Paint Me Strength


colette2_icon.gif grace_icon.gif

Scene Title Paint Me Strength
Synopsis Colette upgrades from fingerpaints, and Grace lets her know it's obvious.
Date January 17, 2008

Greenwich Village

In a time that seems long ago, Greenwich Village was known for its bohemian vibe and culture, the supposed origin of the Beat movement, filled with apartment buildings, corner stores, pathways and even trees. There was a mix of upper class and lower, commercialism meeting a rich culture, and practically speaking, it was largely residential.

Now, it's a pale imitation of what it used to be. There is a sense of territory and foreboding, as if the streets aren't entirely safe to walk. It isn't taken care of, trash from past times and present littering the streets, cars that had been caught in the explosion lie like broken shells on the streets nearest the ground zero. Similarly, the buildings that took the brunt of the explosion are left in varying degrees of disarray. Some are entirely unusable, some have missing walls and partial roofs, and all of the abandoned complexes have been looted, home to squatters and poorer refugees.

As one walks through the Village, the damage becomes less and less obvious. There are stores and bars in service, and apartment buildings legitimately owned and run by landlords. People walk the streets a little freer, but like many places in this scarred city… anything can happen. Some of the damage done to buildings aren't all caused by the explosion from the past - bullet holes and bomb debris can be seen in some surfaces, and there is the distinct impression that Greenwich Village runs itself… whether people like it that way or not.

Midmorning on a Saturday. Normally, weekends are not work-business days, and Grace is free to pursue Ferrymen business without interruption. Today's Ferrymen business started with a requested visit to Cat, a perusal of her new operation, advice on the running of a safehouse. Key messages have already been passed on by way of Wireless, and now it's time to return and address other things.

Jogging down a street, headed in the direction of the Hangar, she keeps an eye on the rest of her surroundings just from habit's sake. The buildings are all where they should be. It's a sunny but positively frigid morning, a temperature measured down in single digits, which is more than enough to make anyone with any sense stay off the street. Thus, there isn't really much to see.

Not to the untrained eye, at least. At first it can be dismissed as a glint of light reflecting off of a window as Grace jogs, but a second and third time that a flare of light catches her periphery isn’t' as easy to dismiss as coincidence. It's only begun as she rounded a street corner, following an uphill road flanked by a row of unoccupied houses and junked cars, and on her side of the street an old and graffiti-scarred parking garage. Years ago this might have been a busy part of town; a few convenience stores down the street, residential housing, parking. Now it's home to an almost uncomfortable level of silence, especially during the cold months of winter.

But the light, those glinting flickers of light don't match up with her surroundings. With the sun not quite high in the sky to the east, the rows of windows from the houses across the street aren't in line to be struck by the sun. Another flash — this time brighter than the last — is a slowly blossoming flare of light that clearly comes from the roof of the two-story parking garage. When it dies down, there's a few erratic pops of colored illumination in hues of blue and green that flicker almost like fireworks from the same direction, but lack the appropriate noise or smoke.

Grace slows as the peculiar flickers of light register in her thoughts, turning to focus in the direction of their origin. The parking garage is regarded with a thoughtful look, and — being Grace; having chosen the life she has — the woman jogs into the building to go find out.

It takes her but a couple of seconds to recall where the stairs are — she and Scott and Alistair scouted the area very thoroughly when they first moved in, believing it necessary to know the layout of their own backyard, as it were. Her footsteps are careful as she climbs the flights of formed concrete, deliberately placed, as quiet as such movement can be without also being absurdly slow. Since she doesn't know what she's walking into, Grace's gun has also found its way into her hand, though the firearm is kept at her side, angled harmlessly down.

The illusion of warmth that the confines of the peeling paint and graffiti murals in that concrete stairwell is dispelled the moment Grace spots the open door to the roof of the parking garage. A broken chunk of concrete is wedged between the frame and the door to keep it open, a bitter and cold wind that passes through cuts like a knife against exposed skin.

From here, there's a tinny and treble-filled sound of music that comes from not far outside of the door. At least it's supposed to be music; more of it is a screech of some industrial machine, a synthesized drumbeat, and some distant male vocals. Even before Grace approaches the door from the stairs, there's another colorful flash of light, a shifting shade of purple bleeding out to blue before dimming to red and fading away entirely.

…and the sky is filled with light.

Can you see it?

It's a small effort to nudge the door open with her foot, meeting it the rest of the way with her knee, then her hip to keep her arms free to steady the gun held down at her side — just in case. The sound of the music grows more audible, evidently coming from a small and cheap portable boom box propped up on a black milk crane next to the doorway. Long-dried daubs of paint are spattered across its surface, along with smeared fingerprints in shades of many colors.

All the black is really white.

If you believe it.

But further out, on the roof of the parking garage, amidst the thinly present snow that hasn't quite fully melted away in the warmth of the sun, someone is painting the sky. At first it's not clear just who it is; a thick suede winter coat with a fur hood pulled up, a middling blue scarf borrowed from a friend that is wrapped around her lower face.

As your time is running out.

Let me take away your doubt.

It's the ratty blue jeans with splotches of long-dried paint on them that gives her away, a slovenly fashion-statement that makes something click in Grace's mind. As she turns, moves to face the door of the stairwell with both of her eyes closed, there's no mistaking the girl; not to Grace. There's a distinction in Colette's appearance, that messy black hair poking out from beneath the fur trim of her hood. But what she's doing, it isn't like Colette at all, she is painting the sky.

You can find a better a place.

In this twilight.

One ungloved hand is moving up over her head, waving from side to side, trailing colorful distortions in the air, the kind of oil-slick hues of rainbow light that would look less out of place in a chemical spill. As she stops that sweeping motion, there's a blossom of light in her palm that dispels all of the colors in a flash of white, emitting from a single circular lens that floats just above her palm. The girl stops, lowers her arm and raises another, letting a distorted and wavering curtain of fluidic colors stream from between her fingers like she was holding a handful of translucent paints. Purples and blues cascade down through the air like water, turning to glittering sparkles of yellow at the end that crackle and fade away soundlessly.

From dust to dust.

Ashes in your hair remind me.

What it feels like.

It's just Colette. A very different Colette from the girl Grace took home one fateful day, shocked by the revelation of her power, the topsy-turvy spinning of her world. Returning her handgun to its holster, the woman leans one shoulder against the doorpost, folding her arms casually. Watching, in silence, as the teenager plays with color like she might with paints, only this can be erased indefinitely. By the same token, it's impermanent, difficult to share with anyone who wasn't there. "Very pretty," that distinctive ruined voice speaks up once Colette has finished, the words pitched as best Grace can manage to carry over or through the music.

And I won't feel again.

Night descends.

The voice, Grace's voice cuts like a knife sharper than any winter wind. The young girl stops her motions, resulting in an abortive flicker of yellow starbursts fringed with lime green that sputter out of existance. Her eyes snap wide, shocked, surprised — a mis-matched pairing of green and white. "Grace." The words are muffled from her scarf, but the exasperated manner in which their said is easily likened to a kid with their hand caught in the candy dish.

Could I have been a better person.

If I could only do it all again.

From around the corner of the squared stairwell that Grace has emerged from, the sounds of light feet brushing snow and the interspersed click of claws catches her attention for just long enough to make out the form of a shaggy and old dog, trotting from the far corners of the parking garage at the sound of voices. He halts, abruptly, when spotting Grace. Though his reaction is more casual and lethargic than anything. A tilt of his familiar head to one side as a black ear droops lazily, and he quietly approaches grace, sniffing around at her ankles and up one side of her leg to where she holstered her gun, tail wagging all the while. Some habits die hard.

And the sky is filled with light

Can you see it?

"Jupiter." Colette strains the name through her teeth as she hastily rushes over, one hand tugging the dog back just a little by the collar before he gets too friendly with his nose. The girl bends down into a crouch, hastily turning off the radio — partly embarrassed by being caught listening to music and doing that, partly she Grace doesn't have to shout over it. "D-Did… I mean, you…" She doesn't look up from where she crouches, not to Grace, not after being caught like this. Conrad would never let her hear the end of it, being so careless.

"Hello, Jupiter," Grace greets as the dog wanders over, letting him check out her feet, her jeans, the gun at her hip. There's a hint of quirk to her lips when Colette pulls the old dog away and goes over to turn off the radio. "Did I?" the woman echoes, dark brows arching in query. "Did I what?" The question is rhetorical. "See what you were doing? Of course. Your fireworks are visible for an entire block or three, if anyone happens to look the right direction." There's no chiding tone to her bone-dry voice, just the statement of an observation. Conversely, neither does Grace seem in the least uncomfortable with Colette's display of power.

The notion that this isn't quite as subtle as finger-painting causes Colette to hang her head, letting out a muffled grunt of displeasure. A few moments later, her head tilts up, eyes guiltily peering up at Grace. "I— Um," Sorry? Oops? "Shit." Well not quite what she usually says. "Shit, shit, shit." She's taking this a bit hard, pushing up to her feet as her hands awkwardly fumble for a pair of brick red wool gloves dangling out of her jacket pockets. She pulls them over cold hands, rubbing her fingertips together while a sidelong glance is given to Grace.

Jupiter peers back and forth between the two, then seems to find himself content with sitting down not far from where Grace stands, head tilted to the side in a manner that might indicate he's actively participating in the conversation, as much as a dog can anyway. "Sorry, I…" Colette reaches up into her hood, rubbing at the back of her neck awkwardly. "Shit." Her eyes flick up from her feet to Grace again, "Was anyone else — Did you se anyone else watching? Crap, crap." She's anxious, looking around the rooftop to the other buildings in the adjacent blocks, then back to Grace. "God, I can screw up a one car parade."

Of all things, Grace laughs at Colette's discomfiture. "It's cold enough I think you're safe," she assures the girl, lips twisted in a wry smirk. "But you might want to give that a little more thought in the future." Just because the parking garage is abandoned doesn't mean the rest of the neighborhood is. Jupiter is given a brief glance, but the woman's attention largely remains focused upon Colette. "So. I take it the last month has treated you fairly well." It's been that long since they last spoke.

Pacing in a circle, Colette tucks her gloved hands into her jacket's pockets, shoulders hunching forward as a particularly cold gust of wind blows across her. She smiles, though the expression is largely hidden behind her scarf. "Sort've." The real answer is so much more complicated, so unclear. "Someone's helpin' me learn about… uh, this stuff." She just nods ambiguously to the rooftop, but it's pretty clear what she means.

"A dead guy came back to life, n' I almost killed 'em dead again for being a fucker." Not much of that entire sentence makes any reasonable amount of sense, and it's only after it's said that Colette realizes it. She winces, that much unhidden by her scarf, looking back up to Grace with a wrinkle of her nose. "Never you mind that last bit, I uh, I'm not even sure it'd make sense if I explained it."

Matters are always complex and unclear; this is not new. It's not something Grace needs explained, either. She smiles faintly at the girl. "You might be surprised. But no, I don't need to know." The smile strengthens a touch. "I imagine I would have killed him dead," is her next wry comment. The woman straightens, stepping away from the doorpost. "It's good you're learning," she continues after a moment more.

"I… I haven't asked him, if he works for you." Because obviously Grace is the one in charge of everything, since it makes sense to Colette that way. "I um, there's this guy; kinda' dopey and foreign — Greek?" She scrunches up her nose and furrows her brows, "Name's Teo," And she mispronounces it, drawing out the e more than it should be, "He picked this guy, um, I guess from some people he knows. He says he was there the, um… when all that stuff happened. He's a nice enough guy — Conrad — he's like me." That there, like me is probably one of the hardest things she's ever had to admit.

"Grace, I uh — God I suck at this." One hand comes up to scratch at the side of her head, and she closes the distance between herself and the older woman. "I — I'm really sorry about, fuck, everything?" Part of her smile, and the wryness of it, is visible over the top of her scarf. "I've been a complete asshole to you, and… I just — I was acting like a brat. You don't deserve that, nobody does." She looks away, exhaling a sigh that forms as a cloud of steam through the thin fabric of the scarf. "I kinda' figured I'd not sound so dumb saying that after so long." Her eyes roll, "Go figure."

Grace snorts, the sound loud and harsh even in the open air. "Girl, your fun and games aside, no one works for me." She has neither henchmen nor henchwomen, difficult as that idea may be for the girl to wrap her head around. Greek, 'Teo' — even mispronounced, the description is somewhat recognizable, and elicits an arched brow. Conrad, she'd probably know if she saw.

It isn't particularly important, and Grace lets the names pass. The woman shakes her head, fringe of dark hair oscillating with the motion. "Don't dwell on it. I've had worse pitched at me." The faint smile she bestows upon the teen almost approaches serene in its confidence. "You pull that act again, mind, there's nothin' stopping me from up and walking away."

There's an easing in her posture, awkward as it is, when Grace seems to let all of the things Colette's done wrong — an impressive laundry list, no doubt — roll off like so much water from a stone. She smiles, awkwardly, letting her eyes lift up from where they'd been squarely fixated on her own two feet. "I'd… like you to not." She starts, then, realizing that wasn't exactly the clearest sentence she could offer. "Not walk away — Er, I don't mean right now, you know, cause it's cold and I bet you — " She strains out a frustrated sigh and brings up her hands, curled into tiny fists, to lightly hit the sides of her own head in tandem. "You know what I mean." She's terrible with words.

All that awkwardness drains away as a laugh, a tired, stupid series of giggling laughs as Colette drops down into a crouch, one hand moving over the top of her boom box to flip up the handle that makes it less awkward to carry. "I know it's stupid," She finally says after a few moments of getting her tongue untied, "But, like, I — I want to make you proud." It's an awkward notion from an equally awkward girl, "I know, like, you're… not really anything, um, blood to me." On eeye squints at the choice of wording, but she lets it stand. "But like, you know, um… I can't — being open with Judah's not… the easiest thing in the world. So I — You're kind've like… I don't know." Her thin fingers curl around the handle as she rises, hefting the plastic boom box up, "I just, you said I reminded you of yourself. Like, when we first met?" Or some time around then, her memory on the topic isn't perfect. "I want to earn that. Be, you know, even a little bit like you when I'm done with the whole goofy teenager thing." Her eyes downcast, smirking, "There's worse role models."

"I know what you mean," Grace confirms, nodding slightly. The statement is as gentle as her harsh, grating voice can be. Both brows raise as Colette continues, a shift in the woman's posture indicating her discomfort. She, a role model? Perish the thought. "I'm also sure there's better ones," she points out. "Don't you worry about me."

One of Colette's statements catches in her thoughts; Grace lifts a hand, palm turned inwards, fingers curved slightly. It might have been destined for her own face, but the hand falls again before getting more than halfway up, its reflexive reach noticed and consciously aborted. "I figure blood is overrated," she informs the girl, speaking on the slightly more comfortable subject.

"I'm sure there's better people to be… um, impressionable too." The not-quite-properly-worded comment is a gentle barb of self-deprecation that Colette offers all too quickly. With a tilt of her head to the side, she steps just a bit closer, looking to the hand Grace had moved, then back up to sky blue eyes. "We can be mediocre together, provided I don't piss you off too much." There's a moment there, in Colette's reflected eyes, a serious and more nervous look than she's given Grace before.

"This stuff, the um, what I'm doing right now… it's good. It's cool, but like, it's not going to save my life, if… like, you know. There's a lot of fucked up people in this world, who'll wanna' hurt me, just… you know, because I'm colorful." And occasionally obnoxious, but those odds are less.

"Can, I ask you a favor?" The rhetoric of the question is only left ot hang as long as it takes for her to get up the nerve to follow-through. In that interim, Jupiter rises up from where he's seated, padding over behind Colette. "Can you… maybe, or, you know — find someone — t-to, teach me how to like, um…" A dry swallow, she hasn't really thought this out well, "You know u-um, not die?" One eye squints and her nose wrinkles, it sounds worse than she thought. "Defend myself, like, without whatever it is this is I do."

"It might," Grace disagrees. "Save your life," she elaborates. "People do more with less." Teach me to not die. The woman's head tips to one side as she studies Colette, reflecting on the words. There's the obvious answer. "If I knew that, then maybe I'd teach you." Everyone dies. "But, you know, death is the only thing aside from taxes that's inevitable."

That said… 'Defend myself' is a more reasonable subject for teaching. And learning. "What, like hand-to-hand? Some. I passed Basic; nothing elegant, but I'm not as rusty as I could be either." Her fingers tap against the side of her holstered handgun. "Is Judah teaching you how to shoot?" Because that's the only other lesson in that vein Grace herself can think of to offer.

Very quickly at the last question Colette wrinkles her nose and snorts out a laugh, "The only thing Judah can do right now is sit and limp," She reconsiders her words, "That came out a little cold. I — He's got a lot of his own problems right now, the last thing he needs is to think of me with a gun. I… I think he might die from the idea." Looking down to the holstered gun at Grace's hip, then back up, Colette seems a bit unsure. "I — I'm kind've, um, scared of guns, actually. I — I don't know, I just… I never really thought about what learning to, um, protect myself might… require?"

One eye squints again, a dark brow raising to disappear beneath the jagged fringe of her hair. "I guess, part of it, is to learn how to protect other people too. I — It's… been on my mind a lot, since Judah got hurt. There's people I just — if something happened to them, and I could've…" She closes her eyes, shaking her head, words slipping over her lips with a tired sigh. "If you don't think it's a waste of your time, I… I'd appreciate it. You… you're cool, and… tough, and like, I wouldn't mind being like that. Being strong enough to, you know, not cry when people are getting hurt."

'Thinking things through' is not a Colette trait, no; Grace doesn't seem particularly surprised. "Then we won't go there." Simple as that. "Crying isn't a problem," the woman disagrees. "Rather the opposite." At least for most people and in most circumstances. "It's freezing and falling to pieces that gets you in trouble."

"Those're kind've my specialties." The girl remarks with a nervous laugh, turning around at a nudge from Jupiter's nose to her thigh. Her head tilts to the side, and she strains a sigh through her nose, "Yeah, yeah, I know, I know." There's a gentleness to her chiding tone with the animal, one gloved hand scratching at the top of his head, gradually moving behind one ear. "Um, it — it's something to think about, maybe. You know just, helping me… not be such a wimp. I — I don't think I can… um, r-really afford being… being so soft anymore. I can't do the whole ostrich thing."

Colette's nose wrinkles one more time, giving a tug to Jupiter's collar before she stands up straight again. "I've gotta' get going, Jupiter's gettin' pissy about the cold." She smirks, impishly, "Just um… think about what I asked, right? I… I'll call you in a couple of days? See… see how things are going. If you're interested. I — It means a lot to me, Grace. All of this, everything you've, you know, done for me." There's a hesitant smile, one that creeps up on her lips. "I don't think I ever said so. So, um… thank you."

Grace looks at Colette for a long moment. "Well. You've got a ways to go, kid — but maybe it's a foot or three in the right direction." Gratitude, as it ever is, it met with an averted glance, an uncomfortably dismissive gesture. Don't thank me. The woman steps back into the stairwell, recognizing the girl's intent to leave; needing to move on herself, now that it's clear there's no problem up here. Trouble, with Colette, is a given. "You know how to reach me."

"I do." She replies quickly, a smile half-hidden by the curve of her scarf. "I will," Colette adds after a moment of thought, eyes tracking up from the dusting of snow on the rooftop to Grace's eyes. She nods her head out the door, slipping into the stairwell with the boom box held under one arm, Jupiter slinking past with the clatter of claws on concrete. For a while, there's a silent look exchanged with Grace, one that wordlessly shows her appreciation this time.

Maybe they're both not perfect social creatures. But in the end, they're more alike because that's what they are.


January 17th: Sounds Like A Good Start
January 17th: Waitin' For The Bus
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