing but shit," he says with a nod to what he'd flown low to investigate: just a cluster of rusted trucks, already stripped of anything useful form the looks of it.

He glances back over at her. "Do you still want to be the white swan? You wear so much black. And rarely any feathers. You could use more feathers."

"It's rare that someone is exactly one sort of thing." Eileen's tone softens, which is the closest thing Finn will receive to an apology. It wasn't your fault, it seems to say. "Black or white, good or evil. Human beings don't exist in diametric opposition to each other."

Her focus shifts back to the ground below as if to double-check Finn's work even though she knows that his initial assessment is accurate. Combing the tangled fields below is easier than meeting his eyes. "But sometimes our goals do."

She tips her head back and lets it rest against the seat. "I can wake up an Odette and go to bed an Odile," she says. Then, "She's the black one."

He studies her for a moment as she scrutinizes the relics below, his brow drawing together thoughtfully, before the furrows disappear. His smile returns and he shrugs, one handing angling the control while his other flips a few more switches deftly once she doesn't ask him to land to check out the trucks.

"You're a lot more complex than I am. The only thing I do is go to bed full and wake up hungry. But no one's ever accused me of being complicated," he says lightly. "Is the black one actually evil or just misunderstood?" he asks after a moment.

The weight of that question feels heavier than the helicopter. It could drag her down, too.

Finn can see her trying to process behind her eyes, gaze distant and a little glassy as she sorts her life's deeds — the ones she can remember — into two neat columns.

Two neat, diametrically opposed columns.

When she does answer him, it's in a voice that doesn't leave much room for disagreement. "That's up to you," she says.

Finn glances at her, back to the windshield, and back again, a couple of times, his free hand tapping on his knee as he follows the curve of the land once more.

Her response brings his gaze back to her profile and he lets it rest there a moment. "Misunderstood," he says, "but awesome." He looks back to the path of free sky before them, green eyes on gray horizon. After a moment, he speaks again.

"You're right though. Nothing's really black or white when it comes to humans. Maybe there should've been a gray swan."

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