Down to Its Bones


logan_icon.gif sibyl_icon.gif

Scene Title Down to Its Bones
Synopsis Logan is a safe spot for Sibyl to land.
Date March 5, 2018

The Vault

Staten Island is the most effective place to hide unless the people you’re hiding from are among its most influential and dangerous residents. So, for the first time in more than six months, Sibyl finds herself settled back inside New York’s Safe Zone, even though she lacks trust in the district’s name and reputation to protect her.

John Logan isn’t much better. He is, however, a person and not an idea.

That’s enough.

She’s paid the Englishman’s kindness back in small touches around the flat above the Vault he calls home: a sink kept emptied of dishes, a bowl of fresh fruit and winter flowers on his kitchen table, and suits pressed, pristinely folded, and hung with care in his bedroom closet. The floors stay swept. He can see his reflection in his faucets and the windows looking out onto the busy pedestrian streets below.

It’s a little like having his own live-in maid except that he rarely sees her. The girl is more of a stray cat than a domestic servant, coming and going through the open window in the spare room he’s appropriated for her at strange hours, or sleeping during the day on the chaise lounge she converts into a bed by adding blankets and a solitary, rumpled pillow.

She sits on the fire escape outside, watching the crowds weave through and between each other like two currents flowing in two opposite directions. The pocket knife she carries for protection doubles as a handy apple peeler as she fastidiously shaves off its skin in one long, continuous loop.

Sibyl always knows when Logan enters the flat, so long as she's there. Even out on the fire escape, it's easy to hear the slamming of the front door, the crash of his keys onto the little stand by the door, the swearing at how cold it is—

It's been a few minutes. When he joins her on the fire escape, without request of invitation, it's a less dramatic affair. The structure beneath her creaks a little with added weight, and he brings with him the smell of cigarettes steeped into fine wools, mingled with cologne, and from the open container gripped in one hand, the scent of fried noodle, soy sauce, onion, recently microwaved. He takes a lean against the rickety railing, poking at the contents of this evening's dinner with cheap chopsticks.

"I reckon you wouldn't have liked what this place was, before the war," he says. "You could've grown up differently, adapted like any of us, but some people have an instinct for places like this."

Sibyl snips off the end of the spiral with a deft, practiced turn of her wrist and snaps her knife shut. She knows how to do a great many things with it, but poking people with the pointy end isn’t one of them, even if Logan’s assessment of her has the corners of her mouth turning up into a rueful smile. “I like it even better on Staten Island,” she says, holding up the spiral to better admire her handiwork in the rapidly dwindling sunlight. The street lamps will be flickering to life soon, and the storefronts below beginning to glow.

“Nobody pretends to be someone they aren’t. They’re honest even when they’re looking you in the eye and telling lies.”

There’s a cat perched several steps below them on fire escape with its golden eyes turned up, whiskers aquiver, mewling plaintively. The collar and bell around its neck means that it’s being fed by someone else, but something about the noise it makes compels Sibyl to drop the skin through the metal slats anyway.

Front paws pounce onto the morsel in the same instant it hits the step, and the feline takes off with a flick of its tail and apple skin flapping in the breeze.

"Staten Island's been that way since more than a decade ago," Logan says. Agreeing.

Poking around his chow mein, he takes a glance to acknowledge the carry on going beneath their feet. No need to stamp his heel and send the feline scampering as it does that on its own, so he just spears a piece of shrimp. "It's where people went to be what they wanted. Do the things they wanted. That sort of things gets dangerous, after a time, but it's fun while it lasts."

And it doesn't always. He's seen its rise and fall. "You're not there now, though, I've noticed."

“No.” Sibyl isn’t. Her knife scissors open again. “Buddy Arrowood found out where I was sleeping.” She carves off a piece of apple, mindful not to kick her thumb on the blade. Fresh flesh sticks like glue to the metal, so she removes it with her teeth.

As far as methods of eating go, it isn’t particularly ladylike — but there’s still a certain daintiness about the way she curls back her upper lip that’s similar to the cat nibbling at the apple skin. It’s settled on the lid of the dumpster in the alley outside Logan’s flat, bottlebrush tail swishing to and fro.

“I lost most of my things,” she says. “Clothes. Maps. Rations. I don’t think he knows it’s there, but I don’t want to— ” Risk going back. Finishing the sentence would make her feel smaller than she already does, so she makes a vague gesture with her knife-wielding hand instead. Juice dribbles down the grip.

"I ran a club out of the Rookery," Logan says, after a moment. "Back when there was a semi-functional power grid, even. That was where I slept, kept my things. It burned down, eventually, and I couldn't risk going back either."

He does wonder after his notoriety, from those years. So many people are dead now, and those that survive have scattered to different corners, new lives, from Tuck's supermarket in Red Hook to Cardinal's well tailored suit and fat wallet. Specifically, he wonders what Sibyl's learned of it, and whether she decided under his bed was safe enough anyway.

He thinks about asking. Doesn't.

"There's always more things for the taking." There, that's the adult wisdom he has to impart. "Arrowood's bad news, darling. Both of them. Not to bang on about it, but they'll do more with you than just kill you."

“I know.” There’s no defensiveness in Sibyl’s tone, only resignation. She saws off another piece of apple and offers it out to Logan. “A smart fox doesn’t go poking its nose around chicken coops.” Or stealing PSM pistols, but maybe this fox has learned her lesson.

“I like my skin,” she adds. “On my body, not in tatters. I’ve seen what their dogs can do.” Have done. The girl glances down at the cat, which is growling now in that strange, alien way felines do in the back of their throats. A challenger has appeared in the mouth of the alley, its hackles already prickling.

“Who burned down your club?” she wants to know.

The cats get Logan's attention again, now, with their godawful whine coming up from below. Now he slams his heel into the fire-escape flooring, once, twice, thrice, the entire structure clanging with the intent to scare them away. They piss everywhere and make an awful racket and Logan's intolerance is swift and quick.

He doesn't specify that they could do more to her than just dogs. It seems she gets the picture.

"Dunno," he says, resettling into lean, tucking back into his early dinner. "Had my share of enemies, I'm sure they paid off anyone who could throw a Molotov cocktail for a tenner. The stakes were higher over there, back then, but the competition just as fierce."

He doesn't truly believe it was a matter of feuding, but it hardly matters anymore. The last he saw, the burned remains of the Happy Dagger was a half-sheltered clubhouse for crack addicts and worse, and anything recoverable long since picked clean. "How'd you run afoul of Arrowood, anyway? I don't imagine they're interested in buying up your wares."

Sibyl divides the remaining apple into four more slices. She shies away from Logan’s eyes at the question. “I stole those guns,” she says. Because he asked. Because it feels cathartic to confide this in someone else for the first time. Because she thinks she can trust him. “They don’t know it was me,” yet is the unspoken implication there. “I thought if I could take them out of Syan’s hands, and put them into someone else’s—”

It sounds stupid when she phrases it like that, she decides, and swiftly reverses on the idea. “Change never happens all at once.” Unless that change is two cats posturing in the alley to zero cats posturing in the alley. The apple skin gathers dirt on the ground. “It’s like waves on the beach. Water erodes sand. Every last grain, eventually. The ocean breaks it down and builds it back up again into something new.”

She considers the next slice of apple as she turns it between her fingers. “Staten Island soil needs less Arrowoods in it,” she says. “More people like you.”

It's a little strange, to hear of what feels like random chance and business as something slightly more weighted than only that. Logan digs around Chinese noodles idly, appetite fickle as she confirms the source of the PSM pistols. It confirms what he'd already cobbled together since that evening in the Rookery, and he files through the possibilities branching out of that information. Cutting their throats and tipping them into the Fresh Kills is a solid top five, but immediately disappears as a viable option.

There's a sidelong glance at this last conclusion, pausing over it with some silent suspicion.

Eventually, "What makes you think I'm so different than the Arrowoods?"

"You sell heirlooms," Sibyl says, "not people." She's finished the apple by now, and is using her sleeve to clean her knife's handle. "I know things used to be different. They still talk about you there, sometimes. The Englishman with the eyes that glow in the dark like a cat's."

The knife clicks shut again. This time, it remains that way. She tucks it into her cardigan's pocket. "Your club wasn't just a club. Once you even cut out a girl's tongue, isn't that true?"

Later, Logan will be mad at himself that a thirteen-year-old girl could say something that would make his hands grow damp, and give him a sense of being powerfully aware of his own mortal frame on the huge spinning rock of planet earth. Of the phantoms of the past, the one most likely to drag him back towards it might be Abigail Marie Beauchamp herself.

He breathes out through his nose, and itches for a cigarette. "She grew it back," he says, more isn't that strange? than a mounted defense. "Everything starts to sound a bit like a fairytale when you pare it down to its bones."

Sibyl makes a small noise at the back of her throat. Mmm. "It sounds like a fairytale because it was," she says. "There were firebirds and wolves that tried to swallow the moon. People withered into ash with a touch. Others changed their shapes or their faces."

She offers him another smile. There's more mirth in it — her eyes, too, even if they don't shine quite the same way his do. "I know what happens to little girls who wander too deep into the woods, Mr. Logan. I'll be all right."

That raised eyebrow from Logan communicates what it normally communicates: you're a strange one.

But he doesn't hate it. Given the company he chooses to keep, he shouldn't. Sasha still calls what he can do cat glow. "You'll be alright," he repeats, forcing himself to relax with a scoff, sending his attention out towards the city below and beyond. "It's me I'm worried about." But apparently, not that worried. "I brought you one of these." He shakes the box of take-out. "You'll want to microwave it. And don't come downstairs after eight — I've got guests coming. If you want to leave, go through the window as you do anyway."

A beat, then, "You can't predict hands of cards, can you?"

Sibyl considers the question a moment longer than she should. Conflict draws lines on her face and marginally diminishes the light in her eyes. He'll hear a hitch in the next breath she draws in. When she lets it back out again, it has a resolute quality that's mirrored in her squared shoulders and slight jut of her chin. "No," she confesses.

"But I can see them, if the person who's got them is looking too."

It's the most candid she's ever been with him about her ability and its functions. She lets it hang there in the air between them, the unspoken offer, waiting to see what he might do with it.

Logan sort of pauses over it, having half-gotten out of his slouch to go shed the day in preparation for the evening, but now studies her. Can't help but wonder what it is she does and if it can't be used for more than just redistributing diamond drop earrings, but—

His smile is knife quick, ivory, easy. "Good to know," he says, leaving the offer otherwise untouched. Enough trouble stirred and contemplated for one evening, he reckons, spidering back into his apartment with a rustle of wool.

She watches him go but neither protests nor pursues. Logan's business is his own; his motivations are, at times, obscure, but so is the weather, she thinks. She's enjoyed this brief spot of sunshine.

Sibyl's ability calls to her somewhere in the street below, beckoning for her to come and see. Epstein would not approve.

And yet Epstein is not here.

She goes like the cats go, down the fire escape with equal parts swiftness and ease. There are deep woods to explore.

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