Flight Delayed


astor_icon.gif benji_icon.gif ingrid_icon.gif nora2_icon.gif walter_icon.gif

Scene Title Flight Delayed
Synopsis Astor's escape attempt is thwarted— by his friends.
Date February 27, 2011

Bannerman's Castle: Astor's Room

Astor is on the edge of his window, a bunch of duct-taped cardboard matted on the floor. Poised. Searing cold wind blowing through his hair, his arms fanned out behind him, eyes down on the textureless, electric-blue expanse of the snow two floors below. His eyes are wide in his eyes and bright as a cat's, breath steaming through his teeth like a big carnivore's, possibly slightly manic— but determined, alive like he has rarely permitted his visitors to see him. Doesn't. Generally want his visitors to know.

But a single book is stowed in his pocket. The bedsheet stuffed into his sweater for insulation, pillowcase into his too-thin shoes for same. He is ready. He is going to do this. He is going to get out, and Hell or high-water when the hounds come for him.

Below and out of doors, a solitary hiker is making her way back to the castle; it's dark, and perhaps unsafe, but the girl lost track of time exploring the island as if seeing it for the first time — because she was. As she nears the castle, she looks up at just the right moment, at just the right window, and sees a familiar face — she'd heard he was here, but she hadn't found the right moment to ask if she could visit him, or to ask if she's supposed to know him at all, or if it was meant to be a secret.

"Don't!" she calls out, but her voice is carried away from her, away from the castle, on the wind, out toward the water rather than to the man standing in the window. Nora begins to run, but it will be too late — and while that fall might not be fatal, it will hurt Astor. It will damage him, she knows.

As she runs, she reaches out, searching for the radio of the one person who could help quick enough to stop Astor from jumping. Astor's about to jump out his window of Bannerman, are you there? her voice urgently comes through a certain radio, not bothering this time to check for eavesdroppers, to make sure Walter is alone.

"Astor?" The voice is soft and small, and comes from a door that hadn't been open a moment ago but is now. If doe rabbits could talk, they'd sound like breathy and demure Ingrid Raines who cannot rise above a certain volume even when she's making the effort.

And she is. The louder she speaks, the more likely he is to hear her, and the more likely he is to hear her, the less likely he is to jump.

She really doesn't want him to jump. Frozen in the doorway, she's as incapable of willing her small feet to move as she is shouting, and even if she could step into the room she probably wouldn't. Astor does not strike her as the suicidal type (Astor does not remind her in any way of her mother), but her fear of startling him off the sill is so great that it keeps her riveted to the spot.

Walter Trafford has no such compunctions, however, as he snaps into existence behind the petite blonde and roughly shoulders her aside, forcing his way into the room. "Whoa," he says. "Whoa, whoa, WHOA."

Wonderfully, Astor nearly falls out the window in surprise. Wonderful mostly because that's a nearly. He winds up shuffling his feet in odd geometry below him, shrunken down to fit on the sill, and he raises his arm so abruptly he probably gets a bruise smacking it on the frame. They'd been nice enough to remove the broken edges of the glass, of course. He grasps the edge of the wood and glares down, first, at Nora, then hooks a sharp glance over his shoulder at Walter. When his eyes shift to the tiny girl nearly blocked out by the redhead's bigger frame, his expression threatens to change, so he goes back to glaring at Walter.

"What are you people doing here!" he exclaims, infuriated the way that only a man of his particular proclivities could be at a surprise visit from his friends after weeks of deprivation. "You aren't supposed to be here. This isn't the right time." His shoulders bend awkwardly in the shape of the window. He tries to fold his knees to bring himself down again, with a haphazard flap of his arm. Somewhat gone is the grace with which he'd flung Amato right out of this opening.

The glare from Astor out the window isn't, perhaps, the expression Nora hoped for from the young man after months of not seeing him, but so be it. If she has to be cast in the part of the bratty tattle-tale to keep him from breaking his bones, it's a part she'll willingly play. She stares for a moment upward into the window, deciding if the other two shapes she can barely make out are capable of handling the prisoner, before running out of view, presumably into the castle itself.

"I can be anywhere I fucking want," Walter barks back at Astor, and halfway across the room what occured to Ingrid occurs to him, and he drives a heel into the floor to stop, both his hands raised in a placating gesture entirely at odds with his tone — an angry badger to Ingrid's rabbit. "What are you doing?" he demands. "'Sides almost breaking your fool neck and making a bloody mess all over."

He, apparently, hasn't yet heard about Amato's flight out the window a few days ago, and he gives the empty frame and pieces of cardboard a perplexed and almost accusing look. That belongs here even less than the girl at his back does, and while it would be polite to dart a glance over his shoulder to make sure he didn't push her too hard, he isn't always a gentleman. His focus remains on Astor.

Ingrid grasps at the door's frame with both her hands, clinging to it as though she was the one on the edge of the precipice and not Astor. "Please don't shout," she implores them both, and although her voice has gone high and tight, her fright is more noticable in her eyes. Their whites are showing.

Seriously. Astor was planning on jumping out the window very quietly. Ingrid wouldn't have minded that at all, obviously. How endlessly exasperating everything is— now Nora's coming up. Everybody is hysterics. They aren't even supposed to be here— what right have they to hysterics? It doesn't make any sense. He has an agenda. He has his thing that he has to do. He's Astor fucking Loukas, at least for now, and he wants out of here! They can't just come in here, puffing and yelling and gibbering on their walkie-talkies and—


He means to be decisive about stepping back down again but it's a bit of a long way and he doesn't want to pop a seam in his pants or anything horribly awkward like that. As such, he winds up making a stupidly awkward Rockhopper penguin shuffle-skip-drop off the sill, onto the floor again, his shoes thumping awkwardly as he tries to catch his balance, long hands knotted around the window-frame. At least it looks like most of the broken glass is gone. Most. "Can you leave? None of you have to watch."

Footfalls come running down the hall — she was at least discreet enough moving through the common areas, but then put on the full speed in the empty hallway — and Nora appears behind Ingrid, her dark eyes wide as she surveys the room. Her cheeks are flushed from the cold and the exertion, and she looks from one face to the other. If it were another moment, she might spare a smile. Another moment, her eyes would probably fill with tears for seeing their faces, rather than merely hearing their voices.

But it's not another moment, and her eyes narrow as they focus on Astor. "What the hell are you doing? You'd break your legs or your head or something in that fall. If you want out of here, there's better ways to do it. Like asking for fucking help." Hi. It's good to see all of you.

"Leave?" Walter thunders, and Ingrid grips the frame tighter. "You think what you can do makes you invulnerable or some shit? It sure as fuck didn't do a lot for your arm, amico." He doesn't mean for it to come out quite like that, but it does — mean — and he's at least self-conscious enough to realize it when he hears it, and feel his upper lip curling over his teeth. He snaps on his temper's reins, pulling it back, and imagines he can hear his mother tell him that he's overreacting.

Nora's on his side, and she'll catch the smoldering look of appreciation he gives her as soon as Astor's feet are back on the ground. "What Shortwave said," he reiterates. "You want outta here? You got it. Say the word."

Astor stares at then for a few long moments, his brow sinking fraction by fraction of an inch. "What makes you think I need," he stops. Sighs. "Look.

"I threw a man out that window only a few days ago." He points at the window in case they are confused about which one, and starts to move carefully across the rumpled cardboard that he'd peeled down off the emptied frame. "And he was fine. A little surprised and maybe he caught a cold, but I threw him, and he was surprised, and he wasn't even that badly hurt. The snow is really thick right below there because of the shape of the roof and the direction of the wind! I'm not a lunatic." His eyes flit between Walter and Nora, then make the mistake of finding Ingrid, briefly. His mouth goes in a line.

"I've made higher jumps than that."

Nora touches Ingrid's shoulder gently, dark eyes throwing a sympathetic glance as her lips twitch into a humorless but sympathetic smile, and she moves forward to stand more literally at Walter's side, also touching his hand lightly for a moment, knuckles to knuckles. Her hands are both wrapped in tape, cut up by the railcar coupler the night before.

"Fine. You're fine. You would have been fine. Now, can you be happy to see me, dammit?" she throws to Astor. "Because, while I really wish it wasn't like this, I'm glad to see you." Dark eyes glitter with the threat of tears now that he's not about to jump to his doom, and some of his words do make sense. It's not like Nora hasn't taken some risks herself lately.

"Are you okay? I mean — is it so horrible here?" she adds, stepping a little closer. "I was going to come and see you, once I found out you were here," is added in something of an apologetic tone. She should have stopped by earlier.

"You remember that cat I used to have?" Walter inquires of Astor with a dubious lift of his ginger brows. He has enough of a handle on his temper that, while the edges of his voice are still crackling with energy, it's a quieter kind than what had been animating him before. If they were playing a game to see who could scowl harder, Astor would probably win because he's Astor, but Walter's not making it easy for him. "Bombo, I think its name was?"

Ingrid listens in horrified fascination and touches a hand to her shoulder where Nora's was, the tips of her fingers curling in on themselves. Walter responds to the touch when it happens, twitching against the graze of Nora's knuckles. "The big fat orange one I used to hold upside-down and drop off'a things so you'n Benji could see him land on his feet until the one time he didn't?

"Don't be a Bombo, Astor."

Astor rolls his eyes, and then rubs his hands on his face. "They keep asking me questions," he hisses angrily, increasingly belligerent under three points of pressure. Outnumbered, his natural inclination is to insist he is nevertheless absolutely not outmatched. "Eileen and Jensen Raith keep coming around and asking me fucking questions. Ethan brought my hair to Amato to do his stupid touch-magic on, and now he keeps coming over to try and keep doing it. Yes I got shot in the shoulder— getting involved in this stuff was obviously some kind of ridiculous mistake.

"But I can fix it by myself." He fiddles with the extraneous edge of linen showing out of his sleeve, and his eyes cut sharply to Nora's face again, narrowing slightly. Is she trying to cry? Really? The rhetorical questions spill through his mind's ear in a disarrayed trainwreck, out of synch, irregular. He knows that at least a little of his irritation has to be misplaced. Still. "When have I minded being by myself?" he throws back, trying not to let the affront show. "And I'm not fat.

"Where is Kincaid?" Ingrid again. Like she's the only reasonable one in the room, even if she just told himself to stop being a fat orange cat that Walter victimized in an egotistical pique.

Nora's eyes narrow and she shakes her head angrily. "Of course they ask questions. They're trying to do the best they can and keep everyone here and everyone in their charge safe, and we're suspicious. We are. Can you blame them? I don't. They're doing the best they can. And they're not hurting you, are they? Is it so bad to be stuck here, not able to go anywhere? Really? How long have you been here?"

She'd been here for more than two months. Perhaps not locked in a single room, but locked away in another way altogether.

"I wonder what that's like," she says bitterly, angrily, and turning away. She glances up at Walter, shaking her head, and starts to move to the door. Near Ingrid, she gives the other teen a quick hug.

"Sorry for interrupting. Next time I'll let you get hurt," she tosses back over her shoulder at Astor.

So much for a happy reunion.

It takes Ingrid a moment or two to realize that she's being addressed, and when she does she ducks her head and turns her face against the back of her hand still on her shoulder. "He's back in New York," she says, and does not have to strain to be heard now that the shouting has stopped. She isn't sure if she can say the same of the fighting yet. "The dome came down and he's okay. Last I checked he went back to work at the studio with Miss Reynolds and— and Bradley."

Walter gives a sniff at the mention of Kincaid and moves around Astor to take a look out the window for himself. Maybe to see if Astor is telling the truth, not that he disbelieves or anything. Or maybe because he wants to see if he can pick out the Amato-shaped dent in the snow. "Personally," he says, "I don't think there's anything wrong with people asking questions. Or getting involved."

Ingrid returns Nora's hug with a gentle, "Don't stay mad," whispered against the side of the younger girl's cheek. "It's not worth it. I'm only here for a few hours— I. I sort've made Wally bring me, but I'll be back as soon as I can. I heard about what's happening and want to help. I can."

Walter gives up searching the ground below and rocks back, stepping away from the window. "But hey, if you want I can go back and tell you not to bother. What do you think? The people who'd miss her would get over it. Save you the indignity and a little pain."
Astor would probably hit Walter for that, first with his elbow, then with his hand, before he'd really have to start getting creative because in a perfectly fair fight and most dirty ones besides, Trafford would kick his ass. He would, but Nora's shrieking off in a huff and Ingrid looks tiny. He rolls his eyes instead, shooting a look after Nora that is supposed to make her stop. Maybe by passing by Ingrid first, filtered through rabbit-lens. "Did you guys miss the part where I said Amato keeps trying to touch me?

"Walter, you're an asshole." He has to say at least that. The curse word is nearly as rare a visitation to the younger man's language as Christ upon the Earth. "And ridiculous. If you want them to know everything, I could pen a letter to every POI. We can try using conversation. That's a great plan. Also let's stay in a room and subject ourselves to telepathic and psychometric interrogations, and twenty-four hour supervision like a dog that doesn't know how to wait until it's walked to take a dump. Yes?

"We can also cry about it." He will regret that later. Probably. Hopefully. Walter probably hopes he will. Suddenly Astor can't look at Ingrid anymore. "That would help a lot. Does anybody else have constructive ideas?"

"That'd be good," Nora murmurs to Ingrid. "I can too. Cal got me a vaccine a week ago," she says, cheeks coloring at that name.

Exasperation is revealed by a lengthy sigh at Astor's words, dark eyes narrowing at the dig toward Ingrid. "I heard you. I had to dodge him myself a few times. It wasn't an easy task," Nora says, though Astor's words are valid and it pisses her off to admit it.

She gives another shake of her head, frustrated and indecisive. "I don't know what to do. Walter says he'll take you if you wanna go, so go, if you need to. Or we can find Benji, and … I don't know. We need to regroup." Her tone is tentative, apologetic.

For all that she wants to be mature and a leader, she takes a step back, making one decision in that moment. "I'm getting Benji." And before they can argue, she's out the door.

"She's getting Benji," Ingrid says as Nora's footsteps are echoing down the hall, in case either of the men missed it, distracted by the pounding of the blood in their ears. She takes this opportunity to move out of the doorway and into the room, her red wool coat drawn snug around her body.

She's not sure she wants Nora to get Benji, now that she thinks about it, because she's not supposed to be here. She lifts her eyes to Walter, half-expecting him to tell her to get in the closet and hide, only there isn't a closet and the thought of getting down on her hands and knees to hide under the bed makes her cheeks burn.

It's easier to ask forgiveness than it is to ask permission.

"At least stick around so you can get inoculated," Walter grits out. "They have the vaccine here and it's mandatory for everybody. Even you, Rapunzel."

A blink, and Ingrid's hands go up to twist blonde curls between her fingers, fair brows arching as her mouth makes an oh shape.

"No," groans Walter, "not you. I was talking to him."

Astor adds automatically, "But you should stay anyway," and finds himself unable to supply a reason, before resolving haughtily that he hardly needs one. "If the crowd gets any bigger that could look suspicious, but it's not like your leaving will change that."

He falls silent a moment, contemplating. He is either busy ignoring Walter's stupid nickname and ignoring Nora's uncomfortable (for him, probably, more than her) apologies both, just as he was, is still ignoring Kincaid's safe return to the fold, or else, he is somewhat distracted by this strenuous effort at grace. Which is, despite his exertions, probably not 'going very well' by any stretch of the imagination. "And if Walter tries to prop the cardboard back in the window he'll just punch it right through. My arm still doesn't bend right, so. If you could." Reasons. Not that he needed one. But— there.

"I'll stay for my innoculations," he adds, in a tone that is not sweetening the pot. He shuffles away from the window accordingly.

Pretending not to know Astor would probably be as suspicious as showing it with visitations. How far did Eileen's birds fly that day truly? Regardless, it doesn't take much convincing on Nora's part. The shuffles of approach from outside, the echo of a quiet voice that barely scratches its syllables through the door. "…is it?"

Peeling into the room, Benji seems distracted, as if his mind were elsewhere — with the goshawk, maybe, or some other farflung corner of the castle, but his pale eyes narrow on Astor's face with inquiry before veering towards Ingrid's mousy presence with a soft, startled oh. "Ig— Ingrid?" Hands spread in slightly flailed gesture, stepping aside to usher Nora in quick-quick so that he may shut the door, a flush of flustered red crossing his features and then a thin sounding exhale through his nose, tempered irritation.

Which Walter gets the brunt of in a flick of a glance, even as he writes a smile for the woman regardless. "What's going on?"

Dark clothing brings out the white cat hairs stuck into the weave of his sweater, clinging to the denim at his thighs. Scars on his face long faded, now, only shadows of restless sleep in his eyes.

The teen at his heels looks a little apologetic, like a little sister having gone to get mom or dad, and she doesn't meet Astor's eyes as she moves to step closer to Walter. Glancing up at him, she mouths 'thank you' — for answering her call, for not questioning the need.

As for what's going on, she already gave her part of the story on the way down the corridor: Astor was about to jump out of his window, she saw, she summoned, and now they're bickering, in short. "Astor wants to leave," Nora says with a shrug, more the need to fill the silence than anything prompting her to speak. She doesn't like the tattletale sound of that, and she wrinkles her nose, casting another apologetic look Astor's way, her tone softening when she tips her head toward Benji. "Can he?"

"She made me," are the first words out of Walter's mouth. And he points at Ingrid so there isn't any confusion. "At gunpoint."

She stands there, so taken aback by the accusation that all she can do is stare at him, thinking about buses and how this is what it must feel like to be thrown under one. Ingrid makes a short sound of protest that doesn't get much further than the back of her throat. "I could never—"

"Jumped me in an alley."

"N-No I didn't—"

"There were hired thugs with her. They were wearing balaclavas."

"I don't even know what those are. I just wanted to see Astor—"

"I'm pretty sure two of them were Joshua and Calvin."

"Wally." Ingrid sucks in a sharp breath to steady herself and, unable to look Benji in the eye, shuffles over to the cardboard on the floor. She crouches down to pick it up, comically large in comparison to the size of her, and slips her fingers under the edges, peeling it off the stone. Her face is flushed fuschia and her throat works even though no sounds are coming out of her mouth.

Teasing people isn't any fun when they don't fight back (unless they're Kincaid), and Walter's face sags in defeat. "She asked really nicely. Astor's just being stupid. Also he thinks he's a bird or a dragon or something."

Increasingly annoyed, Astor almost feels better for that. Better than being truly toxically angry, or perhaps worse yet, still bored. He keeps moving sideways until his calves brush by the bedframe, and he sits down on the edge of his mattress so that the room feels marginally less crowded. "It's a fifteen foot drop at most," he says. "Into a snowdrift. I know: I threw Amato out the window just a week ago because he was trying to do touch-magic attempt number three, and he was fine.

"He hasn't learned anything concrete," Astor adds, automatically. A detail he left out in conversation with the others, so far. Somehow, it didn't seem like the meeting was quite called until Benji's curly head appeared covered in cat-hair and blotches of unattractive feelings. "Not for lack of trying. And trying. He thinks I've been fighting him, but I didn't do it deliberately." A beat's pause. "Until I put him out the window," he clarifies, judiciously. He repeats, "And he was fine."

"You didn't," is breathily exasperated, and a little— well.

Shocked, apparently, at the concept of Astor throwing Amato out the window, Benji paused from where he'd been moving to sling an arm around Ingrid in silent reassurance that he isn't mad at her or anything. Winds up just taking her hand for a brief squeeze, before his own tangle together, glancing from face to face, lastly Nora, then back to Astor. "You of all people should be able to evade someone like Amato."

Chastisement, in his tone, before he can stop it, and a raise of a dark eyebrow. "At least until such a time that you can leave without making it an event, don't you think?" A glance to Walter, considering the magic portal that is the redhead in the room, but Benji doesn't repeat what must have already been talked about just yet. Softer: "How are you feeling?"

Nora moves toward a wall to lean, fingers toying with the bandages wrapped around her hands absent mindedly for something to do, something to look at when it's awkward to look at all of these people in the same room. But Astor's words get a shake of her head and another huff of exasperated breath is exhaled.

"You're already hurt," she points out, dark eyes seeking Astor's brighter gaze. "And just because something doesn't hurt one person doesn't mean it won't hurt the next. There's a bunch of factors that might make it different. And not the least of is that you might have gotten hurt or worse on the way back to New York before any of us even knew you were missing."

She peers out the window and crosses her arms, quiet once more.

Ingrid regrets not squeezing Benji's hand back by the time she makes it to the window and is working to fit the piece of cardboard into its frame, which turns out to be a much more difficult, unwieldy task than she'd been anticipating. Once she has it in place, she seeks out the edges with the heel of one hand while holding down with the other, pressing along the duct tape so it sticks, and although it's not as adhesive as it was it looks as though it's going to stay up.

At least until the wind starts howling again. "It wasn't a very nice view," she tells Nora, apologetic, and that's a lie.

Out here the views are spectacular.

"He's feeling surly," Walter cuts in, but he leaves it at that. Whether or not he believes it's true, he's interested in hearing Astor's answer to the question. His brow rumples in concern.

Astor's temper has some agility. It can find its balance and reassert itself in near about anything. People asking him how he is, people coming in, people stopping him going out, people leaving. People— period. Is that the corner of a linen sheet poking out of his sleeve where he stuffed it under his sweater to insulate himself from the cold?

Why yes, in fact, it is, and he's fidgeting with it with tapering fingers now. "I've had a long time to recuperate," he snaps, before his rapid-fire review of fact flattens out to blunt neutrality. "Part of the time during which Amato and Ethan seized the opportunity to investigate me. Once during a seizure. And every other Ferryman carries last week's scars to this week's shootouts. I would be perfectly prepared to… I feel fine.

"Not that that apparently has any bearing on anything," he says. Lifting his head, and its too-long nest of black curls, he glances at the freshly patched window. "Thanks," he says, neatly, pulling his sleeve back down over his wrist in a series of minute tugs. A glance at Nora repeats his earlier affront. "Who has the innocs?"

There is a midpoint during dialogue when Benji raises his hands, first in a sort of gesture that bids people shut the fuck up for a few seconds, and then a subtle turn at the wrists to transform it into: why was he dragged here, again? Hands that clasp his head briefly as he understands the gravity of the debate to be can Astor jump out a window and not break his widdle bones and then tugs at strands of near-black. Hands fall back at his sides.

"Megan Young. And don't be pushy, please, we're guests here, ones that can use the front door and everything and kindly ask why the resident psychometer is so intent on invading your privacy. Would you like to talk to Eileen for you?" comes with an only slightly sassy head tilt, even if the words are library-quiet delivered.

But no. No! Benji refuses to join in on goading and seems to try and will the compulsion away with a vague wave of his hands in front of his face. "You can leave, of course — just without drawing attention, for those of us who're staying. That includes," Wlater Trafford, "mysterious disappearances."

By the time Nora realizes Ingrid is re-installing the make-shift "window" and moves to help, it's done. She offers the small blonde a wry smile, moving to stand closer to her. "I'm not sorry I called," she whispers conspiratorially. "At least I got to see you guys." Softer yet, she adds, "I'd worried I'd forgotten what you all looked like."

Her eyes move back toward Astor. "At least get a shot before you go. You know they wouldn't begrudge that, even if you do leave and never look back." She tips her head, lips crooking into a half smile. "Please? I jumped from a horse onto a moving train and could have died and people got shot and there were Dobermans, so don't make it be in vain, all right?"

Not straying far from Nora, Ingrid takes a seat on the edge of the bed a distance from Astor — the length of the other person's arm is her general rule of thumb — and folds her hands in her lap. She looks down at her legs hanging over the side and her feet on the floor, then glances over to observe him playing with the improvised insulation sticking out of his sleeve.

She wants to tell him that she thinks this was smart, but other people are talking. Walter goes to stand by the closed door. If what Astor says is true, and he doesn't doubt at all that it is, there's a chance either Amato or Raith might choose now to return and try again because in his experience that's just how these things work.

There's a worst time for everything, and that's usually when they happen. "He said he will."

At 'mysterious disappearances,' there is some risk that Astor is really going to make a neener face in the redhead's direction. He manages to restrain himself, somehow. Somehow. He does grace Nora with a brief stare of surprise at her story about dobermans and trains and horses, eyebrows peaking suddenly when he remembers something of his own. Almost starts up his itch to get out the window again. "Any of you can talk to Eileen if it seems to make sense. Personally, I'm done talking. I saved her. I got shot.

"I didn't plan to pay the medical bills with prolonged imprisonment and interrogations however and whenever they want." Extra sourness to Astor's sour tone. It may or may not be a mistake to assume he's merely sore from boredom.

There's a fractional twitch of a turn of Astor's head on his neck, and he almost looks at Ingrid. Doesn't. Sort of nods in her direction, though, framing her important contribution to the conversation in case it didn't pop out of the background enough by itself. "I was asking who has the shots," he rephrases, repeats, pulling his sleeve back from his arm with his other hand. This time, the bedsheet underneath slides back with it. He makes a jab of his forefinger to the tendons and flesh inside. "I have the me."

"Then I will." And. Benji will have to assume that this is enough that window jumping and other theatrics will prove unnecessary, for all that Astor, he imagines, will get as far as the docks before his plan runs dry. Sympathy has banter and exasperation draining away like sand through fingers, Benji left with misplaced guilt and empathy towards situations of. Interrogation. Imprisonment. His palms push together.

He glances to Nora, as if to check.

The teen's dark eyes dart up to Benji when he looks her way, and Nora nods her agreement. "I think she trusts you," she says, and then she turns back to Astor. "And I'm sure she's grateful. You know she's just being careful, and it's not personal. If we took everything personally…"

She shakes her head and there is the huff of a humorless laugh. "I actually have stuff for you," Nora adds, nodding her head to the hallway. "A couple of books and a sketchbook. I'll go get them for you." The words are soft again, uncertain — a peace offering.

Finally, there's a murmured 'be back in a bit' as she heads toward the door, Walter lightly and playfully bumped in passing.

It's hard not to notice when someone won't look at you, but coming from Astor it's harder for Ingrid to take offense. Something about his words, though, causes her to raise her chin and study his profile from beneath he lashes and behind wispy curls of blonde hair she picks aside with the tips of her fingers, then tucks behind her ear.

She's not good when it comes to being critical of other people or picking out things she might perceive as faults, especially when she has the regard for them that she apparently has for Astor. She forces a rueful smile. "If I thought getting shot would mean I could— " she starts, and can't quite finish, either because she loses her train of thought halfway through or she can't bring herself to. She places a hand at the hollow of her throat. "I— I think you're very lucky, Astor. To be alive. And.

"Please excuse me." She rises from the bed and gives Walter a meaningful look that takes him several awkward moments to translate before he's opening the door for Nora. Ingrid follows the other woman out.

The promise of presents— of sketchpad, particularly, bring Astor's eyes up in a hazelly flicker, interest in the fidget of his hands on his sweater. "Okay," he says, which is almost like a 'Thank you,' but she'll probably get one upon actual delivery. Probably. The weight of his stare on her back certainly has more substance to it than the brusque ill temper that he's presented so far.

He glances at Benji's prayer-hands a moment, gaze narrowing fractionally, then shifts it to chase Ingrid into the doorway, too. His features tighten. Around the jaw, particularly. "I don't mind getting shot," Astor says, and normally that would come out far, far harsher than it does now, but his anger is unmistakable. She thinks this is about getting shot?

Do they all think that? Cat's eyes cut through the lot of them, and finally slide irritably past Walter, forcibly disengaging from his temper, like hacking off a frost-eaten finger. More flatly, "I don't really mind getting caught again either. But this room isn't very big. And I when I get walked, it's literally walking. Going on two months now. Caution and gratitude are great. But if I wanted to trick my way into a castle-shaped box, good eating, and decent security, to live comfortably, taken care of with no responsibilities, decisions, or freedom for an indefinite amount of time, I could have done it somewhere with a carpet.

"I'll stay up here for at least another day." There's a note of finality to that. Not the kind that changes the flow of time or the course of nations, but of at least one singularly stubborn twenty-five year old boy.

There's a briefly anxious glance for Ingrid's departure, but ultimately, Benji must put some faith in the collective capability of Walter, Ingrid and Nora to not be unwise. His attention turns back to Astor.

And ultimatum has his demeanor hardening, glass-blue eyes like morning frost and posture hedging out of customary slouch. "Astor," he says, with edged patience. "Most of those two months were healing and recovery. After you did exactly what you yelled at Walter for doing. You're here because of you. And you can leave, like I said, just don't— " He takes an inhale, like being mean makes him breathless somehow, and by the time he's talking again, his focus has blurred and his voice is even quieter. "Just don't put us in danger as a result. That's all.

"Perhaps I can go with you. Tomorrow morning, the next boat. Mine will just be a visit." He turns, then, not even touching the amount of days Astor will stay. It's done. "You know it's bad when I think you're being a princess," is tossed over a shoulder, a brief smile.

Ingrid waits in the shadows of the hall outside, her head bowed and her face dark with guilt for having spoken up at all. Walter puts a hand on Benji's other shoulder, the one he isn't directing his words at Astor over. He leans in to mutter something close to the other man's ear that he must not want Astor to hear, because it's spoken lowly enough that not even Ingrid catches it, she's so preoccupied with biting at her thumbnail and fighting back the urge to explain herself.

When he pulls away, his face is more solemn than either of the other men can remember it being for a long time, and he gives them both a haphazard salute of farewell before slipping out into the hall to join Ingrid.

"I heard what you said," the younger man calls through the doorway. There's a flumpsqueak of bedsprings, by default, Astor flopping down to lay prone on the mattress. "Calling me a girl because I'm shut up in a tower? That's mature. I know you two are whispering out there, I have peripheral vision. Please formulate a better punchline."

Yes, Astor's being a little— like precisely what Benji had called him. At least he's kicking off his shoes, though, making himself comfortable for well past Nora's slated return. And, "Bye, Ben, Ingrid, Reynard."

"I'll be back with Selina," is the better punchline, apparently, warning and threat both as Benji skips his steps fast enough to fall into step with Walter, a hand to squeeze an elbow in a gesture that is more for Walter's sake than it is to flaunt solidarity back at the surly princess they leave behind. A flick of a wave, and then exit made official, Astor graced with yet more silence before it gets filled up again.

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