Secrets Like Curses


etienne_icon.gif margaux_icon.gif

Scene Title Secrets Like Curses
Synopsis Margaux gets more than she bargained for.
Date August 19, 2018

Staten Island Trade Commission

It's gotten late, and through the broad window, floor to ceiling, the view is of the murky brackish river that the building's east-most face presides over. Further than that, the land folds off into darkness, an ugly stretch of abandoned suburbia, scars that the American landscape has yet to reclaim into green flesh. There isn't much to see, but it's what Etienne watches anyway — an impressive sight, in its own way, if not a very pretty one.

The room he is in is dark, save for a little ambient light coming in from cracked open doors, with runoff illumination from inhabited rooms. He cuts a distinct shape against the grimy window, listing a little to the right. He's shed his leather jacket, which doesn't reduce his size by very much, barrel chested and thick around the waist, all muscle. Ridiculous, really, given his lifestyle — survival is a rickety foundation on which to build yourself.

Above him, the sounds of Desdemona and Jac set floorboards creaking, and he listens to it, as he could sense activity and conversation through that alone.

Smoking, too, a skinny, dark-papered cigar wedged between his fingers, giving off a continual ribbon of smoke.

It’s through one of those cracks that Margaux’s shape emerges, but only after she’s hooked fingers around the edge of the door and eased it open just enough to slip inside. Etienne knows it’s his employer’s sister without having to look; the pungent smell of her perfume, airy florals weighed down by heavier notes of spiced vanilla and something that his nose thinks might be apricot, betrays her identity even before she comes into view.

“I’ve seen rescue dogs that flinch less,” she says of Squeaks as she presses the door shut behind her. “Poor thing.”

Upstairs, the floorboards settle and Desdemona’s retreating footsteps filter out into the adjacent hallway. Somewhere else in the building, another door closes.

Margaux turns toward Etienne’s silhouette and the hazy cloud of tobacco smoke floating in the space between them like fog. “Almost makes you wanna keep her.”

"One was trouble enough."

Attentive to Margaux's appearance, her perfume insinuated into the room even before she's done so bodily herself, Etienne doesn't look back from his stare out over nothing. He is still wearing a layer of the Hudson River, damp in his hair and his clothing, having trodden foot prints of the stuff through the Trade Commission since he'd carried the girl in through its doors.

Now, he spares half a glance over one shoulder, bringing his cigar up to his mouth as he says, "She'll be gone before Black notices she was here."

This sounds less like reassurance or prophecy, and more like the concrete reality of the thing, according to Etienne. He doesn't really believe that Alister would just adopt the next waif he sees, or kill one to prevent repeat performances — although either of those things feel plausible enough to be a valid concern — but all the same. They don't need more complications.

Etienne’s question causes the corners of Margaux’s mouth to curve into a loose-lipped smile. She weaves one foot in front of the other, meandering across the distance that separates them like a perfectly-coiffed exotic cat. There’s a mischievous spring to her step someone else might call predatory — if they’ve never spent any time around real predators.

Etienne has.

“Speaking of my brother,” she purrs, “I was wondering: When are you gonna tell him the truth about why you’re really here?”

Physically, Margaux is harmless. But Etienne knows — perhaps better than anyone — that not all threats are tangible. “Because the longer you wait,” she adds, sounding contrite, “the more I feel like I gotta.”

His stillness, his focus aimed out the window, probably aren't signals of invitation for most people. As far as Etienne is concerned, and as far as Margaux is concerned, it might as well be printed on gilt-edged card. Trusting, perhaps, that she'll poke — as she does — before getting bored and catting elsewhere, or that he can yield the room to her if she doesn't. Margaux is not one of those in Black's circle that Etienne makes it a point to get to know.

He'd gotten to know Sibyl. Somewhat.

That's it.

But then she says that, and she can feel the shift of his attention, the way he becomes more physically aware of her presence than he had been before. He rotates the cigar within his fingers. "You think you know different?" is all gravel, borderline dismissal.

“Trade Commission, he calls it. More like den of lies.”

Margaux reaches out to run a hand up the length of Etienne’s arm, as if admiring the definition of his muscles through his shirt. Her touch is firm, seeking.

“Nobody here is who they’re pretending to be,” she says. “Leo thinks he’s some kinda big time smuggling kingpin and that when people look at him, it’s with awe and respect, but we both know that isn’t true.” In spite of her words, the affection Margaux holds for her brother is plain in her voice — this, at least, is one thing that isn’t disguised. “Desdemona Desjardins is a war criminal — not even a very good one, either. And Ms. Angier? Jesus, I don’t know where to fucking begin…”

Her hand comes to rest on the curve of Etienne’s shoulder. “I know everybody’s secrets, Etienne Saint James. Even yours.

Especially yours.”

Etienne doesn't move when Margaux's hand finds his arm, but he does watch it, like a lion contemplating the little mouse running around his paws. Even though his eyes are down, she has his attention, displeasure stamped into the bracket around his mouth, a mean cut line through his broad features.

Her hand finds a perch, and he looks to her. He brings that cigar the rest of the way to his mouth to take a bite of smoke, summoning the barest hint of a crooked smile.

"Secrets're like curses," he says, between the smoke, leaning in just that little bit to lend emphasis to the height he has on her. There is no sense of pent up aggression in the slab of meat that is his shoulder, lax beneath her hand. "You see one, you hear it, it marks you forever."

“Na,” says Margaux. “Secrets are power. Leverage over other, smaller people.” She tips a look up at him. “Not that you’re small, Mr. Saint James.”

He won’t feel it, the graze of her ability skimming the topmost layer of his consciousness. It peels him back and peeks at the thoughts directly beneath his surface, gently probing as she raises her eyes to his face. Her stare is focused, bright, if not particularly intelligent.

An intelligent person wouldn’t have confronted him in the dark without any witnesses present.

There are things she wants to know. Things like: “Are you planning on hurting Leo?”

Etienne takes her hand into his, rough fingers slipping between the flat of her palm and his shoulder, pulling it back. Not letting go, either, thumb pressing against the fine splay of bones he can feel along the back of her knuckles. It's a pressure that is more invasive than it needs to be without yet hedging into pain, and he takes a step aside

that cuts off her exit, where all that is at her back is the thick pane of glass of the window. Dirty, but only on the outside, grime streaked with rain.

But he is also giving her question some thought. Is he planning on hurting Leo. The answer is;


Margaux’s breath hitches in her throat. Her resolve wavers, then comes back stronger as her jaw sets and her eyes narrow, false lashes casting long shadows that span the entire length of her face.

She opens her hand all the way in an attempt to still the abrupt tremble of her fingers, which are shaking like late autumn leaves in a storm. There’s a moment where she shifts her weight and it looks like she might try to wrench away from him, but something tells her not to struggle— not to run.

“This is my house,” she reminds him, voice softer than before, although no less willful. “You don’t hurt anyone. Not Leo, not Des, not me.”

It’s the last one she’s the most worried about.

"I hurt who I like."

He plants his other hand firm against the window on the other side of her, cigar caught between fingers. Small embers of ash break away, flutter down past his wrist, catch on his skin, which mostly just gets a twitch and little else. "Especially people who think they know my secrets. Who think they got," and the bones in her hand almost creak with applied pressure, delivered so simply between thumb and the curl of his paw, "leverage."

Etienne ducks his head, eyes of startling blue as clear as exposed steel. "But you dunno what you're talking about, ain't that right."

Margaux’s involuntary squeal of alarm might risk drawing attention, if she hadn’t shut the door behind her, and if Alister wasn’t already understaffed. The only person who hears it is the man whose hand holds hers hostage.

When he stoops to her level, she flinches away, angling her chin even higher so she’s looking past Etienne, over his shoulder, rather than square off against his stare.

She does know what she’s talking about. Actually.

Because her ability hasn’t stopped working.

“I won’t say anything,” is her attempt to salvage some dignity from this situation she’s found herself in, although it’s unlikely that she recognizes it as one of her own making, “I promise.”

"Not to anyone," Etienne says, the usual quiet of his voice used to good effect in close quarters, more texture than sound. "Not to anyone you care about. Not to anyone you don't."

That vice-like pressure relents enough for Margaux to slip her hand free, but Etienne doesn't shift from his lean into the window. Not impossible to push past, but not effortlessly either.

"I think we all got a good thing going."

“Okay,” Margaux says.


She withdraws her hand and brings it into her chest, fingers cupped in a loose curl, and covers it with the palm of the other. Rather than ask for permission to leave, she draws her shoulders together to make herself small.

One step to the side brushes her against Etienne’s hip.

Another maneuvers her around him— or tries to.

He lets her.

Parting thoughts drift between them as her ability withdraws, a shadow of impressions — of ink-dark waters, and the cold depths they conceal, and Etienne only shifts just enough so that she isn't forced to push him back. He is otherwise practically immovable as she wriggles past and out into the room proper.

Cocksure quiet threats are gone and done with, and the lingering look after her is more watchful than predatory. Etienne turns back for the window, ripple of latent violence once again hidden beneath the placid lake of his indifference.

There are no wounds to lick, but you wouldn’t know it; Margaux’s posture is deflated, her face sullen and dark as she slinks out of the room at a pace that’s brisker than she imagines in her head.

He can be sure she’s gone when the light that spills into the room as she opens the door narrows back into a sliver—

— and then nothing at all.

Unless otherwise stated, the content of this page is licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 License