Snap, Grackle, Pop


grackle_icon.gif ethan_icon.gif raith_icon.gif teo_icon.gif

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Scene Title Snap, Grackle, Pop
Synopsis Teo comes upon a strange gathering in the dispensary's kitchen that involves two grown men, one in a woman's slippers, and a bird on a string.
Date November 7, 2009

Old Dispensary

There are things to be seen in the world that are quite strange, and things to be seen that are not so strange at all. When Jensen Raith is concerned, the line that separates the two is frequently blurred, when the things that are normally strange seem suddenly not-so-unusual in light of his often outlandish behavior and mannerisms. "I went through all the trouble of making it, so the least you can do is have some," in many cases might not seem like such a strange thing to hear somewhere say in their kitchen. However, it certainly becomes strange when anyone who happens to trudge into that kitchen sees that the conversation is one-sided, taking place between a man, and a bird - a common grackle - on a string, over the latter's reluctance to drink from a mug of tea. But Jensen Raith is concerned, and when Jensen Raith is concerned, the unusual and strange suddenly become quite ordinary. "Just a tiny sip, teeny tiny one."

Or perhaps they do not.

"She doesn't like you." Comes the distinctly British and distinctly grumpy voice of one Ethan Holden. A white t-shirt fits snugly on the frame of the frame of the muscular man. A loose pair of sweatpants and eventually a pair of kinda-pink slippers. More of a dusty rose, but whatever color it is, it most definitely does not fit on Ethan. Not just for taste reasons, his feet barely manage to squeeze into the things without busting the whole shoe apart. But it's all he could grab and the ground was looking dirty… Eh. "I don't mean just the bird, I mean every she in general. Just take it as a fact of life to remember for later on." Walking over, the Wolf glances in the bird's tea. "Did it drink any?"

Perched on the edge of the mug, its clawed feet clutching the porcelain lip between its toes, the grackle has Raith fixed with a dubious look — or at least as dubious a look as its narrow face is capable. In the dim light of the kitchen, its feathers appear black instead of their usual iridescent blend of metallic purple and glittering bronze. One pallid eye turns on Ethan when he enters the kitchen, flicks down at the slippers on his feet and then back up to his face.

Its beak parts into what is definitely an expression of either irritation or aggravation, followed by a thin hiss that originates somewhere in the back of its throat.

"Not even a little," Raith replies, his voice carrying a mixture of irritation and sadness, as if the bird drinking tea was very important to him. "Do you want sugar in it? We have a little sugar, but if you want milk, you're out of luck. Or maybe it's too hot, or not hot enough? Ethan, you're British. What do you know about tea? Hopefully more than you know about slippers."

The mug that has been untouched save by little claws is grabbed as Ethan makes a shooing gesture with his free hand. Once the mug is reclaimed by human hands, he goes wiping off the brim with his t-shirt. Before finally taking a sip. "Thanks Jensen." Ethan says smugly before going to take a seat on the counter. Letting out a long refreshed slash tired sigh, he leans back. "Did wanking it off get too boring, thought you'd come talk to birds instead?" Ethan asks, with a tilt of a brow at Raith.

The grackle ducks its head and springs from the mug to avoid being swatted by Ethan's hand. String snapped taut around its matchstick leg, it doesn't get very far; with an audible click of claws scrabbling against the table as it rights itself, it falls back to earth, one wing held out at an awkward-looking angle as if twisted somewhere close to the shoulder. It's not that the string isn't necessary — it could fly if it needed to, but it's clearly injured in some fashion or another, or it would be putting up more of a fuss instead of picking up the string in its parted beak and attempting in vain to scissor through it and free itself from Raith's finger.

"Tipi," comes a dislocated holler out the door, around the corner, and down the hall to whatever bit of turfed-up plastering and unilluminated hallway Teodoro is fussing over right now. Something falls. Whatever it is, it's hard-edged and as solid as the floor, but not heavy enough to have to worry that the old dispensary is going to lose another few prettyness points. Its stood up this long under— how many armies? "Hey," he floats another syllable down, this time language-neutral. "Hey.

"Did anybody see where I put the electrical tape? And I thought I brought some string." These errant objects may be regarded as the side-effect of utmost carelessness, given the known proclivities of those at the dispensary. Other places, you'd be worried about leaving your valuables out.

Briefly, Raith's eyes move from the bird to the direction that Teo's voice came from, and then back to the length of string connecting him to the grackle, preventing them from being separated, and then back once more to the of Teo's voice. "No idea, paisano," he calls back, "Did you check the basement? Maybe the gremlins took it." That done, Raith raises one finger to give the grackle the lightest of bops on the head as it tries to severe the string. "Maybe it's cold," he suggests to Ethan, or maybe to no one.

"Lukewarm." Ethan grunts, glancing at Teo as the youngest man pops in. Setting the mug down next to him, he stares hard at the Sicillian. "I might 'ave found it while bored and 'id it somewhere around the 'ouse to make you look for a long time. Or maybe I'm just saying that so now you'll think I did that and start lookin' really 'ard, while forgettin' even more where you actually put it. Or maybe theses slippers are too fuckin' tight." The pink-ish slippers are kicked off, or wedged off as the case may be. Either way they eventually drop to the ground. "For fucks sake. She's the size of an anorexic midget." He pauses, looking thoughtful. "Do those exist?"

For its small size, the grackle rounds on Raith with a surprising degree of swiftness and ferocity, and although the tap to the head knocks the string from its beak, it also puts his finger in a position to be bitten. The snap isn't enough to break skin or draw the mercenary's blood, but it does leave a raw, red mark just beneath knuckle of his left index finger.

It's nature's equivalent of a warning shot.

Thump thomp thump thump. "Come the fuck on." Teo's figure inks itself in in miniature down the hall, slotting long shadow through the shafted light through the window. "Do you fuckers want to be able to see around here at night or not? Heat during winter?" he yells across the indeterminably long hallway, not otherwise making a very subtle job of trying to remember where the fuck the door to the basement was. A lagged beat, as he tramples to a stop and wipes dirt off palm and onto pant leg, speculating at the gummily green-painted door on his right, before the squiggle of incipient violence catches the corner of his eye. "What the Hell is on the table?

"Are you going to eat it?" He hooks a hand over his brow, shading his eyes, squinting consideration, tries to remember what his few hunting trips with Jesse Alexander (read: Al hunts, Teo carries brown-bagged lunches at a sufficient distance so as not to scare away the prey with his city boy feet) that could have been that size.

"I am not going to eat it," Raith replies to Teo, "If you could call it eating. It'd be more like, 'nom, gone.' Not really worth the effort, if you ask me. No meat, all bones, and probably wouldn't taste very good. Besides, we're manly men. If we want a bird, we'll go out to a nearby farm and bag a couple chickens the old-fashioned way."

"Maybe it misses its chicks. Do you think, Teo?"

"Come the fuck on, really? Fuck really wasn't necessary in that sentence Teodoro. You don't need to curse to validate yourself or feel like a man." Doctor Holden says with a light sadistic smile from behind his recently claimed mug. Slowly going to slide off the counter, Ethan sets the tea back down on the counter. "You can 'ave what's left." He gestures to the mug as he steps over the slippers and away from his now abandoned tea. "And you need to watch your fuckin' mouth." Holden snaps at Teo as he goes to exit the kitchen area and back, seemingly to his room(ish).

Unlike their cousins the blackbirds, grackles do not always hop to get from place to place. Like the long-bodied predators with mouths full of sharp teeth and hooked claws on agile feet from which they evolved, they are capable of stalking — which is exactly what this little female is doing right now as she paces the length of the table, back and forth, back and forth, all the way to the end of the string each time.

I've had about enough of this, Eileen Ruskin's disembodied voice pricks at Raith's consciousness once Ethan has disappeared from the kitchen and his retreating footsteps are no longer within earshot. The grackle puffs out its chest, plumage shimmering as a tremor passes down the length of its spine and bristles feathers at the tip of its tapered tail. I'm giving you one last chance to bring me back to my body. Do you hear me, Jensen? I'll drag him into it, don't think that I won't!

"Si, Madre, faro. Non amo pensare di perche lei lo guarda." Teo answers the Englishman, as they pass each other very nicely in the hallway, the Sicilian's nose faintly creased as if his fellow European is emitting an ungentle odor.

There's a certain lack of snipe or crow in his voice even when he goes on a bit in the Italian, however, no deliberate fight picked there in part because he's distracted. By the bird. "But if it's a bird," he switches language tracks as easily as you've ever done anything in your life, "then it could be." Eileen. He interrupts himself and simultaneously halts in the kitchen's doorframe, staring in a charmingly naive facsimile of disbelief. That's his string, but more importantly, there's a startlingly emotive grackle tied to it.

A beat. "If you need a knife to cut it loose," he hedges, helpfully.

"Why would I want to do that?" Raith asks, "Considering as how she's perfectly happy being tied up to my finger, in out of the cold, where there was, until very recently, a cup of hot tea for her enjoyment. Why would she ever want to leave? Answer me that, Teodoro. Why?" Besides the obvious, of course. Whether or not these are her friends (albeit not very good ones), the situation is likely to be profoundly embarrassing for Eileen. And that is probably why Raith is keeping her tied up to his finger.

Profoundly embarrassing though the situation may be, there is only so much abuse that Eileen is willing to tolerate before her pride begins to crumble. Ethan, at least, is gone, and looking to Teodoro for help is less humiliating than if she had to turn to the other two men who call this place their home. She's not sure whether she should be counting Kazimir — his place is in Peter's head.

The grackle comes to an abrupt halt at the edge of the table, straightens its back and looks down its beak at the Sicilian from its perch, string trailing loosely behind it. He knows very well who I am, she says. I tell him to take me upstairs to my body, and instead he binds me to his finger like a child's balloon. If you've a knife, never mind the string. Cut him!

Ambivalence when granted the opportunity to use violence on another human being is oddly refreshing for Teodoro. He has a knife out, now, an automatic blade, popped straight and locked for use, and is diverting a quizzical expression between the former CIA agent and the unhappy avian tethered to his digit. His mouth keeps twitching toward a bared-tooth shape like a capital letter D flipped over, a grin inversed into a grimace. "I'm sure she'll want to come right back," he offers Raith, finally, diplomatically coming forth to clip the string loose with the blade's edge, if both grackle bird and gentleman will consent to allow him to pinch the tether up between forefinger and thumb.

"I don't remember you having this trick before, Eileen." One might suspect that were Teodoro Laudani less polite, or less familiar with the complexity and variety of ability applications, he would have said 'problem' instead of 'trick.' "It's really cool yours develops like a living thing. Mine kind of sits. And doesn't work sometimes."

Consent never really enters into the mix. There's something about someone else having a knife when he doesn't that makes him compliant. Someone he doesn't have any particular interest in folding in half, at least. "Told you before and I'll tell you again, just say the words, and I'll help you learn to use it." One might argue that Raith not having an ability of his own would be a significant damper in teaching others to use theirs. But when has Raith ever been interested in facts that didn't support his position?

I can go back to my body anytime I want, Eileen explains to Teo in a tone lacking complete confidence. She would very much like to believe what she's saying, but moving between girl and bird and vice versa is something like jumping the gap between two skyscrapers. The less distance that separates springboard and destination, the better. It helps if I'm sitting next to it.

The instant that the string is finally severed, the grackle takes advantage of the slack and gives its leg a brisk shake, though this does nothing to loosen the knot above its left foot. Still, it's free of its captor — and that's what is most important. A flying leap carries it from the edge of the table to Teo's chest, where it sinks claws into the loose fabric of his shirt and begins climbing the length of him as soon as it manages to secure a foothold.

To Raith: The least you can do is pick up my slippers. This is a kitchen, not a closet.

This is immensely peculiar, though not because it's the first time Teo's ever been climbed by a bird. Heh heh. As it were. Heh heh. He's quick to make sure the knife isn't going to accidentally anybody at the table, be they six-something and sallowly insouciant or one foot even and puffed up in worry. He obliges to bend his head to one side that she might have more shoulder to latch onto, and then possibly an ear, depending on whether or not her final destination is the roof of his skull or just that. He is unconcerned by the dimples her claws press into his shirt. "There are other words need saying first, though, aren't there?

"Like, 'nuclear holocaust,'" Teo thumbs the switchblade shut before he dares fiddle speechmarks in the air with his forefingers. He slants a pale eye down his cheek, following the grackle's progress with the nostalgia of a former pet owner. "'Agenda,' 'where's' 'the' 'rest' 'of' 'my' 'string.'" Not that he's like! Avoiding his mutation or anything.

"You know, you really have an unhealthy fixation with string, Teo," Raith replies to the implied question, although it's impossible to tell if he's joking or not, "Sort of makes me concerned for you, you know. It's always the quiet ones… okay, I guess you're safe after all, then." But all the same, Raith produces from his jacket pocket the string Teo has inquired about. See? Only borrowed.

The grackle clambers all the way up to Teo's shoulder like a tiny mountaineer and settles in the hollow created by his collarbone, flank pressed against the side of his neck and head tucked under his chin. There's a moment where the trailing string catches on one of his jacket buttons, but this is remedied with a quick tug and snap of silver beak.

I'm going to murder him in his sleep, Eileen confides in the Sicilian. He doesn't lock his door, you know. He's that arrogant. I could walk right in and stab him in the neck with a pair of scissors and he'll have already bled out into his pillow by the time he realizes what's happening.

It's true: the Sicilian is relatively talkative. As compared to the woman who owns the voice in his head, for instance. Teo gives Jensen a small smile, no teeth, squinty with sincerity around the eyes, careful not to lay it on too thick. Everything is copacetic. "Grazie." He accepts the string with a deft forefinger and thumb, stoops only slightly, his chin returning affectionate nudge to the high-gloss roof of the grackle's head. "I should get back to work. Generator seems to be running okay, so—" he grates a pause, lifts brows, scissors a diplomatic gesture out of splayed fingers. "Until it explosively herniates gasoline over the whole building and kills us all in fire or something, everything that's wired should work all right.

"Need a lift, piccolo?" He doesn't know where she's currently storing her body or if a window with a Southern exposure would be sufficient, but it seems impolite not to offer some form of transportation.

"Glad to hear. It'll have to do unless we figure out how to get on the grid. Maybe now we can start converting the van." Into what, exactly, Raith does not, and never has specified, although there really aren't many things a van can be converted into. "Both of you, keep up the work. So far, it's been good. I'm proud."

A lift would be lovely, thank you. The grackle has adopted a new tactic of handling Raith that involves ignoring him with pointed deliberateness, its angular face aimed toward the stairwell. Toes flex against Teo's shoulder as it shifts its weight from one foot to the other. My bedroom door should be open, which is of course different when she leaves it that way while asleep, comatose, or otherwise out of touch with reality. If you could be so kind as to set me down on the nightstand, I won't trouble you any more.

Eileen will just have to come back down for her slippers after.

Though there's a point of curiosity for the van, Teo harbors a lot of points of curiosities about enough things around here, and what they're doing, and what his participation could do to them that it doesn't do more than pry his left eyebrow up in quizzicality for the briefest of moments.

A'ight. It's like having the dad he'd always wanted, and a version of his mom who's balding and has her cellulite redistributed in horrible places and hypocrisy repackaged into less socially-acceptable terms, but nevertheless imparts the same fundamental wisdom. "Thanks," he says, this time in English, grinning sudden, almost shyly, and brilliant. "Let me know if you need something else." He tosses off a wave with his right hand and turns for the door, plotting out the proper course of navigation out ahead.

The reader may note the presence of some interpersonal intrigue in the fact that Eileen doesn't ask him to get her slippers. He will have to discover that she actually likes pink some other time. And of course it's different when she leaves her door open. He bears her along on his lope, scratching dry shoes along concrete, commenting something about the weather, and fish, or how the fishing used to be. Grackles eat minnows sometimes. "I worry about losing my body too."

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