Take Care of Yourself


graeme_icon.gif koshka_icon.gif ygraine2_icon.gif

Scene Title Take Care of Yourself
Synopsis An instruction that could do with being heeded by more than just the youngest member in the conversation. Koshka calls up, and Ygraine and Graeme both feel guilty and worried while trying to reassure and help her. Then Graeme receives a surprise.
Date March 29 2011

Le Rivage - Ygraine's Apartment

It's late in the afternoon. In the normal world the school buses carting students from school have driven past and left their charges to find their way home. But in Koshka's world, there are no buses that move from the housing district of Eltingville to the youth facilities of Harbor Court. She was left to walk home under the watchful eye of her unofficial guardian. And upon returning home, with Brian going off to do his thing, the teenager should be doing homework.

Instead, in the quiet of the run down home, she's drawn out her cell phone. Returned only yesterday when the school day ended, she hadn't even turned it on. It offers a sense of freedom, but also a worry she can't define. But it's far more interesting than the chemistry homework she should be doing. Doubtful she'll ever need to balance formula equations. A pencil taps against the opened pages of the book as her thumb presses into the power button.

Blue eyes slide toward the kitchen and then the front door. But Koshka's the only one home right now. Her thumb scrolls through the phone book until she finds one number in particular. Lingering doubt for any form of help blossoms as she studies the numbers on screen, an uncertainty that wasn't there before the turn of events that had her brought into Harbor Court hand cuffed and under negation drugs. Letting out a nervous breath, she presses the send button and raises the phone to her ear, listening with apprehension to the ringing coming through the ear piece.

Just before the answerphone cuts in, there's the hasty fumbling associated with someone snatching up a phone at arm's length. A brief pause, then a somewhat breathless, "Hello?", follows.

In her living room, Ygraine is holding the handset just away from her ear, clasped in her one available hand, while sweat trickles down her back. With Graeme having been chivvied out to undertake a supply run, Ygraine had been indulging in the chance to get a little exercise in privacy, pretending that her home was once again wholly her own. Normally, the phone might well have been ignored… but fears and worries over recently-conveyed information have her anxious not to be out of reach. So her paranoid loathing of contact with the outside world has been part-swallowed, and Koshka duly gets the chance to be panted at down a phone line.

Silence follows on Koshka's end, a lengthy second broken by a pencil being laid carefully onto the open textbook. The teenager again takes a quick survey of the house, which is still empty save for herself, before her voice hesitantly picks up again. "Ygraine?" Another pause, shorter this time, but then the teenager clarifies and reveals herself. "It's Be— Koshka."

Moving to perch on the arm of a chair… then give in and slump into the main body of it, Ygraine squirms a little as she tries to settle her sling into a more comfortable position. "Yes, it's me. Sorry. Was working out. Trying to start pushing my fitness up again, in preparation for the joys of the sling come off in the next few days", she explains, the statement more than long enough to let her accent be heard. "Are you all right?"

"Yeah," Koshka's reply, though her tone still lingers in doubt, is at least truthful. She's alright for the moment. Leaning back, she rests against the front of the couch, legs folding in front of her. More silence, also, follows that answer, as the teen finds she's not sure how to proceed with any other information. "I'm… I'm suppose to be doing homework right now. But I… hadn't said hi in a while..?"

The soft creaking of leather accompanies Ygraine curling up somewhat, finally finding a comfortable position in which to remain. "It's good to hear from you", she says, tone gentle and warm. "I… I've been worried about how things had gone. But I didn't want to nag. But I'm glad you called. And that you're okay. Did… is there anything I can help with? Or would you just like a chat?"

Koshka shakes her head, though the action goes unseen. "I… I probably shouldn't talk too long. I'm…" She pauses as some noise from outside picks up. Over the phone it's hard to tell what it is, but it could easily be yelling and not the sort that would be akin to children playing. The sounds too deep and desperate. "…Everything's fine. I'm safe and… I don't think there's anything to help with."

Ygraine frowns worriedly at her phone, biting her lip while she tries to figure out what on Earth to say. "Koshka… I am glad to hear from you. Please believe me. But I do have the impression that something's up. Can you tell me where you are? Would you like me to come to find you? I have a car - it's set up to drive one-handed, so it's safe…"

"You can't." Koshka cuts in quickly, not quite aggressive but a tone that begs no arguments. "You can't come here. It'd… they'd know. And I can't… we don't know if visitors are allowed either." She hesitates, sinking further into the front of the couch. "I'm in Eltingville," she continues quietly, as though speaking too loudly might bring back the handcuffs and negation drugs. "I'm safe, though. And… I'm in school. Started yesterday." She tries to make it sound better than it is.

That lip gets bitten rather harder, then Ygraine exhales slowly, trying both to calm her worries and steady her breathing. "Is… hrmmm. I might be able to visit you in a bit. I'm waiting to hear back from the DoEA on whether I can get access to Eltingville as a charity worker or not. Right now, I can't get in. But I might be able to soon. I hope. But either way, if there's anything I can do. Even if it's just help with homework…"

"The DoEA is why I'm here," Koshka says, her tone nearing a whine. "I went to Register, and instead of just making me pay a fine they told me I had to come here. Because I'm… I don't have a home. And…" Her shoulders rise and fall, marked by a slight change in breathing. "I should've waited. Or just… when it first was made into law or… Not have called."

Ygraine groans softly. "Crap. I am so sorry to hear that. How… how is it? Where you are? Can you get mail? If I send you anything will it reach you? Not that I have any idea what to send, but I could shop for you out here, if you wanted."

"I don't know." The teenager's free hand wraps around the back of her head, as though she might be trying to hide herself. "It's …I'm suppose to stay at Harbor Court at night but… Some kids wanted to welcome me in and…" Koshka exhales slowly, steering away from that experience. "I'm staying with someone outside of the youth place instead. It's okay, as long as I go to school during the week."

A look is cast up to her books and the pencil is picked up again. "I don't think they'll let me get anything," Koshka continues, leaning forward to stare down at the open pages. "They …arrested me? Kept me in a room alone, and I couldn't feel my ability. I'm… I'm being tracked where I go."

A clearly-audible wince, and Ygraine closes her eyes. "I am so sorry", she murmurs, wondering what went wrong. Or if this is the good outcome and the world's already so screwed up that this is as much as can be hoped for. "The arrest… doesn't entirely surprise me. I thought it was a possibility: a way of showing that they're taking things seriously. But I really hoped that it'd go no further than an unsubtle attempt to scare you, since you were coming forward of your own volition. But the lack of a formal home… that can be taken as making you state property. Bollocks. At least at your age, you're legally competent in ways that younger children aren't. I think that you have a right to ask questions about your care and so on, but I wouldn't want to swear to that. At the least, it… I'm glad you're able to stay with someone. If you're sure you're safe there."

"I couldn't tell them where I was staying," Koshka says defensively. She could have put down a another address, certainly, but the length of time it took before anyone came to 'talk things over' made even that seem an unlikely possibility. "I couldn't even put down my dad. He left after Christmas and… like when I went back around New Year he was just gone. Just a note saying he was leaving and didn't know when he'd be back." She hadn't planned to share that, however it seems relevant to the situation in her mind.

The image of the Jolly Roger begins revealing itself at the top of her homework page as Koshka goes quiet again. For a moment. "I'm safe here," she says again. "And I trust the person I'm staying with. Our neighbor is a really good cook, too." About the highlight of her stay here, living next to someone who can actually make a decent meal. "I don't think anyone will answer questions, either. They weren't before I got out of the youth center."

Another wince, and Ygraine has to bite back another apology. "That's… that's good. And if there's anything you'd like me to try to do, just let me know. I'm a bit more mobile - a bit more useful - than I was when you came to see me. So if something does come up that I can do, please tell me…? And… heck. I'd be glad to hear from you. Talk over homework or whatever."

"Yeah, I'll try." Koshka sighs and glances toward the door. "I don't know when I can call again. They're tracking me." It's repeated, and the teenager turns her attention from the doodles that certainly aren't homework related to poke the eraser end of her pencil at the device encircling her ankle. "And homework sucks. It's just chemistry but…"

Again, the conversation lags as Koshka's end goes quiet except for the background noise. There's some yelling again that comes through on Ygraine's end. Nothing serious, at least it's distant enough to sound as though it's outside. But it explains the girl's tendency toward lapsing into silence.

"I could try to help, if you wanted", Ygraine offers quietly. "It's a fair while since I did any chemistry, but… I took it to a decent level. History'd be my speciality, though… not from the perspective of American school textbooks, I admit. But… anything you want to talk about at all, I'll listen to, I promise. Whether you're tracked or not." Fortunately, she trusts the girl not to start talking openly about the Ferry or the like.

"Ygraine?" Graeme calls out from the door to the Briton's apartment, apparently returned from errands, voice pitched to carry, though he sounds tired, even from the simple walk to and from the store, coming back with several bags. "Could you get the door or something, please?"

"I guess," Koshka's answer is absently given, and the sounds of disagreement outside seem again to be passing. "I don't think I'll ever—" Again her words trail, a new voice barely picked up and received on her end. But it's there, and certainly not a television speaking. "…You're not alone?" The teenager's voice lilts toward worry, mind racing to pick up anything she might've said that shouldn't have been.

Starting to uncurl, Ygraine sighs a little. Curse these mundanely-crippled types who can't redirect the orientation of their burdens so that they can manage simple things like undoing locks. "No. Yes. Sort of. I am, but… someone invited themselves to stay with me a few days ago. I sent him out to do the shopping. But I really should let him in again. I can set him to work unpacking, and take the phone into privacy, if you like?"

Reaching the door, she leaves the phone attached to the side of her head for a moment, undoing the locks and swinging the portal open. "Come in, Graeme. Just dump it all in the kitchen for now."

There's a half a worried glance. "I'm sorry if I'm inter— interrupting anything," he says, almost towards a question. The slightly southwestern cadence and drawl of his voice should be enough to clear away any doubts for the teenager as to the identity of Ygraine's guest, even if she hadn't addressed him by name. The three plastic bags and one paper bag, balanced against his side with his good arm, are carried to the kitchen.

More silence follows, Koshka pressing the phone to her ear as she tries to pick up the conversation on the other end more easily. Then, "Wait. Graeme? Like… the teacher?" Rather than exuberant, she sounds more uneasy. The accent, coming through though still distant to her hearing, seals it. "…Hi, Graeme."

A definite pause, while Ygraine looks perplexed - and closes up the door, this time adding the security chains and bolts, since she's not expecting anyone to arrive with a key. "Yes, he's a substitute teacher, Koshka", she says cautiously, looking around to quizzically raise her brows at the man in question.

This time it's Graeme who sounds surprised, nearly all the way to the kitchen before he turns around. "Koshka?" And there's worry evident in his voice, worry from not having heard from the teenager at all for a few weeks now. One of the plastic bags is deposited on a chair in the dining room, while Ygraine is met with a rather perplexed look, as if Graeme's not quite sure that what he's hearing is real.

"— Yeah," the teenager replies, still a little wary herself. Her words that come next are slow, chosen carefully. "He was… trying to help me… get back into school." Amongst getting Registered and legal forms of employment, but going into detail might be a bad idea at the moment.

Clearly somewhat perplexed, Ygraine moves back through, taking hold of the phone again. "Koshka's in Eltingville", she explains as she carefully switches to speakerphone and sets the handset back on its stand on the kitchnette counter. "She went in to Register, and wound up in care. It… people are looking out for her there. And she's going to school." Let him fill in the gaps from that….

Graeme winces, and makes a soft noise that shouldn't carry over the phone. If anything, there's now more worry on his face than there was, but less in his voice. "Hey there Koshka," he says, now pitching his voice actually for the phone as he begins to take out the food essentials that he purchased and carry them towards the refrigerator. "How're you doing?" He turns to Ygraine, and nods, slowly. He'll explain more to her later.

A roll of her eyes is Koshka's first response to how she's doing, though it goes unseen over the phone. The pause is there, baited as though she might another time have cast some remark. "I'm alright. Like Ygraine said, in Eltingville and going to school. Not entirely by choice." Shifting the phone from one ear to the other, she addresses her homework again, adding more detail to the pirate flag that accents her paper.

For her part, Ygraine is looking quite distinctly intrigued, but she moves to assist Graeme with unpacking rather than pressing for any more information at the moment. "Kohska has chemistry homework to tackle. I don't suppose that it's one of your specialities, is it, Graeme?"

"Been quite a while since I did anything with chemistry," Graeme says. "I'm an English teacher, Ygraine." There's a very soft chuckle. "Though I did pass chem!" He sounds proud of himself. "So if you need help, Koshka, I'll defini— definitely try, give me a reason to brush up on that too." A frown furrows on his face at the difficulty with words. "What's the structure of study there like?" The frown deepens. "And no one's bothering you or anything, I hope?" The tone of his voice has a bitter, personal edge to it.

"It's school," Koshka answers, deadpan. "I go to classes during the day, come home and do homework. And the next day it's the same." She adds the finishing touches to the Jolly Roger then actually skims over the page she's suppose to be reading from. "No one's bothering me," she continues. Either it's a good lie or she's made sure to keep herself well isolated from the other youths. "I'm safe though. I promise both of you."

"Good. Take care of yourself", Ygraine instructs gently. "And… if you do need help, I'm in contact with some of the Dome survivors in there. If you ever need a favour or help, and you don't know where else to turn, there're people there who'd help you out if I asked." Or so the Briton fervently hopes.

The worry fades from Graeme's voice, if not from his face. "Heh, well, don't make your teachers' lives too difficult, 'kay? And yeah, be careful, and all." Graeme picks up the next bag, setting items onto the counter, things that aren't perishable now, including several rolls of paper towels.

"Yeah, okay," the teenager answers in general, her own tone fading toward something more resigned or mutedly disappointed. Not to the offers made, but the situation she's stuck in. "I should go. Homework and… I don't want to lose privileges again. Or… anything else."

Ygraine manages to stifle a wince, then remembers to check something rather important. "If we call, will we be able to get you on this number? We won't pester you, but it'd be good to know…."

Graeme's own wince isn't nearly as stifled, but his tone is gentle. "Yeah. Take care of yourself, Koshka. And for, for what it's worth, I'm sorry." Sorry that he didn't manage to get information before things happened, sorry for several other things that can be left unsaid over the phone line.

Koshka's finger lingers over the end call button, but doesn't press it. She doesn't want to risk her friends or losing her phone again, but she's regretful of cutting off the outside. "It's my phone," she replies quietly. "I'm keeping it turned off, but calls will go to voicemail." She manages a small grin, sad and a little forced, but her head nods to Graeme's apology. "It's my fault, not yours Graeme."

"We'll check in, from time to time", Ygraine volunteers, without waiting to confirm the promise with Graeme. "And do call us, if there's anything we can do. Even if that's just listening. Take… take care of yourself. And hopefully I'll be able to get in to see you soon."

Graeme smiles slightly, and nods in agreement, otherwise silent for a moment. "Take care of yourself, kid."

Koshka, brows furrowing together, manages to nod. "Yeah," she agrees, tone even softer than before. With a sigh, the end button is pressed and the phone is jammed into a pants pocket. Out of sight and, for the moment, out of mind. After rubbing a hand over her forehead, the teenager settles on her knees, elbows pressed against the low table at Brian's place in Eltingville, eyes staring at her homework assignment. Moments pass before she actually begins the work, but it'll be done and ready for tomorrow's class.

Ygraine immediately moves to collect the handset, working on saving the last number dialled into memory. "She… it sounded as if she was put into a care home. She said that some kids tried to 'welcome' her. And now she's staying with someone else, turning up for school. Getting 'good food' from someone next door", she murmurs, before completing the last bleep-inducing instruction.

Now that the phone is no longer on a call, the worry creeps into Graeme's voice again, as he begins to provide the earlier implied explanation for how he knows the teenager. "Koshka's the reason that I wi— winced so much, when you'd mentioned the Reclaimed Zone, when we were still at the hospital," he says, quietly, no longer fighting to keep words in necessarily proper order or pace. "I'd run into her once on the street, almost two months ago. Caught her lifting my wallet, and tried to help out, and then, then she came to me the beginning of this month to ask for, for help, and I tried. Liz and I were looking into what it'd take for her to Register and not get taken into care. I grew up in group homes." The words are quiet, and whether or not Koshka insisted that it was not his fault, the teacher obviously feels as though he has somehow failed the girl. "I was hoping to find some way. The system's far from ideal, and she's a good kid."

Ygraine sighs, setting the phone back on its stand, then turning to prop her rump on the counter. "She… she'd run away from home when I met her. Somewhat complicated story that I'm not sure's mine to tell - but suffice to say that it was because she was Evolved, rather than because of… problems at home. But I found her when she'd got the attention of a small group of gangers, and got her out of harm's way. She came here to ask for help at the start of this month as well. I… couldn't do much myself. Was barely holding body and soul together at the time. Was only a week or so since I'd… broken down. But I asked some people to look into helping her. Dunno if they ever did. And now I'm scared that I should have done more. And also scared that this is actually the best outcome that was possible, nowadays. That we actually did get things as right as we could."

Graeme nods, slowly. "I'd been looking into what I could possibly do, asking with some teachers I know," he says. "And Liz was going to ask a DOeA agent that she knows, without bringing names into it at all." He crosses the kitchen to lean against the counter as well. "I dunno, ti— time will tell us that one. I'd offered, I'd offered Koshka that if she wanted, I'd go with her when she went to Register. My position as a teacher should have let me, possibly might have been able to change the outcome. I dunno." There's another pause. "The man she'd introduced me to as her guardian-sort had been, had asked if I'd be interest— interested in teaching a group of kids he watched out for," Graeme says. "But I haven't heard from him at all, either."

"He disappeared, back at the start of the month", Ygraine murmurs. Whether he's reappeared, I don't know. Nor what happened to him. But she found herself with somewhere to stay, but no one she could identify as a guardian, I suspect. So when she showed up to Register… she was a homeless runaway who'd dodged compulsory Registration and has a visible power. What else was the state likely to do but claim her for itself?"

"She couldn't have identified him as a guardian anyway," Graeme points out, voice almost flat as he starts to move around, going for a glass and then water. "And I know. I just wish, wish I'd been able to do more, figure it out, something." The glass of water half-full, he walks to where the four pill-bottles that belong to him have lived, an out of the way corner of counter, while he's been staying with the Briton, and there's a faint grimace at the negation pill, along with the painkiller and antibiotic.

"I sure as hell hope this is the best outcome, for her," he says after having washed down the pills. "I really do." Because he can't shake the feeling that he's failed her somehow.

"I was personally hoping that she could work out something with her father, but…." Ygraine sighs. "I have the impression that there might have been a bit of mutual bridge-burning going on there. Though I honestly don't know the details. But I have the impression that she was sincerely trying to do the right thing with all this. TAke an adult approach. And… being tossed into a home inside a fortified perimeter… I can only imagine that her opinion of her own judgement has been rather significantly dented."

"And prob'ly treated as a flight risk for a while," Graeme says, reflecting on what Koshka'd said about privileges, "no less, which is un— unpleasant." He offers Ygraine a grim smile as he finishes drinking the glass of water and goes for a second one. "And yeah, she was."

"She only got her phone given back yesterday, from what she said", Ygraine murmurs. "And getting into that place is virtually impossible. Jaiden and myself are waiting to hear back from the DoEA about whether or not we're going to be recognised as charity workers."

"That's what I've heard," Graeme says, with a small frown. The second glass of water is brought to his lips. "And so um, did you have any ideas for dinner?" There's a sheepish grin now. "I think I'm hungry." Think, because he's still learning to adjust to the signals that his body gives, which really means that he likely shouldn't have eaten as very little as he did for lunch earlier. His phone vibrates in his pocket. "Also, the desk from Dorchester, they called me, called while I was out to find what to do with a de— delivery that was made for me. They said it was, was flowers." Graeme blushes. "So I had it set, for me to meet them outside the building here, and I guess they're here. I'll be right back?"

After a moment, Ygraine realises that considering the best methods by which she can maintain the security of her home while allowing Graeme to nip down to the front dor of the building… that might possibly be a sign that she really is struggling a bit with this whole 'normal relationship to the world' thing. Then she remembers to give the man a reply.

"Uhh, sure. Okay. I suppose it'll be nice to have some fresh flowers around the place. I used to buy them for Jen every now and then, but…. Ahh. Yeah. On you go."

It takes about five minutes, after Graeme manages to collect himself from blushing bright and furious red, before he comes back in, and there's a rather stunned expression on his face as he awkwardly redoes the locks and chain on the door while still holding the flowers. The flowers? A dozen red roses in the beginning of bloom, in a crystal vase, and tucked to be held by one of the straps of his sling is a small teddy bear. There's still a note hanging from the vase, as well, which gets set on the dining room table so that Graeme can stare at it. "He sent me flowers," Graeme says, more to himself than actually to Ygraine. "He sent me flowers." The man doesn't seem to quite know what to do with this knowledge.

"I like the teddy", is the first thing that Ygraine manages to say, after some few moments of staring. Then: "I'll, ahh. Vase. Yes. Already in one. Ummm. Well. They're very pretty. Do you want to put them by the window, or… at the end of the counter, here?"

Graeme smiles a bit, and then quickly realises that there's still a note on the vase, and he palms it, glancing down at it before tucking it between the teddy bear and his chest. "Yeah." And then the same thing that Graeme has already said twice is repeated, again, followed by some rambling, possibly more than Ygraine had actually known before about just how Graeme pulled his stitches, and close to what he'd almost accidentally revealed Saturday. "He sent me flowers, oh god he probably feels horrible or something, I tried to tell him it wasn't his fault or anything…" All the while, Graeme's turned a rather impressive shade of scarlet.

"What Wasn'- ahh." Ygraine coughs, then shakes her head, momentarily casting her eyes Heavenwards. "Right. Well, it seems that someone is sweet on you, all right."

Graeme turns a slightly deeper shade of red that's starting to extend to his ears as well. "I'd kinda hope so, by now," he responds. "I just didn't quite expect flowers, I mean, I've lived most of my life in the closet out of sheer necessity — being able to acknowledge a relationship, things like flowers, those never were a part of things." Graeme seems honestly quite touched by it, though.

"Sorry my home's not in the Village", Ygraine says dryly. "Though really, it was a great deal less 'colourful' even in oh-six than some of the stories would suggest. And the city as a whole is vastly more accepting these days than it used to be. Heck, even some of the old stereotypes that we found so baffling on the other side of the Pond - those're breaking down. But here, you're free to be yourself, for the most part."

There's half a chuckle. "I suppose that I, I really should call Aric at some point," Graeme says. "And do more than just call when I know he's not going to be there and leave a message, that's been a bit avoid— avoidant of me, I guess." The words are accompanied by a weak smile.

Ygraine shoots Graeme a somewhat disbelieving look. "You are a coward", she informs him, tone dry. "If you need to pluck up courage, then leave him another 'safe' message to let him know the flowers and bear got here, and to arrange a time to speak to him directly."

"Am not," Graeme says, slightly defiantly. "Just didn't want to make him deal with this. Not when I can barely deal with my— with myself." Emphasis leaves little room for doubt as to what this refers to. With the fears and insecurities and struggling, the issues that Graeme's been having with the negation so far. "Am not a coward…I'll call him later, before I go to sleep tonight."

"Good", Ygraine says more gently. "If it's safe, leave him a 'thank you' message now. So he knows that things got here. Call him at home if you know he's at work, or whatever. Don't leave the poor bastard wondering if you're offended or laughing your head off or delighted for too long, will you?"

Graeme nods. His free hand wraps around the teddy bear a little bit, the faint smile on his face a distant, thoughtful expression now for a moment. "Yeah. I'll go do that, then."

Gently shaking her head once more, Ygraine - perhaps fortunately - manages to keep her chuckle to herself, instead setting about arranging the roses in a prominent place of honour in the living room, leaving Graeme and his new bear to go and make that call.

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