The Awful Sound


des2_icon.gif mateo_icon.gif

Scene Title The Awful Sound
Synopsis And if I kept quiet, I could hear all the voices in your head.
Date March 2, 2018

The Benchmark Recovery and Counseling Center

Benchmark is a tall, red brick building renovated into a rehab facility. The first floor holds doctors' offices, reception, waiting areas and conference rooms. The lobby is warm and inviting, with a rust-colored design scheme and paintings of calm oceans and pristine beaches. The common areas follow this design, but each doctor has designed their own offices to their own tastes. The upper floors holds dorm-style rooms, split for two occupants per room. Each floor has a communal shower/bathroom. Very dorm-like. Freshman dorms. There is one room on each floor for an employee assigned to that floor, as a communication point for the clients and semi-guard for them, too. This room is more self-contained and the employees are not expected to use the same facilities as the client.

The top floor is different, set up more like an apartment building, where people come to live. These are typically ex-Ferrymen or the like who need a place to stay and are willing to exchange room and board for some work maintaining the building. They do not interact with the clients. The doctors are also welcome to stay in these apartments, but most choose not to.

Des isn't often an early riser, but she doesn't often collapse into bed quite so early and quite so exhausted. So, this morning was an early morning, spent having coffee and chatting with Lynette. When Mateo knocks on her door, there's no answer. If he dared to peek inside, he'd find she isn't there, but the pyjamas she slept in that night are laid out over the unmade bed.

Debussy drifts from the common area. Clair de Lune this time. He'll find her seated at the piano, dressed in her clothes from the day before and rocking gently back and forth in time with the music. A cup of coffee sits on the bench next to her.

On the other hand, Mateo would actually have considered this sleeping in. For the same reasons that the younger woman woke up early. He'd had a long night. His body needed the extra recovery time. He's dressed in a short sleeved flannel shirt, which he hasn't bothered to button all the way. The tattoo on his lower arm clearly displayed as he leans into the doorway to listen to the music being played. It's rare to hear someone not him tickling the keys, at least not well. Sometimes there's the occassional person playing a few simple chords, but not full songs. Not often.

He didn't even need to see who it was to guess who it might be, either.

It gave him relief that she hadn't left already. Because he'd wanted to talk to her again.

Without a word, he makes his way over to the piano, sitting down on the edge of the bench next to her coffee and bobs his head to the music, waiting for her to finish.

"Your wife's a good woman." Des doesn't miss a beat, speaking quietly while her fingers move over the keys, leading into the final run. The last chord is held and she listens to it decaying in the air, a small smile on her lips.

Lifting her hands from the keys with a roll of her wrists that speaks to her practice of technique, that smile is turned to Mateo now. "Did you like it? I wanted to give you something nice to wake up to after…" Des shrugs. You know.

"Oh, I know— way better than me, though she'd never let me get away with saying that," Mateo responds to her first comment with a grin, scratching at the patch of hair just behind his ear in a nervous gesture that feels very familiar. But his wife is way better than him, either way. Only a good person would sink all their money into a place like this. Even with what he knows— he still agrees. She carries the dead with her the same way he does, she just did a better job honoring them than him.

Hands and wrists rolling as well, he's so tempted to just take over for one of her hands. Not that she's doing anything wrong, it just feels natural. He dismisses that and resigns himself to listening for the moment. "I always loved Debussy. He has a way to make the piano sound magical in his compositions. So yes, I like it. It a much nicer sound to wake up to than what I would normally." Cause that roar— always there. Even now. It's just hiding behind the music.

"She's very nice. I don't know what I've done to deserve such trust from her." Des shakes her head. "In fact, I know I don't deserve it. But there she is…" She shrugs, kind of helplessly, then turns in her seat, folding one leg up so she's facing him fully. Her coffee mug is gathered in her hands again.

For a moment, she's a loss for words as she looks at him. His face, his hair, the slope of his shoulders. "Sometimes," Des begins in a soft voice, "I think if it's really quiet, someone else might be able to hear the awful sound inside my head."

The sentiment she states is shared between between them. Mateo imagines that the other him earned him some favor. And Silvia. Silvia had helped. "I think she recognizes people who need help. And you were helping me, so…" He won't claim he's the only reason that Lynette had helped her— in fact he thinks she would have even if he'd not been in the room at all. But he was, so.

With her shifted, he turns some as well, just throwing his leg over the side so cause guys are allowed to do that sort of thing and sitting that way. "Mine— it sounds like what you heard briefly when el umbral first formed. Like the whole world trying to eat away at itself. Sometimes it's louder— " The el umbral had been pretty loud for the brief time it had been unstable. "I'm still not sure what you'd done to it."

"I'm sorry. I didn't know I could do that." Her knuckles go white around her coffee mug. The shape of her mouth is soft. She looks vulnerable. "I'm sorry I hurt you." That Des hurt herself as well means nothing to her. "I was trying to help." Lips twitch in an aborted attempt at a smile, she looks away. "I'm not very good at that, I'm afraid."

"Mister Paper would disagree," Mateo responds with a grin, suddenly standing from the seat so that he can retrieve said 'Mister Paper' from the recycling can. He won't ask what she did, but… "He probably would have been gone otherwise. Now he's just singed and gets a trip to the recycling center." It's a joke, but he brings the piece of paper back with him as he settles back onto the bench again.

"It's not the first time it's happened, the…" He gestures at his face. "'Nette, she… closed one of them once, pulled all the electricity out of it. That had been about the same." Slightly less tiring, but, similar.

She can't help but laugh when he talks about Mister Paper. Leaning over, Des sets her coffee mug on the floor. (She knows better than to set it on the piano.) Then, she reaches out her hands to the space between them, palms up, an offer for him to take.

"She told me she's heard the sound. Said I should ask you about it." So, here they are. "Sometimes it sings to me. Other times, it's a scream. But it's always whispering. Always. All the time." For once, she thinks she's found someone who understands.

"That sounds a lot like mine," Mateo admits quietly, looking down at the keys and running his fingers across them. For a second, it sounds like another Debussy composition. A brief movement from the middle of Prelude No. 4. 'Les sons et les parfums tournent dans l'air du soir'. He may not know friend outside the names of songs, but liking Debussy meant he knew a little. "Sometimes it's a whisper, like someone left a fan on in the room, sometimes it's like being in the middle of a tornado, like it was when our abilities combined. That's the loudest it's been in a while."

Since that time Lynette pulled all the electricity out of el umbral.

"If our abilities sound similar… I'm not surprised they clashed so badly. It was as if mine was having a tantrum."

Her fingers curl in toward her palms and she watches his hands on the keys for a moment. Like his earlier urge, she wants to start playing the left hand part. Instead, she reaches out with her right to touch the side of his face and slide her fingertips into his hair.

"Does it tell you how powerful you are, Mateo?" There's a distant sort of look in Des' eyes when she asks him that, head canted like she's listening for something. "Does it tell you the world is yours to control, if only you'd just take it?" Her focus comes back, shifts to his face. "Are you afraid of me?"

"It doesn't— no, it doesn't tell me that, exactly." Mateo responds, hesitating as if she's reminded him of something. Or someone. Someone who had told him how powerful he was. That memory, not a pleasant one, but he still doesn't pull away from the hand, even as he lets the song fade away into the air. "It doesn't really tell me anything. It just— I feel like it wants to destroy everything. Like something trying to…" He shakes his head. He's not really sure how to explain it.

"It would devour everything, if I let it." And from the briefly haunted look in his eyes, he might have let it at least once. "But it didn't like your ability." Whatever it was she'd done to it. To save Mister Paper.

"It's not… words, so much," Des clarifies. "But I understand it all the same, as if it were speaking to me. I feel it inside of me." It's as much a part of her as the heart in her chest.

"Tiempo…" Now, she slips into Spanish, hoping it lends gravity to her confession. "«I control time.»" Now she reaches up to touch the other side of his face and look at him, pleading that he understands. "«I could give us an eternity. Just you and me and this piano.»" This is the power she controls. This is what terrifies her.

While her Spanish is good, Mateo can't help but hear the French trying to creep in when the words are the same. Romantic languages have a lot of overlap. Even more than Spanish and English. As she explains, he tilts his head, looking at her with surprise. "«I see how that saved the paper.»" He'll hold onto his joke with Mister Paper as long as he can, cause he finds it funny. And jokes always made a heavy atmosphere… easier.

Sometimes jokes were a deflection, sometimes a suit of armor. And sometimes he just wanted to make someone smile. Like she did, the first time he mentioned Mister Paper. "«I wonder why the threshold didn't stop when you used it.»" Could his ability be more powerful than hers? Or did his ability feeding on hers make it so it didn't actually disappear. It had still kept going, still made noise. Even if it couldn't draw in anything cause everything except them had been stopped.

She has troubles with any word with a J in it, especially, betraying her lack of a partner when she learned to speak it. But she's trying. "«I don't know why. Nothing has ever been strong enough to stand up to my ability before. But perhaps that's why it was so angry.»" Her own ability punishes her when she runs up against something she cannot control.

Des looks like she could cry, but her eyes aren't glassy with tears just yet. Her thumbs brush over his cheekbones. Breath is a tremor. "I wish," she continues in English, "that I could take away that noise. I want to protect you, and I can't explain that. I don't… I've never…" She looks so helpless. "I've never let myself care about people. And somehow, I care about you more than anyone else."

Reaching up, Mateo takes the hand that's on his face and pulls it down, so that he's holding it for the moment. Maybe it was the confession that did it, like he's not quite sure how to take it. Having people care for him isn't usual for him. Having people voice it? Even more unusual. "You don't have to protect me. I feel like I'm the one who's supposed to protect you," he says quietly, offering a hint of a smile.

Yeah, her words seemed to have maybe… hit something, cause he adds, quietly, eyes meeting her, "I don't know exactly what this is… between us. But I love Nette, more than I've ever loved anyone." He just feels the need to say that, like he's not sure what level her affection happens to be. "But I do want to get to know you. Find out where… all this came from. Become friends."

"That's" Des closes her eyes and exhales heavily, hanging her head. "I'm sorry. You must think I'm insane." She holds to his hand tightly, trying to force her thoughts into some kind of organization. "That isn't what I meant… I can see… I understand what you and Lynette"

She's read the poetry in the margins of the book she got from Ruiz. Des understands that the love she feels isn't the love she thought it was. "It's not like that." The more she tries to make sense of it, the more she questions her reality. It's terrifying. Maybe she would be better off not knowing.

Except that's how she used to feel about the world outside the walls of The Company. Des opens her eyes again. "I don't know how to love people," she admits in a soft voice. "I lived in a gilded cage until I was 24 years old. I hadn't seen the sun, the moon, or the constellations. I've spent more time separate from this world than I've spent in it." She can only hope this explains some of what is so very wrong with her.

"I'm damaged, Mateo. And I am not good. But I am trying to learn to be."

There's relief on his face, cause Mateo's not sure what this is, but he didn't want to destroy a potential friendship because of a misunderstanding. "I'm not used to anyone caring about me. I wasn't raised in a cage, not a literal one, but my mother was very protective. She didn't even want me to go to college." He realizes, now, that she had actually tried to stop him. A few times. With more than just arguments and words—

He knows his sheltering had been different, but the rest— he knows he'd not been good. That he had a lot to make up for. And that something in him had broken when his mother died. Something he never quite got back.

While certain things made him try to forget his past, it would always be there.

"Maybe that's one reason why we're connected. We're kindred spirits." The piano that had always had something missing, the power always present in their heads, urging them onward, calling to them. With her hand still held, he brings them up to push against her chin. A motion that, also, feels weirdly familiar. "Maybe one day you'll find your light."

Des smiles faintly. "You had a mother…" Rather than feel jealousy, she feels joy. Glad that he had the thing she never could. "I had wardens." When it comes down to it, that's what her caretakers at The Company always were.

"I still think there's more to it than that." But she isn't going to argue with him. There's still a chance that she's wrong. Des knows that this all could be some delusion created by her fractured mind. But Lynette's experiences are like evidence. She isn't willing to let it go. The hands at her chin broaden her smile. "I hope you're right." A familiar sense of warmth and safety stirs in her chest.

"My name is Odessa."

"I had a mom, yeah," Mateo responds with a small smile, a fondness that is sad in a way. There's a lot more to it than that— but he will always consider her his mom. She'd been the one who had been there for him growing up, had taught him so much— It's the fact that he remembered her death so vividly that caused the sadness. And that soft roar in the back of his head that always came with thoughts of her death. And the first time he really heard it.

"I'm glad to have met you, Odessa," he uses her full name this time, letting their hands drop back down, but not letting go just yet. "I'm still Mateo. Mateo Javier Ruiz." He'd given his name before, and she knew his last name, too, but— for some reason it felt right to just say it.

It feels so good to have someone call her that name again without it being an accusation. Calling out her bad behavior. "Nobody named me, not really." She remembers holding the hand of a dying woman, delirious and unable to comprehend exactly what was happening. Her throat feels tight. "I was born in Odessa, Texas. They called me The Odessa Girl. It stuck."

For years, she hated the name, but it feels right from him. "You can still call me Dess. I'm in hiding, so I go by Desdemona Desjardins." Her fingers lace with his.

"I think names are silly things. But the right one is the one you choose." Odessa sounds like it came from others, but 'dess? The fact that she calls herself Desdemona Desjardins… "So Desdemona of the garden?" It sounds similar, even if the J is a little off. "It's a good name." And one she chose. But Mateo adds with a grin. "I'll probably still call you 'Dess." It works— either way.

And it just feels right. That and pajarita. His little bird.

"I won't ask what you're hiding from. The past doesn't matter as much as the now." He leaves out that he too is hiding from his own past, hoping that the now will somehow make up for it. In some small part.

"The other you inspired me," Des admits. "He said something about the garden, and then I read that book." It was a beacon. She hoped if she bore that name, he would find her. "It felt right. I'm glad you like it, but I'm more glad you're sticking to 'Dess."

The past doesn't matter as much as the now. Des nods her head slowly. "I've spent so much time trying to make sense of my past and figure out who I really am that I think I've forgotten to look forward. You'll remind me from now on, right?"

"Of course," Mateo assures, letting go of her hand finally and moving to stand up from the bench. "I need to get ready for work, but I wanted to try to catch you before you leave. I live here, so you know where to find me, but…" he reaches into his pocket to pull out a cellphone.

"The service is almost as bad here as it was before I left Argentina, but…" He flicks over to the contact list so they can trade numbers. "In case we happen to get reception and you need someone to talk to and can't make it. Or just want somewhere to leave messages." Either one works.

Des fishes her own phone out of her pocket and exchanges numbers eagerly. He reminds her that her own boss is probably wondering just where the hell she is right about now. She should check in with him before he sends someone out to look for her.

"I work for Raytech Industries," she tells him. "I'll put your and Lynette's names on the list of people that I'm willing to meet with." Being that she's hiding, that list has approximately zero people on it at the moment. "I'll come back again soon. And I'll bring the book with me."

Raytech Industries. Someday, if this job continues to be the pain in an ass that it is, Mateo may ask if they're hiring. But right now, he doesn't bring it up. Instead he accepts the numbers and puts his phone into the pocket of his jeans again. "I look forward to seeing it. I wonder if it's actually mine." He jokes, cause— he has a copy of that book that he carries with him all the time. It would be interesting to compare them with each other.

"Take care of yourself, Dess." That might be a normal farewell, but at the same time, he feels the need to emphasize it. She expressed the desire to protect him, reasonable since one of him actually died on her. But he feels the same thing. And feels that she, somehow, needs it more.

With that said, he turns to leave, leaving 'Mister Paper' behind on the top of the piano.

"You too, Mateo." Des retrieves her discarded coffee mug and takes it back to the coffee nook to clean up like a good guest. Then, she looks back to the piano, eyes lingering for a moment. After a quick glance around, she strides back to it and picks up the singed piece of paper. It's silly, but it's proof of something extraordinary.

With 'Mister Paper' clutched tightly in her hand, she gathers the rest of her things and heads for home.

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