Take Your Humour Black


rue_icon.gif ygraine_icon.gif

Scene Title Take Your Humour Black
Synopsis After some time apart, Rue and Ygraine reconnect.
Date November 12, 2011

Bannerman's Castle

This late in the day, much of Pollepel Island is cast into deepening shadow - sheltered from the lowering sun by either the mass of trees, or the bulk of the castle itself.  But up high on the battlements, one can still bask in the richest part of the fabled ‘golden hour’, seeing the Autumnal woodlands cast in shades of gold, red, and lustrously deep blue.

Ygraine’s means of getting up so high is direct - strolling, gait casual, up and around the outer wall, taking the chance to stretch her legs as she ambles along at ninety degrees to the rest of the world.  For anyone already up on the battlements, of course, the abrupt appearance of someone over the outer edge of the wall might come as rather a shock.

For someone who’s been trying to find a little bit of quiet among all the restlessness of the island’s dwellers, the sudden appearance of another person is a shock to say the least. But there’s no more than flicker of annoyance at that solitude being broken. Especially once Rue realizes who’s just come to join her.

“Yggy Pop!” The girl’s whole face lights up. “Oh my God, you’re alive!” It takes effort, but she stays rooted to the spot, instead of running forward for a hug like she really wants to.

Ygraine, at least, would probably be safe if tackled while clambering onto the correct side of the parapet, but she might have to do some quick work to protect Rue from an excessively long drop.  Thus there’s a moment of distinct wariness as she registers not merely a presence but an enthusiastic one… then the wall-walker hops down onto the (conventional) walkway and cracks a grin.

She’s pallid, looking stressed and worn on top of the effects of months living with next to no sunlight, and her leathers - custom-tailored ones in black and midnight blue, that had quite evidently barely been worn before she served as a motorcycle outrider for the convoy to the Ark - are now battered and dirty.

Still, she holds out her hands, letting Rue decide whether to accept them - or even to move in for that hug.

“I think I am,” she agrees.  “This time, I was wearing a bit of armour under my kit.  And fortune was kind enough to only have me shot where it covered.  It’s good to see you.  And in one piece yourself, it seems.”

When the invitation is extended, Rue rushes forward and hugs Ygraine tightly. “I was worried!” She holds the embrace for a long moment, just grateful for the feel of a friend in her arms - that confirmation that she really is alive - then draws back again to a conversational distance.

Sparkling blue eyes are a little bewildered as she Rue looks the other woman over. “I’m glad you had armor. I got shot at, but didn’t get it.” Which is fortunate, because she did not have armor. She wasn’t supposed to need any. “Are you staying for a while?”

The embrace was returned warmly, if carefully - Ygraine is both mucky and armoured at every joint, courtesy of her present attire.  Now, she smiles back at the taller woman… though it slips into an expression of rueful apology.  “Only for a little, I’m afraid.  I….”  She glances away, towards the mainland, then looks back.

“I have a group of sick and wounded, stashed up on the edge of Boston,” the Briton explains quietly.  “I came down to visit New York, check in on a few places, and see if anyone else had made it back there.  I’m only stopping in at the Island on my way back North.  But I’ve wanted to try to grab whoever I can, to let them know I’m glad they made it.  And that I’m willing to help, if you need me.”

A little grime never stopped Rue from showing affection to a friend. When she’s told that Ygraine won’t be staying, she smiles a little sadly, but nods. “It’s really good that you came back to check in. And even better that you’re going back out there to help people. You’re really brave.”

For a moment, she thinks about asking to go with. Maybe she could be of help? Or maybe it would just be better to get away from the insanity of New York? But, she decides against it, ultimately. “Will you keep in touch? Send some kind of work that you made it to Boston?”

“I sincerely hope that getting in and out of New York was the dangerous bit of this trip,” Ygraine says with a (slightly rueful) laugh.  “But yes, I can do.  Do you have a working phone?  We can trade our current numbers.  Or… I’m not sure quite what data security is like here at the moment.  Messages can be relayed to me through Lynette.  And I’m going to get hold of a radio, so I can contact Noa…”

Then she steps in, and initiates a hug of her own this time.  “Oh, when you’re scared all the time, running into craziness to save the world’s not that big a deal, really.”  She’s at least trying to joke, before turning wholly serious again.  “I’m truly glad you made it out of… all that.  I missed the… the stuff that’s been dominating the news.  We went out underground, from the very bottom of the Ark.  I was… more than a little scared about you guys up top, and everyone meant to be going that way.”

Rue laughs a sort of nervous chuckle as she hug Ygraine back. Because while it’s funny what she said, it’s also entirely true. When you’re scared all the time, it gets a lot easier to make really terrifying decisions. “Thanks. It was… Yeah. I managed to do some good, so that’s what’s important, right?” They lost people, and it hurts. Watching Quinn hurt has been awful.

“Noa or Lynette can get a message to me. I’m not sure phones are going to be all that safe. I left mine back in the city, figuring my aunt’s probably got my line tapped or something anyway.” That’s a joke! But also it kind of isn’t, because Adrianne Lancaster seems to know where to find her “niece” any time she wants to see her.

Ygraine half-smiles, but also cocks her head as she steps back to more normal conversational range… though her hands linger on Rue’s upper arms, if allowed.

“I admit that I don’t know who your aunt is,” she confesses.  “But… yeah.  It’s been a, well. I… saw Quinn earlier today.”  She manages to opt for the neutral surname, rather than either Rue’s personally-chosen epithet or her own formerly-favoured ‘Robyn’.  “That was… well.  I’m glad I did that before I checked in with Brian for a fuller casualty report.”

She winces, shaking her head, before managing another attempt at a smile.  “Doing good is pretty much what we have to hang onto,” she agrees quietly.  “That, and trying to hang onto something of ourselves.  Losing our souls amidst all this would be… the easy choice, in many ways.”

Then the Briton clears her throat, blushing a little as she looks distinctly sheepish.  “Sorry.  You really don’t need some crazy bint moralising at you right now.”

“You’re not crazy,” Rue insists gently, moving Ygraine’s hands from her arms only so that she can hold them. Since they’re comfortable enough with each other for the proximity, Rue is happy to maintain the contact. “You’re right.”

Pale fingers squeeze reassuringly. “I’ve seen a lot of awful things over the last few months, but… But we’re doing good things, so it’s worth it. And if I endure it, that means someone else doesn’t have to.” Fight and maybe die so someone else can live.

“Yeah, I have an official certificate to prove I’m sane - or at least close enough to it to be let out into the wider world.”  Ygraine quirks a lopsided little smile, then squeezes Rue’s hands.

“I… know what you mean,” she says quietly, failing her attempt to hang onto an overtly hopeful or encouraging demeanour.  “It’s… not been a good few years, in many ways, since I came back to New York.  There have been so many things I could never have imagined hearing about, let alone getting directly involved in….  But better me than so many others.”

Then she finds a bark of laughter, shaking her head.  “Of course, it’s something of a luxury to be standing here in one piece, able to bitch about how weird it all has been.  However many decades of therapy we might need, we’re better off than so many people.”

Shrugging slightly, she gives Rue’s hands another light squeeze.  “But… that’s a privilege, isn’t it?  We get to carry on being annoying do-gooder types.  I’ve been at this for years now, and I still haven’t had my first pay-cheque - but at least I might get to be sanctimonious about it some time, eh?”

Mention of a certificate of sanity causes Rue to laugh, which she’s been in need of lately. They probably all have. It’s hard to be the sunny one for everyone all the time.

Listening to Ygraine voice the thoughts that she holds herself makes Rue feel a little more at ease with her own situation. She’s nodding along and laughing with her when she does. “We have the privilege of living long enough to have our lives completely fucked up,” Rue says with a lopsided grin and a look in her eyes that says I’m joking but also I am completely serious.

“Hey, your secret’s safe with me. I won’t tell anyone that you’re freaked out and you won’t tell anyone that I’m not Little Miss Sunshine, and everyone will be happy, right?” She winks. “They’re going to owe us serious back-pay.”

“Oh, I’m scared all the time,” Ygraine admits - freely enough that one corner of her mouth lifts in a self-deprecating half-smile.  “Seriously.  Damn near everyone and everything scares me.  Which… is maybe why running into danger is more something I worry about beforehand than in the moment.”

She shrugs, looking decidedly sheepish.  “Of course, I’m a speed-freak adrenaline junkie, so perhaps that explains it all.  But… honestly.  All this?  Virtually none of it’s so scary as people can be.  The worst bits are… worse, yes.”  Rue receives a decidedly sympathetic look, though Ygraine doesn’t give voice to any of her thoughts regarding the chokepoint massacre of the fugitives from the Ark.  “But… I have to believe that caring about people, caring about helping people, is worth the backlog in pay.  I mean, the misery and suffering.”

A wink, she hopes, confirms that the ordering of those priorities was a deliberate joke.

Rue lets out another breath of laughter, this one brief before the sorrow etches itself into her features. Chin dips to chest, head turning away in embarrassment at her sudden inability to keep her poker face. But she’s grateful for the moment to let her guard down, evident in the quick flash of a quavering smile at the older woman.

“People are shit,” Rue agrees past clenched teeth. “We’re really hopeless as a species, I think sometimes.” She’s kidding, of course, because if there’s one thing Rue is good at, it’s seeing the best in people. Anybody. But she’s not oblivious to the dark side of human nature, having seen so much of it. Still, she believes in the power of people to have a change of heart. — Not that she wouldn’t put a bullet or seven in Col. Leon Heller given half a chance.

Ygraine moves to stand alongside Rue, so that she can slip an arm around the younger woman’s shoulders, and gaze with her out over the landscape.  “I’m… odd, in my outlook on things,” she muses.  “I’ve studied how things go wrong.  How people fuck up in the most horrible of ways, and trigger wars and crises and disasters.  But…. that’s so that I can try to see what ways there might be to reduce the risk of that happening, or to avert it when it starts.”

She shrugs gently.  “I’m deeply, deeply cynical about what we should prepare for, when dealing with people.  I’m personally scared of almost everyone I meet.  But… I still believe, deep down, that people can redeem themselves if they try.  That it’s worth hoping for better, collectively and individually.  That we really can make a difference.”

A sigh precedes a sudden grin.  “Of course, it can help if you take your humour black.  Some of what goes wrong is just, fundamentally, so absurd that it has to be funny on some level.  Doesn’t mean you don’t try to fix it, but laughing’s usually better than crying.  I try to at least mix the two up a bit, anyway.”

“You’re not scared of me though,” Rue teases gently. If Ygraine’s cynical nature bothers her, she isn’t showing it in any shape or form. People being more practical than she tends to be are just a good balance to her trusting nature. Ultimately, they believe in the good of people.

Rue’s arm slides around Ygraine’s waist from the back, her fingers curling against the other woman’s ribs. Well, if they could be felt under her leathers anyway. “Laughing is always better than crying,” she agrees. “And if I went back in time to tell my past self that all this would happen, I wouldn’t even believe it. It is that absurd.”

Ygraine starts, very slightly, upon Rue making contact - but after that initial surprise she leans into it a little, peeking around to offer a bashful little smile.  “Dealing with the people we do… absurdity and heartache can certainly go hand in hand,” she observes, tone playfully dry.

“And… I was scared of you.  When first we met, I was terrified.  Absolutely bloody terrified.  I was so desperate to make a good impression, and… well.”  All three people involved in that encounter left it feeling that they’d royally screwed up.  “But since then… thank you.  Truly, sincerely: thank you.  I blunder through life trying to be kind and to make people feel better.  It’s… very welcome indeed to see someone better at it than me, let alone to be helped by them myself.”

“It was…” Rue’s smile fades as she searches for the words. “It was difficult to see… Quinn’s future, you know? Seeing her move on and be happy was really hard for me at first.” And now they’ve both had to watch the woman move on with someone else. Maybe it’s why they’re able to get along so well now. “But I want Quinnie to be happy, you know? That’s what it’s all about, right?” She flashes another smile to Ygraine. “I could keep being mad about it, but that’s not going to help me. Or her. Or anybody.”

Rue rests her cheek briefly against the top of the other woman’s head briefly. “It is what it is.” There’s a lot bigger shit to worry about than who’s in love with who. “I’m glad I ran into you, Yggy.”

Ygraine chuckles faintly, slipping an arm around Rue in return to provide an immediate and tangible affirmation of her own gratitude on that point.  She maintains the gentle pressure as her words detour onto a tangent.  “Oh, I found out a few things - such as why my joke about her having a ‘harem’ got such a response from her, and why it was so ludicrously naive of me to say such a thing.”  Her voice is again dry, though there’s still much more humour than bitterness in it.  “But however much I believed at the time it was so evidently impossible a notion that I could tease her by mentioning it, it was… at best more than a little clumsy with regard to you.  I really am sorry for that.  It’s… tiny amidst everything else around us, but… that’s been bothering me for ages.  Hurting you.”

She squeezes slightly more firmly, then lifts her head sufficiently to be able to turn it and seek to meet Rue’s gaze.  “She finally sought me out, a few weeks back.  Wanted to give me something.  A recording.  The album she’s been working on, though it’s a shortened version now.  What she gave me, well… it includes proof that I joined you in something else.  Though I think that you’re the one person who’ll really get how dreadfully, amazingly, hilariously, utterly Miss Robyn Quinn this is.”

A soft chuckle accompanies a wistful half-smile and fractional shake of her head.  “One of the discs she gave me includes a song she wrote, inspired by me.  She sang it for me, having asked me to dance with her as she did so.  It’s… beautiful.  I’d have loved it beyond words, a year ago.  And the disc she put it on?  Well, she decided it wasn’t good enough for the album - so she presented it to me on one she’d labelled Discards.”

Eyes sparkling with humour as well as a large dose of heart-torn affection for the woman who cast both of them aside, Ygraine laughs.  “The music’s all great, of course.  She’s infuriatingly talented.  But could there be anything more her than that?”

“It’s really not hard to hurt me,” Rue admits. She’s always worn her heart on her sleeve, and she has a bad habit of knocking her shoulders into things. “It’s water under the bridge. I know you never meant it.” She dismisses the whole notion that Ygraine has anything to apologize for with a shake of her head.

There’s a bittersweet quality to Rue’s smile now. Yes, she also has a song written about her by Robyn Quinn, and it broke her heart. She can imagine Ygraine feels similarly, though she’s more flattered by the attention than Rue was. “That is the most Quinnie thing since the very advent of her,” Rue agrees readily with a soft huff of laughter. “It’s nice that she gave it to you. Knowing her, she’ll go back someday and polish it up, give it a studio release.” If they all live that long. Rue has to believe they all will.

“Her singing it had me in floods of tears, of course.  I have no idea what response she was actually expecting, or hoping for,” Ygraine says dryly… though her eyes shimmer a little as she glances away and blinks rapidly.  A shaky intake of breath, then she looks back to her companion.

“It includes a few little snippets of keyboards and the like, that I recorded for her.  Didn’t realise at the time that it was for a song about me.  But I think she kind of felt she had to give it to me.  Courtesy to a musician whose work she’d used.  I dunno.  She….”  Another sigh.  “That’s probably unfair, suggesting it was done out of a sense of obligation, and I really am glad I have the music… but she’s pulled away.  A lot.  Seemed to… well.

“Sorry.  Honestly, that started out with the idea of trying to explain something, not complain.  Let alone to someone who least needs to hear it.  Even by my hopeless standards this is a stupidly wordy and round-about way of saying that however easy it was to hurt you, I’m truly sorry I did.  I wasn’t thinking.  Being reminded that you’re on the heap sucks.  And I clumsily did that to you.  And I’ve been kicking myself a lot for it: every time it’s happened to me, I’ve worried about you, and about what an ass I was.  But hey - screwing up helped push me to get out and do more to fix something in all this mess.  So… believe it or not, my incompetence and your pain contributed to my work on a collaborative music album.

“Admittedly, no one’s heard it yet.  But I hope you feel suitably proud to have helped push me to round people up for it.. Maybe I can give you a ‘special executive producer’ credit or something.  I’m thinking that, if Alia can spare time from dodging drones, we can get it out in the next day or two.  Try to make an impact while the world’s still paying some attention and hasn’t moved on to the next media buzz story…”

“Yeah, she’s good at that,” Rue grants of Robyn Quinn’s way to make someone cry with a song. “She’s good at all of that. Pulling away, becoming a ghost in your life. She doesn’t mean to…” Narrow shoulders come up in a gentle shrug. What can you do? “She doesn’t know any other way to be, I guess.”

For her apology, Ygraine receives a shake of the head. “Nothing to be sorry for. It’s always good to talk to someone who gets it, you know? And I get it, believe me.” The second apology is responded to with more of the same. “It’s fine, honest. If the past five years have taught me anything, it’s that life’s too short to hold a grudge.” She smiles then, broad and toothy. “You’re one of the good ones, Yg.” Her hip bumps against the other woman’s lightly. “All’s forgiven. Clean slate. We’re friends now.”

No take-backs.

“I think that sounds fantastic,” the ginger says warmly, smile still in place, “I really hope you manage to pull it off. I think the world is ready to listen to a new message now.”

Ygraine actually blushes - troglodyte-pale cheeks colouring visibly in response to Rue’s kindness and praise.  “I… thank you,” she says diffidently.  “I started trying to get this moving, ooh… in October last year.  That’s when Adelaide came on board.  I’m pretty sure that Quinn was the first person I spoke to about it, after getting Adelaide’s go-ahead….”

A wistful, rueful smile.  “She told me it was a great idea.  Didn’t want to do just the one song I asked her for, but was sure she’d come up with several.  Definitely not going to be put off by the possible political problems it could cause her…  And I admit I really hoped it’d be good for her career, being put on a level with Adelaide and the like.  Now… heh.  Every step of progress I’ve made towards bringing this into the world, I’ve been reminded that I’d still not heard from Quinn.  Now… it’s ready to be released, and there’s not one note of hers on it.  And not one word from her about pulling out.  It just… ceased to be part of her world.”

She leans over, bumping shoulders.  “So, I’m quite serious: you’ve contributed.  Wholly inadvertently and without knowing about it, but you have.  I wanted to get something right, and I hope this is it.  Adelaide’s our bona fide star, but we’ve got several songs - including a duet - from Nate and Harmony Roberts, the son and daughter of Authentic, and others from more locally-known artists.  I’ve been having people overseas help to decide exactly what goes in, since we’ve got so much more than would fit in one album, so I honestly don’t know yet if they’re crazy enough to include a duet that Sable insisted she record with me of all people.  But…I’m hoping it helps to change a few hearts.  And introduces a lot of people to some of the artists on there.”

Another sigh.  “…including one who I found out today’s… no longer with us, after recent events.  I really, really want to include her music, but… kind of torn about how.  Makes me all the more tempted to put out a second release, of the songs that didn’t go into the first one, to be honest.  Get as much of her work heard as possible, by as many people as I can.  Maybe at the start of next year, if this one sells well.  Not that I know how selling music works.  I’m just the idiot with the crazy idea, in this case.”

Rue is quiet as she listens to Ygraine’s words, nodding to show her attention is undivided, smiling at all the bright parts of the musical endeavor. Quinn’s withdrawal is regrettable, but it sounds like ultimately it was not enough to spoil the project.

At the mention of someone no longer with them, the smile drains from Rue’s face. Else, she assumes. “She deserves that kind of tribute,” she agrees. “She was popular before, I’m sure she still will be.” People are suckers for tragic musicians, after all. It just makes them more enigmatic, romantic, desired. “You’re not an idiot, and the idea’s not crazy. I think you should do it if you think it’s worth doing.”

Ygraine looks somewhat perplexed, then concerned and perplexed… then sighs and bumps shoulders again.  “Sorry.  Not that musician.  I… heard….”  She closes her eyes.  “I met Else, down there, in the Ark.  If that’s who you’re thinking of?  I haven’t heard of any other musicians who died in the chaos in Boston, though I’m sure there must’ve been….”

A quick head-shake to try to clear her thoughts, then she looks back to Rue.  “I babbled at Else about how delighted Quinn would be to see her again.  I’d only met Else the once, myself, and I don’t think she remembered me at all.  But… I’d heard Quinn rave about her talent, and seen her mourn her when she was reported dead.  I knew how much it’d mean…. Then….”

“I spoke to Brian, earlier today, to get a… run-down on losses.  Everywhere he knew about.  Which… is pretty much everywhere we had people.  He told me that Else hadn’t made it.  But… I was actually thinking of someone else.  Else, I’d never managed to talk to about the project: I’d hoped to, but….  No, we lost someone I cared about a great deal.  Though she was saving lives, rather than having hers snatched away in….”

“Sorry.  You were in the extraction team, weren’t you?  I’m so sorry.  I’m rambling about  that… it must have been horrendous.  I was… far underground, getting out of the Ark through the old rail tunnels.  I only found out about all… all that, hours later.”

Not that musician. They lost a lot of people on the 8th of November, didn’t they? The day seems to be cursed. Rue’s mouth creases into a sympathetic frown. That Ygraine lost someone she cared for is a tragedy. That anybody lost anybody is, of course, awful, but seeing the emotion that comes from that up close and personal connection makes it worse than the abstract notion of life snuffed out.

There’s a brief flash of Rue’s own pain evident in her face when Ygraine mentions the extraction. “Yeah… It was supposed to be simple.” Rue stares out over the horizon, gaze unfocusing. “There were kids.” She knows she doesn’t need to elaborate on that. Ygraine’s probably already heard it anyway. “I’m glad you found a better way out.” She wishes everyone had found a better way out.

“Quinn says she’s going to leave the city…” It’s not her place to say so, but it seems like the thing to do now. Rue doesn’t trust that Quinn will be upfront about it. “She asked me to come with her, but… I told her I belong here. Still,” is granted softly as the woman tucks a red curl behind one ear, “I think it’s what she should do.”

“Well… our route wound up being a better way out.  But it started with us stuck next to the melting-down reactor, with sealed blast doors between us and the exit.”  It’s a somewhat leaden jest, not least because of what goes unsaid about the ‘reactor’ being a helpless victim and the rest of what unfolded there, but it has the merit of being true.  And Ygraine’s already given warning that she takes her humour black.

Hauling her own gaze back from the horizon and the past to focus upon Rue in the present, the Briton finds another soft smile.  “I… among the many things I’ve felt guilty about, well: not being there at the extraction point has been one of them.  Shuttling people up flat surfaces is pretty much the simplest useful thing I can do.  I could’ve taken the kids up several at a time, as soon as I got there..  But, logically, that would probably ‘just’ have spread the drone attacks to you guys and your vehicles by putting the main cluster of targets up top, and maybe no one would have got away.  And I had some genuine use down at the reactor, and afterwards, so….”

She sighs, shaking her head.  “We do what we can where and when we can, and we hope it is some use.  From… what I’ve heard, managing to get anyone out of there at all was an achievement.  Though I know it probably won’t feel like that now.  If you’re anything like me, you’ll have been tormenting yourself over what you could possibly have done differently.”

“But I’m glad you’re committed.  I’m glad you belong.  I’m glad you were able to help: even if it was nowhere near as many people as we’d have liked, you still did it.  Most people can’t bring themselves to run towards danger.  From what I’ve heard, you did.  And you got people out of it..”

“As for Robyn” - her voice hitches slightly, as she finds herself slipping into using her old, once-distinctive moniker for the Irishwoman.  “She told me that she’d spoken to you about leaving.  Was saying that she was having some second thoughts now that she was in ‘less of a mood’.  But… from the conversation that followed that, it sounded very much as if she was going to get further away from New York than this.  And that she’d not got anywhere in mind where she’d stop getting further away.”

“I… can imagine her asking you to leave with her.  I think that you’re a… living, breathing symbol of a life she wishes she could get back to.”  Leather creaks tiredly as Ygraine shrugs.  “She wanted to spend the rest of today walking around with me, as I hunted down people to talk to - but she ran out of steam within a few minutes, so I accompanied her back to her room and left her there to chase my errands.  But she didn’t breathe a word about me coming with her when she left…”

“And I’m not surprised.  Being near you, I think she associates with friendship and happiness.  I’m the silly cow who recommended that she get into all this mess.  Formally asked the Ferry to see about recruiting her, to boot.  Escaping all this, with her best friend from back when she thought the world made sense… I can understand that temptation.  Not that I think that even you could help her to feel that everything she’s been through did make sense, but… I can see why she’d want you there, to help her try to regain the feeling that her world was a happy one.  Unfair to ask you to take on that much weight and unrealistic for her to hope it might work… but, God.  I can really see the temptation.”

“That’s a good way to look at it.” Doing what they can where they can. “We’re lucky,” Rue admits. “It could have been much worse. We still managed to save more people this way than if we’d done nothing.” It’s what their mission is about anyway, isn’t it? Risking their lives to save the lives of others? Putting themselves in the line of fire so others can live? That’s how she chooses to look at it, anyway. It makes the whole thing a less bitter pill to swallow.

The subject turning back to their mutual ex, then Rue looks sadder, shaking her head slowly. “Maybe Quinnie and I had a life together once, but… We have no future, and we never did.” It’s the short version of a very long story. Two women who had all sorts of wrong happen to them at the same time, finding each other and grieving together under the guise of moving forward. Their relationship was never built on love for one another, but a mutual love of their sorrow. Certainly, Quinn made Rue happy for the time they were together, but it feels like a lie in hindsight.

“I think she wants to protect me in her own way…” Forlorn now, Rue tips her head against Ygraine’s and watches that horizon. All grey early winter drab sky. “Everyone tells me this isn’t my fight, but… that’s why it has to be, you know? She did ask me to go, but I can’t. This is where I’m needed. None of this will have been worth it if I leave now.” There’s no mirth in the smile that Ygraine can’t see, but more feel as the tug of facial muscles disrupting strands of hair they pull against ever so slightly. “I don’t think less of her, of course. After everything she’s been through… Leaving is probably the smartest move.”
This time, yes.”  Ygraine very gently leans into the head-to-head contact, affirming active acceptance of it, rather than take the risk of seeming to merely tolerate the gesture.  “I think she’s broken.  I think that’s why she’s… forlornly reaching for someone who she hopes might make her feel as she used to.  She doesn’t want to be here, or experience things as they are now.  Or be who she is at this moment.  She wants it all to be simpler.”

“Which… I can really understand.  And I think that getting away could do her a power of good.  But I admit I’m rather worried that she might just run, and not find any way to come back.  To herself, let alone to any of us here.  She’s… not got the best track record when it comes to making changes in her life.  She throws a lot of babies out with the bathwater, so far as I can tell.”

“Me… well.  In at least one version of a… possible timeline, Quinn and I had a marriage that could survive an apocalypse, and that saw us have at least one orphan ask us to take her in as part of our family.  She’s one of the time travellers you might have heard of, and one of the best people I’ve ever met.  Here in this life… we couldn’t even survive Quinn’s secret girlfriend.”  Ygraine peeks around, offering a playful wink to confirm that she’s still partaking of dark humour, rather than losing herself to sorrow, before gently resuming head to head contact.

“But I think this absolutely is your fight.  I think that it’s a fight over whether or not anyone gets to carry on having a heart or a soul.  I think it’s something that matters to everyone alive.  I think that you and the other ‘normal’ people, who choose to be here, are pretty damn inspiring.  I think that anyone who tells you that it’s not your fight is a short-sighted fool.”

“Because as my non-existent decades-long marriage that could withstand an apocalypse - while somehow also being the relationship that couldn’t cope with one single year of life - shows, our future damn well isn’t set.  We all get to have an impact.  And I would far, far rather have you try to make yours a good one, than listen to anyone who says that you shouldn’t even think about being here.”

Proving two can play at that dark humor game, Rue huffs a laugh and counters, “In that same future, I am super dead. You may not have gotten the girl, but at least you have your health?” A nudge to the ribs further punctuates the jest.

Being told she deserves to be here brings a smile to Rue’s lips. “Wild horses couldn’t drag me away, Yggy Pop. This is where I belong. I may not be one of you,” Evolved, “but you all are my people. And I’m going to do everything I can to everyone here.” Such a long way she’s come from the vacuous girl with aspirations of being a model/actress or a ballerina.

“I think most people are dead in that future.  Don’t act like it’s a special achievement, or something,” Ygraine responds, tone ostentatiously huffy… before she cracks a fond - if slightly sad - smile at her unexpected friend.

“Thank you.  I… really am glad you feel that way.  It was… one of the darkest things about being in the Dome.  Seeing how easily people jumped into petty factionalism - ‘us against the world’ nonsense.  There were a number of us trying to stop things going to shit, because down that path there’d just be all-out mayhem… but there were way too many claiming that anyone who stood in their way was clearly a bigoted enemy of all that was right and true.”

She sighs, shaking her head.  “Even if they were actually just trying to defend their home against an armed mob of self-righteous looters.”

One arm delivers a fondly apologetic squeeze to Rue.  “Sorry.  Not that I’m at all prone to being maudlin, or anything.  But you give me hope.  Thank you.  Long may it continue, too.  Though I feel guilty - instead of helping you, or anyone else on the Island, I’m going to be running away from here soon, to return to Boston and the people I left there.”

The little laugh that bubbles up from Rue’s lips is in spite of herself. The subject matter really isn’t funny, but when you experience your own death in an averted prophecy dream, you learn to laugh at things and not take yourself too seriously. Or you wake yourself up crying at night, clutching at your neck to try to stop phantom bleeding.

“Hey…” Rue turns to face Ygraine fully now, her hands on her shoulders. “Returning to your people is helping.” The smile she receives now is bright, dimpling Rue’s freckled cheeks. “You’re doing really great, okay? And I’m glad I can give you hope.”

Rue winks. “It’s my superpower. Don’t tell anybody.”

Blushing even as she laughs, Ygraine ducks her head.  “It does feel a bit weak as an excuse. ‘Sorry, I’ve got four people to get back to, so I couldn’t possibly hang around here and try to help a couple of hundred’…. But I know they are depending on me.  And if I can get them to safety somewhere else, that’ll avoid adding to the drain on this place’s resources….”

The Briton sighs, frowning out at the horizon for a moment, before looking back to Rue and lightly lifting her shoulders into that contact.  Covering the younger woman’s hands with her own, she smiles gratefully.  “It is a really cool superpower.  Much, much better than mine.  And I hope you get even better at using it.  We could all do with more hope in our lives, and as far as I’m concerned you’re a good person to provide it.”

“See? You know what’s up.”

Ygraine’s faith in Rue delights the other woman so much that she bends down and places a kiss on the Briton’s forehead. “You are so sweet. I think it’d be great if I could walk up walls and stuff, though. I could reach a lot more people with my sunshine that way, right?” Her hands slide down Ygraine’s arms, straightening them out as she goes so she can clasp both her hands and give them a squeeze. “Thank you.”

Rue’s affectionate, kindly, gestures do nothing to reduce either Ygraine’s blush or her bashful happiness.  For all that she spent years striving for honours on the international stage, she seems to have little notion of how to deal with personal praise or gratitude.  She settles for returning the hand-squeeze, smiling rather goofily as she half-lowers her head.  “Well, if you ever need yourself or a group of people taken up high to catch some sunshine, or spread your own version of it, let me know.  I’ll gladly be your taxi service.”

Affection is something Rue gives freely to people close to her. While she and Ygraine have never been close per se, they have a commonality and a bond that counts her as Rue’s friend. Fingers tighten their grip for a moment, barely perceptibly and not uncomfortably, but just so as blue eyes roam over the face before them. There’s a moment that feels like hesitation before Rue starts to let her hands slip away, the faintest blush creeping into her own cheeks.

“I should probably let you move on. I’m sure you have more people to see before you head back to do your good work.” Though she’s reluctant to part, Rue understands the importance of Ygraine’s mission, knows she can’t keep her very long. That they’ve had a chance to connect at all is more than Rue could have hoped for.

Ygraine returns the hand-squeeze, sighing as her gaze once more flicks out to the tree-tops and the horizon beyond.

“Frankly, there’s a strong temptation to stay here.  Keep finding everyone who might be possibly be pleased to see me.  Get a little more affirmation that I did actually make it out of there alive.”  She shoots a ruefully amused half-smile to her companion.

“But you’re right.  I should be thinking about getting on my way.  Will you be staying up here, or can I offer you a walk down the wall to somewhere else?  If your stomach can take it, it’s good for bypassing the traffic on the stairs.”

For a moment, she considers it. She had planned to maintain her perch up here for some time but…

A wide grin breaks across Rue’s face. “Pass up the chance to wall walk? Are you kidding me? I can pretend I’m awesome for a minute!” The younger woman practically bounces on the balls of her feet in excited anticipation. “That would be primal. You walk me down the wall, and I’ll walk you to the docks. Deal?”

Clearly, it feels like forever since someone responded in that sort of fashion to Ygraine’s ability: she looks quite thoroughly taken aback, needing a moment or three to find a smile - then a surprised, happy laugh.  “It might make you want to hurl,” she cautions.  “And I do want to try to nose around and see if I can spot anyone else I know.  But I can absolutely take you for a bit of a wander, with the world on its side.  It’s not as if we tend to get in anyone’s way, when we’re on the outer wall of a building.  And I can keep an eye out for people from up high, while we walk.”

Ygraine glances around, then springs up onto the parapet - seemingly heedless of the drop on the other side.  “Shall we go up and over, for the woodland view first?  Or we could stay where more people can see us, if you want to surprise them.”  A quick grin, then she nods thoughtfully.  “A moment’s practice first might make sense… but if you’re feeling brave, we could go straight for it.”

Stepping off the top of the parapet, she swings smoothly around to stand on its near side to demonstrate her ability close-up - at ninety degrees to Rue, but with her hair and clothing clearly resting quite ‘normally’, as if drawn quite conventionally by gravity ‘down’ towards her feet.  Holding out her hands, she offers an offset-from-the-world smile.  “I’ll walk you up and over, shall I?  If you’re feeling up to it.  Just make sure to keep one foot on the stone as we go, and you should be able to cope.  You’ll feel everything shift, but I’ll have hold of you, and you’ll be all right.”

Rue approaches the wall where Ygraine has stepped over and onto the side as though it was nothing. Bracing her hands on the stone, she levers herself up onto the edge and stares down, down, down. There isn’t fear so much in her blue eyes as there is contemplation. Like she’s logically puzzling out the way things could go wrong in this scenario, but isn’t afraid of any of it.

Her hands reach out to take Ygraine’s, and then she takes the leap of faith. — Well, a step of faith. The world seems to shift on its axis and Rue gasps softly at the disorienting sensation. This isn’t how gravity works. When she releases the breath she’s been holding, it’s with exhilaration. “This is so cool!

The whole process is, for some people, beyond disorientating and far into nausea - every bit of Rue’s body that can be moved by gravity shifts when the orientation does: her brain, her stomach, her tongue and even the saliva in her mouth, her hair and clothing - and her inner ears and all the little internal receptors that help the body to hold itself upright against the pull of the Earth report a change….

But once in place, it all feels normal.  She’s not being pinned or pressed to the wall: she’s simply standing on it, as securely and as comfortably as she would stand on any bit of ground.  The over-riding impression from her senses is that it’s the world that has moved: down is absolutely, clearly, evidently straight beneath her feet.  It’s merely that everything else is now at ninety degrees to correct orientation.

Except, that is, for Ygraine, who moves into position alongside her, cracking a broad grin as she waves up and forward at the sideways-on trees lit by the horizontally-setting sun.  “Isn’t it?”  There’s relief as well as joy audible in her tone: real pleasure that someone gets it, and so quickly.

The lurch is there, of course, and Rue does have to squint her eyes shut tight for a moment and just breathe while she orients to the sensation, but the elation overpowers it all very quickly. “Seriously.” She grins over to her friend. “You must have the most awesome time just— All the time!” Because how could it not be cool to walk on walls and ceilings and stuff?

There’s a pang of jealousy that shows for the very briefest of moments in a flash of her eyes and the quiver of her cupid’s bow smile. And like that, it’s gone. Quick as a person can snap their fingers. “All right. Lead on! I don’t want to keep you from your rounds very long.” That smile brightens right up again. “I’m really glad you’re letting me do this, though. Thank you.”

“Honestly, you’re welcome.”  Ygraine seems a little overwhelmed by the response.  “I… tend to get told never to do this again, by quite a few of the people who experience it.  And those who see me do it tend to quickly think of how easily I could spy on them,” she says sheepishly.  Then she moves to slip an arm around Rue’s shoulders, delivering a warmly grateful squeeze.

“But….”  Her gaze drifts to the sunlit treetops again.  “I’ve spent a lot of time, up high.  When I can.  I’ve been trying to develop my own version of parkour, since I accepted this was real.  When I was free to roam, I did a lot of training runs through New York.  Almost all at night, of course.  But for most of the past year, I’ve been training entirely underground.  Which is… different.  Seriously cool, very often, but opportunities like this…”

Her free hand gestures out - up - at the pastel-drenched trees.  “I haven’t had the chance to enjoy this sort of thing for a long time.  And… I think it would have been New Year, in Canada, when I last had anyone with me.  So….”  She returns her gaze to Rue, squeezing again.  “Thank you.  Sincerely.  Now… would you like to wander around a bit?  You can go for an amble around the wall, if you like.  To change orientation, I’ll need to be close to you - but the ‘charge’ on you will last for ten minutes, without a problem.  So if you’d like to wall-walk without me at your shoulder, you can.  My chance to share in your superpower, and spread a little hope.”

“Well, those people don’t know how to have fun.” Or they just don’t like the odd shift in balance and equilibrium that is, frankly, disorienting. But Rue is adaptable. She’s used to allowing other people to be in control of her center of gravity, trusting that they’ll keep her from falling. This is a lot like that, only without hands braced on her rib cage.

Rue’s hand tightens around Ygraine’s briefly, a broad smile on her face. “Let’s do it.”

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