Hope Is The Thing With Feathers


cardinal_icon.gif deckard_icon.gif

Scene Title Hope Is The Thing With Feathers
Synopsis In which Deckard puts his hands under Cardinal's shirt and Abigail's ability saves another life.
Date June 12, 2009

Staten Island - Abandoned School

Eileen is safe. Safe as she'll ever be anyway, tucked away into the same safehouse his overcoat and his stolen car and his shotgun are shored up at. The same one he intends to return to as soon as he's finished here.

The elementary school where he keeps his crap isn't a large one. Plain tile hallways lined with peeling yellow paper and dull crayon diverge into less than twenty classrooms altogether. High ceilings work somewhat to relieve what would otherwise be an oppressive kind of claustrophobia inherent in the construction and design, but they're lower in the classrooms themselves. There students and teachers would have had to rely upon sprawling windows — some broken, others now caked over with a film of grey dust. Pre-dawn light is just beginning to filter through one such window when the lean cut of Deckard's tall shape crosses past it. In through the door to the teacher's desk where an oil lamp still rests, currently unlit.

He looks more cop than criminal at the moment, bullet-proof vest strapped down black over a white dress shirt with an open collar and sleeves rolled. He's also thin enough to look more homeless and destitute than he actually is when he sets to prying the semi-automatic at his right side out of its holster.

A shadow passes over the window, dimming the grey light of pre-dawn before the sun's first tentative attempts to reach through the skies is seen once more. The same shadow ripples over the floor as if a mote of dust drifting before a lamp had cast it, a spill of not-light that darkens the juncture where wall meets floor. Not rising up to demonstrate its abilities of mimicry as it has in the past, merely creeping in the darkness near the office's door.

Quiet, barely a whisper, this time. Not the haunting whisper of before, but a faint, almost tentative thread of voice that can barely be discerned as human and not some electronic falsehood. "Looking determined today, old man."

Click, click, clack. The magazie drops out into Deckard's waiting palm on his second jostling try at the release. He's tired. Empty. Eyes hollow in his head, mouth slack beneath a protective layer of grizzled scruff. He's only just had a chance to reach for the slide when — well. When there's a voice at his ear and the gun goes off. Hard to tell which makes him jump harder.

His hand splays open, pistol hanging briefly off his fingers on its way to clattering hard to the floor just ahead of where a bullet ticked neatly through the wall between here and the hallway. Jesus. Christ. Remember to breathe. His left hand goes immediately to press at closed eyes. There is increasingly little hope for his ears, which are ringing now for the second time tonight. "Eileen told me you were dead."

There's a long period of silence in the room, followed by the quiet, raspy sound of the shadow that passes for a voice— "Maybe I am. I haven't checked yet."

Upon the shadow cast by Flint Deckard stirs an avian form, though with less definition than in times past when it 'perched' upon Abigail's shoulder unseen, cast by something that wasn't there. "Ironic. I was told she was dead. And I sent you in there, last time. Things go in circles."

Another silence, then, "Never thanked you, back then. You could've turned me over to John. Didn't. Meant a lot, even then."

Well that's…ominous. Rather than finish stripping down the second gun, Deckard tips his chin down and drops his hand after the long set of a closed drawer at his side. Matches, cartridges and something that looks a lot like a grenade are among the clutter housed inside when he draws it out into his leg, but it's the beat-up metal of his flask and unscrewing the cap on said flask that he's interested in while he knits his brow at the bird on his shoulder that — isn't.

"I went because I wanted to go," is offered reasonably and without real feeling. It's the truth. The welcome warmth of whiskey drizzling down the back of his throat is excuse enough for him to escape the rest with a shrugging lift of a shoulder until he's swallowed and scrubbed the back of his hand over his mouth. It's clean. So is his shirt, for that matter.

"If he killed me, nobody else would've known where she was."

"Regardless." The shadow merely watches him for a few heartbeats (Deckard's heart, not Cardinal's own, for at the moment that vital organ is paused between two beats for however long it takes) as the gun is set aside amongst the other weapons and the flask's drawn forth, and unscrewed. "Eileen." Beat. "Is she still there? With him?"

Regardless. Deckard nods hazily to that. He's talking to a ghost. Unlike most of the other ones he's spoken with, it's difficult to ascertain the reality of this one when it can feasibly take on any shape it desires.

"No. No, she's — safe." Just safe. Not necessarily 'okay,' or even going to be, but that's more up to her anyway. "Probably sleeping."

"Good. Good. Tell her— " Tell her what? That hangs for a moment, the shadow wavering with uncertainty, "— tell her I'm sorry." What he's sorry for, perhaps, is something that only Cardinal understands right now.

After a few moments, the darkness asks quietly, "Can you— are you any better with Abigail's gift? Do you even still have it?"

"I can understand why you might think so, but I'm not actually a Hallmark card." Probably not the best of times to be an asshole, but talking to dead people isn't as novel of an experience for him as it should be. He takes a longer hit off the flask and fumbles the cap back on with a distracted twist of his fingers, uncharacteristically clear-eyed vision turned out after the shape of a real bird whipping past the nearest window.

"I still have it." He's not bulimic or starving either, despite appearances to the contrary. Still, having both eyes set deep in their skullish sockets is better than just the one and a cavernous, blood-crusted hole.

He drops the flask back in and closes the desk drawer with his knee.

The sarcastic comment doesn't even get its usual retort, none of the insulting banter that generally ends their conversations coming from the shadows tonight. The affirmation of the healing gift is met with a stillness for a time, until the drawer's finally closed.

"I… need help, Flint." Possibly the first time he's ever used the man's first name. "I don't know how long I've got. If— if anything."

"Okay." It just falls out of his mouth while he stands there and watches Cardinal's tenuous shadow mingle with his own, shoulders sloped down like the sides of a particularly tall and narrow tent. Okay. Sure. He needs help. He might already be dead. The vest he's wearing is too restrictive for him to sigh, so. He reaches up to work at the straps, velcro rent away from his side two jerky strips at a time. "Sorry things went to shit."

Cardinal's silent a moment; surprised, perhaps. That he'd say yes, so easily, or at all. Charity isn't in Deckard's nature, at least not the one he shows, and their relationship has always been rather ambiguous at best. "Not your fault. Laudani's. Or— not Laudani. I don't know. It looked like him. Tore me out of the shadows… told John who I was. Everything." Short statements. Broken. Uncertain.

That faint shadow bleeds into Deckard's own completely, then splits away, spilling up the wall like a Pollack painting.

"It wasn't Teo." Not so far as Deckard's standards are concerned, anyway. Dickhead future Teo has yet to pass inspection. "Someone's in his head pulling strings." Vague, vague, vague. The wiry crook sounds tired even thinking about it, voice rasping coarse over details that don't seem relevant right now.

Being free of the vest is a relief. It's dropped carelessly down onto the desk with everything else so that Flint has both hands free to hang lax at his sides while he peers blearily down at the desk. Wake up. "Can't kill him without killing the original."

"Ah." No surprise, there. "The eyes… didn't look like him. He wouldn't look at me like that."

The shadow stirs upon the wall, uneasy. "If this doesn't— work— don't tell Abigail. Just— tell her I disappeared. Or something."

"Sure." Deckard administering last rites in a decrepid, dusty classroom occupied by jumbled rows of miniature desks arranged ahead of the more menacing one at his side. Nothing weird about that. The morning is chilly even beyond easy reach of the wind, everything fuzzy and soft in shades of neutral blue. Pre-dawn is one of those times where seeing in full color isn't a completely offensive experience.

"Anything else? Hidden stashes? Pirate gold?"

"No." He's scared. It's why he's delaying this, pushing it off— for the first time in a very, very long time, Richard Cardinal is afraid.

And he puts it off. And off. One second blends into the next, and into the next, Deckard's heart keeping time - but the shadow's does not. "Thank you."

Then the shadow spilt across the wall shudders for a moment… before erupting outwards in a tide of blackness, monochrome grotesquery as the bloodied form of Cardinal is vomited forth from two dimensions to three, from nothing to something.

Knees crumple instantly, sending him to the floor, reddened palms smacking down to keep him from going face-first into that floor. He coughs— a flat, wet sound, blood spilling from his mouth to spatter on the floor before he keels over to one side in a soft thump, desperately trying to draw in breath in heavy wheezing that's as liquid as it is rough. His entire side a gory mess, the knife wound spread deep and broad, bruising mottling all across him. His shirt and jacket is soaked near-black with the stuff of his own life. It seems almost like there's more outside him than in.

Flint knows the feeling. He's quiet. Still. Respectful, if not invisible in his preoccupied study of the floor from his vantage point six feet above it. The slender lines between tiles are just visible in the murk, separating out smudges of graphite and shoe scuffs against lighter grey.

Movement at the wall draws his head around at a snap — then he's moving, a hand braced against the bulk of the desk when one of his boots shrieks and squeaks and fails to find purchase in the slick black of the mess Cardinal makes when he collapses into a heap of his own blood and gore.

There isn't much ceremony about the process once Deckard's dropped down onto a knee. One hand levers into a brace at the other man's shoulder to keep him up on his side, the other grasps at the slick column of his neck in search of bare skin. The warmth and comfort inherent in Abigail's ability are crude but quick to take hold, fuzzing pleasantly against better established pain. Like swimming your hands around in the steamy viscera of a fresh kill on a cold day, there's a certain malignant, uneasy wrongness to it that doesn't quite measure up to Abigail's gentle touch. But it's working.

The clock's started again. The fluttering, unsteady beats of Cardinal's heart the only thing he can hear as they count down the last moments of his life. Until the healing hands of the most unlikely savior of all reach into the clockwork to halt them once more.

The thief, felon, revolutionary— coughs up another splat of blood before curling into himself, leaning half-consciously towards the hands that seek bare skin, towards that warmth when he feels so very, very cold. His shirt and jacket are tangled up, ripped, stained too thickly to ever be cleaned. It's almost hard to tell what's skin and what's fabric in places. Still, he can find it. He's in bad shape. Eileen's… gift, or curse, thrust upon her unnaturally, tore that knife wound wide, a vissure through the muscle between his ribs, rotting deep into his lung and spreading out like ripples from a pond.

"Jesus." This looks familiar. So far as the extrasensory feedback sketching its way into Deckard's ill-prepared awareness qualifies as looking. The old man's muttering makes for less than reassuring bedside manner, the hand clawed around Cardinal's shoulder let off to push up under the scraps of his shirt with little regard for what open wounds lie beneath.

Life breathes across the link, gradually at first, then a little faster with a spike in his heart rate as the scope of the damage continues to sink in. Organs repair themselves, cells divide and multiply, all with that unsettling, sinking warmth that fogs in through split muscle and ripped tissue pass the invasive press of his hands.

Meanwhile, on Flint's end, breathing is becoming a chore. A static fizzle that started as an annoyance has agitated and bloomed ringing white across the greyed out field of his vision, filling his ear canals like cotton and bits of broken glass. Focus.

As that smoky warmth stirs through the tissue of his lungs, severed bronchi repairing themselves and alveoli regrowing, Cardinal hacks— coughs— expelling the blood from his lungs to splatter across the floor before he draws in a shuddering, agonized breath, the first full breath he's taken since becoming flesh. He was at the doorstep of death; there's a lot of damage, but he's being dragged back inch by inch from that threshold as the healing gift does its work.

Of course, it's not fun for either of them.

Audiovisual input fades in and out — reality an unreliable analogue station scraped and scuffed into perception with a crooked pair rabbit ears. To make matters worse, more and more the slow-motion buzz of supernatural healing between them is suffering from a similar deficiency. It slows and sputters, misfires and chugs along for seconds at a time while the warmth drifts, fades and flares again stronger than before. "C'mon."

The blood riding up in an irregular, creeping soak through the white of his sleeves and the blue of his jeans is warm for as long as it takes the air to make the cling of it uncomfortably cold. One more sensation he's had enough experience with to blithely ignore while his thumb brushes past the split at the entry wound, measuring progress there. "Keep coughing."

Oh, he keeps coughing — if nothing else, it stifles a cry of pain as that thumb brushes over the aggravated fissure carved into his side, all the muscles along his side spasming as he twitches sharply away from the contact. Tears mingle with blood on his cheeks as he breathes — coughs — breaths, his lips crusted with dried blood and dead tissue hacked up to the floor.

The warmth muffles the worst of the pain, though it doesn't hide it entirely, waxing and waning with the tides. He's through the hardest of it, at least. Not that it's much comfort.

"Sorry." Flint doesn't sound sorry. He doesn't even sound like he's apologizing to anyone here, distant and distracted while the offending hand seeks firmer purchase further on down Cardinal's side, away from aching muscle now in the process of closing over the gurgling, bubbling black press of blood slippery organs against pink ribs. Skin sutures itself over this process in slower kind, new flesh bare of the sticky red staining everything else. There are no more stutters or falters or skips, just a low key, droning drag of energy from stores not meant to burn.

"S'all… right…" A harsh, raspy whisper, choked with tears and blood in response to the distant, vague apology from the other man - meant for him or not. It's a small mercy that aside from the bruises and broken teeth— mottled skin flushing with healthy pink hues to wipe away the purple-black spreading here and there, new teeth tearing up from the pink flesh of his gums— the damage was mostly localized, if rather horrific. As that steady spill of energy seals the edges of the wound together at last, like lips pursing for a kiss, he exhales a rattling sigh of relief, head thumping against the floor, panting heavily but evenly.

Nearly there and Deckard's barely conscious, chin dropped slack to his chest. His left hand falls away from Cardinal's collar at last, leaving the right to hang on until the last of the bruising has evaporated and he tips himself back into a dumb sit, knees bent to support the plucked wings of his slack-wristed arms. Eyes down, wiry hair curled dark with sweat, he can't be bothered by the mess of Cardinal's rejected insides he's sitting in.

There's silence in the room for long moments, only the sharp panting breaths of the healed man given voice, his body trembling as he curls up a bit in that blood of blood and less pleasant humours, arms pressed in against his chest. Finally, he swallows, the taste of blood on his tongue as he manages to mutter on harsh breath, "Th-thanks. Owe you.. 'nother one, old man.."

A mute shake of Deckard's head could qualify as acceptance or dismissal. Or denial. It doesn't really matter because he doesn't give voice to it, preferring instead to sit where he is in sore, groggy silence. Can't keep going like this. There's something damp at the corner of his mouth — sweat or drool, and he raises a hand to push it away, smearing sticky blood through the grey-flecked bristle there.

The shadow-thief's eyes slide closed as he breathes, steadily and evenly, though still a bit unsteadily. Soon enough, tensed muscles slacken, his arms loosening their clutch on one another as Cardinal slips into a less trauma-induced sort of unconsciousness this time. A pile of shadow'd mess curled up on the floor of the old school. But alive. The clock's hands reset.

Deckard will still be here when he wakes up. Might even do some sleeping himself. For now though, he looks over the repaired thief one last time and pushes shakily to his feet. Tack, tack, tack over to the desk, where there is whiskey and a book and a phone to be silenced while the sun draws itself up over the horizon.

Several hours and some Beyonce later…

It's slow that Cardinal emerges from the black well of slumber, a mercifully dreamless Lethe as his body recovered from all the little things that simple healing can't repair; if nothing else, he's going to be craving red meat for awhile. A muffled groan emerges from his lips, one hand plastering itself against the sticky floor to lever himself up, slowly, gingerly, to a seated posture. He's alive. How the hell did that happen. Shaking his head to clear it, he looks around slowly, searching for the voyeur-cum-healer.

Deckard isn't far. Seated behind the the heavy wood of the teacher's desk, blood-clogged boots crossed up over the space next to his abandoned vest and a loaded gun, he has a book open in his lap and wire-rimmed glasses settled slender across the bridge of his nose. His shirt, hands, jeans and long, hollow face are all smudged and smeared with the fruit of Logan's labors. If not for that and a certain unflattering resemblance to the undead, imminently or recently deceased, he might almost look like he belongs here. "Morning."

"Morning." Cardinal wipes his hand off on his pants. It doesn't help. If anything, it just gets worse, fingers coming up to smear his face even worse as he rubs against his cheek, temple and one eye. His voice is rough still, a little unsteady even. "How long… was I out?"

"A while." Accurate without precision, Deckard turns the page. He's turned enough of them over the last few hours that he's worn mostly clean spaces across the pads of his fingers. The pages themselves aren't as fortunate. Especially the first several that he read.

A tired half-nod, and Cardinal slowly drags his legs up under him. He doesn't trust himself to stand yet, so he leans against the wall that he'd emerged from some time ago, an arm curling about a folded knee whose urban camo is black with dried blood. "Thanks." He licks his lips, tasting iron there, "Are you— I know— Abigail was always tired— "

"I'll sleep when I get back to the safehouse." Not one of those people gifted with the ability to talk and concentrate on reading at the samem time, Flint folds the page over to mark his spot and claps the book shut so that he can toss it up onto the desk with everything else. "I don't keep any food here. Birds, rats, ants. The Lighthouse has a full fridge, or you can go back with me to the other place. Or — wherever. I dunno if you have a place already." A deep breath later, he resolves to move enough to drag his boots down off the desk and back to the floor.

"No." Cardinal's eyes close, his chin dropping a bit as he draws in a slow, unsteady breath, "No, I— thanks. I think I should just… let people think I'm dead, for a little while. Don't know who I can trust right now." He brings a dirty hand up, pinching the bridge of his nose. "Need some time to think."

"Mmm," says Deckard, who is in the process of waking up a little himself. Sunlight is bright through the dusty window, details of the open yard beyond fuzzy and distorted. "Fair enough, but if you don't want posters printed up celebrating your survival, I'd stop thanking me."

A faint snort of weak humor, almost a chuckle, from the thief. "Deal," he murmurs, fingers sliding away from his face to grab hold of the wall. He draws in a breath, body shifting, muscles tensing before he slowly pushes himself up to his feet. Unsteady, but at least he doesn't fall.

Deckard watches Cardinal pick himself up in tired silence, too worn out to sneer or comment or offer assistance. The line of his glare is passively curious, either about Cardinal's resilience or the overall effect of that much bloodloss in a single go.

The first symptom is definitely unsteadiness. And likely hunger, from the rather unpleasant sound his gut makes as he levers himself up slowly and carefully, like Charybdis rumbling in the deeps. Cardinal's hand braces to it as he grimaces, his skin paler even than usual through the layers of grime. Chances are, he won't make it far on foot.

Which is why the area about him darkens, shadows spilling up and over him until pale becomes dark in a negative image and he fades across the wall like a silhouette burnt into the wall through nuclear fires. If you can't walk, cheat.

Cool. Well. It was cool before but there was the whole thing where he was bleeding all over the place and it was hard to concentrate on appreciating the imagery of it. Nose tweaked against an itch that probably has something to do with the blood cracked dry across his face, Deckard stays where he is, still until restlessness manages to overtake exhaustion. Then he leans stiffly over to open one of the larger drawers where a simple leather holster resides. one that can be slipped onto the belt his left hand is already working to unbuckle. "I'd shower before I went anywhere important."

"You think?" It's stronger, now; that hint of cynicism threaded through the shadow's voice that's usually there, no longer merely a hollow echo but more definately sounding like words from a human throat now that he can focus better upon creating them. "You should too, old man."

"Don't have anywhere important to be." And yet, on goes the fold of beaten up leather around the right side of his belt before everything's buckled back down to place. He has somewhere to be. The gun that gets pushed down into the holster before he drags himself to his feet says so. "If we can figure out who else Teo is screwing around with I might need you to do some recon."

A spill of darkness slides slowly across the wall near to where the other man's seated, and the shadow replies quietly, "You have my number. I'll… be laying low for a bit, but— " An edge to that 'voice', like nails on a chalkboard, "— if it has to do with that leccacazzi I'll do what I can."

"Okay." Great. The side of his leg balanced against the back of the desk for support once he's on his feet, Deckard pushes bloodied fingers into the corners of his eyes. Wake up wake up wake up wake up. A chance glance downward catches his phone still on the desk. No messages. Into his pocket it goes. "Guess that's it."

"Where's Eileen?" The disembodied voice asks, quietly, "I'd like to… go talk to her, sometime. At the Lighthouse? Or this— other place, you mentioned?"

"Different place. I dunno the address. Or how long she plans to stay." Deckard rattles off some vague directions anyway, left wrist lifted and twisted enough for him to squint at the smudged face of his watch before he finally reaches to take off his glasses.

The directions are noted, remembered, and the darkness passes— like an eclipse before the sun, passing over the wall and window, and then it's gone without a proper farewell. What, after all, is left to say but gratitude that's unwanted by the other man? Gone as if he were never there, save for the blood he left on the floor, and on Deckard's hands, though more honestly than most red that's stained them.

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