Prickly Brown Caterpillar


dantes_icon.gif tamara_icon.gif

Scene Title Prickly Brown Caterpillar
Synopsis It's a peculiar kind of caterpillar that can be found in Calvary Cemetery and metamorphoses into a ghost.
Date December 22, 2008

Calvary Cemetery

The weather's awful, or has been…. but for now, it's bitterly cold, but clear. The last remnants of a winter sunset stain the winter sky. And Dantes is in the cemetery, a bundle of flowers under his arm, clearly a refugee from some florist's freezer — a riot of deep colors. He's crunching carefully along the unswept paths, the only set of footprints immediately visible in the dying light. He pauses a moment by the columbarium, the wall part of a sunken area where the ashes of the cremated are interred, glancing only a moment at the stone near the top that commemorates the life of one Ivanov, Felix Nikolaievich, 1972 - 2008. His expression is bitterly amused. But he proceeds on to one plain stone ranked among the others, grey marble dyed scarlet by the evening light. Brendan Mcreadie, 1974 - 2001, FDNY. It lacks one of those convenient little holders for flowers, but there's an empty vigil light before it, blue glass filled to the brim with snow. Dantes shifts his weight uneasily before it, as if afraid of some accusation, before stooping to lay the flowers by the stone.

The quiet, rhythmic crunch of snow underfoot is Dantes' first clue that he isn't actually alone. Right about the same time that comes into his awareness, the familiar tones of a stray girl's voice join it. "It's an empty place. The ghosts get lonely. But they're quiet about it, and you'd never really know." Tamara wears a scarlet sweater, a soft violet scarf wrapped around her shoulders and across the top of that ever-mussed blond hair; her jeans are dark blue, and there's snow caught in her shoelaces. She steps up beside Dantes, tilting her head to look quizzically up at him, and holds out an unlit candle.

Even in this face, he's not an expressive man. There's that masklike quality that tends to betray him, no matter what Sonny's work. But in the instant that he turns to her, there's nothing but grief in his face, though any tears might well be blamed on the cutting wind. But he swallows hard and squares up to her. "Thank you," he says, without any attempt at pretending he doesn't know her, nor acknowledgment of any past acquaintance. Trust her to be the one to see him clearly, even in limbo. He takes the candle, and goes to one knee - half-gloved fingers brush the snow from the vigil glass, and then, cupping it with a hand to shelter it, he lights it, and sets it at the base of the stone, gently edging the flowers aside. It makes the inscribed letters dance with shifting little shadows.

"You're welcome," the teen replies, the words awfully cheerful in contrast with the dusk-lit cemetery and Dantes' grief. The good humor gives way to an introspective study of the man beside her, as Tamara steps back and hops up to sit on top of a tombstone behind him. No respect for the dead, there — but then, she knows better than any that nothing ill will come of the action. "I'll stay so you don't have to be alone." Probably a mixed blessing. "Then you're not a ghost." According to the irrefutable logic of one who sometimes might as well be a child. "At least until you went away, too," Tamara concludes, on a slightly less enthusiastic note.

Dantes brushes the snow from the top of Brendan's stone, before using it to lever himself back upright. It hurts - the cold makes old wounds twinge. He eyes her, wonderingly, and then asks the question aloud, "What do you mean?"

Tamara peers at Dantes, and wrinkles her nose in a sort of mild frustration. "I meant what I said," she states firmly, head bobbing just once. She swings her feet idly back and forth; they're a good few inches above the snow-covered ground. The girl seems to think about it for a moment more, then shrugs. "Ghosts leave. They do. I guess the river just moves on."

"Yes, it does," Dantes says, quietly, ducking his head against the cold. "They do. I suppose I should, too. I still have too much to do here. I suppose that makes me a dybbuk," he says, lip curling at the idea. The candle is a firefly glow in the darkening evening. Dantes reaches into his coat pocket, produces a cigarette with delicate, rather insectlike motions, and cups his palms around it, as he lights it.

"Does it?" Tamara asks, with a detached curiosity that suggests she doesn't recognize the term. She continues to sit there, tapping her feet against the air, heedless of the layer of snow she's sitting on. "Maybe you're a caterpillar," the girl counters with a broad grin, candlelight glinting from cornflower-blue eyes. "A prickly brown one. They tickle."

Dantes expels a stream of smoke, amused. "I think I'm already a butterfly, my dear," he says, with distant fondness. "Do you know who I am?" he wonders, keeping the cherry of the cigarette sheltered in a cupped palm, having reversed it to smoke off the back of a hand.

Tamara grins at Dantes, undeterred. "Prick-ly!" she declares. The grin slowly diminishes when the erstwhile agent continues to speak, becoming a mere smile, passing through a neutral expression, and ultimately settling on a faint frown of puzzled concentration. "Do you know?" she asks, returning a question for a question as she often does. One small hand reaches out to touch Dantes' chest. "The mirror was only the reflection. What was, yes, but it's not real, even if real just turns into ghosts and flits away." The words are somber, bereft of their former childish glee; spoken by her other side, the girl who knows too much. Tamara looks up at him, eyes dark in the gathering night. "You can't be a butterfly," she states definitely. "Butterflies stay the same." And that's a fact.

It's not precisely frivolity. But…a certain sour whimsy, definitely, that has him reaching for the words of the ancient poet. "I am a stag of seven tines, I am a flood across a plain," he says, haltingly, though his words gather force as he speaks, "I am a spear that roars for blood, I am the hill where poets walk, I am a hawk above the cliff. I am the tomb of every hope," The dark eyes are clear, as Dantes looks back at her. "Or, to be blunt, no."

A crooked smile meets Dantes' recitation; whatever significance the words have for the seer, however, Tamara doesn't share. Instead, at his final admission, the smile becomes even more lopsided and a slightly exasperated expression accompanies it. "And I'm supposed to know?" It's a good-humored statement, punctuated by swinging feet. "The mirror isn't magic. It'd stick together if it would be."

"You have a point," Dantes concedes, settling himself on a marble bench, which it self memorializes someone, though the words of the dedication are blurred by snow. "Is Colette safe?"

The girl's head bobs in time with the motion of her feet, recognizable as assent. "She's lost," is the seemingly contradictory statement, but presumably it's meant figuratively. "But she's still looking. And she can do that. The road's a long one, and it was always watched." Tamara tips her head to one side, expression becoming introspective. The look of someone musing over something — some sight, some information — that they don't really comprehend. "She wanted to meet you, but it's the quarter in the air."

"She's still with Judah?" he presses, flicking ash down to the pathway with an impatient motion of his hand. "Meet me? Why?" It's the whole point of this little comedy of errors. That the Vanguard not take them to be used as leverage. Since there's no one else to use, where Fel is concerned.

Tamara shrugs, frustration returning to her features, the candlelight flickering over the lines so formed in her expression, painting them in high contrast. "Because?" she says helplessly. "Some shadows weren't so lost. Some were more. It's very fuzzy there." The question about Judah seems to have been either bypassed or forgotten already — if there's so much difference between those in the first place.

Dantes slumps a little on the bench, wearily. "You remember her, don't you? She's sort of a touchstone, for more than one person," He's almost more musing aloud now, than questioning her directly.

Tamara is silent for a long moment, perplexed gaze studying Dantes, her head slowly tilting in the opposite direction as if to study him from multiple angles. There's a glimmer of understanding, unlike the confusion that's been dancing in and out of her expression all evening, and she seems to take it as a question. "You asked the right question," she says softly. "The mirror only held shadows. Almost always."

It surprises him - there's no concealing the bemusement in his expression. "I'm sorry," Dantes says, quietly. "I feel bad for vanishing like that. But if there was another way to keep her safe I could've managed, I didn't see it." Almost confession.

The look Tamara gives Dantes now is faintly bemused, her lips curving in a rueful smile. Her feet hang limply, now disregarded. "Were you the only one watching her?" is the question she poses next.

"I imagine Judah was," Dantes wonders, tentatively, as if it were a test question he's not certain he knows the answer to. "I don't know. I never had a chance to warn her about Eileen."

Tamara chuckles, smiling fondly. "Judah always watched. Judah always worried. The mirror didn't worry, but the mirror watched. Always did." The girl leans forward, and one finger taps twice, firmly, on Dantes' shoulder. "You didn't have to be lonely. But if it's ghosts you want, then the shadows make them, too." She cants her head, studying Dantes like the caterpillar she claims he is. "Are you a ghost?" she asks, in a tone of ingenuous curiosity.

This time there is no doubt. "Yes," he says, in all apparent earnestness, before one of those crooked, sardonic smiles curves his lips. " Felix, son of Nikolai, is dead. Long live Edward Dantes. Edward is no one's son, no one's brother. " He casts a glance at Brendan's stone. "I'm where I need to be, I suppose. For now. There's still work to be done with the living." He grinds out the cigarette butt against wet stone, and vanishes it into a tin that serves as a pocket ashtray. "Tell Colette and Judah their ghosts wish them Merry Christmas."

The girl nods sagely at his affirmation. Where most might be disappointed by his declaration, she simply takes it in stride. "Then it's time to go," she agrees. There's another rueful smile, smaller than before, a wistfulness creeping into Tamara's eyes. "I don't know if the mirror could," she replies. "But I tried."

"That's all anyone can ever ask, my dear, and weighs well on the golden scales of the judging angels," Dantes says, with an odd amusement gleaming in his eyes. Directed not at the sibyl, but someone not present. He slips to his feet, and with an air of absentminded ritual, kisses his fingertips, and then touches the stone where the candle is guttering. Then he offers his arm, as if this were a hundred years ago, and they a courting couple promenading through the park.

The girl twists her torso around to look behind her, as if to catch sight of one of those angels. But of course, the elusive creatures are nowhere to be seen. The gesture might belong to an era far predating her, but — once her hopeful curiosity is laid to rest, as it were — there's neither question nor hesitation in the way Tamara hops down off the tombstone and sets her arm over his, the last of the candlelight reflecting off her smile. It's an odd couple they make, the elegant and older man accompanying the fey and almost waif-like teen, as they promenade away from the columbarium and into the gathering shadows.

December 22nd: A Cop, a Paramedic, and a Fireman Walk Into a Bar...
December 22nd: Futures Craved
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