Nowhere Near Normal


cardinal2_icon.gif gillian3_icon.gif

Scene Title Nowhere Near Normal
Synopsis Two people have a conversation while trekking through Argentina.
Date November 29, 2009

Subtropical Jungle

The dark, vine-laden greenery that defines the swath of jungle growth in Cerro de Hierro Negro's shadow is not really lush so much as it is resilient. Ancient trunks wind crooked under thick mats of cool moss and the same damp litter of decay that makes the ground soft underfoot, with brambled undergrowth and brackish stream beds just sparse enough to be navigable if one is careful about where they step. Rumbling passages of thunder stir often through the rustle and sway of branches thatched far overhead, but the rain that should accompany it has been scattered in recent days. Crawling insects are common despite the chill wind off the mountain ahead, and every so often the shrill keen of a persistent predator splits the night or the springy passage of ungulate hooves whispers invisible along an unseen game trail. To the northeast, the flutter and burble of running water is occasional audible with gentle turns in the wind.

"You worried the hell out of us, you know."

It's a quiet comment from Cardinal, who's emerged from the shadows to walk along beside Gillian. They're on the march again, the boots of Branded and Americans both treading over grass, vines, and earth through the midst of the subtropical jungles of Argentina. The heavy pack is slung over his shoulder, his head turning a bit to offer her a faint smile, "I got Pey on finding you ASAP."

The boots of American Branded too. Gillian's extra glad she'd gotten dressed before stepping out to find a place to pee. Including a good pair of worn in boots. The short amount of time she's been here, the less she misses the winters of New York. At least they have sidewalks. And cabs. And subways. In most places at least. She looks over at the shadow man and smiles. "That's why I called Aaron instead of anyone connected to… anything. He's Peyton's roommate. Good kid, Evolved, but he's not involved in the Ferry or Phoenix or any of them. But Peyton would be able to contact everyone. Figured if they questioned the person I called they couldn't get anything out of him, cause he doesn't know anything…"

There was little that seemed safer. "I didn't go into the drug house intending to do anything except find the kid and drag her out. Then make sure she got off that shit for good. Hopefully she still managed to get off it— I guess I'll find out when I get back."

A few steps, then she slows a bit and adds, "Thanks. For being worried about me."

"Yeah, well, all we knew was that you got picked up on a Refrain charge…" A wry twist of Cardinal's voice, his head shaking a little as they walk, stepping over a winding root that crosses the path they're taking, "…we figured we might have to rescue you before they found out what you were connected to."

A hand's lifted, waving away a buzzing cloud of insects as they pass through, dropping then back to his side. "I believe you. I was just— y'know." A wry look over, "Given where that shit came from, I'd be worried about any of my friends on it."

"They arrested me for being unregistered," Gillian says, frowning a bit. "They were going to take finger prints and DNA and all that stuff, but as soon as they put my name in they— I guess they already had plenty on me." She figured they had. If the guy who shot her withd arts had been CIA like they thought Feng was, he knew a lot about her. More than enough to put her in jail…

"I did Refrain a few times," she adds on, quieter, softer, but an admission. She looks around as she steps to make sure no one from the group was close enough. "I found Brian shooting up and I took his stash and went to empty it out, but I was— really depressed right then. Sad cause I'd… fucked up everything that mattered to me, and the rest had just walked off and left like…" Like a scarred assface that's walking not too far away. "Used to do drugs a lot when I was younger, hallucinages, stuff like that, so I figured what was the harm. I'm not the one having a house full of fucking kids relying on me…"

She shrugs and then looks back. "That was actually how I got to know Peyton better. I went to her and her roommate for help detoxing from the shit so I wouldn't use it again. They were able to help, but fuck if I still didn't kind of want it when I went in there…" It's a big confession, considering she hasn't told anyone other than Peyton or Aaron about it.

That confession leaves Cardinal silent for long moments as they walk, his gaze roaming through the jungle— presumably to watch for those who might be lurking there, but in truth looking mostly within. "I'm surprised that he went back to it," he says quietly, "The first time - before we knew what it was - we had to put down one of his clones before it fucking killed me demanding the syringe. Although… he remembered things, when he was on it. Fulk stuff. S'how I know that it's still really him, he just doesn't… remember."

Another few moments of silence, and then he looks over, murmuring, "You okay?"

"I think he kept doing it so he could get in touch with what he couldn't remember," Gillian says, though she doesn't seem to approve of it in his case. After all he had kids to worry about and take care of, and being locked in a room shooting up… she can't help but wonder if Juniper had found a stash before she cleaned them all out and that's how the poor girl got involved with Refrain.

"I'm fucking pissed at a certain Blue Eyed Assface— and I'm sore and tromping through a jungle in the middle of nowhere on what people are saying is a suicide mission— I've been a hell of a lot better." She glares at a spot in front of them, and then adds on, lightening her raspy voice. "But I've died enough times to know that it's not that difficult to cheat death. And I doubt that he'll let me die as long as there's anyone close enough to take life from."

"He could've gone to a telepath." A rough statement from Cardinal, his head shaking tightly, "Fulk was my friend. I would've trusted him with a lot. I don't— Winters isn't reliable. I don't trust him, can't trust him. He's proven that. I don't think he even cares, though, I haven't even heard from him in months…"

His head falls forward, chin near his chest as he shakes his head a little. Then he reaches over to clap his hand against her shoulder, fingers splaying out to squeeze there firmly. "I wouldn't take anything he says seriously," he says quietly, "You know he's not the only one in there."

"I barely knew Fulk— but I know he's my brother and he's all I have left of my brother," Gillian says quietly, looking through the group for a certain someone. Not the one she'd been trying to glare at before. But the woman who might end up being her sister sometime in the future. Assuming they both make it out of this place.

"I know he's not the only one in there," she adds on, looking back ahead of them. "But the part of him that's Peter will try to save me if he can— just like he wouldn't take my word for it that I would be okay when you guys found me." She touches her cheek. Honestly it's better this way. The chances of infection would have been greater treking through the woods, and the other bruises would have made her more sore and less likely to move quickly. "I wish there was a way to get… to make it so it was just him in there."

"I'll take your word for it." Cardinal's hand falls from her shoulder, his head shaking slowly from side to side as he walks beside her, admitting quietly, "I never knew him before at all. Never met him before the day I killed his father."

There, perhaps, is the reason why they don't get along.

"There's a way," he says confidently, "I'm sure of it. We need to… separate it from him, one way or another, and destroy it. I won't allow it to continue to exist."

"I knew him before— he was the reason I was fighting Arthur as much as I was," Gillian says quietly, dropping the topic of her brother completely. There's a look in her eyes that reads of an unresolved tension. The kind they write stories about. But she shakes her head a bit. "The ability I'd had then was his."

How are they going to get that thing out of him. That thing she half blames on herself for him even having…

"I'll help separate it from him, if I can. I'm not sure how I could help— negation was how we got it out of Gabriel before, and as far as I know they didn't send anyone who can negate. Unless those other Branded have one… And they seemed to think healing was the only way to destroy him. Or that was Ray's original plan. Did he give you any kind of instruction this time?"

"Negation wouldn't stop it this time. That time, he was possessing Gabriel. This is… it's bonded with him, to all intents and purposes, it's his ability right now," Cardinal tells her, almost reluctantly, not wanting to crush her hopes there, "And no. I don't— I'm not sure if Ray was even aware of Kazimir's survival, to be entirely honest. And what he didn't know, couldn't extrapolate, he couldn't factor into his plans. I have some theories on how to destroy it, but they'll have to wait." Also most of them end in Peter's death. Another thing he's not going to talk about aloud.

He glances over, asking quietly, "Do you ever wonder if we're all just making things worse?"

"I won't help you if it will kill him," Gillian adds, perhaps understanding that that may be the only way to get rid of it at this point. "Even if I think he'd rather be dead than what he is, I won't help will definitely kill him." She doesn't know what his plans even are, and won't ask him, but that statement is plan. She'd said near the same when it seemed Ray's plans might kill Gabriel. There'd been only a chance he would survive, and she'd placed her bet on it being a chance.

"If there's a chance he'll live, though— I'll help then." That's as much as she can offer right now. The subject is dropped. Or so she hopes.

"Sometimes. In the future that was supposed to be before, I was supposed to be married. Have a kid. Be successful. All that stuff. I certainly didn't get branded on the cheek in that timeline. I probably didn't die as many times as I have…" And living through dying isn't as fun as she might pretend. "But what do you mean when you say that?"

"Do you know what Arthur was going to do with your power? I forget— forget if I told you," Cardinal admits, one hand lifting to wipe some sweat from his brow, rubbing it on his pants afterwards, "Maybe all of his plans weren't the best, but… some of them, sacrifices or not, might've made things better. The older doctor's plans, if they'd come off, if he'd really turned everyone in the city Evolved…"

He trails off, then says quietly, "I know what happens if we lose, here."

"No, I don't know," Gillian admits, but she can imagine it would have been something extremely powerful. If it'd helped people… she doesn't know if she wants to know. "What's going to happen if we fail here?"

"Well," amends Cardinal with a shake of his head, "I suspect. I thought, at first, that it was White… but no matter the tidal wave he caused, he wouldn't have done what was foreseen, so it must be this, somehow." A few beats pass, then he says more quietly, "A flood. New York City nothing more than skyscrapers emerging from the sea… people living in the upper floors, boating between. Quiet, peaceful. No more governments, no more bureaucracy, a chance to start over. A more honest world."

He snorts, "Ah, but the cost. Probably most of the population."

"Yeah, I guess that is what Else saw," Gillian says, frowning at the shadows in the undergrowth as she walks. In a way she's watching her step, in another she's not making eye contact. "I definitely don't want to end up with most the population of the world living in ruins. But this time I'm not here to save the world, honestly— then again I was never in it for that either. I fought on the bridge to save Gabriel. I fought in Moab and Pinehearst to save Peter… Now I'm just fighting to save myself."

"Sometimes, that's all you can save."

Cardinal's voice is quiet, thoughtful, head tilting back to look towards the skies half-shrouded by tree limbs and dangling vines, squinting to see past it all. Perhaps he could see past the skies, see what Tamara sees, what Ray guessed at. But no, all he sees is sky, and not even much of that.

"We spend so much time stopping other people from doing what they think will make the world better, though," he observes in distant tones then, "Sometimes I wonder when we're going to figure out what really does need to be done to make the world better."

"And who'll be sent to stop me when I do."

"By me I was mostly meaning getting my old life back," Gillian says, smiling faintly, before looking more serious as she regards him. Who would stop him when he does something to make the world better. Like they stopped Kazimir. Like they stopped Edward. "I imagine it will be whoever thinks your plan will mess up what they view as their life. Everyone's busy fighting for themselves, right? Protecting the only thing hey can?"

And from the way she looks away towards a certain dark figure in the group, she might have new priorities to tack on with just wanting to save herself. Stupid fate.

"Maybe that's the problem." Cardinal glances over, watching her in profile for a moment before he chuckles quietly, "Sorry. Just… thinking out loud. Do me a favor, though, Gillian?"

There's a hesitant look back, as if Gillian thinks for a moment that this could be a favor she won't like… but then she nods and says, "Yeah, what's the favor?"

The woman's regarded over the edge of his shades, his expression and voice rather wry in its tone. "Don't pull me into this thing you two have," Cardinal asks of her quietly, "If something happens between me and him, I want it to be because it had to happen." He looks back forward, towards the dark figure ahead, "Not because of some argument over you."

For a time, Gillian is silent, moving forward in silent steps that almost seem to trudge along in the underbrush. Then she reaches up and pushes her hair out of her face, likely wishing she had a hair tie with her to keep it back for good. The pack she's carrying doesn't have her things in it, though. "All right. Probably better. More likely to get bitten by a snake or a scorpian or whatever the fuck they have in this jungle than get stress free sex, anyway." Which is what he'd always been, more or less. Even if she's not willing to admit she really had wanted to try making him jealous. Just to see if he could be jealous.

"Thanks." A hint of rue in Cardinal's voice, the shadows over his skin spreading and darkening as he walks on, his voice growing more hollow, "And I hope, for your sake, the government goes through with its promises when we get out of here… that you can go back to your life." Not that he believes either. There's no normal life for any of them, in his opinion.

Then he's a shadow; a shadow, and gone.

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