Essayez Plus Fort


daphne_icon.gif eileen_icon.gif francois_icon.gif

Scene Title Essayez Plus Fort
Synopsis Francois, Daphe and Eileen take a trip to Caen, France, hoping to solve the mystery of a cryptic engraving.
Date September 15, 2010

Maison d'Allegre, New York City

A journal with a cover the approximate navy of a recent night sky is extracted, first, and beneath that, loose leaf paper that Francois gathers into his palms. There's an exhalation of air through his nose that communicates some annoyance that he didn't think to empty the thing before taking it down to the living area, but, he's old. His pragmatism has to be reserved for things of a more dire nature, whatever might be left of it. The wooden box from which his writings are taken from it's an unusual looking thing, but obviously old, blockish, pale, and seems to be the subject of intrigue for the evening.

They might have some clue, in that he bid them to prepare for travel. Explained Daphne to Eileen a little, explained Eileen to Daphne a little less. Mostly to remind them of one another, just in case, and clarify that they are both friends of his.

Once the box is emptied, Francois flips back the lid as much as it will go, careful not to put strain on little bronze hinges, and turns it so Daphne can read the words, angles it so Eileen can see for herself. Francois is probably not helping himself when it comes to convincing anyone that he's fine just fine, and is self-aware enough of that to seem a little self-conscious, but steely determination, forged over decades, isn't going to let a little awkwardness stop him.

Etched in knife carving, a burned quality to the scratches to bring out the words even more, is the following: 1991 / MEMORIAL DE CAEN / ESSAYEZ PLUS FORT

"It was hidden beneath a piece that broke away," he explains. He glances from girl to girl. "I thought perhaps I would see what there is to see." Francois hasn't outright explained to Eileen why he desires she go too — maybe he just thinks she'd enjoy it. He's dressed comfortably, in a loose, sea-green sweater that is half-tucked into dark denim jeans, no jewelry save for an expensive watch at his wrist. There is a slightly wired, alert quality to his demeanor, though he doesn't fidget it out of his system. The curtains disguise the night time West Village, drawn shut.

The platinum-headed speedster tilts her head, peering at the French words — she speaks French, but really only has cause to read road signs and menu boards. "Try harder? Try more?" she guesses, peering at the woman she's only meant once or twice, before her dark eyes flit back to Francois. She's dressed for travel as well, in sturdy sneakers, black capris, a white sweater and a hot pink scarf around her neck. Her red and white courier bag has a lightweight windbreaker draped over it — it gets a little damp crossing the ocean.

"I've never been there specifically, but I got it plugged into my internal GPS," Daphne says, tapping her temple with a determined nod. She's ready to go, as evidenced by the fidgeting of one foot toward the other, though she manages to keep them from blurring. "Whenever you're ready," she adds brightly.

To Eileen, preparing for travel means dressing in functional clothes: a densely-knit wool cardigan, patternless brown dress with a utilitarian cut and high boots made from a durable leather material with flat soles and laces that crisscross up the front in addition to a heavier double-breasted coat, long but fitted to her small frame. A pair of lambskin gloves, her knife and the watch she keeps on her whenever she leaves her home on Staten Island are nestled safely away inside the coat, protected by its dark silk lining, along with a clip that contains her registration card, passport and an unspecified number of euros.

She used to always carry a gun. Not so, anymore.

Although her face it turned toward the sound of Francois' voice, it's the mourning dove on her shoulder that studies the inscription, its head cocked to one side and black eyes glittering. Tiny pink feet flex around the edge of her lapel. "How long do you plan to look?"

There's a rustle of fabric as Francois is picking up a jacket, brown leather and woolen collar and sleeves, silver zippers and hem going no farther than his waist. He has money, exchanged, already — it's not a detail he adds, as he closes the front of the jacket, glancing from Eileen to the bird clinging to her coat, as if undecided in his distraction, for a second, where to look. "A while," he commits, after a second of hesitation. "But if we find nothing together, then you and Daphne may go back alone while I cast my net wider.

"A few days at most," he adds, a glance to the speedster as if for permission, then back to the darker of the two women. "There are things I have to do here also." Which is no secret. A slim wallet is picked up, also containing euros, and secured into a zippered pocket within brown leather.

It's to Daphne he asks, "How does this work?"

Francois' glance her way gets a nod of unquestioning agreement from Daphne. She'll be only too happy to be far from the cage of the empire state and the larger cage of the country as a whole. "I can wait or take you wherever you need to go after, or I can bring Eileen back, and return to help you," she tells him. The other person she's willing to drop most things for to help is hiding in California — and unless her cell phone buzzes to tell her he needs her, her time is Francois'.

She glances at Francois, then Eileen, and reaches out both hands to illustrate. "Better if we start from outside, after your door is locked, since my hand's will be full," she says with a smirk. "It's a little disorienting — you probably won't like it, but I'll get you there faster than a plane can, so you're sacrificing comfort for efficiency on Daphne Airlines," Daphne bubbles cheerfully.

"I'd suggest keeping your eyes on the horizon in front of you, but wearing some glasses or goggles so the spray doesn't irritate them. I brought extra, if you don't have any." She pulls out three pairs of steam-punk-style goggles, with a tip of her head, a smirk curving her lips as she tries to picture Francois in them. "I don't use them myself except on the water for long distances. The salt can be annoying." She nods to the door. "You ready?"

Eileen reaches up with both hands, and gently detaches the dove from her collar, cradling it in her palms with its legs bent and tiny toes curled. The edge of her thumb strokes along its throat and chest, a pacifying gesture, and she tucks her shoulder companion into her coat so that when Daphne offers her the goggles she can take them. Its head pokes out around the fabric as she pulls them on, mindful not to tangle the strap in her hair or the scarf holding it back, tied at the nape of her pale neck.

"I don't know when Hiro plans on coming for me," she says, "but there are others I want to bring with when he does. I'll stay as long as I can." Which is more than a few hours but less than a few days. The Englishwoman does not specify, and has no intention to.

Francois takes the goggles, flipping them around in his hand in inspection and raising an eyebrow, but mirth and suspicious glance of and do we really need these, Millbook is interrupted with an uncertain glance Eileen's way. Distrust is palpable, worry briefly crinkling his forehead before he's absently adjust the strap of the goggles, nodding his understanding. If he has time, he'll make it his business to talk to Eileen about what Hiro intends for her. Time and headspace.

"My neighbours already think me strange," he says, patting himself down to make sure he has everything he needs. His cellphone is left behind. Taking care to put the goggles on, it doesn't really do him any favours in the obviously mentally well department, but— he certainly looks prepared. "Allons-y."

"You don't have to put them on now if you're worried about the neighbors," Daphne begins, but they're close enough to the water that it will be necessary (oui, Francois) before too long. And Francois and Eileen are already putting on the spectacles, so she does too, but then Eileen's words click. Hiro? "You know Hiro?" she says, her breath catching just a little — she's met the man twice, and still owes him her life. Or, more precisely, owes him her life twice.

But Francois' task is at hand, so once he's led them to the front door and has locked it, she takes each of her travelling partners' arms in her own, locking her hands around their elbow and making sure they do the same to her, so that contact would need to be broken twice rather than a quick slip of hands for her to lose them on the water.

With a quick glance up to Francois and then to Eileen, Daphne makes sure her passengers are ready. Then suddenly the world is lost to the two in a blur of motion, the ground soon becoming sand becoming water as she leads them across the long miles of the Atlantic Ocean toward Francois' motherland.

Caen, France

It's an early morning in France, as if Daphne had spurred them through time itself. His first compulsion, after being away from his homeland for so long, is to rest hands on his knees and allow for a groan of complaint, willing the nausea that turns his stomach away. The air is chillier, by several degrees, the sky a clear dome of paling blue above them, starkly different from the humid, overcast weather of New York City lately. He loosens a rough laugh from his throat as if getting rid of it, dragging goggles off and feeling seaspray as freshly damp in his clothing. It's too early in the morning for the streets to be lined with people, and the car cruising down the street doesn't earn them any attention either.

The sun crawled higher, when they procured a map for themselves, Francois asking in shy French for directions to the le memorial. By the time they were there, it was open.

With little about the city resembling what he remembers of France since the last time he roamed the streets, he did not have much to say. Curious glancing over the faces of buildings that remind him more of New York City than France of the 30s and 40s, observational silence, and turning glossy map over in his hands, English and French both written upon the sprawl of winding streets that make up the city. With Daphne's mark being close enough, it doesn't take very long.

The memorial is a modest tribute to the uprooting of German forces some sixty, seventy years ago, and Francois imagines it may shrink with every passing decade, somehow, mystical properties of memory affecting the layout of these buildings. Propaganda posters on display of both sides of the war. Lots of red involved, and Francois drags his attention across them. Mounted guns, pieces of uniform, tokens on display and divided from reaching hands by a railing as well as the watchful if lazy gaze of a man in a security uniform who thinks that these three must be super keen to explore the museum this early in the morning.

"This is where my plan finishes," he feels moved to admit to them.

The speedster's demeanor has taken on an oddly somber turn from the carefree sprite ferrying them across the ocean just moments ago. Of course, anyone would look more serious without the steampunk goggles on, and all three pairs have safely ferreted away in Daphne's courier bag — they'll be pulled out for the return trip, of course, unless Francois staunchly refuses to wear them a second time — if he returns with them. His words aren't so sanguine.

Beneath her knit brows, her dark eyes flit from gun to gun, poster to poster, and she looks suddenly smaller and more frail, and she shivers. "I don't understand," Daphne says quietly, turning to look up Francois. "What is the plan?" Possibly a question she should have asked before agreeing to come here.

Eileen's mourning dove superficially resembles the turtle doves in the town's sparse trees, their downy, pale feathers a drab contrast to the flowers that once bloomed on the sides of the roads and in the arrangements on windowsills with wooden shutters and aged, warped glass, now conspicuously absent. She chose well, these clothes, but maybe it would have been wiser to pull on a pair of jeans this morning because she can still feel the salt stinging on her legs, and beads of moisture clinging like to dew to her long brown hair, which ripples in the breeze and smells strongly of cigarette smoke and residual traces of floral perfume.

When she asked Gabriel to go to Germany with her, she hadn't much of a plan either — only a destination, and now that they're there she can empathize with Francois' uncertainty. "Perhaps whoever left the message in the box has left a message here, too," she suggests.

He smiles, then, at Daphne. When angry, Francois' expression doesn't develop lines, going impassive and smooth like a marble mask, but its mirth or amusement that softens this affect, draws brackets at the corners of his mouth, deepens the lines that spread naturally nearer his eyes. Possibly, Daphne should have asked that question before agreeing to come here, but he's glad she didn't, glad she ran this errant so readily without realising what was behind it. Not because there's anything questionable about it, and not because he wants to trick the girl, but it's nice. Friendship.

"I'm hoping Eileen is right," he confirms, with a nod that's more of a blink, swiveling his attention around the museum, feeling a little confronted by its contents, but he chose to come here. "I do not know what 1991 means, but if there is something intended— "

He shrugs leather clad shoulders, awkwardly carding his pale fingers through his dark hair, then steps away from the girls with a smile that's almost crooked. "Shall we look around?"

Daphne's had enough jobs that she didn't understand — people having her steal things from their own apartment, just to see if she could, for example — but usually as a messenger or a thief, not as a mode of transportation. Still, she agreed to come and she is there to support Francois, so she nods. Sometimes, you don't need to understand someone to be there for them.

"Lead the way," the speedster agrees, unzipping her courier bag and pulling out a protein bar to refuel the energy stores that are a bit on the empty side after the long run across hundreds of miles of salt water. After unwrapping and taking a bite, she glances at Eileen, then Francois, and pulls out two more, offering one to each a little belatedly, her mouth busy chewing.

"No thank you," Eileen says, "I've already eaten." Which may or may not be a lie. Although her clothes are clean and her skin milky and clear, the shadows beneath her eyes are darker than usual, and her soft voice has a somewhat haggard quality when she speaks. Whether or not she's eaten, she probably hasn't slept — or if she has, she's not gotten enough rest.

Her dove, on the other hand, appears alert, its black eyes sharp and attentive. Whether or not she looks it, logic dictates that she must be too. "If you carved a message for someone," she starts, moving to follow Francois, "where might you put another one?"

"I wouldn't carve a message for someone," is unhelpful retort, Francois moving at a meander through the stretching expanse of the museum floor, their footsteps echoing in the awkward library-quiet of the place. It's boring, really, and people who come here are boring! Unless you like history, of which Francois has a difficult time coming to terms with the notion of history in the immediate century. It is probable that Eileen might appreciate things a little more than Daphne, and maybe even a little more than Francois.

They break up, eventually, for wont of freeing themselves of awkward silence of finding nothing. Being a natural lone wolf, Francois is the first to do so, eventually coming to lean against the railings that divide the museum goers from a display of munition, studying more the black and white images of photographs beneath glass pinned to the wall, with descriptions written in French and English. He's pensively quiet.

Ready to go home, actually. Fuck 'a few days'.

Eileen's attention is what snags on something of worth, possibly, maybe. It's a display of items, personal tokens, scraps from uniforms, letters, an old leather case of writing implements. Something else lies spread open like a pinned open butterfly, aged pages, scrawling writing in French of a penmanship she may even recognise despite age, despite foreign words. There is a single line that's been translated: …when the war ends France will be herself again.

Eileen has a fondness for old things. An antique war medal she once gave to someone as a gift will testify. So will most of the clothes on her back, an assortment selected from secondhand boutiques both here in New York City and during her time spent in Europe with the Vanguard. Very little of what she owns is new, strictly speaking, and like she gravitates toward worn clothes that sometimes smell like other people — Gabriel's sweaters make excellent night shirts in the winter — she finds herself drawn toward the display.

At first, she imagines that the museum's lighting is playing a trick on her, and for a full minute her dove studies the page while she stands in solemn silence with small hands folded in front of her. Only when she's positive — absolutely positive — does she gently call out, "Francois. Daphne."

The glance Eileen gets from Francois is lazy, as if undecided whether he'll rope himself over from his slouch near the photographs. She's about fifteen feet down from him, though, and— hey. Maybe she found something. He takes an elaborate second to pick himself back up from his lean against railing, vaguely recalling that his body thinks it's quite late at night right now— speed-lag— as he moves for where the slight woman stands with her birdishly demure posture.

His pale hand wanders the railing, moving with the sound of rustling leather and metal zippers. The sooner he looks, the sooner they can go, he decides, because this is actually depressing. "There is a cafe near the entrance, did you see," he tells her as he comes to stand, an eyebrow lifting to ask whatsup for him. "I'll buy."

From where Daphne stands peering up at a display of photographs and uniforms, she glances over, and manages to walk, not run, to where Eileen stands. She's still chewing on a mouthful of protein bar before crumpling up the wrapper and shoving it into her courier bag. She moves closer to peer at those pages Eileen looks at, squinting her eyes to try to read more of the French. Again, she speaks it but only reads cafe billboards and road signs with any comprehension.

She turns to glance at Francois, watching his face for his reaction — is it what he's looking for? "The Louvre has the best waffles," she comments, shoving her hands into her pockets. Not that they're in Paris — but it's not far, not from the speedster's point of view.

Eileen prompts Francois and Daphne with a delicate, "Look." Her chin lifts, and she directs the pair's attention to the journal. "The handwriting," she elaborates, on the off-chance that she's mistaken. The quiet confidence in her voice, tired though it is, suggests that she doesn't believe she is. The Englishwoman might not be prone to making errors, but her own history is riddled with enough that she can usually recognize them after they've happened.

This isn't one.

And a few seconds later, sharp interest and recognition reflected in Francois' malachite stare confirms this is so. He's quiet for the time it takes to scan over the object, feeling the weird compulsion to reach out and take it from its display despite the fact he'd have to lean past the railing designed to keep people from doing so, and the continual glance over from security the three keep receiving. "I don't even…" he starts, and stops, and a warmth flushes his skin briefly, his cheeks and his ears, as if—

Embarrassed. A little. He's really glad his youthful writing is in French and near illegible. "You remember when you said you would steal me anything?" he says after a moment. Probably talking to Daphne, as opposed to Eileen, who would remember now such bargain.

That it's his journal finally registers, though it's certainly not a surprise, and Daphne's mouth forms a silent 'o' for a moment, before she gives a nod. "Oui," she says, and glances over her shoulder.

She drops her voice. "Go distract him, ask for directions for something, and then head back out toward the front. I'll grab it while he's not looking and catch up to you." By catch up, she means, of course, come flying after them like a dervish, grabbing each of them and fleeing the scene of the crime.

Eileen links arms with Francois, hooking her elbow around his before placing her opposite hand on his bicep. Either she's suddenly concerned about her dove's field of vision and how it compares to a human being's, or the gesture has something to do with Daphne's suggestion that they ask security for directions. Go distract him, she says.

All right. She can help do that. "«It gives me an excuse to practice my French,»" she explains to Francois in the same language that fills his notebook and is slightly improved since they last conversed in it. Supposedly, practice makes perfect.

A gentle mental nudge has her dove retreating into the dark, warm confines of her coat and the reason for the hand on his arm becomes clear.

A grateful glance back to sent to Daphne, and though Francois could not begin to claim that this errand had true purpose apart from returning to him something he owns, it's at least satisfying that there will be an outcome. He clasps a hand, gentlemanly, over Eileen's at the crook of his elbow, and guides her towards the security man. "Bien," is comment for her French, mild praise, before releasing her mostly to make sure Daphne has some room to work with when it comes to their escape plan.

Distraction is easy, and Daphne will see the way the lanky guard turns to look at the sibling-like couple that Frenchman and Briton make together as they ask about, you know. Maybe where the bathroom is. Or nearest restaurant. In a few seconds, it won't really matter.

Once their footsteps have retreated far enough and faded far enough that Daphne knows they're nearer the guard than to herself, she darts a glance ver her shoulder. Seeing them engaged in conversation, she moves swiftly into action, jumping the stanchion and grabbing the journal, closing it and shoving it into her courier bag — though none of this is visible except as a blur.

Spinning around, she hurries back over the barrier, just in time to see the end of the conversation between the guard and her friends. There's no need to alert the paranoid guard since he didn't see anything happen, so Daphne resumes her normal speed, beginning to walk toward the others, throwing a feigned hurry in her step as if she'd just noticed her traveling partners have moved on without her. Flashing a grin at the guard and murmuring, "Merci, bonjour!" as is polite, she heads toward the front door and the open air.

Only then does she push her way between the two of them, taking Eileen's elbow in one hand and Francois' in her the other, before stepping on the metaphorical accelerator once more, sprinting them to safety before the guard can notice the absence of the very old journal.

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