How to Kill a Mockingbird


eileen_icon.gif francois_icon.gif teo3_icon.gif

Scene Title How to Kill a Mockingbird
Synopsis Eileen delivers a message to Francois and Teodoro at a time when breakfast in bed may have been more appreciated by at least one of them.
Date March 22, 2010

Greenwich Village: West 11th Street

Conversation about the strange, suspicious triangle of influence that is two temporal manipulators and a former healer was— more or less put on hold for a time, because relationships shouldn't be built on intrigue and plotting and guessing games, and most people would say it shouldn't just be based on sex either. But one is probably healthier than the other, overall. The morning has gotten brighter, winter-sky sunlight coming in through the wide glass window of the master bedroom of the second floor. For ease of casual conversation— that's the other thing that is healthy— Francois has shifted to rest his back against the endboard of the bed.

By now, he's taken up reading by the light of day, legs at a loose tangle beneath the covers that spills across the midsection of the bed, occasionally roaming a heel along a curve of calf or thigh with a few words traded in between. Outside, there is still traffic, heralding the fact that the day is starting to continue without them.

The tribal eagle of the US Citta di Palermo shifts slightly, flattening and curving with faint elasticity over the oblique bone of Teo's left scapula, followed by a blurry stretch o movement through the ink of his bicep. Facedown on his pillow, he is trying to wallow deeper into the thickness of the mattress, fearing the intrusion of a cold that does not actually— exist anywhere within the brownhouse's walls. He is not succeeding.

Maybe if he had phasing powers. Or the capacity to self-liquefy. Melt. That could work. Or maybe if he had directional telepathy, enough to request his lover do something useful with his hands, ditch the book, and help cover him up better. The most facetious complaints cycle through the cortices of Teo's brain in a singsong monochrome, petty and virulent, and invariably fond. "Mmmh." It is a pleasant escape from the sass and pranking of phantoms of memory.

He lifts his bearded chin a fraction, leaving a divot in the pillow. Manages to fissures his mouth open around the fatigue cotton-wooling his jaw, and it sifts through the ragged ends of his hair, and his ankle bumps muzzily into Francois'.

When a small visitor dressed in shades of gray with black matchstick legs and eyes like flecks of polished obsidian alights on the bedroom's windowsill, there's no reason for alarm. In spite of the weather, which is getting unexpectedly worse instead of better and coaxing baby green shoots from the frozen earth, many of the migratory birds that left for warmer climes before winter took hold have returned only to be disappointed by empty promises of spring. The mockingbird, however, is a year-round resident of New York City and what's unusual about this specimen is not the fact that it's perching on the other side of the glass — it's that it's buffeting its wings against it as if trying to secure someone's attention.

Francois, Eileen's voice needles the Frenchman, gently at first, but it isn't long before there's a note of urgency rising in it. Francois, she says again, and the whisper of wings scraping against the glass escalates to a violent fury and the Englishwoman in his head is shrieking at a fever pitch. Francois open the fucking window!

From wherever Teo has buried himself in fuzzy thoughts and laziness, he will at least feel the startle from the other end of the bed, leg twitching from his as if shocked. The paperback copy of Ishmael clenches closed with a papery whisper, stillness and silence— because he has also stopped breathing— from Francois as that voice echoes through his skull. Finally, he looks towards the window, blinks hazy green eyes towards the phantom wings beating on glass.

"There is a bird— "

yelling at him, and stalling out his words when it goes shrilly in his mind. "Bon dieu." Paperback forgotten, Francois is dragging himself off the bed and taking the blanket with him, bundled and wrapped around his waist and held so with one fist at the small of his back, scars at his stomach peaking from fabric, another much clearer and messier at his ribcage. His other hand goes out to fumble with the window clasp, pushing open glass and grimacing at the gust of coldcoldcold that blows in as a result.

Ergo, Teodoro is left despondently naked, as the temperature in the room drops about five thousand degrees and pals around with the makings of a new Ice Age.

Out of some kind of vicious mortal spite, he opts not to move at all. If he were slightly more conscious, he'd probably be quicker with the deduction: if 'there is a bird' and the bird is reason enough to go squirrelling to the window and force it open despite the asstastic weather, that probably has something to do with the current state of tactical emergency and the tactical alliances formed thereof. If he were more awake, he'd realize he was exposing his posterior to his inimitably respectable friend, Eileen Ruskin.

Teo doesn't. Nor is he making a point of anything, or even reassured by the notion that she probably has more important things to go into frittery avian panic about. His arms retreat a fractioned inch further under his torso, and his big Italian nose sinks deeper into the dented recesses of the pillow, obtuse in his dejectedness. He closes his eyes and speculates that he will fall ill.

The mockingbird's wings thrust all the way open as the window does, and a flying leap carries it off the sill and careening onto the bed a few feet away. It makes its landing, of all places, on the crown of Teodoro's head, groping and clutching at his hair with its clawed toes while battering his face and ears with its wings in an attempt to catch its balance and right itself.

The moment that it darts inside, a much larger bird crashes onto the sill where it had been sitting a heartbeat or two ago, wickedly curved talons closing around nothing but the loose snow that accumulated there overnight and has not yet had the opportunity to ice over into something more solid. The red-tailed hawk parts its beak and blasts out a shrill, whistling cry of alarm a few inches from Francois' nose, its rusty tail flared and broad wings hunched protectively over nothing at all.

It hasn't realized that it missed.

There is a movement there like Francois is about to dive for the floor after making not the most dignified shriek he's ever done when a giant bird of prey screams at him, but his senses are gathered a split second later enough for him to press two hands against the window and— slam glass in the red-tailed hawk's face. If he knew how terrifying birds could be when they brought their bird drama into his home, perhaps he would have second-guessed the rooster tattoo high on his back.

Gusting out a breath, he's quick to collect back up the sheets he'd dropped in the shenanigans, gathered up in the name of modesty with its trailing end flipped over one shoulder. "Eileen?" he utters as he turns to regard what happened and only— freezes his expression into polite surprise so that a giddy post-terror grin doesn't split across his features at what he sees.

Ah. Teo only wishes that the bird scrabbling across his stringy-haired scalp was a figment of his fevered imagination, doesn't he? But no; this is really happening. He can tell from Francois' astonished silence, the fact that Francois is not back, the fact that the fucking blankets have not been returned. There is an audible escape of breath, rubbed out in monotone over his vocal chords.

He reaches up over his head, with fingers long-since grown deft and accustomed to the handling of avians. His familiarity is familiar: Eileen hid under his chin, once upon Staten Island.

The broad backs of two wind up pressed up under the diminutive creature's belly, below the breastbone, tricking the automatic programming of avian reflex into a step-hop up onto the perch provided by two paralleled digits. He then shifts the bird up onto the bed's broad headboard, overshooting only by an inch or two; the clunk of callused knuckles could be louder. Teo's jaw pops audibly around a yawn, and his beard roughs audibly across crisp pillowcase cotton.

The retreating swing of his arm collapses origami around his own head, blotting out the vague white sunshine. "'M breaking up with you after I wake up," he murmurs, cordially informative, his nose bending cartlidgenous against the inscription across his bicep. He covers his eye with his thumb and his ribs widen, stand out in visible struts against his skin, briefly, before he exhales to stillness.

Having a window slammed in its face startles the hawk much the same way it surprised Francois, and with another screech it hefts itself back into the air and is gone, leaving only the disturbed snow and a few opaque contour feathers that look like they belong in somebody's pillow as evidence that it was ever there at all. If he'd been even a fraction of a second slower—

My, breathes Eileen, that was exciting, wasn't it? The mockingbird's sides heave with exhaustion, its pale body trembling all over from beak to tail as its shifts its weight from side to side and settles on the headboard where Teodoro placed it. Gold eyes dip down to the Sicilian's shape sprawled out across the mattress like a cat lazing on its belly in a beam of sunshine but with much more interest than any feathered creature should have for a feline beyond plain circumspection.

Sorry, Francois. She can't help it, you see. When she returns to her own body, she's going to roll over and elbow her American if he's still there. Guess where I've been, she'll coyly say, and then—

None of that is particularly important. The mockingbird snaps to attention and fixes Francois with a sharp yellow stare. One of my sources says he saw Feng Daiyu nosing around Eagle Electric, she tells him. I think I may have overlooked something in the basement the last time I was there.

"Then you don't get to use the shower before you leave, ah?"

In reality, Francois only has eyes for staring at the bird even if he addresses the Sicilian, approaching the bed at a shuffle with his hands cautiously gripping the cacoon of wool blend around himself. The mattress dips a little as he perches on its edge, narrowed green eyes focused on the mockingbird as that telepathic voice echoes through his head. No especially helpful, he adventures out a hand to prod Teo's ankle. "Can you hear that also?" Because if he's getting audio hallucinations, they're apparently important ones.

The thick-veined ankle in question gives a reciprocal twitch, but fails to provide further response. Teo doesn't say 'No,' but one might parse his answer fluently despite it. Difficult to say how awake he is at all, now; modesty, like other things, gets erratic when one is sleepy and that may or may not mean he is entirely asleep. If he isn't, he's sulking. Because of the blankets, or the conversation, or his apparent exclusion from both.

Let him sleep, Eileen suggests, fluttering down from the headboard onto Francois' knee. The mockingbird hooks its feet into the blanket's fabric to prevent tumbling down to the floor and pricks its toes at his bare skin through the rumpled material. It doesn't weigh very much, just enough for his nerves to register the pressure bearing down on them, but it's large enough to have made the hawk a decent meal if Francois hadn't answered her summons. He can't hear me because I'm not talking to him. I'm talking to you.

Francois is just not much of an animal person, as much as he can handle horses alright. Awkward when petting dogs, reluctant around cats, and nervous about birds in that they seem so breakable. Still, he doesn't flinch back when she alights on his knee, letting the blanket slip off his shoulders so that he can flip some of the excess wool onto a slice of Teo's legs, best intentions at heart. "Oui, you are," he agrees, voice toning down, bringing a hand up to rub and drag down his face.

"Good morning. Feng Daiyu at the place in Queens? Do you know what he might have been looking for? Who told you?"

Gold eyes regard green ones without any emotion behind them. One of the benefits to flitting around New York City as a bird and delivering messages on the wing is that her face is impossible to read because the one that she has doesn't change much. The only thing capable of giving away what she might be thinking or feeling is the tone of her voice, and in a way it's a lot more difficult for her to control in this form. She does not have vocal chords to filter what comes from the heart.

Daiyu is a snake, she says to Francois, and snakes like to hide in holes, under rocks. There's a lot of both where the warehouse used to stand. As for how she came by this information, she's a little more evasive on the subject and is silent while the mockingbird ducks its head to comb its beak through the feathers of its chest.

It's complicated, is what she eventually settles on for an explanation. You can tell Teodoro that it was Epstein who told me. The real one, I think. He'll know what I mean.

"I see." Francois lays his left hand down on the opposite knee, scarring mostly hidden in the way his palm faces the ceiling though the bracket of his fingers is forever a little off. Framework skewed, but offered to the mockingbird all the same for wee talons to dimple into his palm. He's meant to be going to the hospital today, about that hand, and Teo was going to come with, although apparently no longer obligated. Oh, life. He represses a smile, remains focused, if morningly so. "Merci, Eileen, merci beaucoup. I suppose I know where we will be going first. At the very least, we can try to find what was missed."

The mockingbird steps onto Francois' hand, curls one foot around his thumb and braces the other against his open palm. This would never happen in the wild, but they're not in the wild: they're in Francois' bedroom with Teodoro dozing lightly behind them and the not-so-distant rumble of morning traffic floating up from the street below. De rien, Eileen says, and the mockingbird flexes its toes, giving the Frenchman's thumb what is probably meant to be an affectionate squeeze. Please be careful. He and Sasha are both excellent marksmen.

Just like they're not in the wild, Eileen isn't a real bird, and so Francois' eyes go slightly crescent in a charmed smile at the creature hopping up onto his palm, although it is quicker to fade when Sasha's name is brought up. Hitching the wool back up around his shoulders, Francois abandons the bed again to awkwardly lever open the window, after a quick glance upwards to evaluate the sky of hawkish shadows. When there are none, he opens the glass wider, and offers the bird to elements breezing inside.

"You be careful also. Fly quickly."

A gentle wind tugs at the mockingbird's feathers, cajoling it back into the sunlight streaming down from breaks in the clouds as thin fingers of gold that make the earth glitter where they touch the snow. As cold as it is outside and as cozy as it is in Francois' bedroom, there's likely to be hot tea and — if she's lucky — an equally warm body waiting for her back at the Dispensary.

Au revoir! she calls to Francois as the mockingbird springs from his hand, flicks out its wings and lets the breeze drag it momentarily from the Frenchman's view before it wheels around and cuts back upstream like a silver fish gliding against the current. When it finally disappears, it's with the light winking against the dark gray feathers on its back and a final farewell flip of its tail.

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