Mixed Metaphors


calvin_icon.gif nora2_icon.gif

Scene Title Mixed Metaphors
Synopsis A lot goes unsaid in a colorful array of figurative language when Calvin calls on Nora to wish her a happy birthday.
Date March 10, 2011

Pollepel Island and Ruins of Midtown

Does midnight count as the marker of your 18th birthday if the year isn't the right year? The question is mused while Nora surfs the radio waves long past the clock struck twelve somewhere in the castle. Aside from the voices and music that fill her head as she mentally floats through the airwaves, the castle is quiet. She stands out on the ramparts, watching the water and the dark rise of the ridge across, a quiet and silent sentry though she's not on any sort of guard duty.

She finds a talk show discussing matters foreign and unfamiliar to her — pop culture that she doesn't understand, humor that flies over her head. Something about tiger blood and some guy named Charlie. While she listens, she keeps listening for those she's promised to listen for; their voices will cut in and silence the fodder she entertains herself with tonight.

Not that she's expecting anyone to call for her — After all, a birthday isn't really a birthday if it's not the right year.

Brush of a bare foot long across matted carpet and exposed baseboard; a pack dropped and a paper bag of groceries into a snuff of dust after it. Calvin's home early by the track of his watch, roosting pigeons waved clear of his desk.

He's lit up nearly as soon as he's sunk into the tatty chair behind it, a pitted old ash tray hooked in close under his cigarette hand.

Attempting to carry his radio setup with him would have been impractical, so he's "acquired" a new one. Just like he acquired a desktop computer and a generator, each as apathetic as the other to his toggling of switches and checking of currents. Light is limited at this hour, but he doesn't seem to mind. The odd shaft of moonlight and a familiar layout are enough to keep him from falling into any holes. Life-threatening ones, anyway.

He only says one word into the receiver once he's lifted it under his nose, eyeliner smudged in nearly as thick as the circles insomnia's punched in around his eyes. The word is: "Nora."

The one word is like a beacon, to use light imagery — it cuts through all others, louder, more clear, sharper and brighter. Her breath catches as she turns her back to the stone wall, knees folding so she can sit and wrap her arms around them. It's a long moment before she responds — perhaps to make him think she wasn't waiting to hear the one word, that she just happened to hear it amongst all the others tossed through the air by so many voices.

"Hey," finally comes through his speakers. It's just another day. Just another check-in. She lifts her dark eyes to the clouds above, studying the partial moon partially covered by a cloud floating past. "You okay?"

"V'course. Why shouldn't I be?" isn't a confrontational question, really. Just a regular question. A little drowsily drunk. Maybe even rhetorical, without attitude or sarcasm to spur it along. He's tired. Just a little readjustment lag, is all.

Smoking helps his temper (he hopes for the sake of this conversation) a hole pushed perfectly round with the ember of his cigarette through a business card with his name on it. Calvin ——n. Then he exhales. Finally.

"It's the tenth," he says next, diction clearer cut once he's had a pause to gather himself. "We can now fool around in any of the fifty states without fear of legal reprisal."

'Is it' is a bit coy, and coy isn't her style, so she doesn't say it. There's no soft whisper of breathing or any ambience noise on her part, which means she's editing. A hand comes up to rake through her hair, damp with the moisture off the water that hangs everywhere and cuts through the bones, even if it's warm enough to call it spring.

"Legal's just a state of paperwork, anyway," she tosses playfully. "But yeah. Happy birthday to me." Her tone is a touch bitter, editing or no. A touch lonely, maybe. "Thanks for remembering," she adds a half a breath later, inherent niceness catching up to her. "I wasn't sure anyone would." Well, Kincaid already did, so by anyone, she means him, most likely.

She sighs, a puff of white ascending into the darkness, though the sigh doesn't come through his speakers. "It's just a day. And since when have you ever worried about legal repercussions?" The last is asked playfully, without censure, in the spirit of their usual banter.

"Not for a good seven years running," says Calvin, who's less playful but companionable all the same. Innn his lazy way, smoke stirred in a winding path from one side of his profile to the other while he shuffles through water-damaged drawers after a flask. Silences are noted with a bland look up at the radio for one particularly still stretch, conversation a touch less natural for her editing. She has her reasons. Surely.

The flast is recovered at length and his voice muffles around his cigarette when he plugs it into the corner of his mouth to free up his hands. Cap twisted round and round and round. "Nevermind that though — just think've all the babies you can have now. Y'don't even need a license!"

The snort on her end does make it through his speakers, the conversation finding a groove after the first few awkward beats. "Right. I'm not my mother; I'm not bringing a kid into this fucked up world just because I can. I have my doubts it's gonna get any better, no matter what we do," is said with the teenager's typical cynicism and angst.

At least she's kept her sense of humor in her ripe and mature age. "But yeah, duly noted. I'll be sure to go sleep with a buncha guys just because I can. Maybe I'll make a weekend of it. Do you have to be 18 in Jersey? It's no fun if I was already legal yesterday in New York." The words, a couple of months ago, would have come off as a simple joke — she wouldn't have thought twice about them, but now she scowls a little despite the comic intent, and she pulls at a tear in the rubber of her sneaker, making it worse in the process.

Unscrewed cap set carefully aside, Calvin swigs and shudders, the heels of his hands braced hard to the desk edge until the sensation's passed and he remembers to breathe. Deep in, deep out. And a drag to follow, ginger dreads crested on the wilder side of deliberate disorder when he twists to narrow his eyes after the flirt and flutter of a lingering rat bird in the dark.

With the receiver left undepressed, reeling out silence on Nora's end, there are no ears to register a meaty poff of pinkened feathers after a flash of white teeth and steel shot. There's no louder discharge because there is no gun.

Then Calvin's refocused and tabbed back into the conversation, pause just long enough to read as contemplative. "There is always," he says, slowly, "potential for change. S'just that a plastic explosive tends to make a bigger splash than a stone."

A sliver of rubber is peeled from the shoe and tossed onto stone as she listens. "Throwing stones only works if you're throwing them at people who aren't wearing fucking armor," Nora agrees, and there's another sigh, not edited out — either she's growing more at ease or possibly tired, it's hard to tell.

"Or at robots," she adds, chin resting on her knees.

"I want to be more than a tagalong, Cal. I'm not a kid — officially even, now — so you know. Let me know if there's anything I can help you with. With my ability, or." She shrugs. 'Or' covers a lot of ground. "You know I can hold my own in a fight. Especially now that I'm no longer playing Blind Man's Bluff."

Calvin's not in a very good mood. Living in Midtown for a few weeks after kicking around for months on six figures of income will do that to a hedonistic person.

He'll get over it, though.


It's just that in the meantime there are thunder clouds to contend with, his nose twitching at a rankle that may — passingly — resemble contempt. Irritation, at the very least. But rather than bite, he fits his free hand over the sit of his flask and smokes and takes his time breathing his way back into serenity. He will feel better after a shower, he reasons. Chelsea's full of rundown apartments and motels to break into to that end. And then there's Nora. "Nora, Nora, Nora," murmered aside off the record, he finally draws in a stiff little breath through his sinuses and fits his cigarette into a slot on the ash tray.

"I was hoping, actually," actually, "that you might keep an eye on Benjamin. Or," Calvin trails off, fishing distractedly back for his smoke, "at least ask him to be a little nicer t'me?"

"Well, if you insist on calling him Benjamin, he's gonna get irritated," she says lightly, though her brows knit with concern. Nicer. She shakes her head, fingers pulling loose the loose ties of her laces and retying them just for something to occupy her hands.

"I can't really imagine Benji being anything but nice. Are you sure it's not just … something you're misperceiving?" she asks, tipping her head curiously as she moves to the other sneaker to retie it as well. "And you know that's not really what I mean by wanting to help. Playing go-between if the two of you are having a squabble?"

She sighs, and leans her head back against the stone. "I can try," she relents, scowling at the toes of her Converse.

"Well it's his name, isn't it?"


They are definitely having a squabble.

In case there was any doubt for him to seal the deal on. Calvin rolls his eyes.

"Y'don't have to do anything you aren't comfortable with. Just — watch your own back at the very least, alright Banana Nut Muffin? Nice people are typically very well positioned to slip knives in places they don't belong." Accent drawn out into a drawl, Calvin eeks out one last drag and stifles his cigarette stiff down into the tray. Scuff, scuff and a finicky dust of white ash off the desk's edge.

"What's between us is between us, but he's playing dirty pool."

Her eyes narrow and she wraps her arms once more around her knees. "You don't call me by my name," she points out. "And I don't mean by calling me breakfast pastry words, either." The term of endearment does bring a smile to her lips and a blush to her cheeks that's followed by a deeper flush of something not as sweet but more angry in nature — anger at herself for reacting like a girl.

"But okay," she murmurs, tone more serious, worried in fact. "But tell me why you think so — and why do you think he'd do anything to hurt us? Are you sure you're not…" she closes her eyes, and takes a breath.

"… being paranoid?" After all, he's the one who pushed her away due to 'mental problems.'

"But you like breakfast pastry words."

Calvin flirts with a private smile that's almost genuine a quiet beat later. But the lift in his mood is shortlived. He's quiet for a long time after her suggestion of paranoia, the show of his teeth in a grin grinding into a grimace that she cannot see or hear. Imagination must suffice.

"I don't want to talk about it. And I don't want to cause anything between you, contrary to what he'll have to say. Just be careful."

Nora chews her lower lip for a few moments; her editing has fallen away and he can hear the soft sound of her breath and then the hoot of an owl somewhere in the distance that has her glancing over her shoulder. "I do," she says quietly, about liking breakfast pastry words. "Streudel," is added playfully.

But then there's another melancholy sigh. "Is the list of things we don't talk about getting longer the longer we're here, Cal, or was it always there and I was just too dumb to notice?"

More drink probably isn't a great idea if he intends to go and cause some crime to happen. Calvin considers the flask with a dull-eyed kind of distraction — a hint of a squirm in his silence, this time. The list of things they aren't talking about is on his list of things he doesn't want to talk about.

"It's getting longer," he concedes at length, left hand slithered from the flask to knuckle against his nose instead. "I trust the vaccine's been doing what it's supposed to?"

Her knees are hugged tighter to her chest and she turns her cheek to rest on her knee. "Okay," she murmurs to his concession, not pushing him to talk — that he's talking to her at all tonight is a welcome thing and enough.


"Yeah, I'm fine," she adds regarding the vaccine. "Hannah's getting better, they say," is softer yet, that pang of guilt for not having seen their friend herself — even if she isn't "allowed" to, she hasn't tried, either. "But people are sick who shouldn't be. Abby. Juniper. Lynette. Some of the littler kids. People are dying. It's … it's bad."

A hand rakes through her hair. "Thank you… the vaccines we got — they'll help but they're too late for too many people." There's a sniffle that cuts off mid-way through, her mind cutting it off too late to keep it from sounding in his speakers.

Glad to hear it," Calvin says of Hannah, earnest relief crossed over the airwaves in a stifled sigh when the fist he has under the scruff of his chin splays out to push up over his brow. The other names listed don't elicit much of a reaction from him. He actually glances at his watch a beat later, dreads mussed all the further.

"The ones you were able to recover are making a difference. Don't allow casualties to blind you to your own successes."

"You sound like a fortune cookie," Nora mutters, voice a touch thick but punctuated with a laugh that pushes away that word casualties, especially so close to names of people she knows.

There's the scuff of shoe upon stone and she uncoils herself from the cold ground to stand. "Thanks for the birthday well wishing. Go have some cake and beer on my behalf somewhere." The words are light though she frowns as she says it, worry over the conversation weighing her down like a burden on her back.

"Call when you need me?" The last starts as a directive but lilts into a question as Nora begins to make her way to the door to the marginally warmer interior of the castle.

"If I come across anyone who needs their teeth kicked in I'll call you," Calvin assures seamlessly, fortune cookie comment and unease alike gone unacknowledged in a few more carefully played silences. "Try not to worry so much. And get some sleep." He's reaching for his box of cigarettes as he says so, a fresh one thumbed out, flicked around and lit up to the sounds of her imminent retreat. "…But think've me before you do."

"Quid pro quo, baby," Nora says playfully, then softer, fonder, "Night, Cal."

A scratch of static and then Billy Idol's "Dancing With Myself" comes in, mid-song, to keep in company:

And there's nothing to lose

And there's nothing to prove

And I'm dancing with myself

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