Mainly Social


graeme_icon.gif ygraine_icon.gif

Scene Title Mainly Social
Synopsis Graeme goes to see Ygraine, the first time he's talked to her since the Dome came down.
Date February 26, 2011

Le Rivage: Ygraine's Apartment

A comparatively large and well-maintained apartment occupying one corner of its floor. Windows dominate two sides of the living room, illuminating it brightly throughout most days. A kitchenette occupies one corner of the lounge, while several doors offer exits.

Luxurious but slightly worn brown leather furniture is arranged around the television in the main room, with a small dining table and high-backed chairs diagonally opposite the kitchenette. Wall-mounted shelves and stand-alone cases take up a lot of space along the walls, almost wholly filled with books. A collection of full-size geographic, political, and historical atlases have been given pride of place - though academic texts on history, international relations, conflict theory and linguistics are also prominent, alongside a fair collection of DVDs. The one sizable decoration is a blown-up photograph of mist-shrouded Edinburgh castle at sunset, a black silhouette rising out of white and luminous gold.

Of the exits, one (with an extra lock, deadbolt, and a sturdy chain) leads out of the apartment; another to the bathroom; and the next to a small room that has been converted into a rather cramped home gym. A computer desk, filing cabinet, and a single bed take up most of the space in the next room, while the last is the master bedroom - dominated by a double bed (upon which sits a two foot tall cuddly penguin) and more bookshelves (these holding a jumble of magazines, art books, Neil Gaiman graphic novels, and a collection of science fiction and historical novels), with a clearly well-traveled laptop resting on the bed-side cabinet. Here, high-quality art-prints of dragons decorate the walls, while a small cabinet holds a collection of cycling trophies.

Scattered throughout are a variety of ornately-framed photographs of a striking, curvaceous brunette, the shots ranging in style from the candid to the artfully glamorous.

With forewarning, Ygraine has managed to ensure that her apartment looks quite respectable - as does the woman herself. True, she's visibly lost weight since her last meeting with Graeme, her mane of hair is both unbound (in a cascade past her waist) and is markedly fading in its former red colouring, and her features have the pinched, sharpened look of someone who spent a long time both ill-fed and under great stress… while her outfit of loose sweater and simple trousers also features a sturdy sling to immobilise one arm… but she's clearly making an effort not to seem entirely helpless.

Having carefully checked the identity of her caller, then spent some time undoing the layers of security, Ygraine finally swings open the door and offers Graeme a smile of welcome. "Come in, please. It's good to see you." The voice, at least, sounds the same.

Graeme's skateboard is tucked under one arm, and he's dressed much like he usually is, but his usual disregard for the cold has been replaced by a worn black peacoat that drapes over his shoulders, unbuttoned, showing the light grey dress shirt he wears. The man seems to have gained a fondness for monochrome, though it's not like she's ever seen him with colour in his wardrobe.

"Hey there." Graeme looks tired, overall, for the man who when she met him seemed to have a near endless supply of energy. He steps in, and there's visible relief as the door shuts behind him. "I'm glad you're … alright." The last word is hesitant, like he's not sure that alright is the correct word to be using, given the circumstance.

Ygraine allows Graeme to move inside, delaying at the door to put back in place several layers of security - multiple chains and bolts alike. Then she turns to follow him through, gesturing grandly with her one arm towards the luxury of the somewhat battered but still inviting leather furniture.

"Make yourself at home. Would you care for a drink? And… I'm some distance from all right, but I'm doing a great deal better than many. So I can't exactly complain."

"Yeah," Graeme says. "But you're here, and well, you're here …" he lets the words trail off, and shrugs. The skateboard is set down by the door, and his coat laid on top of it. "Ginger ale or other soda, if you have, or water?" He glances at her. "Just tell me where to get it, you should sit," he says. His lips purse, and the loose teeshirt shows the tension in his shoulders and back, that he doesn't relax despite her telling him to. "I have to admit I'm relieved to see you."

Ygraine cracks a grin, padding through to the kitchenette - wearing just socks on her feet, at present - and opens up the fridge. "Ginger, eh? How terribly civilised of you!", she observes, before returning to offer a can and glass to her visitor. "I'll leave you to open it. Now please, take a seat."

Moving to the coffee table, she bends over to touch a button on a small black box… producing no noticeable effect other than the appearance of a small green LED upon it.

Graeme obeys, and sits, with a bit of a smile. The soda is opened, poured into the glass at an angle so that it doesn't bubble over. "I know, it's horrible, but I like the stuff better than anything else, overall. And we couldn't get it in New Mexico." He's having trouble saying the name of the state that he used to live in, and there's a twitch in the muscles of his neck and shoulder, before he takes a deep breath. "Enough flavour, and no aftertaste like some sodas."

Graeme pauses, before continuing. "This is a … mainly social visit," he admits. "Wanted to see that you'd gotten out okay. I had … some family things come up, and between that and working in the relief efforts, well." He swallows, visibly.

"I actually quite like it myself", Ygraine admits with a laugh. "Don't often drink it, but I tend to have a can or two around just in case the craving strikes."

Folding herself carefully onto one of the chairs, she gestures to the little device on the table. "White noise generator, in case you want to talk freely. The Spy Shop is a wonderful place, if you've not discovered it yet. All sorts of wholly-legal things that can be great to have…"

Leaning back, she visibly relaxes a little, settling against the soft support of her chair. "Should I ask about your family… things? Or leave carefully alone?"

The presence of the white noise generator makes Graeme relax ever so slightly more, and he takes a sip of the soda, a grateful smile offered to Ygraine. "I dunno," he says, the drawl colouring his words and drawing them out longer than usual. "Depends on whether you want to hear my oh so wonderful insecurities." He bites his lower lip, and it looks like he's been doing a hell of a lot of that, recently.

Graeme pushes his hair back, and rubs his forehead with his thumbs. "I probably ought talk about it, as much as I don't really want to." There's a pause, and a shrug, and then Graeme takes another sip of the soda, before leaning back a little and setting the glass on the coffee table.

Ygraine nods encouragingly, leaning forward to pour water from a large jug on the table into a glass already waiting, before curling up - albeit somewhat awkwardly - in her chair. "I'm quite willing to listen", she says quietly.

When Graeme speaks again, it's hesitant, that he doesn't trust his voice, that he's not used to the words he's saying. "Thanks," he starts. "So, I have a sister, or something. And I found her, met her, but." A pause, long and careful. "It's not like there's more in common than just a blood relation." He pauses again. "And then it gets, a little complicated."

Despite the white noise generator, Graeme speaks quietly enough. "Some stuff happened, led me to ask Liz to look into things for me. Not the most legal line of work, is what my sister said." He bites his lip, hard enough that it's bleeding a little, copper tang that he pretty much ignores. "The truth that makes men free is for the most part the truth which men prefer not to hear. Herbert Agar said it."

Graeme stops, shoulders tense knots of muscle, even as he is leaning back, and looks down at his lap.

Ygraine's head cants slowly to one side, that bright gaze rather intently locked upon the man on her sofa, attempting to divine his thoughts from his expression and motions. "That phrase often makes me think of arbeit macht frei", she murmurs. "I would rather live with truth than in ignorance, but it's so very often an ugly thing to deal with…."

"Yeah," Graeme agrees, softly. "Something like that."

Graeme's hands are clenched into fists on his lap. "It's what Liz… or Liz and Richard Cardinal, rather, had to tell me, that's got me so bent out of shape." He grimaces. "I came here, trying to stay away from bigoted jackasses, and I find out I'm related to one."

Ygraine sighs quietly, offering a genuinely sympathetic look. "Bigotry most often comes from fear. For most people, it's not… deep-rooted. Not that that helps in the interim, I know. Nor is it guaranteed to be true in this case, but… I'm sorry. Truly I am."

The man nods, pulling his knees to his chest, halfway, though keeping his shoes off of the furniture all at the same time. "Thanks." He pauses, sighs. "I haven't been dealing so well, I don't think," he admits. "I put a hole in the wall in Cardinal's office. And …" Graeme shrugs, quietly. "This isn't good."

There's grim certainty in that statement. "For her to be involved with who she's involved with, and me being what I am." He turns to Ygraine, shakes his head. "My life just got a shitload more complicated."

Ygraine winces sharply, then musters a weak smile. "Rather his office than my home, I confess, but…." Offering a carefully one-shouldered shrug, she sighs. "Keep that… very quiet around anyone else who was in the Dome. There were… some people in there who were every bit as sick as the Humanis leadership, so far as I could tell. People who were eager for violence to kick off, and… for it to hit an extreme level. And I don't know exactly who, unfortunately, so I can't give you names…"

Graeme nods. "Yeah. I know that they were responsible, for stuff in there, and such." He reaches over, picking up the glass with his soda in it. "I know. And from what I know, my sister's just … in over her head, or something. At least, that's what Cardinal seemed to think, and he dated her or whatnot, knows her a bit better than I do, it would appear."

He sighs. "I've been more or less ordered to keep a low profile, overall, for a bit. Which is, well, probably best. I don't share a last name with Keira … but well. Ward of the state. Anyone who wanted to could find my birth name. Three clicks on a Google search."

Keira. Ygraine'll definitely try to remember that. "What is her surname? Just in case it comes up. And… be very careful about the Dome. I could give you a few names of people I'd regard as trustworthy in there, but… there were at least one two people…."

Sighing, she shakes her head, closing her eyes for a moment. "The nightmares I have about it are… a mix. Some things happened when the Dome came up. Side-effects, if you will. And some of those… those were horrible. Truly horrific in the literal sense of the word."

Lifting her lids, she fixes Graeme with a rather decidedly intense look. "Then there were the things that people did, with Humanis as an excuse. Smashing someone's head in. Cutting off limbs. There's at least one person I'd regard as a serial killer who was active in there, with his - or her - chosen prey being anyone he could even pretend was Humanis."

"Fionn, her last name is Fionn," Graeme says. There's a tone of detachment in his voice, and he bites down on his lower lip, yet again. "There're … I've seen the things we've found, working in the relief efforts," he says. "Nightmare fuel at a minimum." And yet he's been working at the edge of the Dome nearly ever day.

After meeting Ygraine's gaze for a moment, his soda is put down, and his head is rested on his knees, though he's still looking at her. "I've had … experience with Humanis First before," he admits, "in New Mexico. They were not, I understand, as active as they are here, in some ways. But they were pretty active, and especially in the school district, and the administration of individual schools." His eyes squint shut, and the swallow that follows is very, very visible with how tensely Graeme has been holding himself.

Another sigh, to be followed by another sympathetic look from Ygraine. "I'm sorry to hear that", she murmurs. "Truly I am. But… coming here must have taken a good bit of courage. If you'd wanted to avoid them, it's surely the last place to go. So… it provides a rather strong reason to admire you."

"Thanks," Graeme says, quiet still. "New York … I could have gone somewhere totally new, started over, but at the same time, I couldn't. At least here, I have family, or something. Except …" the glass of soda is put down again, and Graeme's shoulders shake, dry, wracking crying that doesn't produce any tears. There aren't tears to be had, just grief. Except that his sister is a member of the very group he left to avoid.

Sighing, Ygraine takes a long sip of her water, then leans forward to set it onto the table, before slipping out of her chair and moving to kneel before her guest. Reaching up, she rests her one hand on his knee. "I'm a very firm believer in the possibility of redemption", she informs him, tone quiet but intense. "It's…"

Not the right time for a tangent. Shaking her head to clear her thoughts, Ygraine ventures a smile. "It's not a reflection on you, Graeme. You might even be able to help her, in time."

Graeme tenses a bit, at the touch, but he doesn't draw back. At least, not right now. "I hope so," he says, quiet, tone betraying his uncertainty. "And … I know, but, God help either of us, if they find out I'm related to her, or she to me." He bites his lip, hard enough this time that he winces.

"The principal at the school I taught at bent to a demand from someone, that they not let Evo kids with physical abilities play on any sports teams," he says, quiet. "One of my soccer players, his ability was nearly the same as mine. He took his father's gun, went into the town square, blew his head off. After shooting himself in the stomach, and the chest." The guilt that Graeme feels is evident.

Ygraine winces at each part of that description, then slowly shakes her head. "Such things could be handled quite easily", she says ruefully. "The International Olympic Committee has ruled out Evolved with relevant abilities from participating in competition. Which is fair, I have to concede. But… that's fundamentally no different in a school context to saying that eighteen year-olds shouldn't compete against twelve year-olds. And where competition isn't at stake…."

"Yeah, but when it's bigoted assholes behind the proclamation, like it was… this barred them from participating, at all, no matter what, even from participating in the things the team did that were not competitive … You tell that to the kid whose only chance at college, because they come from poorer families, was a scholarship that they now couldn't get." Graeme goes silent once more, biting back the full extent of his emotions to something manageable.

"Ah. I do tend to forget that element of things", Ygraine admits. "We… simply don't have that sort of scholarship, really, at home. There're no 'Phys Ed' majors, but a lot more professional teams per capita. I… I admit that I have wondered about trying to get something going, should I manage to find time alongside Liberty…."

Graeme grins, a bit, and then winces. The memories are bitten back, pushed away. "Yeah," he says. "It's taking away a lot of chances, for kids that work every bit as hard at it, ability or not, here." He sighs.

"Speaking of …" he looks at Ygraine, blue gaze focused, nearly sad. "For the moment, while I'm happy to help where I can, I need to keep a low profile. Which means that I cannot be known to be involved in Liberty, despite how much I want to be."

Close as she is, Ygraine can't help but shoot Graeme a look before she catches control of her expression. "I… understand. But I could still really use your help. Even if it's wholly uncredited at present, there's a lot you can do behind the scenes. If you can design things, I can implement them."

"The next time I come over, I have some graphics I've worked on," he says. "Little things, web banners and such. I'll bring them over on a flash drive for you." Graeme rests his hand atop her good one, and gives it a careful, gentle squeeze. "I'm utterly terrible at keeping a low profile," he admits, quiet, tone slightly pained. "And as I said, what I can do, I'm happy to."

Nodding quickly, then managing a low laugh, Ygraine musters a smile for Graeme. "Any help is better than none. But it seems that I need to try to find another poster-distributor." Thus far, she's on a two-for-two strike rate with having her postering recruits run afoul of Humanis First worries before they even stick up a single one.

"Make sure that you edit the tags, or use wholly anonymous software. I'll tidy things up to keep them as anonymous as I can, but… the more you do the less chance there is of me missing something that someone might pick up on."

"Yeah, sorry about that," Graeme says, apologetic. He straightens, a little, taking a sip of his soda. "I went through and stripped all the identifying information from the files, but I will double check. It's always good to be certain." He quiets, and unbidden, this time, there are tears. Not many, but a few, and for whatever reason, Graeme doesn't fight them.

"I'll double-check, myself. And we've got… anonymity…." Ygraine's voice trails off, she dithers, pauses as she realises that her instinct to offer a hug is just likely to result in intense pain followed by lots of mutual apologising, and then reaches up once more - this time to give his shoulder a squeeze. Shifting up to perch on the sofa beside her visitor, she gently slips an arm around him, worriedly peering at him from fairly close range.

Graeme tenses, a little, but doesn't draw back, and after a few minutes, pulls a handkerchief from the pockets of his jeans, wiping his face with it. Other than that, though, he's just silent, still. "It … gets to me, every so often," he says, apologetic almost.

"I'd noticed", Ygraine murmurs, tone teasingly dry - though her arm remains quite firmly in place, and she doesn't appear inclined to pull away or tell him to pull himself together. "If it didn't get to us, we'd frankly be inhuman. The key thing's not to be untouched in the first place, but how one responds. Bravery isn't a lack of fear or pain - it's overcoming them. And to be overcome, they have to be there - and be felt - in the first place."

Graeme nods, and there's a little less tension in his shoulders, though none less in his arms. Slowly, he swallows, wipes his face again and shoves the handkerchief back into the pocket it came out of. "Yeah. I'm not very good at letting myself do that," he admits.

"Many people - especially on this side of the Pond - believe that to feel an emotion it has to be writ large across your life and actions. That there must be a demonstration of it, or else it doesn't truly exist", Ygraine murmurs. "That's total and utter crap. Waste your energy demonstrating to an imaginary audience - or to yourself - and you'll not be able to use it for far more valuable things. But, similarly, if you use all your energy fighting to hide your emotions from yourself…."

Another of those careful one-shouldered shrugs is offered, though Ygraine's arm remains in place. "One of the key things for a competitor to learn is how to use emotion. Take the fear and apprehension and channel it. Take the frustration or anger after a bad performance or a stupid call by someone else, and use it. Take the disappointment of letting yourself down and the humiliation of screwing up before an audiene and make it work for you. To do all of those, you have to feel. You have to know what it is that's going on inside, and you have to master it. It doesn't make it any less real - but you use it to motivate you. To drive you onwards. To help you to achieve the things you want to - need to - achieve if you're to reach your goals."

"And… if people can learn to do that just for the sake of transient glory in front of a few fans and the chance to take home a bit of metal on a ribbon, I rather firmly believe that we can darn well learn to do it for the things that truly matter. And with the emotions that truly matter. There's far more at stake here than there ever was in any race I ever rode - but the very importance of the past and the possible impact of the future… those make it all the more vital that I use what I have. And the power that can be drawn from the emotions and fears I have… those really should be enough to make a difference in shaping the world, if only I can channel them as I should."

Graeme nods, and Ygraine's steady tone of voice and steadier words help, helps him calm down. "I know." His response is simple. "But hell if I didn't need the reminder. It's easy to get lost, caught up in emotions when it gets personal, lose sight of how important it is." He's quiet again, grateful for the chance to let someone else talk, and grateful for the company, and eventually, he manages a bit of a smile to Ygraine.

Ygraine chuckles once more, gently shaking her head at Graeme. "There're reasons why even the highest-level competitors spend a lot of time visualising situations they'll have to deal with, as well as practicing the mechanics. Reminders are needed by even the best of people, if they're to cope. Only the insane and the inhuman are able to ignore emotion - and… for all that my heart and mind have let me down at times, I would far rather retain the ability to feel - to be human - than to trade it for the capacity to shrug off the woes of the world or to ignore the plight of others. I would far rather hurt, and cry, than do without it. Just… make sure that it serves a purpose."

"As would I," Graeme says, his grip on his knees loosening some. "Because if it didn't bother me, what my sister's involved with, if there was no weight on my shoulders from what has happened, then I would not want to know that person." He reaches over, taking the cup with the soda and taking another sip, though not quite finishing what was left in the glass.

"I just hope that there is enough of a difference to make." He pauses, and reaches up to set his hand atop hers. "Thank you," he murmurs, voice quieter than before.

Delivering another manual squeeze, Ygraine musters another smile. "You're welcome. Truly. I'm a socially-inept nerd from another culture, with a history of mental illness and… probably a significant case of post-traumatic stress at present. But I'm also an experienced competitor with a track record of responding well to a pressure to perform at a very high level, and a commitment to trying to make my lunatic idealism a rather more tangible reality. Not giving up when the world turns to shit… that's arguably my one real talent. I have never found a situation in which I truly had no choice but to accept the 'rules of the game' as they might seem at first glance. No matter how bad the situation is, there's inspiration to be drawn to try to change something to make it better. If not for you, then for others. And to do that… the very crapness of the way the world treats us and others - that is surely all the motivation we could ever need."

Graeme squeezes Ygraine's hand, gently. "You're no more socially-inept than I am," he says, quietly. "For all that I had a moderately decent career, I've never exactly learned to relate to myself, let alone how to relate to other people. I pushed it all to one side, threw myself into doing things instead, and if something was wrong, I did more."

Slowly, his knees come down from his chest, less guarded in his posture. "It comes down to a really simple fact. Those kids I taught, they deserve a better future, and a better world than this one, and hell if I won't do whatever is in my power to make that at least possible." There is grim determination in his voice, and he begins to extricate himself, with a careful squeeze of Ygraine's hand rather than a hug, mindful as Graeme is of her injury.

"I should…" he pauses. "I should be going. I'll come by again soon enough, though, yeah?"

"You could stick around for a bite to eat, if you wanted", Ygraine offers with a gentle smile. "There's no need to run off on my account, I assure you." A heart-beat's pause, then she winks. "And the extra-durable could act as a trial run for my one-handed culinary efforts, before I risk poisoning my girlfriend…."

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