Safe As Houses


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Scene Title Safe as Houses
Synopsis Directly after Run Away, Deckard and Meredith attempt to regroup and find a place to stay for the night.
Date November 29, 2009

Ruins of Midtown

Standing in the ruins of Midtown, it's hard to believe New York is still a living city.

There's life enough around the fringes — the stubborn, who refused to rebuild somewhere else; the hopeful, who believe the radiation is gone, or that they somehow won't be affected. Businesses, apartment complexes, taxis and bicycles and subways going to and fro — life goes on. Perhaps more quietly than in other parts of the city, shadowed by the reminder that even a city can die, but it does go on.

Then there is the waste. The empty core for which the living city is only a distant memory. Though a few major thoroughfares wind through the ruins, arteries linking the surviving halves, and the forms of some truly desperate souls can occasionally be glimpsed skulking in the shadows, the loudest noise here is of the wind whistling through the mangled remnants of buildings. Twisted cords of rebar reach out from shattered concrete; piles of masonry and warped metal huddle on the ground, broken and forlorn. Short stretches of road peek out from under rubble and dust only to disappear again shortly afterwards, dotted with the mangled and contorted forms of rusting cars, their windows long since shattered into glittering dust.

There are no bodies — not even pieces, not anymore. Just the bits and pieces of destroyed lives: ragged streamers fluttering from the handlebar which juts out of a pile of debris; a flowerbox turned on its side, coated by brick dust, dry sticks still clinging to the packed dirt inside; a lawn chair, its aluminum frame twisted but still recognizable, leaning against a flight of stairs climbing to nowhere.

At the center of this broken wasteland lies nothing at all. A hollow scooped out of the earth, just over half a mile across, coated in a thick layer of dust and ash. Nothing lives here. Not a bird; not a plant. Nothing stands here. Not one concrete block atop another. There is only a scar in the earth, cauterized by atomic fire. This is Death's ground.

Hard to tell how far they've run before Deckard winds down from a sprint, to a jog, to a weaving, exhausted walk. The shamble of Chelsea has long since given way to the more all-encompassing desolation of Midtown when scuffs both hands back over his bristly head and squints up at the murk of New York's night sky. It's warmer than it was last night, if not by much; cooler than it is flat cold, but humid enough that the rolling push of his ragged breath hangs heavy in the air around him.

He turns once, bearings more dubious than he might like in the absence of an x-ray overlay to cast around the slouching rot of burnt out urban decay all around them. Not lost, just. Maybe not 100% sure he is where he thinks he is. In any case, the cops are long gone, and he's at ease enough to stand and catch his breath while he squints to pick Meredith out of the shadows.

Meredith has long since lost the track of where they were before and where they are now. She wasn't born here and all the streets and avenues look mostly the same to her. She has no x-ray vision to help her and all that she's managed to do so far is follow as closely behind Deckard as she can. The sound of his footsteps stopping ahead of her slows her own lagging pace to a stop and she leans over, using the nearest wall or building to lean up against to catch her ragged breath.

They've been running for what feels like so long, and she's lost. A hand closes around the partially healed gunshot wound on her upper arm absently, still unbelieving that it's even healed that much. She doesn't have much breath, but instead of the obvious 'how did you do that?', which she can guess herself, she asks instead, "Do…you know…where we are?"

"Still on the south side," sounds like exactly the kind of thing men tend to say when the answer is really, 'no.' He doesn't know exactly where they are, but he's reaching back around for his wallet like there might be something helpful stowed away in there. A few fumbling flips and strokes of bony fingers later, he's flopped out a faded and tatty-edged map with a beaten up compass to match. Still breathing hard, in through the nose out through the mouth, he has to tilt both to better soak what little light is available one way and then the other before he gives and walks back her way, breath stirring warm in his wake.

"Do the thing you were doing before."

However, Meredith has been shot and running a lot. Doing the thing she did before, luckily, doesn't require much energy, but she also is kind of shaky. "If you want it to be steady, you'll have to sit down to see it." Because that's what Meredith does. Sinking to the ground, she rests her uninjured elbow on her knee and then allows flames to lick off to of her fingers, almost like she was making a gun that shot out fire in her hands.

"Handy," she tells him with a tired smirk, then after a short pause, she adds for affect, "Miss." Yes, it's a joke about being called a woman before. After all they've been through, she can't help herself. "So I take it you don't know exactly where we are at the moment?"

Less enthusiastic about the idea of sitting down in relatively plain sight on the broken sidewalk, Deckard dawdles uneasily for a couple've beats before he gets enough bend into his knees to join her. The map comes too, and the compass — the former hand drawn and the latter cheap, plastic cap so smudged and scratched that the needle wavering beneath is hard to make out even by firelight.

"You too," remarked re: handiness, he flattens his mouth out sidelong at the 'Miss' jab, tolerant in his plotting. "I don't usually come in this way," is his explanation for why he's bothering with the map at all, one leg stretched out long while the other drags itself into a creaky bend. Pavement's cold through his jeans. "If we keep heading northeast I'll know where we are when we cross Tenth. There are a couple of waystations set up close enough we'll probably hit one within an hour, if you don't mind sleeping bags or canned goods."

Maybe Meredith could have managed to make it to a smaller alleyway, but this is where she came to a stop and so this is where they'll have to stay for a moment. It's past curfew, anyway, so there aren't many people out. They'll hear those they should worry about coming in enough time to duck out of sight. "I have my uses," she shrugs and tries to keep the flame steady in order to make it easier to read the map by.

"Tenth." She thinks that over and frowns. "Alright. It's too far to make it to my safehouse now." She's not exactly sure where they are, but she knows SoHo, and this certainly isn't it. "Sleeping bag won't be bad for a night. I've slept in worse." Now that they know where they're heading toward, she starts to get up again. "That doesn't look like a bought map. Where'd you get it, if you don't mind me asking."

"Okay," agreed without feeling one way or the other, Deckard gives the compass one last looking over on his way to dusting up onto his feet after her. He's tired, but already well on his way to breathing normally again and not visibly suffering from the cold. If he's a little prone to spacing out, well. For the most part his distraction is harmless and mostly seems to entail peering distrustfully at human-shaped lumps of slagged scenery.

Three year old ash wetted and caked to mud and dried out again sinks soft underfoot, and it's at least a block before he thinks to answer about the map, which he's since folded back into his wallet. "I made it. Sometime after I got here. February, March. I dunno." The compass resides in his pocket, at rest now that he's more confident about where they're headed. "How's your arm?

For some reason, Meredith feels better about the situation when she's not playing catch up. She's still breathing heavily, but she warms her hands and wraps them around her arms to get keep herself from getting chilled. Her powers are useful for something other than just lighting things on fire. The mud and ash have been trodden down in the past three years, so it's not hard to slug through them and she doesn't even notice the lack of answer to her question - she has been too wrapped up in her own thoughts. When Deckard finally does answer, she nods, as that's what she had assumed.

"That's pretty good." Not that it's terribly difficult to draw a grid, but it's got to be hard to see the whole island and then draw it out when you can only see it in pieces. "It's…better. Thanks. I didn't know you could do that." Not that she really knows that much about Deckard to begin with.

"Thanks," muttered automatically back at something that registers as a compliment, Flint looks up frequently as he walks, sure-footed as a mule at a walk and approximately as surly. For all that his hands are tucked deep into the scuffed brown of his jacket, there's an uncertain twitch visible at his wrist and elbow when he looks over at her a little like the jump of an iron nail after the sweep of a magnet.

"I can fix the rest while we walk." Sounds more like a statement of fact than an offer until he glances awkwardly after her again, scruffy head tilted in and then away after an upended fire hydrant. "Unless you'd rather wait."

Instead of looking up and down, Meredith looks straight ahead as the walk, trying to keep an ear out for anyone approaching as well as their almost non-existent conversation. She doesn't notice the twitching of the hand in his pocket, but she does look over at his offer. Whether he meant it as an offer or a statement. The feeling of him fixing things is an odd one for Meredith and she's hesitant to try it again so soon. But the dull ache that's still throbbing through her arm is something that she'd be glad to be rid of.

The awkward look he gives is met with one of her own. Steering around the broken fire hydrant, she frowns. "You sure? It won't take too much outta you? If we gotta run again, I'd rather there be at least one of us at our best."

"I'll be okay," reassured without much time spent to actually think about it one way or the other, Deckard draws the left hand out again as he trudges along, long fingers splayed out in an offer that is only slightly better defined than the initial one. "Could use the practice."

The buildings on either side of the street they're threading along are little more than girder-snaggled slabs of caved in masonry and melted glass. The same stuff occasionally crunches and shatters underfoot, clodded grey to the point it blends in with concrete and ash, but they're making decent progress. Midtown's quiet tonight. "You can pay me back with cooking dinner."

Maybe Meredith realizes that Deckard couldn't have thought much about this one way or another, or maybe she just doesn't care as long as the pain is taken out of her arm. She's seen what he can do and while the sensation is certainly uncomfortable, it has the added bonus of healing her. "…Alright." She's cautious and acting more like she's about to give him something as opposed to the other way around. Like someone who's testing to see if a pan is too hot to touch, she reaches out a hand to put in his. "This is what I do, right? I'm not just holdin' your hand?"

As long as they're making progress to a place to rest and not worry about getting followed by more police, that's all that truly matters to the blonde. Making their way through the seemingly deserted area is creepy, but she doesn't seem to troubled by it. Instead, she raises an eyebrow at how she can repay him. "How do you know I can cook? That may be a punishment."

"I dunno. Do you want to just hold my hand?" inquired with more of the same inscrutible distraction, Deckard does at least manage half a smile for her when he looks over enough to wind his hand around hers, calluses rough and lead stains worn yellow into the pad of his thumb.

He's a little more at ease now that he knows where they're supposed to be headed, breath fogging at an even rate and shoulders slacked away from their prior set. He even checks the length of his stride a little to compensate for her shorter one once healing warmth has stirred silty from his palm to hers and the transfer has started up again, simultaneously welcome relief layered over creeping heat. "You have a vagina. Surely that has to count for something in the kitchen."

Meredith just raises an eyebrow. "You're the one that offered, remember." At least, she assumed that slight gesture of his hand meant that she should put hers in his for some healing. "And that all depends on if holdin' your hand helps my arm." Her own hand isn't exactly soft, but it's not as callused as his. Now they just look like they're some sort of old sweethearts taking a walk down a destroyed street where thousands of people were probably killed. Romantic.

Her own breath doesn't slow down, but that may be because of the warmth that's trailing through her hand and up into her arm. It's such a surreal feeling. For a moment, her shorter stride slows a few steps as she tries to get accustomed to it. Luckily, his crude comment snaps her out of that rather quickly. With a roll of her eyes, she glances over at him. "If you've found a vagina that can do it's own cooking, then I'm not sure why you'd need to get me to cook for you. Sounds like you'd have everything all wrapped up in one."

"Guess that depends on where it keeps its cutlery. Operating off the assumption that you're being literal about the 'wrapped up' thing." Unruffled by the ping pong back and forth of insinuation to insinuation or denial to denial, he doesn't show any outward fatigue in tandem with the invasive pulse of his borrowed ability thickening through tattered muscle fibers and knitting at torn flesh. Granted, the fact that he was kind of tired to begin with could be a factor.

"I'm not even supposed to be a healer. My," ability, power, whatever, he uses his free hand to sketch vaguely up at his own head, "was x-ray vision." Small-talk isn't really his style, and it shows. Namely in the way his voice drops off without elaboration there, as if he didn't think far enough ahead to make it into an actual conversation as opposed to a random statement of fact.

That image is one that's jarring. And for some reason, funny. Meredith snorts and then laughs, quietly. While Deckard doesn't seem to be affected by what he's doing, the blonde certainly is unsettled. She rolls her free shoulder, as if trying to get rid of a troubling knot. Her wound is healing at a rapid rate and she can't shake the feeling like she's slowly burning up from the inside. And for a pyrokinetic, that is a strange feeling.

That random statement of fact is something that does interest Meredith, however. She's never heard of someone randomly changing powers. "How did that happen?" The surprise and curiosity isn't hard to read in her voice. While she's not normally someone who does a lot of small talk, either, it comes more naturally to her.

"Long story. Strip it down to the bare bones and it smells a lot like divine intervention. Except instead of God or Buddha it's a couple of…sentient, asshole abilities who jump from body to body like…tapeworms." He could probably find a better simile than one involving the ingestion of contaminated, wormy foods. Unfortunately, malcontent's remorse doesn't strike him until he's already said it, and he's left to tip a brow to himself as if in apology to something that isn't actually present. So far as Meredith can tell.

A long breath later, he scuffs one heel to a halt and firms his grip around her hand and wrist, aiming to stop her as well when healing heat starts to pry away from the hole in her shoulder, after smoker's lung and stiffened liver and whatever minute bruises she's managed to acquire in the last week or so. And now he does look worn, long lines carved in stark around his narrow face while he works to keep the majority of the power where it should be. "Nearly done."

Meredith may not believe in divine intervention, but she can believe in tapeworms. Or what she thinks that Deckard is trying to say here. "Well, I sure hope mine's not one of those. I like what I do now and I'm not about to trade it for anything else." And then, she raises an eyebrow at the brow tip. "Not that you're bitter much. I can tell." She gives him a smirk and stops when he does.

She feels better than she has in weeks and it's a strange warm feeling that's going through her right now. While she's gotten used to that, she still feels off a little. It may be a healing power, but it also has upset her internal equilibrium to a certain extent. Taking in his appearance and how this must be taking a toll on him, she starts to softly tug her hand out of his. There's not a whole lot of force behind it, he can stop it if he desires. "Maybe this is good enough. We've still got a bit to go and you look like you're 'bout to topple over. And I certainly can't carry you anywhere."

"I don't think it's a common phenomenon." Reasonably, comfortably secure in that knowledge despite the fact that he's a living exception to one rule that he was pretty happy to fall in line with before, Deckard lets his hand fall away from hers when she withdraws without resistence. He looks away too, left hand wrung out automatically at his side before he sets to groping around in his coat after the glove it was previously snugged into.

"Could be worse. Could be the power to shit lightning or see smell." There's the glove, and he starts moving again with an up and down glance over at Meredith to check that she's as fine as she says she is. "You talk funny. Ever been to Mexico?"

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