ghost2_icon.gif huruma_icon.gif

Scene Title Stigmata
Synopsis How many sentimental sociopaths will it take to make a saint out of John Logan?
Date July 5, 2009

Staten IslandThe Rookery

After the bomb, Staten Island grew to become a haven for undesirables. If the Island is their home, then the Rookery is their playplace. Equal parts gritty and decadent, it boasts dark alleys, bright lights, and every pleasure that one could imagine. Provided you know where to ask, of course.

Some areas have fared better than the rest of the island; some have fared far worse. For each well-tended brothel or gaming house, there's at least one creaky, crumbling structure left over from the days of pre-bomb suburban glory.

The population is considered universally distasteful, even by much of the rest of Staten Island. Criminals, refugees, victims of radiation poisoning… Those who have nowhere else to go often end up here. The most common method of getting out is to have your body dropped in the river, followed closely by being left wherever it is you got killed.

Good luck.

There are any number of people who find it good policy to walk softly and carry a big stick. Ghost wisely counts himself as one of that number.

It's another thing entirely when the person you're looking for happens to be the big stick. The edge afforded by the fifty-foot abiliy radius he has over the empath isn't so very great. Almost irrelevant, really. It doesn't matter so very much, how far away you are from your mark on first notice, when you're planning to go right up and speak to them.

Anyway. Helpful or not, he senses her first. Inside the ruins of the Happy Dagger, one figment of sentient consciousness, walled off against the scorched plaster, shattered wood, and carpet reduced to sand by whatever existential membrane defines a human apart from her surroundings. People move past on the streets below. Cafe workers, sex workers, pushers, users, a homeless man reeking all over of urine, a plastic carton half full of molding burrito hanging out of knob-jointed hands.

The derelict's looters, thieves, vandals are long gone, either having picked the bones clean earlier or having been chased off the carcass as vultures and carrion crawlers by the approach of a leopard.

She senses him second. Curiosity honed to a point of tapering acuity, not quite cold. A bedrock of old rage grumbling low, below, deep beneath the surface of practical paranoia and conditioned awareness, and something abstractly but unmistakably familiar.

Many a thing is familiar to Huruma, when skulking over the ruins of the Happy Dagger. Primarily, the feeling of those that skirt around the burnt shell of building, tentative. The same vibes that are given off by those carrion crawlers, yes. In her case, her presence there seems to have cast them to the winds. Fortunately, for everyone involved. Like static, the field that concentrates around her flickers in and out, off and on, testing the cool night air like whiskers.

Huruma's figure is pacing through the skeleton of the old brothel, silent and eyes downturned to the ashen ground. She appears to be the victim of introspection and inspection at the same time; though she is not searching for something, the tall woman meanders through regardless. The usual clothing- a bustier, pants- black. Heels that make her teeter higher than usual. It is no surprise, however, that she navigates the ruins with ease. And finally, his familiar scent comes to her- so to speak. Huruma waits quietly, until it feels close enough through that large field of invisible whiskers. A phantom tail lashes back and forth.

"I need t'shake th'hand of whoever-" The dark woman drawls, lips pursing. "-had this ….bright idea. Fire is God's best cleanser."

A snub-nosed boot shoves half a door aside, a twitch of muscle staying his balance in easy distribution across even paces. Ghost doesn't even break his stride doing this, moving through the cloy of unsettled dust and disturbed ashes as if it had choreographed his passage beforehand. He comes into view between a gap-eyed window and the wall Huruma is stalking past.

Black is functional. Can be dressed down or dressed up. He falls in the former category today, and two pendants hang off his neck. One, a sailing ship framed in a circle no larger than a coin; the second, a carved shield. He's probably armed, but it doesn't show.

Teodoro Laudani is no longer the grim little Sicilian who had spoken out of turn in the stony gut of a subway ruin once. Ten years older, a dozen shades darker, tattoos replaced by one rucked keloid sidewinding up his spine and Fate's stamp print on the back of his neck. He retains his height, the boreal pale of his eyes, if not nearly the seeming soapmilk blindness of hers. And the sharp corner to his lopsided smile.

Though that particular expression wasn't one that Huruma had invited overmuch during their brief acquaintance before. "Same here. Probably owe him or her a round of beers, as well. Looking for something?"

Armaments are always meant to be hidden, aren't they? A cat's claws are always sheathed until they're needed.

"No…" Not quite. Not yet. Huruma's answer comes lightly, almost taunting in its shortness. The woman winds a passing circle to the side of the gutted wall, one hand trailing out over the charred black. Reminiscent of trailing that stick through the dust. Her nails scrape against peeling wood and paper. If she recognizes any part of him in any capacity, physical or not, she does not show it. Though, it is clear that there is a burning agitation in her aura.

"…are you?" Huruma's head tilts into Ghost's direction, dilated pupils in the wavering darkness settling onto his.

"Yeah, I was looking for you," Ghost answers promptly, stepping out of the way of the window. He drags his shadow along with him, until it snaps to a halt at a sharp jut from his feet, allowing the unobstructed light to define motes in the air. The ghost closes his fingers and fits them into the pocket of his jeans, knuckles pushing a sharp triangle of knuckles against the flat of denim.

He looks down at the rubble at her feet. The size of the newly-fashioned boulders would seem considerable next to anybody else, but Huruma's a mountain over stones, seems to fill the blackened, shrunken carcass of the building as if she were wading through a dollhouse. There's a brief show of teeth, white against the dark. "There was a man the fire didn't touch. Who could use a little cleaning up, divinely inspired or otherwise."

That is, incidentally, exactly what the Dagger was. A dollhouse. Wherein there was one strange little boy, posing arms and playing dress-up. Huruma stills her gaze, and eventually, it feels as if she intends to cause her own fire with that intent look- and possibly, she does send one. A popping of wariness, like carbonation fizzling out of the top of a soda can. A tickle.

"Of course it did not touch him. He is a coward." She states, flatly, a fact to her. Her boots in the rubble knock aside crumples of garbage as they turn, her face keeping focused while her body flickers closer, measured and slow. "I suppose-" Huruma purrs somewhat mockingly, eyes lidding and nostrils flaring in a subtle shift of irritation. The glare of a predator, in its most raw term. "-that you know where he is, mmm?"

More than one strange little boy, even if Ghost doesn't look young enough to qualify the term for now. His eyes narrow around a smile, which isn't exactly in defiance of the sentiment that radiates out at him from the African woman on psychic conductivity better than your average sense of sympathy.

Cat's smile this way. "He is that," he agrees, shrugging his shoulders down into oblique lines, a parody of relaxation in paranoia, sending a twitch of reflection down the sinuous chain around his neck. "Spineless. Heartless, if not soulless— I'm not sure how you'd tell, anyway. And I do, yeah. Why? Care to meet him?" As suggestions go, this one probably has all the subtlety of an autowreck.

Or a toilet joke. There's a reasonable facsimile of mirth clawed depth into the lines around his eyes.

Thing is, Ghost was not purely there to have a house of dolls for his very own. Dolls were all that Logan knew how to control. How to make.

The absurdity of his sudden question is lost on Huruma, who only gives him another appraising squint as she steps closer. "I can tell. Did you know?" Perhaps he did, in some regard. And in some ways, she can tell- it was not a whole lie. Her heel comes down on the ashen floor with a softer knock than the others, and the woman's attention is quick to dart downward to her boot. Neck curving, she stares, considering.

"I very much woul'like t'do that…" Not that Huruma could not eventually do it herself.

Meeting a guy in New York isn't so very great a challenge, it's true, particularly when the population subtotals in at about eighty on a good day. Less so for Huruma than for most, built to find people as other large cats are constructed to find their prey, define the borders of home, sort what social niceties they deign to. "I've heard.

"I know more about him," Ghost acknowledges, a cant of dark brows making light of the subject matter even before he provides the words. "Maybe not everything. I suspect there are depths to the wading pool of his personality that haven't yet been sounded, despite his many and various experiences with mortal terror, torture, being tortured.

"Do you think you'd get along?" He swivels one heel up over the toe of his other shoe, settles one shoulder against the scorched flat of his own shadow. He knows a little bit better than to stare overmuch at the floor that has borrowed Huruma's attention.

"Once upon a time, perhaps, but-" Huruma begins, her voice low, eyes lowered. "-he'as proven more of a tick in m'side than a man worth keeping about…" And she moves, finally, her boot lifting and coming back with a smack upon the edge of something under the ash. A slab of charred wood, heavy wood. It slides off with a crack, a puff of gray dust leaping up in escape.

"If by tha'you meant I lack a soul and woul'get along with other soulless brigands- I respectfully disagree." The tall woman leans down, her long, careful fingers brushing at the ashen ground almost daintily. Her hand moves underneath of something in the ruin, the muscles of one shoulder tensing before she draws it up with her once she stands straight. A book, it looks to be, charred around its cover, its edges, but other than that-

Huruma flicks it open, ash sprinkling into the palm that holds it. Another turn of the page, this time careful. "Mmmm… My goodness, and my fortress; my high tower, and my deliverer; my shield, and he in whom I trust; who subdueth my people under me…"

The ghost's other sharp-cornered shoulder hits the wall, then, the center of his balance tilted of the fulcrum of his person. Something turns over behind his eyes as he studies the oblique slant of the woman's face, something quick and lively but bloodless, like the flash of a silverfish moving under glass. Subtle acknowledgment for the book she hunts up with the fetch of her hand.

For her words, also. "No," Ghost answers, presently. "That's not what I meant. I don't think soulless is what you are."

He might even really, seriously know what he's talking about. The line of his spine curls slightly, tangential to the heat-marred face of the wall. Saint Michael tilts, executes half a twirl in deference to dusty gravity. "Does it sting?" His smile is sudden, reflexive. He clarifies: "Your soul. The having thereof. That the brigand" the singular is deliberate, thoughtful, "wouldn't understand."

She keeps her mental whiskers erect, eyes coasting around the ashen ground past the open book. Huruma is still, like a statue. "Not a sting.

"More of… a weight. Tha'iron ball within your chest. They come in different sizes…" Hers may actually be very small. Cracked. Rusted. "…an'I suspect tha'when a man is soulless… tha'is th'very same iron ball tha'th'devil welds onto th'end of a chain he lashes around your ankle."

Huruma seems to make the relation off her cuff, eyes roaming to him and head cocking in inner thought. Her gaze does fall to Saint Michael, after what seems a moment of something tense- tightness, a second of stretching in wait.

"Sounds about right," Ghost answers. As if he could understand. Maybe he can! After all, he knows where Logan is, trawls the blackened bones of the Dagger's scorched carcass, offers cannibals visitation rights. The distinction and varying pains between having a soul and not could be known to such a man.

There's something slightly wrong with him on this and other levels. Huruma's empathic whiskers brush texture that goes against the grain, an unforseeable, subterranean dermis of emotion pulling puckered underneath the first, an echo, and then stranger still yet another. It isn't conflict of sentiment— something Huruma is intimately familiar with, but the presence of other minds, overlapping. All remain wary, albeit only dully, dreamily so; none bear her hostility.

Given another moment, maybe two, she realizes also: they all have souls.

"She was my friend." Pale eyes go dark, downturned at the small, dense volume in Huruma's hands. "I use past-tense because I'm not sure about where we stand now. I think she's doing all right, though. Beauchamp."

"Passably so." Huruma drawls, her upper lip curling in a sneer. Not at Abby. She waits, now, investigating in silence both the charred-up bible in her hand, and the little doting dreamers in this stranger. She closes the book with a light smack, smoothing her fingers over the blackened cover, fingertips over indented letters.

"…How many of you, sharing tha'space?" The question is abrupt, brutally honest in a time of what should be secretive meeting. Huruma saunters closer, not having taken her eyes from the book until she comes roughly parallel against the wall, where she turns and leans her weight on one leg.

Passably so. The Bible is the same. Maybe it could suffer under such handling, but Ghost doesn't bother pointing that out or flipping his shit over it. He regards the battle-scarred tome with a mixture of a sociopathic atheist's detached curiosity and a former Catholic boy's haunted fixation, as if he isn't quite sure what it is supposed to mean to him; only that it is supposed to mean something.

Something, something. "What?" Pale eyes snip up at Huruma again, briefly. He splices an instant's worth of a peek into her head, scents the bizarre mingling of persona through the periphery of her ability as well as the shape of his own unrecognizable face through the dark critique of eyes. Ah. "Three," he answers, honestly. "At least one you've met before. I'm a little surprised it doesn't bother you. White fucker showing up out of nowhere, talking about Logan, extra passengers in his head—"

Blunt fingers stripe the cover of the Bible with clean— or a reasonable facsimile thereof, the oil of his skin scraping, lifting motes dust off, slowly, not grabbing, as if half-expecting the woman to snatch the thing away last-minute. When she doesn't, there's renewed quizzicality about the glance that Ghost shifts up at her, not to be mistaken for surprise.

Stranger and worse. After all the hands-wringing and shrieking that Phoenix and law enforcement have granted his theatrics over the past few months, and between reprieves with Hana, it is distinctly if distantly comforting for the ghost to share the company of someone whose standards for catastrophe somewhat closer match his own. Michael above the fanged and furred beast remains indifferent to her attention, but Ghost is not.

"Asante," he answers, presently. He doesn't move beyond the coyly restrained taloning of her hand. Then, casually, pleasantly, as if he were offering a sushi joint recommendation— no terrible pun!— "I was just thinking Logan could do to be a little bothered. For once, I think Abigail might even agree."

Abigail, at the very least, deserves a part of herself back that she lost those months ago in the Dagger. It is likely that Huruma will eventually check to see if the girl received it.

If Huruma knows the shield from her dreams, she never says so. Instead, she fondles it in one long dark hand, eyes drawn onto Ghost's face and her sense of touch examining the texture. "Bothered." The confirmation of sorts is low in volume, the woman's smooth voice reverberating between the two bodies. "Perhaps." Fingers, palm, claws, close around Saint Michael, the weight of the African woman's forearm tugging ever so slightly on the back of his neck. Her voice vibrates between them once more, a purr, playfully dangerous in its simplicity of tone.

"How much d'you think he can take?"

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