Nowhere Near Done


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Also Featuring:

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Scene Title Nowhere Near Done
Synopsis Spades and Gracie both find themselves startled.
Date July 6, 2021

Weigh Station EB
Chesterton, Indiana

You couldn't pay Spades to stay any longer in the Tinderbox.

When the convoy stops for a break, he smudges out of the cockpit, drifting through the heat of the steaming engine block rather than waiting for Marlowe or Jonathan to move from the front seats. Releasing the mortal coil, however briefly, brings him to let out a luxurious sigh when he comes into existence walking on sore legs and working sore shoulders back and forth. The repair and salvage work both that he'd helped with was having its effects, one way or another.

He ambles off to the side of the headlights and stares out at the cloud-ridden dusk of a sky, saying nothing, doing nothing in particular. He just enjoys it for what it is, the stillness of it.

It's a luxury, after being in a cabin with Marlowe's talkative right hand for days on end.

It isn't long before he's joined by Destiny, who's similarly rolling her shoulders to loosen up. She spent most of the day's drive curled up on one of the cots in back of the Wildcat, sleeping off the exertion of the evening before. Too much rest makes for stiff muscles, however.

The little captain still looks tired when she makes her way to her first's side. "Did I miss any exciting roadside attractions?" she asks with a small smile. Her eyelids still seem heavy when she lifts her gaze to his face, tipping her chin upward to facilitate.

"Enough windmills to have made Don Quixote shake in his boots. An entire, dead army of giants ever on the horizon— for seeming hours," Spades balks without looking her way. "It was boring and awful, and I can only imagine how much more boring it'd have been when they were all still nearly standing in perfect rows."

He sighs, melodramatically. "Smith wanted to know if I remembered the words to every song from Chicago again, and it's not even the first time this trip. But now that we're close, it's naturally come up again."

His penchant for memorizing odd lyrics and quotes used against him.

"Shoot," Des laments with some actual sincerity. "You mean like the big turbines?" She sighs. "They're neat." She didn't spend much time traveling before the world as she knew it effectively ended. So much of this journey is still novel to her.

But she can't stay forlorn when she thinks about him singing. Capturing one of his hands in her smaller one, she swings them back and forth gently. "I've never seen that one." Her brow furrows suddenly. "Wait, did I?" There's a strong sense memory that comes with that. The smell of sterility, disinfectant; the sound of high heels clicking and stomping on hard tile; her dad's voice?

It's banished when she catches a shock of fire and ice in her periphery in the form of Gracie's ginger hair and flowing white maxi dress. "Poor thing," Destiny murmurs quietly, watching the way the woman wanders her way toward the rest stop building seemingly in a daze. "She just can't catch a break."

She winces. Except to her legs, apparently.

Spades has half a mind to begin a tune to try and see if it rings any bells when Destiny's attention is drawn off. His mood sours after he sees where she's looking, and then he busies himself with the sky again in short order.

"I'm making it my professional stance to not have an opinion," he informs her very quietly and flatly. "Otherwise, I might say something unkind." He lets out a short and hard exhale from his nose. "Like how I don't know why the fuck she's still here, if half of what they're saying was true."

Three Months Ago…

The bright blue horizon calls to Destiny, beckoning her back out to the deep water and the knowable unknowns she could seek, filling her with a sense of dissatisfaction that's seemed unshakeable since her return to the Pelago. It's banished when she catches a shock of fire and ice in her periphery in the form of ginger hair and a flowing white maxi dress.


The tall, thin woman turns sharply at the sound of her name, surprised by the footsteps sounding against the dock that belong to the younger woman bounding for her. She lets out a hard breath of surprise when Destiny all but collides with her, holding her in the tight embrace of old friends seeing one another after an extended time apart.

"H- Hey!" She's surprised, staring ahead at nothing over the top of the captain's head, blinking rapidly but returning the hug all the same. After a moment, she settles. "Destiny. It's… so good to see you. I can hardly believe you're still here." She laughs softly, recovering her composure as she goes. "I heard you'd gone off to find The East Indies or something."

Destiny laughs in return. "I thought you went to become the Queen of Fenway Park or something. Or wherever it is the White Sox played."

"Gross, Destiny. That's where the Red Sox played." And is, consequently, extremely below sea level. "You're thinking of Comisky, and fuck both sets of Sox anyway. I could settle for Duchess of Wrigley Field, though. Sounds like a trashy romance novel."

The small blonde's nose wrinkles. She's not wrong. Speaking of small blondes, "Where's Liza?" She stands up on her toes as if that will help her spot Rue's other half, who's even a full inch shorter than she is.

"She's, uhm…"

"Rue?" Des watches as tears starts to show in the redhead's eyes.

"She's not with me." The words are snapped off quicker and with more bite than intended. Brows furrow and regret is instant. "I… I don't want to say anything else about it. And it's Gracie now."

Destiny stands stunned, but takes it all in stride after she's had a second to breathe. "Alright," she agrees quietly, nodding her head slowly. Given that moment to settle, she smiles warmly and squeezes her into another tight hug.

"Welcome home, Gracie."

Three Months Later…

"She's my friend," Des reminds Spades, a hint of defensiveness in her tone. "The others don't know her like I do. They don't know what they're talking about." That is defensive. She doesn't want to be wrong about this.

Spades only levels a look of side-eye her way, not at all dissuaded by her tone. "Your friend wanted us to stand down after her friends attempted to execute our drivers, so they could kill some more of us off and then take our healer," he reminds without particular harshness. For him, it's a matter of stating the facts as he sees them. He realizes his volume has risen slightly beyond what he means for it to, and lowers it again with a dip of his head to stress quietly, "And that's the most-charitable possible version of that story."

"It is not," Destiny insists, a frown twisting her lips. "I'm sure that's not what really happened." Her eyes track Gracie's movements not through the door of the building, but around the side of it. "If it was, why would she stay, huh? That'd be stupid, and Gracie isn't…"

Her head tilts to one side, a shoulder coming up in a half shrug. "Well, she's not that kind of… Y'know." She won't call the other woman stupid, but she'll leave the implication hang. "I did convince her to read Don Quixote, though," she adds distractedly.

Eyes rolling up into his head, Spades looks off with only the slightest shake of his head and resolves to say nothing more. Arguing wouldn't solve a thing here, and this moment was meant to be a shred of peace at the end of a day filled with masking. "Anyway," he says to that effect. "I was planning on seeing if one of the sleepers are open for this last leg. Get some rest before the next round of shit blows up in our faces."

Sullen in the face of this argument they're both dancing around and trying not to have, Destiny shrugs, leaning with the intent of taking the first step that will take her away from him and after Gracie when her attention is drawn away.

"Des," comes Robyn's voice from behind them. "Hey, are you busy?"

Destiny turns a doleful look to her partner. "Look, you can have mine. I was planning on riding up front most of the night anyway." She's small and can tuck her knees up to sleep in the seat. "Just… Go follow her, okay? Your way." She means invisibly. "If you're right and she's bad news, then you'll see it. But if I'm right, she just needs someone watching out for her right now." Worry creases the Captain's brow. "For me, please?" They're no longer in the domain of her ship, and she will not issue an order.

Spades half-turns at the sound of Zee— no, that's not Zee, it's the other— but keeps his attention mostly toward Destiny as she rounds on him. He keeps a neutral expression until she encourages him to go validate his concerns directly, at which point he begins to balk. Really? asks the look he shoots her, offended with the regret he ever let anyone know about that particular aspect of his trick.

He looks away and grumbles noncommitally, but shoots a telling glance to the building Gracie disappeared around.

"Don't give me that face," Destiny pouts, disliking this discordant chord they've struck together. She nudges him gently toward the building. "We'll catch up after I find out what Quinn needs." She chases his look, brows lifted and beseeching. "Okay?"

"Aye," Spades grumbles without meeting the look, and then heads off seemingly away from that building, off the side of the road entirely into the woods. Well out of sight, and that's the point— to keep others from seeing the moment his body flickers, the light hitting through it oddly.

In the shadows, he stops, focusing, his body rippling again— but failing to disappear entirely. He comes back into being with a deep breath taken to steady himself, and he imagines in his mind the last few times he's done this successfully. It comes with moments of action, it comes with intent, springing fully into a fourth space between dimensions rather than just taking up partial occupancy in it.

He hunkers down, then takes off at a sprint— one foot going after the other and then into nothing.

The urge to pinwheel arms that don't precisely exist when he feels the transition happen is strong, but he reminds himself there's no need to care for the world he witnesses through gloss as though it as a whole were two dimensions and he on the third. He turns to reorient himself and angles his being in the direction of Gracie's disappearance, floating silently and in a gradually-slowing swiftness back to the building he'd seen her go around.

In the time Destiny and Spades where conferring, Gracie has made her way around the back of the building and down toward the treeline beyond the station. She's made it as far as the strip of grass where people would take their dogs to run after being cooped up in their cars, her meandering slowing to a stop as she stares out into the wilderness that's begun slowly encroaching on this place.

It's been a tense day of riding, filled with awkward silence she's normally not afraid to break. Where Gracie once felt safe and accepted, she's now afraid of everybody.

"I hate this," she whispers to herself. "I hate this. I hate this. I hate this." Her head dips down, shoulders huddling in toward herself. She seems so much smaller.

The invisible onlooker, far from a guardian angel, keeps his distance. He slows, not intent on adding any additional discomfort. He lingers, paying more attention to the view than the girl.

He's watching. He's listening. But she's not as interesting, and he's not seeing anything aside from what's, sadly, expected.

"God," she groans, asking, helpless, "why? Why me?" The heel of one palm digs against a closed eye like she might push the tears back into the well before they can be more than a faint prickling sensation.

Dragging her fingers through her hair, she lifts her head, looking defeated as she turns. Not fully back toward the convoy or the building.

That exasperated look is cast directly at Spades. "Can I help you?"

He turns, looking to see who she must be talking to. Perplexed, there's no one else. So he begins to turn his head back in her direction, and eyes narrowing, slides a step to the side.

Gracie's brows furrow, tracking his movements. Then her breath catches, frozen for a moment of surprise and the undercurrent of fear her clarity brings to her. "Oh, fuck. You're not visible, are you?"

Spades' eyebrows tick sky-high, his expression Texas-sized in his surprise. What the fuck? he mouths, but he has no expectation of being heard. His vocal cords don't exist, necessarily speaking, in the same way they're needed to.

"What the fuck?" he says aloud, though, and Gracie can hear it, even if he doesn't sound entirely like himself.

He continues to stand there, frozen, like a cat with its arm caught in the fishbowl.

Gracie is caught similarly, but she seems to sit on the edge of panic. It's too late to pretend like she doesn't understand how this is happening. "Please," she begs quietly. "Nobody knows." Which she realizes is not going to be enough to secure any kind of silence from him if he was following her out of some kind of suspicion. She doesn't take him for the type to stalk pretty women just looking to get some air.

"And— And I won't tell anybody about you either." Maybe that will sweeten the pot.

Spades only boggles. "I'm sorry—" he laughs in a scoff, holding up both hands. "That I was minding my own, trying to grab some uninterrupted alone time?" His incredulousness makes for an effective bed of his lie. He scoffs and shakes his head. "No, that's…"

"… But how are you doing this?" Spades wonders in a sudden surge of curiosity that sees him float a step forward more than take one. "Never in my entire life…"

Gracie takes a half step back as Spades advances, wide eyes on him and tension pulling at her narrow shoulders. "I don't know," she responds, voice pitched low with a little shake of her head. "I… just do. It's… my ability." A hand lifts, a wagging gesture made to the expanse of space from her to him. "I see things… Between."

"What an unfortunate ability," Spades says with more curiosity than malice. "The one to only see ghosts." He tilts his head at her a moment longer before he backs down, the novelty of the moment worn off. It just was, now.

"Well," he surmises, the sound of an older churchgoer definitively putting a point on all that's just happened. He looks off toward the open sky again, what left of it can be seen at this hour.

"You're telling me," Gracie mutters, voice as unsteady as her hands. The shudder she's been trying to suppress finally wins. Otherwise, she holds perfectly still.

Swallowing anxiously, she asks the question she's not sure she wants an answer provided to. "Well?" What happens now?

Ace starts to lift a hand like to rub his neck, but that'd be preposterous and to no effect in his current state, so his arm just lifts and his hand wheels from wrist. "I don't rightly know."

"I suppose it means I'm likely better off finding elsewhere to lurk," he supposes loudly, but it doesn't carry, doesn't echo the way it would or should. He swings his arm back down by his side.

A normal person might ask after her, her upset— her situation. It would require more than he's willing to give, in this scenario. He only remains rooted while rationalizing to himself Destiny had encouraged him to see for himself the way she was, not talk with her. There was no need for that.

"So, that's me, then," Spades says to begin to excuse himself.

"Are you gonna tell anybody?" She can't help but wonder if Spades can hear her heart pounding. Maybe it's hammering so hard that the pulse in her neck can be seen? She subconsciously reaches up to lay her hand at her collar, fingers brushing over her neck.

"Why?" Spades asks, deferred from his leaving through confusion. He'd already started to turn and now he looks back to the frightened gazelle, quivering where she stands, expecting to be the object of a hunt, raising an eyebrow rather than a claw her way. "What threat does it pose to anyone?" he questions.

Gracie nods her head shakily. The argument could have been twisted around the other way, too. Why not tell if it's not a threat?

Letting out a breath, she nods again, starting to relax again. "Thank you." She glances away, head following the motion fractionally, chin dipping down. "Sorry I startled you."

Spades only shrugs his shoulders. "You aren't conferring with other ghosts of some kind, right?" he asks dubiously. "Not someone astral projected that only you can see, telling them where we are and our deepest darkest secrets?" It's meant to be a joke.

It does not remotely sound like one.

The tension returns to her instantly, her head snapping back. "What?" Her eyes narrow, brows knitting. "An astral—" The aborted word lilts upward in question. "No!" Gracie takes a full step back this time. "What the fuck?" There's nervous laughter finally. "It'd be nice if I had some divine fucking guidance on this bogus journey, but no."

Spades grins at her discomfort and looks away rather than face it. "Can't blame me for asking, the way you're acting like it's some deep dark secret," he tells her in airily lifted tones that sound like they should be accompanied by tutting.

"You've seen what it's like out there," Gracie counters. "I either get treated like a freak or just…" She frowns, defensive and hurt by some past cruelty. "It's like the shit you just said. People think I'm in contact with… I don't know, God or something." She shrugs. "But maybe you get it."

The scrape of her nails across her skin keeps her feeling present in the moment, keeps her from spiraling entirely from worry. "I just see people like you. It's nothing spectacular. It's just… a sore spot. And nobody…"

Gracie grimaces. "Likes me right now?" Her eyes are stormy when they rest on Spades again. "I don't need more suspicion on me."

The assertion of maybe he gets it results in a flattening of his expression, some own something in his own past preventing him from acknowledging the attempt at connection.

"I mean, if there's a group of freaks to acknowledge you're a freak among, our murderous little crew certainly seems like the safest spot," he points out with standoffish distance nonetheless. "Though you have a point."

"'What other secrets…' and so on," he dithers, voice quieting. It's not meant to be an invitation to continue the topic, just a failure to cut his thoughts off.

He starts to turn again, but now they've been talking. Now the conversational cogs are turning. "I imagine after everything, you're probably taking off at the first sign of solid land," he thinks more deliberately aloud, facing her.

There's a wry smirk for the mention of the violent propensities of their traveling companions. "Yeah…" She knows she has a point. Her lips purse faintly at the underlining of it. What other secrets could she be hiding? It's the question she's certain is circulating. That fire doesn't need more fuel added to it.

Which brings her back to why she's all but pleading with Spades now. Her head tilts to one side, considering. She's silent as she deliberates, gaze going distant. "No," she says softly, coming back to him and shaking her head. "No, I'm… in this for the long haul, if they'll still have me. I want to get to Anchor."

Spades blanches then, head recoiling back as though that news is so large he needs to lean away from it. "Why?" he wonders, just as bewildered as he was when she saw him in the first place.

Gracie's lip curls. The reaction isn't unexpected, but perhaps it's a bit more emphatic than she had thought it would be. "Because…" She shrugs her shoulders, arms coming down to her sides and slapping lightly against the outsides of her thighs. "I promised my wife I'd get there."

Spades' eyes roll up into his head, not fathoming the sentimentality. But he doesn't begrudge her aloud. He just lets out a long-suffering sigh. "Is she out there, or something?" he asks, reaching for the one thing that'd make sense to him, at least.

"No," Gracie admits with a heavy sigh. "Maybe? Probably not." Her mouth twists into a deep frown. "We split up. I…" In spite of her best efforts, her anguish shows on her face. "I just want to keep one fucking promise to her. She stuck with me through all sorts of stupid shit. I owe her that much."

"I'm just saying," he offers up with a flat sort of friendless, both his hands coming up from his side in empty defense of himself. "I'm not sure I'd continue a four-thousand mile roadtrip with a bunch of people who loathe me to impress someone who's not even around anymore." It's a different tone than he's ever struck aloud, having kept to himself mostly on this trip following his attempts to provide helpful advice.

Maybe it's because he feels more free in his current state. Less weighed down by an image, or by certain expectations.

"We don't owe shit to the people who left us behind or let us down, or vice versa. That's one of the more beautiful things about this world, wouldn't you say?" He tilts his head as he traces the wind-sheared clouds in the sky with a lilt of grey-green eyes, like he's carving them himself. "You can decide at any point to do what's best by you, and all you have to do to sleep peacefully at night is stay ahead of it."

"And the world is so much much slower than it used to be," he drawls almost luxuriously. "You know?"

"Yeah, no kidding." While she sounds bitter, there's more defensiveness to it than anything else. "You're… not wrong, Spades." Looking away, Gracie runs her tongue over the front of her teeth. "I should just fuck off at the first functional settlement."

The back of one hand scrubs under her nose briefly. "I have to keep this promise, and this convoy is my best chance to do it."

By the time she looks back, though, he's gone. One of the benefits to not having footsteps to announce his coming and going, no footfalls on actual surfaces, grants him that ability.

To have left sight so quickly, he must have drifted through the building at her back, but that's his business, at that point.

Just like hers is the decisions she's made and her determination to follow through on them.

Gracie huffs out a breath of rueful laughter, eyeing the building for a moment before turning out to the treeline again. Her expression is bleak, gaze hollow and troubled.

"Fuck, he made me miss you." Mouth bunching small, she holds the tears at bay. "Why did you have to run off like that?" Closing her eyes, she lets out a heavy sigh. "I wasn't worth that."

Reaching up, she lays a hand on her cheek, leaning into it as if it were someone else's. The tip of her third finger presses against her tragus, blocking out the sound of the wind like it might block out the white noise of her memories.

"I wasn't…"

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