Outta My Tree


nora_icon.gif rue_icon.gif

Scene Title Outta My Tree
Synopsis Two friends have a conversation about what constitutes whining, and one of them walks away with minor injuries.
Date January 28, 2011

Pollepel Island: Outside Bannerman's Castle

The name Bannerman's Castle is as deceiving as its appearance; built stone by stone more than a century ago, the now crumbling fortress, seemingly derelict, was in its glory days used as a military surplus warehouse and still carries the faded words Bannerman's Island Arsenal on one of its walls. Time and neglect have since taken a hefty toll on the property, which belongs to the Maxwell Development Corporation in name, but is in reality much more than a prized relic.

On the outside, ivy creeps up its walls, some stripped down to skeletal supports and others as strong and stalwart as the day they were erected. In the decades that Pollepel Island has been abandoned, nature has reclaimed a large portion of the castle where its roof has caved in, creating courtyards of stone and saplings, thorny bushes and wire fences put up to section the most tangled hollows off. A few have been cleaned up, exposing worn stone floors that serve as gathering places for the people who live inside the ruins, and where the walls are tallest, shielding one open cavern from the mainland's view, there is a metal drum to burn fires in and large chunks of stone arranged around them in a circle.

Inside, Bannerman's Castle has been repurposed by the Ferrymen network as northern stronghold with its own electrical grid powered by basement generators, though most of the castle is lit by gas lanterns and candles to conserve fuel. Tall ceilings reinforced with wooden rafters are a feature in almost every room, including the castle's dining hall and the basement kitchen where food is prepared on outdated stoves and ovens taken from restaurants on Staten Island that were abandoned in the wake of the bomb and later repaired and refinished for installation in the kitchen.

Also in the basement are the fortress' supply rooms, which are kept under lock and key and contain everything from cured meats to additional linens, firearms, ammunition and fuel for the generators that power Bannerman. The living quarters and infirmary are located on the ground floor in the corner of the castle that's most intact, and while the narrow corridors are drafty, a lot of time and effort has gone into insulating the rooms themselves as best they can be insulated with what supplies were available and fit the budged allocated to the network's reconstruction efforts.

Eyes. Groin. Neck.

Jab. Knee. Punch.

Each strike is accompanied by a soft and dull thud of foot or hand against a duffel bag. Pushing her boundaries, and with a little help from her friends, Nora has ventured outside today, beyond the castle's walls. The workout is not her usual Tai Chi forms performed in the courtyard. Instead, a duffel bag stuffed and swollen with clothing has been tied to a tree branch to serve as a punching bag for the girl. Whoever did the tying has left Nora to her own devices, and it seems like for some time; her cheeks are ruddy with both exertion and the nippy air; sweat — despite the 30 degree day — glazes her forehead; her hands are red and chapped from punching the rough fabric.


Turns out great minds do think alike. Rue Lancaster may be late in doing so, but she is out for some exercise; a jog this afternoon rather than her usual ballet. She prefers to do that in the morning, anyway. When there are fewer people around to laugh at her, or ask questions. "You look good," the woman chimes cheerfully, snow shifting audibly beneath her sneakers as she approaches. "Well, you look worked, but that's not a bad look for you. You can rock it."

Hearing her name and the crunch of feet in snow, Nora pauses in her assault of the faux-punching-bag and then moves with her hand out toward a fallen log serving as a bench. Brows furrow as she apparently counts her steps, then bends, reaching down to find the rough wood, making sure her ass lands on it rather than the snowy ground.

Once seated, she reaches along the bottom of the log until her groping hand finds her water bottle, bringing it to her lips to take a swallow. She chuckles, a little winded. "Thanks," she says wryly. "Not really worried about what I look like when I'm practicing, but I guess looking good is better than not. I'd return the compliment, but…"

She gives a little flourished wave toward her eyes.

"You can tell me I don't sound awful in a second here." What the other woman means by that is made a little more clear when she approaches the makeshift bench to lower herself down next to Nora with a quiet hiss of breath between her teeth and an audible pop from one of her joints. "Ohhhhh, fffffuck," Rue groans. "That's been begging to happen all morning."

Nora's shoulder is nudged gently by Rue's own in secondary greeting. "I'm kind'a glad you can't see me right now. Saves me some serious embarrassment."

Nora's nose wrinkles at the pop and she laughs, handing the bottle of water to her companion. "Man, you must be old," she teases Rue, reaching up to pull the elastic hair band from her hair that's refused to stay within its bindings; the layers around her face have all slipped free and now cling to her damp face messily. She pulls her hair back again, trying to get all of it up and away from her face, then rings the elastic around it once more, pulling the long tail once again so that it's in a very loose bun.

"Hopefully Benji and Hannah won't mind that I've been kicking the shit out of our clothes." Nora smirks a little mischievously.

"I will have you know I'll only be five-and-three-quarters next month," the old woman fires back, accepting the bottle of water for a quick sip. "Someone made sure that Selina didn't crawl in there, right?" Rue eyes the bag sceptically, letting the edge of faux suspicion in her tone indicate as much to Nora. "I'm sure the clothes will unwrinkle just fine."

The water bottle is gently pressed against the back of Nora's hand so she knows she can take it back from Rue. "I've been giving Ms Gitelman the honour of kicking the crap out of me just about every morning for almost the whole week. I tried the move you taught me with the snow man and, well…" A soft, slightly pained (exaggerated for theatrical effect) exhale accompanies a roll of her eyes.

Nora's hand curls around the cold metal bottle and she nods. Her unfocused eyes are set straight ahead, in the direction of the castle though she can't see it. "She's a good teacher. Won't break your nose on accident like I might," she says, her tone flat despite the self-deprecating joke.

She sets the water bottle down again, then tucks her fingers into the cuffs of her sweater — She wears no coat to hinder her motions, just several layers of shirts and sweaters; now that she's still, the chill is starting to set in.

Rue stands up to slip out of her own coat and drape it over Nora's shoulders. "Here, hold this for me." She wanders over to the impromptu dummy and gives it a shove to see how it swings. "She wasn't going to teach me at first. But I told her I was gonna hound her until she did. I must be a masochist deep down, because I have got this bruise that is so fuckin' ugly on one of my hips? I keep landing on it like a fucktard. But I keep coming back for more." With leather gloves to cushion some of the impact, she takes a swing at the duffel.

The coat getting draped on her shoulders earns a frown from Nora, and she pulls it off, setting it back on the log in the spot just vacated by Rue. "I'm not fragile," she says, the neutrality fading and flaring instead into irritation. "If I needed a coat, I would have brought one with me."

She stands, and begins to walk toward the castle, only a few steps before she seems to remember all of her and her roommates' worldly possessions are tied up and getting punched by Rue at the moment. Fuck. That she can't undo by herself. It was Lance who climbed the tree for her.

"I just want you to hold my fuckin' coat so it doesn't get snow on it. Jeeeeeezus. Like I think you're gonna shrivel up and die from a little cold." Though her tone is a bit abrasive, it's a cover for how trying to be nice tends to come off more like pity. Rue sighs heavily and turns to follow the girl with her eyes, feeling she knows better than to call her back, especially since she stops on her own.

Nora's eyes close and she wraps her arms around herself — she is cold, as sweat under all those layers is starting to get icy, but she manages somehow not to shiver. Pride and will are strong forces to reckon with, even for usually involuntary movements. "I'm sorry," she says, teeth clenched, as if the word hurts to say.

She turns, jerking her chin toward the duffel bag on the tree — if off by a couple of degrees. "Stupid idea, really. I'm done. If you want to practice on it, go ahead, just… we'll need the bag back."

Rue sniffs, tipping her chin up at Nora's words. "Don't be sorry. Just sit your ass back down, hold onto my coat, and keep me company." There's a huff of derisive laughter. "I mean, unless that's too fuckin' much to ask or somethin'." Her eyes roll heavenward, either to beg silent forgiveness for turning on bitch mode, or just to internally curse herself.

There is a moment of indecision, but Nora shrugs, the picture of apathy. "I'll keep you company. Your coat can fuckin' sit on the log by itself," she says, her arms wrapping around herself to punctuate her stubborn refusal. "I'm not a coat rack, even if that's about all the fuckin' good I can do, all right?"

There's a glimmer of something wet in her eyes for an instance before it disappears.

"Jeez, Nora. Snap out of it." The blind girl can hear her friend take two steps toward her and halt. "I just… I didn't mean it. I didn't want you to feel like…" Rue juts out her jaw and exhales audibly. "I'm used to being really nice, and helping my friends, because I like doing that. It's just how I am. But… You get so fierce when I try to do that and… I don't want you mad at me."

The corners of Rue's mouth tick upward in a smile. "Girl, you should have seen the looks on people's faces when you volunteered to help out with securing the flu vaccine. The shame was palpable." Another quiet pop gives away the shift in her posture, though this one isn't accompanied by a pained sound. "You are so gifted, Nora. You're just about the strongest person I know, next to my auntie. But if you jump out of airplanes, too, please correct me and you can totally have the top spot.

"So don't be like that to yourself. You deserve way better."

The teen's face is stony, her eyes narrowed and turned away as if to avoid Rue's gaze — not that she could see it anyway. A muscle twitches in her jaw and she gives an almost imperceptible shake of her head.

"Never been on a plane. I'd jump out of it if I had to. Doing it for fun seems kinda pointless. I have enough adrenaline in my life, I don't need to seek it for recreation," she finally says, shrugging slightly.

A sigh manifests into a small cloud of white air in the cold day. "Sorry. I'll quit the pity party. I know it's annoying. Even worse? It's pointless. Doesn't get shit done. It's just…" That glint returns to the girl's dark eyes before it's blinked away. "There's so many people who don't do shit to change things, right? And I'm here… I'm willing… I need to." She swallows. "All the obstacles meant nothing before, you know? Too young? Whatever. Age is an arbitrary number. Too small? I can fight people bigger than me — most of the time. But blind?"

Nora shrugs. "Even I, as stubborn and determined as I am, have to realize that severely limits what I'm capable of. And no, it's not the end of the world, and no, it doesn't mean I can't help, but…"

Nora sighs again. "It's not who I am. And it's not who I want to be. And it's not fair. But that's all pointless to whine about, too." She snorts. "Maybe I'll pick up skydiving after all."

This time, the distance between the two girls is closed with some conviction even, and Rue wraps her arms tightly around Nora. "You can feel sorry for yourself. And you can be mad about it, and you can feel sad about it. But don't you dare feel useless. You know better." The redhead leans back, but keeps her arms on the shorter girl's shoulder's. "You are the coolest person I've met since I came here. You've listened to me freak out about the stupidest things, and even things that matter. The least I can do is return the favour. I just…"

One hand falls to her side, hooking a thumb through one of her belt loops. "It's one thing to be mad at the world, and it's another to take that anger out on yourself and the people who care about you. That's all. I don't like to see you do that." Rue squeezes Nora's shoulder gently. "Do you want to talk? I can be totally self-destructive and climb this tree while you do it. I mean, you should probably be here so that if I fall and break my neck, someone knows why."

When Rue's arms come around her, Nora's head drops sheepishly. She nods at the taller girl's words, though her brows knit together; the expression on her face speaks volumes when her words don't. Useless.

"No," is an honest answer. "Whining's annoying. Especially when it's me." She swallows. "Don't break your neck. I can get one of the kids to do it. Joe, maybe."

"It's not whining, silly. It's just venting. Venting is good for you. It means you don't explode." Rue withdraws and moves to hoist herself into the tree anyway. "Man. I will never live it down if I get a kid to do this. This can't be that hard. I am a capable nearly-six-year-old, dammit."

The rustling of branches and sounds of clothes getting caught and uncaught on twigs, some brittle enough to snap, accompanies Rue's ascent. "How long have you been at this freedom fighting gig anyway? It doesn't sound like something you decided to take up when people started having visions of riots." Nora can hear the grin in Rue's next words, "Not gonna lie. I'm picturing you in frills, and pigtails, and protesting registration. Not because I think you'd wear frills and pigtails, but because it's way more amusing to imagine it that way."

That earns a snort from the tomboyish teen. "I don't do frills, no. I don't think I've even worn a dress except maybe twice in my life, the second being on Christmas Eve," Nora says, head tipping up to the branch, head tipping to listen for any trouble. "My family was pretty much anti government, before I was on the street. Taught me to fight. I've been evolved a few years now, never registered. I just… you know. Nothing official like Ferry, I guess. Just small-scale rebellion. A rebel without a cause, right?"

"Sounds more like a rebel with a cause, but without organisation." Rue tugs off one glove, holding it between her teeth by one finger as she pries at the ties for the duffel. "What…" Her voice trails off, and her motions pause, too, as she peers down at the younger woman. "Where are they now? Your family." She hopes the answer is something simple like in another state, I ran away, tragic as it is. But as soon as she asks the question, she immediately regrets it.

Yet, she doesn't try to take it back.

Raking her lower lip through her teeth, Nora shrugs. "Benji. Hannah. Howard. They're my family," she says, firmly if evasively. "Family's not necessarily about blood, you know? I'm an only child, but I also have all the brothers and sisters than I could possibly hope for." She snorts. "Sometimes more."

"Your family's pretty damn cool, Nora. And they love you a lot. I can tell." There's a quiet creaking protest from the branch as the tie starts to loosen and the duffel sags. "I'm an only child, too," Rue offers in exchange. "Samara's like a sister to me, though. Which is a major upgrade from invisible friend."

Then, there's a whispered curse and a hiss. "Don't suppose you've got a knife on you? I just about broke my fucking nail." Rue sucks on her index finger as though that somehow will make the pain go away. "You totally look like you carry a knife to shank bitches," she murmurs around the digit.

The teen snorts. "I knew he didn't understand the knot I showed him. But it's pretty fucking hard to show someone how to tie a knot when you're blind — I mean, I know how to do it, but how can I tell if he's doing it right, right?" Nora grumbles. "I don't have one on me, no. I wasn't expecting to have to fight off a thug or anything out here, but I guess that's when they get you, right? When you're not expecting them." Gitelman might have something to say about Nora and making expectations. "I have one in my coat in my room, though."

"Maaaan, you are lucky Gitelman's not around. I'm pretty sure she'd just punch me in the mouth if I said something like that in front of her." Rue cants her head to one side and asks curiously, "Do you think she just stopped whatever she was doing, wherever she is, and muttered something about preparedness, and our lack of it? I think she's got a Jedi sense for that shit. Spooky."

Back to prying at the knot, the twenty-two-year-old gnaws at her lower lip as she loosens it just a bit more. "He just tied it way too tight and my fingers are cold and it's tough to get my nails under it around the bark, that's all. He probably did it ri—" There's a loud crack from the tree's branch, and Rue's eyes get wide. "Uh oh. Uh… Nora? You should… probably back up. Like, at least count to… Let's go with twenty, to be safe."

"Probably. She pulled a knife on me the first time I met her," Nora says, lips curving into a smirk. At the crack, she moves back, eyes widening. "Be sure you're on the main part of the tree and not the branch, all right? He wasn't supposed to tie it so far out, but he's lighter than you are…" It's hard to walk backwards in the snow, and when she reaches a spot not flattened out feet, she sinks a bit, falling backwards into a drift. Now she's cold.

"Yeah, I'm thinking weight was a factor in thiiiiis." Rue takes in a deep breath and slooooowly starts to crawl her way backward along the branch.


"Oh nooooo!"

The sound of the limb snapping free from the tree, and the woman and duffel tumbling down with it isn't quite the crash Nora perhaps might have expected. That's because it didn't fall off, but rather just sort of slowly… bent until it finally gave way, making the drop to the ground a far shorter one.

"Aaaahhhhh!" Rue whines. "My hair is stuck on branches! It huuuuurts!"

Nora is scrambling up as she hears the crack — instinct if not reason driving her forward in an attempt to help her friend. She misjudges and tumbles over Rue or the duffel (she's not sure which) and lands again in the snow. "Jesus," she snorts, and then begins to giggle, a cold hand pulling out of the snow to reach for Rue's hair, tugging it away from branches. The branches probably hurt less.

Judging from the grunt, it's Rue that Nora's tripped over. And there's a startled little shriek when her hair is tugged free from snaring twigs. But once the shock of omigawsh I just fell out of a tree wears off, Rue is left laughing hard, with relief, and just at the general absurdity of it. "Jeez. Are you okay?" Because apparently she is, or if she isn't, it hasn't registered yet.

The bad mood, whatever set it off, seems to have evaporated with the near catastrophe, as Nora giggles, pulling herself back to a sitting position. "I think so. I'm not entirely sure. I'm sort of numb. You? I knew that punching bag was a bad idea…" the teen says, clambering to her feet, and then offering Rue her hand to pull her up as well.

Rue grabs onto Nora's hand, allowing the younger girl to help drag her to her feet. "Ugh. I can't tell if my mouth is full of blood or pennies." She turns her head and spits into the snow. "No. We're good. Just blood. And I've got all my teeth. Just a split lip. I'm gonna tell everybody you hit me." She wraps her arm around Nora's shoulders. "Because it is way less embarrassing than admitting I fell out of a tree."

"Probably more believable, too," Nora says with a snort. "A path of destruction in my wake."

She feels around until she finds the duffel bag, throwing it over her shoulder. "Let's get this sad sack inside. I need my only other pair of pants because my ass is numb, and it's somewhere in here. And then I need some coffee." She begins to trudge toward the castle, one hand out to make sure she doesn't wander into a tree — enough damage has come today from the flora of Pollepel Island.

Rue retrieves her coat and Nora's water bottle and heads after the girl. "Brawn and brains. I like that in a woman."

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