Reunion in the Ruins


diogenes_icon.gif isis_icon.gif

Scene Title Reunion in the Ruins
Synopsis A decade later, a pair meets for the first time, a second time.
Date April 3, 2019

Ruins of the Bronx

It's still early in the day. The morning chill hasn't abandoned the derelict streets, and the faint sunlight seeping through the ruined buildings misses its midday intensity. Spring mornings in the ruins surrounding the Safe Zone have a strangely ethereal beauty to them, a certain air of serene sadness about them. The filthy streets don't have anywhere near the traffic they used to. Years go, nestled between other buildings, there was an unassuming apartment complex. Gun Hill. Its exact purpose is of little importance to the man loitering across it. Clad in formerly fancy, now dirtied moccasins, a pair of business slacks and a heavy, warm-looking leather jacket, the stranger's fashion is a clash of formal and informal styles.

Even in this ruin, he looks just a little bit out of place, especially leaning against one of the few steel posts left standing straight. He looks relaxed, ignorant of the world around him, as if he froze in time the moment everything went to shit. He's pretty still, too, completely enamored by the fairly thin book. Albert Camus. L'√Čtranger. One of his hands is pressed against his chin, and an index finger crosses his pursed lips. From a distance, he nearly looks like a statue. Occasionally however, he breaks the illusion and cranes his neck to look to the side, towards the dilapidated building that was once Gun Hill. He narrows his eyes in thought, and then guides his attention back to the book, flipping a page.

Come home, Isis.

How many months had a dozen little letters on a over-creased piece of paper kept her up at night? How many people knew the name? How many more places in New York must she search? How much did she dare to hope? …

How does it appear that he has been waiting here, for her, all this time?

Where she wasn't previously, she stands now. Somewhere in the time the stranger is lost in the novel, Isis has crested a small pile of debris and stands with the sun cutting sideways and the wind picking up her garnet locks. She looks dressed for an interview - a man's suit cut in to accommodate her subtle curves, a green blouse, billowy androgynous slacks, loafers with a subtle heel. The suit jacket is crumpled haphazardly in one hand, the letter in the other. She looks disheveled from her journey across the ruins, but more than that she looks … gobsmacked, lost, found, relieved, hurt - there's too much that flashes in her hazel eyes before she's stumbling over herself to descend the hump of rubble, tripping as she picks up speed and makes a bee-line for the man.

The dull clack of rocks hitting rocks alerts Diogenes, although he doesn't immediately raise his gaze off the book. He finishes reading the sentence first, and then lifts his eyes, furrowing his brows. It takes him a few moments of silently watching Isis approach, before he tilts his head back and moves his hand off his chin. The book's gently closed, with all the care of closing a door without waking anyone else in the house. Except, there is no one else on this street than these two.

Time has weathered the man, not unlike his immediate environment. There's just something implacably different about him. He's older, that much is apparent. He seems like his body has endured some hard work, and his hands tell a similar tale. For a while, this image doesn't change, and Diogenes unsurprisingly does a pretty good job of masking most of his emotions. Most, because he visibly clenches his jaw and audibly clears his throat. He hugs the spine of the book with both his hands, and lowers it to just above his waistline.

"I like the outfit." He starts. He sounds different. Once, he had a weary tone. Now, he has a weary voice, whereas his tone is strangely upbeat. And is that a New Yorker accent he's adopted? "I would've accepted casual wear too, but this actually makes this feel like a special occasion."

Where Diogenes appears older, the figure fumbling hurriedly forward appears decidedly younger - at least for the moment. All the complexity of emotion and vivacity of youth comes crashing into her as she sees the man across the way.

"Shut up," she retorts without faltering. Shes nearer but her paces haven't slowed, and then she's crashing into Dio, throwing her arms around his shoulders. She clings to him as if she's testing his tangibility, testing her own sanity really, and making sure he isn't about to disperse into a cloud (of crimson smoke, as ghosts tend to do). After a few heavy seconds where her world is filled with the racing of her pulse and the sound of his heart under her ear, alive and very much there, she steps back on unsteady legs.

When she lifts her head, it with a look of a thousand questions, and the years return to her. Her previously icy lines have been thawed ever so slightly, there's a softness to her and a calculated pause before action. Impulse has given way to some introspective quality, but her alto tones are as they ever were. Of all the questions broiling inside, only one bubbles to the surface. "You wrote the letter?"

How much did she dare to hope?

Fortunately, Diogenes remains very much corporeal under the woman's scrutiny. As commanded, he remains quiet, instead watching Isis after she throws herself at the man. His reaction is more muted, and an outsider could easily mistake this as a sign of aloofness. Not Isis. Isis can hear his heart beat quickly in his chest, even as he stands tensely still. He doesn't wake from his statuesque stupor until the redhead retreats with wobbly steps, at which point one of his hands reflexively darts away from the book to grab hold of Isis' elbow.

A moment after, the hand retreats. Another moment later, there's a soft, brief chortle.

"Isis, coming in with the upset," he notes softly, slowly tilting his head to the side. He looks Isis over more closely, and perhaps this is the man's turn to convince himself of reality. "A slap, a punch, or a kick in the groin. I was kinda banking on one of those." He shakes his head, adding, "The one thing I always underestimate." Not that he elaborates.

Instead, he leans more tautly against the post behind him and exhales heavily. With each passing moment, his tension escapes him. Of course, Diogenes being who he is, he glances past Isis, making sure they are the only ones currently present. His attention flicks up towards the derelict stone spires, too. Some things just do not change. Even as he re-evaluates the pair's surroundings however, he continues. "I did. I wrote the letter."


"I didn't fully intend to be this cryptic, y'know?" Is that an apology? "I just didn't know what to say, or if you'd come. Was there anything I could say to make you come back? Should I even make you come back in the first place? After a dozen or so drafts, I figure, hey, she'll enjoy the adventure these three words bring." Not an apology, then.

"I didn't pull you away from anything important, did I?"

The grin at her lips is no less mischievous than it might have been previously, but certainly less guarded. As Diogenes shakes his head, she tips her to side like curious feline, hazel eyes drinking in every detail of his visage. Her brows knit with the failed effort to regain some control of her own expression, leaving her stuck with that searching, smiling look. "Underestimate what?" she inquires with subtle, but genuine, curiosity.

Where his gaze wanders, hers remain fixed, but only while she takes in the details of the letter's many drafts. Then the seemingly simple question has her turning her visage to the horizon on her right, as if looking off to the things she left behind to be here, to be home.

"You did," she answers as honestly as ever. "But, not more important," she adds by way of simple elaboration. Her lashes narrow at that horizon, or whatever it is that she envisions beyond, weighing. Finally, she seems convinced enough of her own words to give a little nod and bring her attention back around to the man before her. There's a deep breath and a lift of her shoulders, as she tries to steady herself under the invisible weight of reality moving back into place upon them.

"Are you okay?" The hand with the crumpled letter reaches out towards his elbow, in the way he had sought to steady her only moments before, but it never quiet reaches, instead left awkward and uncertain.

The inquiry prompts Diogenes to simply raise the hand that had left the book earlier; he lifts it up to his lips in a gesture that begs silence, and his own lips curl into a faint smile, pushing laugh lines into prominence. When the selfsame hand retreats, it curls into a fist and props itself against the underside of his chin. The pair seem to take shifts; where once Diogenes observed their surroundings and Isis examined the man, now it is Isis who is looking off into the distance, and Diogenes is the one examining the woman more closely once again. Perhaps it's mere coincidence, or perhaps it's just the way of things with these two.

"I agree," he starts, choosing to address Isis' earlier words, first. "I think you're needed here more. I'm not completely sure, but I do believe that."

He furrows his brows, as if discontent with his own wording. Still, he decides to move on, at least for now.

"Am I okay? I don't know. I think so." Another uneasy chuckle arrives from him, and his shoulders slump. He looks over to the building where the two were once residents. "It's been years, yet it's still all so surreal. We had a system, y'know? Wasn't perfect, but at worst? We kinda knew how to pretend yesterday didn't happen. But, uh. Kind of hard to pretend all of this away."

Another heavy sigh coincides with him turning to regard Isis again.

"I survived. Learned a few hard lessons along the way." For the first time since their reunion, Diogenes smiles. It's a broad, genuine smile; his eyes beam too, narrowing creasing crows' feet. "I'm glad you didn't try to prove me wrong by doing the opposite." Again, he momentarily wrinkles his noise. "Actually, let me rephrase that."

"Are you okay?"

The left side of her face screws up with a pursed lip smirk, a squint, and a lofted brow. Whatever was underestimated but not explained - it hasn't been forgotten. Isis turns her visage to the flayed and skeletal remains of their previous home. She blinks slowly, as if she can superimpose the image of what was upon what is, as his words bring her back almost a decade.

"It was easier, somehow, to pick and choose what was real.. what was worth living and remembering." Her smile wanes at the edges for the weight of sadness in whatever memories now sift through her previously selective, whitewashed recollections. "I busted up my hand really good that day." It's the hand holding the note that she lifts between then, scars on her knuckles like lines of pearly ice on snowy flesh. "I didn't know it then, but we were young. Ignorant by design. I wonder if we'll think that way about our now in another ten years…"

The redhead keeps looking at her knuckles while her delicate, round nose gives a quick twitch. Simple questions are never as they appear with this pair. "I… feel small." Her jaw visibly stiffens with an effort to swallow past a tension in her throat. She looks up to Diogenes, but it only seems to make it harder to speak. Her features all tightened with the effort to form the words, she finally manages. "And scared. Always scared." Black lashes flutter, but it's too late, a single tear wells up and falls along the side of her delicate nose.

There's a series of faint nods as Isis chooses join Diogenes in reminiscing. His own smile wanes over time, at least until the fiery-haired woman shows one of the more literal scars of the past. The lips wearing the half-formed smile part slightly, and he exhales muted surprise. In another ten years, will they truly have new scars to show?

"I hope so," he answers both her question and his own.

Finally, he pushes himself away from the tall post behind him, taking a single step forward. He inhales, words at the ready, yet the woman's answer manages to catch him off guard. The man raises both brows and tips his head ever so slightly to the side, catching sight of the single tear making its daring escape. At that, he shakes his head and approaches Isis closer still.

"You are kind of small," he notes. The unoccupied hand moves to size up Isis first, hovering above her scalp, and then darts to hover above him. As he makes a point to feign a curious glance upward, he cheekily raises the hand just an inch or so further up above.

His theatrics don't last very long, and soon his more muted demeanor returns.

"I can relate. I think." This time, he moves his hand to deliver the curve of his index finger to the tip of Isis' nose, so as to catch the teardrop. "The fiercer the fires of courage, the taller the shadows. And oh, man, do your fires still burn bright. Came all the way to New York over an anonymous letter with two words… and your name on it. I'm almost afraid to ask what else you got into since coming back, too." The pace at which he rapid fires the next series of words injects some levity into an otherwise somber topic.

"Trade you that some time for letting you know what it is I underestimate so much." A brief pause, and then just as quickly. "Maybe even tell you about the time I was a farm boy."

The way Isis does not backpedal at Diogenes moves one pace and then another. It's these small, outward changes that define the differences in this redhead as compared to the one running alongside a younger Diogenes in the memories playing like a phantom projection over the rubble of Gun Hill.

The height-referencing gestures and pointed remarks about her short stature bubble up a laugh perfectly timed to clear the threatening, constricting tension working in her slender throat. "Hey now," she begins to retort, but Diogenes' gesture of a finger at her nose has her unsure footing slipping, metaphorically. It's clear many walls that have been dismantled over the years, but some things long-since buried and left to fester are still protected by barbed wire. And so, the slight gesture towards the singular tear has her closing her eyes and turning her face ever so subtly away, but permitting it to be stolen nonetheless.

She listens with her eyes closed, expression solemn. As Diogenes' rapid fire worts start to brush the feels back under the carpet where they belong, though, her pale lips turn up in a smile that is both grateful and amused. She peeks open on eye, the brow above it arched. "Gotten into? Me?" With the dip of her chin her expression flits from solemn to mischievous easily.

"Not much, really - meeting ghosts, checking in on Kaylee, spending time as a skinny little blond man." She finally tucks the letter into her pocket, fingers lingering briefly before coming up to comb back her hair. "Farm boy? Yee-haw. Now this I have to hear."

If the redhead's reactions upset or amuse Diogenes, he doesn't show it. He simply stands within close proximity to Isis for a little while longer, observing her; it is not inherently an invasive prodding, rather there's a flicker of concern in his weary eyes. Eventually, he turns to face Gun Hill, criss-crossing his wrists and re-establishing a two-handed grip on the small book's spine.

The summary invites a tilt of his head; a half of a head-shake, the adventures apparently not just dramatic enough to warrant a full one. "Huh. I don't know what catches me by surprise more, you running around as a skinny little blond man, or Kaylee's name." He casts a quick sideways glance at Isis, exaggerating a point to hastily look her over again. "Think I prefer you as a redhead, by the way."

His eyes are once again on the building in front of him, across the ruined street. "Ten years shouldn't feel as long," he remarks, sling shotting momentarily into the more somber topic. He doesn't dwell, however. "Got myself into trouble, tossed my limp ass into a farm to find something to patch myself up with. I met some good people, these past few years. People who stayed true to themselves even as the world around them went to shit."

When his hand leaves the spine of the book, this time he uses it to wag a finger at Gun Hill.

"Back then, on that day? You told me that, for someone who moans and bitches about the world all the time, I didn't do shit to change it. I gave you some canned line, like, I'm alone not enough, or something like that. Well, I changed my mind. I want to be the speck of sand on the other side of the scales, hopefully change the world for the better. Maybe I'll be outweighed. I just don't think I'm… scared of that, any more."

He brusquely turns to fully face Isis again. "Wanna take a romantic stroll through the Bronx, catch up some more? Or is it almost Isis trouble o' clock?"

Isis bobs her brows once when she catches her companions side-eyed glance. "Kaylee's name," she quips with deadpanned seriousness. The redhead is clearly and lastingly surprised about the visit she willingly paid to the telepath. As for the comment regarding man's preferred body-suit for Isis's wearing, that gets a quick grin and a teasing echo stressed back, "You think?" She lifts a finger and tips her head. "It had its upsides."

The redhead takes to a calm silence as she listens to the taller man's recollection of more details from that dramatic day. She shakes her head, lashes fluttering in disbelief over a confused but pleasant smile. "That's right," she encourages, adding in, "And I was all full of piss and vinegar, convinced that I was going to make a difference…" She snorts halfheartedly.

"Don't worry - I'll be scared enough for the both of us, but let's see what we can do, hm?" She slips around beside Dio and awkwardly wriggles her small fingers to rest just the slightest bit in the crook of his elbow before setting out. With her rumpled suit jacket still in her opposite hand, she looks at a nonexistent watch on her wrist. "I think we have time to squeeze in a short walk before something blows up in our face." She turns a smile up to her friend and then sets a lazy pace, their idle chat seeping into the cracks of the ruins where only the ghosts of their past can hear.

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