Facilitating Miracles


eileen_icon.gif francois_icon.gif

Scene Title Facilitating Miracles
Synopsis Francois and Eileen reaffirm their commitments.
Date April 4, 2011

Pollepel Island: Burial Grounds

Being of a verbose inclination, especially when it comes to the written word, Francois Allegre struggles with the sample swatch sized bit of lined paper deemed fit for a bird to carry. Risking jokes at his expense regarding age, maybe, but in an electronic age and dangers to accommodate, a hidden stronghold has its rules, and there are no tracking programmes for birds, even if they're guided as accurately as a missile. His pen hesitates, scratches its ink. He gives particular thought to the last fraction of space for parting words, before his signature miniaturised. I love you, in any language, being a decent option.


on p.isl. frac/br ribs. trap sprung
but ferry alive. coming home
when able. liz? (mj svp) - Fr

He folds the notepad over the scrap, and rests his head back against rough bark, hand roaming over rough sweater wool and the hurt ribs beneath them, his breathing high and shallow. Faded denim is a loose hug around his torso, an old jacket picked up thrift because old habits die hard and no one makes him wear a suit and tie anymore. His boots sink into grass and soil, because the rain is in the ground as opposed to the air, clinging to the makeshift structures of gravemarkers, the metal crucifix taken in so it doesn't rust.

Butterfly stitches frankenstein along his temple, and he's been rolled in bruises, and should probably be in the infirmary in case something important and hidden begins to bleed. Maybe pain is what drives him out here, as a reminder that hey, it could be worse.

There are flowers, wild ones, that have begun to flourish in the wake of the receding snow, drinking greedily from the damp, fertile soil now thawed — ruefully-drooping bellwort in pale yellow, dewy purple and white columbine and shy geraniums, splashes of colour growing together in small clusters where the sunlight is dappled.

This time of year is symbolic of rebirth and renewal, but the air still feels brittle, and the atmosphere of Bannerman's Castle has not warmed as the weather has. Too many people are dead. Francois can tell which graves are the most recently filled because the earth that covers them has a different, looser texture than the hard-packed dirt that hasn't been disturbed for weeks or months. He knows, too, that he is no longer as alone as he was when he began to scrawl out his message to Teodoro in his pen's wet black ink.

A mockingbird stands on a nearby marker, erect and alert with gray tail feathers spread in a proud fan and wings settling relaxed at its side, and greets him with a sequence of three trilling, melodious whistles — an imitation of another bird's song, imperfect but not unrecognizable if Francois knows anything about the native fauna.

The dark-haired woman kneeling by one of the smaller graves does, though her focus is on digging at the loose soil in front of the marker rather than the bird. Dirt crusts under Eileen's fingernails and smears pale skin with sodden grit as she works, though her purpose is not clear.

The notepad is tucked away into a pocket, along with fountain pen capped before disappeared into woolly-lined denim. There is a reason Francois isn't doing things like sticking his hands into cold earth, or not zipping his jacket closed, or wearing two layers of socks — it would be a bitch to get a cough before he can heal. Fortunately, the SLC no longer runs through his genetics, and so there are some breeds of sickness he doesn't have to worry about.

Pushing away from the tree, Francois glances at the bird and tentatively edges around it and the marker it stands on, feet finding steps that aren't recently tossed soil, or even the ground that's been patted down flat with the edge of a shovel in wet slaps. He doesn't sit on gravestones either, and pays an amount of respect to the dead here as well. That, or he doesn't wish to cake his boots in wet soil. Probably a mixture of both, depth and vanity. "What are you doing?" he asks once he nears the woman herself, not just the eyes she carries around in what is probably a diseased forest creature.

No offense to birds. Animals in general.

"Facilitating a miracle," Eileen says without looking up, and not because she's attempting to dismiss Francois — only because there is no immediate need other than to acknowledge him, and she chooses to do this with her lightly accented voice rather than her glassy eyes and a stare that sometimes seems vacant in spite of the intensity of emotion behind it.

Satisfied with the depression in the earth she's created with her hands, she removes a gray cashmere scarf the colour of an overcast morning from her lap, uncovering a fist-sized ball of delicate roots, leaves and demure purple flowers so bright their petals appear almost pink instead of their characteristic purple — wood violets dug up from another part of the island, deeper into the cool shade.

"So I'd appreciate if you didn't tell anyone I was here." She lays the violets in the hole and adjusts the roots and the set of the leaves with an excessive amount of care, then begins to pack the dirt back in around it, firm with the tips of her fingers and the heels of her hands. "What were you writing?"

"A letter."

This is a little wry. Letters should be four pages long, formal, cramped writing, news of the day and the weather and the coming weeks, and a wonderful thing to receive in anticipation. Not a scrap from a notepad, reporting injury and asking for medical marijuana— and medical only in that Francois has written his own prescription— although come to think of it, some of the letters in wartimes were similarly small and pragmatic. "I was wondering if you could use a bird to send it to Teodoro. He is looking after Elisabeth Harrison and Felix Ivanov, back at my home, while they reassess things.

"And he never comes out here besides." There's a dangerous undercurrent, there, some impending fight, but Eileen is wise enough to know that it's not a quarrel with her, but likely to the man being sent instruction.

Eileen has suspicions— the guarded kind— but, having no desire to antagonize Francois more than his injuries already are, opts to let that lie. She is no stranger to the feelings that arise from having a partner who is not committed to the same things. "Of course," she tells him, not a beat of hesitation or simmering resentment in her tone. It's a rare thing that anyone asks her to play courier using her ability, and Francois is one of her dearest friends besides.

She remains kneeling after she's finished securing the violets and makes a shape with her mouth, calling the mockingbird to her with a sound as sharp and clear as any mimic's. It flutters over with a soft patter of wings as she reaches into her coat pocket and offers up a length of string, which the mockingbird snatches from between her fingers before wheeling back toward Francois.

If he lets it, it alights on his wrist.

He does, at the last possible second, a flash of guarded wariness and mistrust alighting in sea-green eyes, the kind of which he holds for most creatures that are not human or horse, made tenfold for dogs, but otherwise relaxes and even allows a half-smile to draw at his mouth. As far as birds go, there's a charm to them. Arm held stiffly, his other retrieves the little note, takes the string, rolls the paper with slow, fidgety movements. Francois takes his time, and murmurs a, "merci," is subdued but certainly genuine gratitude.

Joining Eileen at her level would be ideal, pausing in his own priorities to help, or even offering a hand up — all of these seem temporarily outside of his scope of ability. Immortals hate mortality. "Who is the miracle for?"

"They put a little girl in the ground here," Eileen says and she rubs the tips of her fingers together, debating the best way to clean her hands without wiping them off on her wool skirt or sweater. "Her face was sunshine when she smiled. Even in all your years, you've never met anyone with the same capacity for kindness."

In the end, she decides to sacrifice the cleanliness of her scarf instead of risking her coat and leaving any evidence that might tie her to gravesite. "I didn't love her, or even know her as well as I could have, but it's not for the child. It's for the people who did."

Love her, she means. "She'd want them to have hope. A message on the behalf of the dead."

This is tricky. Tying the knot in a way he's sure it won't come loose over the Hudson River, and get bitched at for no contact. Francois listens, though, even as he concentrates, attaching the string to the compliant bird's leg, lashing the roll of paper securely and neurotically worried about causing discomfort and accommodating for such. But it's done, and he extends his arm out in offer for the bird's flight. "Sickness," he comments, a little absently, once the bird has flitted away and up into a muggy sky. His arms fold back around his torso, very carefully.

"Grief is hard, with sickness. It's— " Something he sounds like he knows, whether behind the fences of Dachau or some more recent wound. If ever before anyone's time. "Blame is a purging, a little, bleeding out the sadness, if there is an enemy to assign, but not so in these cases. There are some sicknesses that people think the victims deserve, even. This might be one of them. We are, of course, not those people."

Tips of his fingers brush against her shoulder, in a slightly stilted display of reassurance, seeing as meaningful looks are a little cheaper in Eileen's currency. "It is a good message to leave. A healing message."

Eileen reaches up and rests the tips of her fingers on the back of the hand at her shoulder to communicate her gratitude in response to the touch. "I'm not a healer," she confides in Francois gently. "People like Abigail and Delilah are the beating heart of this network. Special Activities is its sword and shield — all I can think about is the message I want it to send to who's responsible for this."

Her other hand touches the marker and the next breath the Englishwoman draws in has a serrated quality to it, uneven but not quite trembling. "Weapons are wielded. Strike a killing blow and you're accountable — it doesn't matter what you use to do it. They couldn't find us, so they sent sickness home with our own people.

"You and I should die a hundred times before a child, Francois. And for every grave we've dug, I'll make them dig a hundred more."

"I came out here to remind myself of that, actually."

His hand retracts, to knot with the other and hang in front of him, shoulders curling. "We knew that there was a good chance of a trap, going into things, last night. But we still did not hesitate to kill those who would kill us. War logic. It was a successful mission, in that we won the gun fight and if there had have been the man we wanted in the box, then we would have been victorious. But there wasn't a man, and all we achieved was putting down some soldiers who would take up arms against us." An inhale whispers harshly through mouth and nasal cavities both, and Francois regrets the deeper intake of breath as soon as he pulls it.

"There are some who think we are not playing our roles correctly. Which is strange. In the 40s, we did not have these debates — if you did not meet the measures of what your people were willing to do, you found new people, but we all agreed it was for the correct cause, the liberation of our country. Or so I recall it being. But then— everyone knew we were at war."

"Do you have any regrets?"

It's probably the question she's been wanting to ask him since he set foot in the cemetery, though there's no eagerness in her tone — only raw candor, soft and wet. Soft because she lacks confidence in her ability to raise her voice above a certain volume. Wet because at some point she started crying in spite of her controlled breathing.

She turns the scarf over and uses the clean side to wipe her face, reducing the gleam of tears on her cheeks to a more matte, less noticeable texture. Pretending that she isn't in the middle of an outpouring of emotion is something Eileen has a great deal of practice and experience in — she does not acknowledge her inability to still her lower lip.

He doesn't seem surprised. Graveyards are salted with tears. It's almost their purpose. Even if in this case neither are morning the specific grave they stand by, but the things represented by the black mounds of turned soil. "Today, yes," Francois says, and she can feel the gentle touch of fingers at the crown of her skull, a fleeting touch, and the most comfort he sees appropriate to provide. "But nothing as much as the regret I would have for inactivity, and stagnation. Do not lose your will to act, ma cherie.

"I won't if you won't. Would you like to be alone?" is gentle enquiry. Most people like to cry alone. Especially the English.

Eileen rises, folding her scarf, which she tucks into her coat — while it's open, she tucks in her chin and reaches a hand inside. "That may be for the best," she says, neither yes nor no necessarily, but before she makes a final decision, she takes out a journal from between her coat's silk-lined interior and the dense Norwegian sweater she wears beneath it.

"We found this in Munich," she offers. "It's all I have of him." Kazimir. "So much goes unsaid in life that sometimes things become clearer after death. He wrote about you as much as he did me. More. I'd like it back, someday, but I thought you should read it and know."

Francois makes a sound — understated, dignified, but also honest. She has surprised him, this time. "Thank you," he says, when he takes it in two hands, a thumb sketching up the worn spine. He doesn't open it, here, maybe disinclined to test its pages and the delicate penwork within against the damp in the air, and sets about tucking it into a pocket beside the skinny notepad he'd been writing on. "I won't keep it forever. Or burn it."

She'd be lying if she told him she wasn't concerned he might do that second thing. "Vous ĂȘtes les bienvenus." Nimble fingers button her coat one brassy fixture at a time. "May we never lose sight of our own humanity."

Eileen adjusts her cuffs, her collar, and lifts her chin, turning her face into the same breeze rippling through the trees and the first leaves of spring. It will be dry by the time she gets back to the boat. "Tell Teodoro hello for me."

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