Summer Air and Spiced Smoke


eileen_icon.gif joe_icon.gif lucrezia_icon.gif

Scene Title Summer Air and Spiced Smoke
Synopsis Lucrezia pays the Lighthouse refugees a visit and shares some valuable information with one of the women keeping watch over them.
Date July 16, 2009

The Garden

While remarkable for its rarity, there is still such a thing as a quiet night to be had on Staten Island. Maybe not in the Rookery, perhaps, but elsewhere inland there's an overgrown cottage covered in moss and ivy and hidden away behind high stone walls that plays host to a motley crew of unfortunate souls cast-off from all corners of the wayward world.

Behind the house, somewhere amongst knee-high grass and unusually overflowing beds of magnificent wildflowers, lie three figures on the lawn — the longer shadow cast between bookended bodies — beneath an animate canopy of synchronized fireflies moving in formation. There's far too many bugs for this sort of display to be anything akin to natural but the reason for this is swiftly made apparent when one bookend attempts to make a swipe at an unfortunate insect that dared dance within arm's reach and the voice that gently chides comes complete with an Italian accent: "Non, Lucia, let them be."

Lucy recoils her hand and lays her arm back down by Lucrezia's left side while roly-poly Carmen remains ever the angel on the right. Slowly but surely, more and more lime luminescence flows in over the surrounding walls and descends from unseen breaks in the trees. It is impossible to say how many might still be on their way, unable to resist the intangible call of the Queen.

Little orbs peek through the barely open window from the small building. For a moment they swing back this way and that, before shutting and opening rapidly. And then, they disappear.

A moment later the backdoor creaks open a solid inch, those same orbs appearing behind the cracked slit made through the door. Then the door slowly swings open. A little shoe plants itself just out of the house as a small figure makes his way into the darkness. Those orbs are glued on the three females on the grass. Though for a moment, he is hypnotized by the flying buggies, his stare goes back to the largest of the females.

Joe has never been much of a talker, when he was in Brian's care, the most he would ever say to other people would be 'Okay' though ironically since the explosion of the Lighthouse, and the loss of their caretaker, Joe has remarkably found a vocabulary. "Who are you?" The little invulnerable boy asks sternly of the woman, taking a step towards Lucy and Carmen as if to protect the duo from the woman already laying with them. His arms fold threateningly over his chest as he stares down, trying to ignore the fascinating display of dancing lights… But it's hard! And for a moment Joe allows himself to look up and stare, without smiling, mind you.

There are no rules against smoking indoors, but most of the safehouse's occupants have the presence of mind to realize it isn't courteous — Eileen included. She's been watching Lucrezia and the girls in reverent silence from her seat on the cottage's stone stoop for the past few minutes, a lit cigarette dangling between two fingers, and could easily be mistaken for one of the evening's many lengthening shadows. Her dark hair and the subdued tones she's chosen to wear do very little to make her stand out against her surroundings, swathed in ivy and a nebulous cloud of silver smoke that catches what light remains and further obscures her slim silhouette.

A beaten-up package of Newports sits between her bare feet, its foil glittering like the scales of a fish, stark in contrast to her pale skin's matte finish or the woolen texture of her clothes. She remains still for the time being, visible as a vague outline and a solitary pinprick of burning embers that resembles one of the Spider Queen's dancing insects.

Lucrezia does not so much lift up her head from the pillow provided by a single palm laid knuckles down against the soil as she does arch her neck in order to observe the small sentry in an upside down world. "Ciao, carino," she says sweetly to the little boy with the stern stare. He reminds her of someone else — older now, of course, but still so similar at the same age. "Do you know the blond man who sometimes sleeps in that bedroom up there?" Her inquiry is issued along with a sweeping gesture of one arm lifted so that an index finger might indicate a window over both their shoulders and to the left. "I am his…" Desire and revulsion. Torment and salvation. Not unlike that certain someone seated in the shadows on the steps, although their roads are undoubtedly divergent. "…friend." Or the closest thing thereto. "Would you like to join us?"

Little Lucy, however, has other ideas and objects to the invitation straight away with a strained and slightly hypocritical, "No, Joey, don't. You'll scare them away." Because bugs are terrified of boys, you see. All however many hundred of them there must be, most certainly. Unlikely. As if preternaturally aware of the wee argument taking place, one brave insect alights on the very tip of Joe's nose and says hello with a mild green glow. Lucrezia's smile, however inverted, remains consistent and welcoming.

Meanwhile, the Italian woman keeps several dozen eyes on Eileen, sending a small brigade of winged stardust to weave their way through her smoke rings, if only to assert that her presence is noted and not forgotten.

"No." Joe answers pointedly, adding more venom into a single syllable than some would think possible. Especially for a boy his age. His eyes don't follow the finger that points upward. His attention is fixated onto Lucrezia, now that he has finished being distracted by the little light bugs. His arms stay folded sternly over his chest. "No I won't." Joe retorts rather hotly to Lucy. "You shoulda asked before you came outside. It's night time." Asked who? He's not really sure. The chain of adult authority has been shaky at best lately.

Joe tilts his head back at the bug touching his nose. He doesn't often get afraid of physical pain, it's easy to do when things barely hurt you. But annoyances, those still happen. "Why are they here?" Joe asks, a little perturbed at the presence of all the bugs having come uninvited.

If Eileen has any complaints about lightning bugs, they are flimsy things of poor construction and won't stand up against more than a few moments of cat-eyed scrutiny. She rises from the stoop, abandoning the package of cigarettes by a makeshift ashtray fashioned from the warped blade of a ruined garden spade, and steps off the rock into the red fescue. Not much taller than some of the children who used to make their home with Brian at the Lighthouse, she moves through the grass with the purposeful determination and fluidity of something even smaller and sleeker, though she lacks the whiskers belonging to a true feline predator on the prowl, forcing the young woman to navigate her way across the property by sight alone.

Fortunately, this is an easy task even at such late an hour; it isn't long before her rustling footsteps encroach on the gathering, the occasional grasshopper springing out from the path she cuts with her slender legs. The sound of her voice arrives a moment later, low and sibilant but not unkind. "They're here because she is," explains Eileen. "Didn't Brian ever tell you the story of the Spider Queen?"

The sea of fireflies that surrounds them still blithely flickers in subtle sync to the tune played on crickets' legs. Whether dictated by Eileen's approach and arrival or simply silent out of necessity to concentrate on controlling such an impressive swath of blinking beasts, Lucrezia lays back in the tall grass with a girl on either side, and stares up into the sky made up of a myriad false stars without uttering another word. At least, not for the next few minutes… until Lucy once again extends a hand in an attempt to pinch one of the fireflies between two tiny fingers and very nearly succeeds. "Non, Lucia! Smettila!"

Alright, folks. Show's over.

And just like that, the blanket of blinking bugs ascends upwards in unison, out of arm's reach and soon out of sight, dispersing on the wind like so much glittering debris, disappearing in different directions until only a spare half a dozen brave bugs remain within the hidden confines of high Garden walls. Lucrezia slowly rises to her feet, brushing off blades of grass and stray dandelion seeds from her gaucho trousers and satin shirt. Carmen puffs out her chubby cheeks in a pout and casts a disparaging gaze over to Lucy but says nothing to voice her disappointment. Lucy, on the other hand, is preoccupied with eyeing up her fingers. Too slow. Next time.

The Italian woman reaches out a hand, as if to ruffle Joe's hair, but abruptly thinks twice about the gesture and recoils. Perhaps she ought to adhere to her own advice and leave someone else's pet unassaulted; he might bite. Her dark eyes descend and settle on her former compatriot's face and she says, apropos of nothing, "He's still alive. Waiting, I think."

Joe's gaze settles on Eileen. She at least is one familiar face in a sea of strangers. She came by the Lighthouse sometimes, and was obviously trusted by Brian. So when she speaks, Joe listens. "No." He answers quietly. Brian never told him of any Spider Queen. Though the mention of the man causes Joe a moment of involuntary paralysis and silence he finally shakes out of it and is able to look down at Lucrezia and her unfolding arm.

He doesn't move, though watches her recoil. A stern look is cast at Lucy and Carmen. "You should go inside." He mumbles to the girls. Then he glances at Lucrezia. "What." Is said flatly.

The story of the Spider Queen, her Shadow King and the Lord of Wolves is probably best saved for another time. Lips curving into a smile less hospitable than Lucrezia's, Eileen brushes her hand against the small of Joe's back and holds it there, palm flat. The other maneuvers the cigarette between her fingers, careful not to scald herself on the lit end or waft the smoky fumes anywhere near the boy's face where it might snake its way into his nostrils and sting at his eyes. She is nothing if not mindful of her company.

"You can trust Lucrezia," she says, more to Joe's benefit than either of the girls'. If the luminous spectacle she witnessed is any indication, then Lucy and Carmen are getting along splendidly with the Garden's latest visitor — and so they should. "We're safe for as long as she's watching over the house. That's her gift."

The afore-inferred Spider Queen does her very best to wear an expression that might appear magnanimous to the children but readily transparent to the only other individual in the yard over the age of ten. Two very neatly manicured hands make a broad sweeping motion that favors the brick-faced cottage with an imaginary wind as she announces to the surviving wards of a multiplied man no more, "Avanti, avanti! Back inside. Time for bed." The big kids have some business to occupy themselves with out of earshot from the tiny gaggle of younglings.

Carmen, quiet but clever as she is, toddles toward the dimly-lit doorway and disappears beyond the threshold after only a moment's pause to look back over her shoulder at the strange foreign lady still standing in their new backyard. Lucy, likewise, follows suit, but only after she declares, "I'm special, too, you know." Just in case Lucrezia cared. (And she does.)

As for Joseph — well, she'll let Eileen wrangle the defiant little boy-beastie without objection and idles silently in the very same place she's been occupying for the last several minutes. In the meantime, she fishes out a familiar silver cigarette case, struck with a sudden spell of 'monkey see, monkey do' while she waits for some unknown cue to toss out another well-rehearsed line once they're alone. She and Eileen.

Wrangle is a strong word. Apart from a firm application of pressure directed between the boy's shoulder blades, it doesn't take much except for a breathy whisper to usher Joe back indoors. The screen door rattles shut behind him, and if either of the two women are listening for it, they may detect the sound of his feet pattering against the kitchen's hardwood floor as he follows the girls deeper into the house where Mage sits entrenched in a game of Escoba on the living room sofa with one of the way station's older occupants.

Somewhere in the trees, a mourning dove is weeping, its song a complimentary accompaniment to Lucrezia's symphony of crickets. "I was a bit short with you the last time we spoke," Eileen says, her voice losing some of its velvetiness in the absence of the children. She taps the ash from her cigarette with the tip of an outstretched index finger and does not offer the other woman a light — not to be impolite, but because she left her matchbook on the steps along with her ratty pack of menthols and the communal spade-tray. "I'm sorry."

An apology. Intriguing. Lucrezia allows her perfectly plucked eyebrows to lift and her expression to reflect something genuine for once. Surprise, surprise. That is, of course, unless the simple act of opening up the engraved case had suddenly become something awesome and unexpected, a real eye-opening experience. Or perhaps she just caught a momentary glimpse of her own reflection.

Whatever the case, she keeps quiet for a precious few prolonged seconds — the time it takes to retrieve a single cigarette and place it between her painted lips before extending a pair of free fingers expectantly toward the other woman's burning butt. With matches out of reach and a lighter seemingly forgot, they'll just have to make do. Share.

Between the brief moment of physical contact and the first exhale of sweet smoke, the Spider Queen keeps her peace, studying her young companion's features, disguised in early evening's shadow though they may be, with a certain degree of silent lucidity.

"I appreciate your apology," she says at last. "Perhaps you were right." It isn't a complete concession, but— "How are you holding up?"

"Egregiously." Amusement crinkles at the corners of Eileen's mouth and eyes, crow's feet deepening with visible mirth. Lucrezia's surprise, it seems, has not gone unmissed. "Phoenix is tighter-lipped than I thought they'd be, but I'm having a hard time holding it against Chesterfield and Dean." She blows out a steady stream of smoke through her nostrils. "If I was in their position, I wouldn't trust me either. January wasn't that long ago."

Although she isn't wearing the sling that she was when she visited Catherine's penthouse, the plastic brace on her wrist remains. More a precautionary measure than anything, it appears stiff on her arm, vestigial in the same way that her vermiform appendix is — or would be, if it hadn't been removed when she was still small enough to ride on Lucrezia's hip. "I'm getting impatient," she adds, glancing down at her fingers peeking out from beneath the accessory's lip. "I think Ethan is, too."

Big words. While Lucrezia's grasp of the English language is accomplished and admirable, some words just don't translate as well as they ought and she's left to derive definition from context and body language. Subsequently, egregiously ends up meaning precisely the opposite of what it says in the dictionary. This is why the Italian woman adopts a smug sort of smile and exhales the word, "Good." on a cloud of clove smoke.

Ah, Phoenix. It was only a matter of time before Teodoro's tiny terrorist friends found their way into the conversation. "Phoenix is— " Probably lucky that Eileen brought them up first. "…doing what they think is best." And that's just about as close to complimentary as Lucrezia is willing to concede.

"Patience is a virtue," quips the Queen Bee in cliche. "I would think the both of you ought to know that by now. Gabriel certainly isn't going anywhere." The benefit of simultaneous smoking by both parties in a conversation is that a natural sort of rhythm develops between them which allows for an easy pace to be set. Every clip and phrase sounds somehow more philosophical when accompanied by spiraling curls of cancerous decay. "And, besides, I think we may have much bigger problems…" Whatever that's supposed to mean.

Eileen has a difficult time imagining bigger problems. Between Arthur Petrelli's mad bid for power and the shadow of Daiyu Feng lurking in Vanguard's peripheral vision, she has enough trouble to last her for the rest of her life… which admittedly might not be very long, all things considered, but dwelling on this for more than a cursory moment or two is about as productive as staring off into space.

She's trying not to do that right now. The staring. Failing, too. "Kazimir was doing what he thought was best," she says, not that Lucrezia needs reminding. It's a poor comparison for the younger woman to draw, but it at least makes her feelings on the subject clearer than egregiously. "Is this something that can wait until we have Gabriel's body back in our possession, or do I need to start drafting up a Venn diagram of everything that's wrong with our lives?"

For a moment, the tall Italian woman directs her dark eyes off into the distance in order to share something other than sweet smoke and stinging silence with her younger cohort.

"Truthfully, I don't know how much time we have…" Inhale. Summer air. Exhale. Spiced smoke. "…before your namesake damns us to some unknown destruction." Lucrezia always did have a penchant for the dramatic. It's unfortunate, perhaps, that this isn't as much of an exaggeration as either one of them might like it to be. "Catherine told me of a dream that one of their number had involving a large bird dropping feathers that became bombs from the sky…" She inserts a dismissive gesture here, rolling the wrist of the hand that holds her cigarette. "…or some such nonsense. I was never one to put much faith into prophecy. There's too much of the Devil's work in such things for my liking." How this woman manages to reconcile her own life with her ridiculous religiousity remains just another modern mystery. Catholics.

"Regardless, she asked me about Munin." Every emphasized word is also punctuated with a gesture, fingers sweeping through smoke rings as if she were conducting some unseen symphony. "You know, you were not the first to be given that name…"

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