The Feet And The Flame


huruma2_icon.gif ryans3_icon.gif

Scene Title The Feet And The Flame
Synopsis When hot charcoal was piled on the bowl, the rats would gnaw through the victim to escape.
Ryans is called from sleep to handle something sensitive.
Date November 15th, 2011

Bannerman's Castle

Bannerman’s Castle is a mess.

First, it was the losses in November. The Arc, Alaska, the rioting. Then the death of Amutullah, a hero that many of them never even knew. The dome went up, thanks to Malcom; it seperates them even still from Heller and his dogs outside. The evo-flu hit, in a deadly way, straining at medical. Kaylee was attacked near the end of her searching for answers, and Rue violently taken in as a suspect.

Time is moving slow on the inside. People still getting sick. Dying, by hand and by illness.

The council and others still in a search for answers. For help.

A bleak, heavy cloud has settled on the island. Past despair, a deeper depression forming. Hopelessness, fear, confusion, and rage have taken over where once there had been a small measure of faith in the few weeks after the sacrifices of November. The pressure weighs on the Ferrymen from top to bottom, including some of the stronger shoulders. An empath has a place in all of this. A place in the ocean of other minds and the emotions within.

Unfortunately, that place will always be in the heart of the sea, flotsam and jetsam above, the derelicts below. Pressure above, pressure below, pulling and pushing until something gives.

Perhaps something has.

It is late. The ones awake are those on night patrols or those who cannot sleep. Huruma is awake, sitting in a chair in front of the main hall’s fireplace. The weather is chill outside, though not a freeze. Her borrowed flannel hangs open as she works on something in her lap, tiny movements of needle and thread patching holes in a shirt spread across her knees. The stitches are small and tight, tidy and neat. But after a time they stop, and so do her hands. The needle is tucked into fabric, replaced by a small, glossy photo, pulled from the depths of her clothes and held tightly between her hands. Stitching is forgotten. She stays there in stony silence for what feels like an age, the fire crackling lower and lower. Cold tickles at her fingertips and the shear of her head. Huruma is unmoved by it, the encroach lingering. Pulling her field inward, it coils around her like a cocoon, winding its way close so as to keep her from the cage that surrounds all of them. Trapped like animals, biting and snapping.

She is trapped with them.

How did this happen?

Long fingers spread out against her scalp as Huruma buries her head into her hands, the photograph clutched against her brow.

A deep breath hitches in her chest. The tips of her nails dig into skin, a pressure from the outside to contrast the one below.

Breath catches again. And again.

Lungs seize behind ribcage, heart drops, gut twists. It’s been so long that it feels like a stab wound. One, two, three, slipping between bone and into flesh.

Huruma stands, a kick delivered hard to the stool she’d been sitting atop of, blasting it into the dying fireplace with a snap of splintering wood. It catches, embers rolling harmlessly onto stone before burning out. The half-sewn pieces of clothes scatter at her feet, the glossy paper cramming back into her pocket.

Her chest hurts. Her head aches. Her eyes feel like they are being pushed out from behind. Huruma paces, stepping across wood and coals, needles, thread, clothes and ash, soon trailing the latter in large footprints away from the fire.

But there is no way out. Not like this.

Not yet.

It’s still late, and the castle is mostly dark. Patrols are quiet, keeping to occupied corridors.

There remains a mess to be found in the main hall; a thrown, blackened stool, torn clothes and a spent sewing kit. Ashes stomped into the stone, back and forth, before disappearing down the way to the kitchen, where they disappear onto wooden planking.

Even in the dim and the silence of the castle at night, the kitchen is lit by scarce lantern light, and the sound of something strange thuds around the edges of the cupboards.
It’s coming from the pantry, its door ajar. The hiss of a knife entering something. Thud. The handle against a surface. Another hiss of blade. Thud.

Lungs panting, faint but distinct.

Hiss. Thud. Scrape.

Hiss. Thud. Scrape.


The voice outside the pantry door is soft, the rumble considered a whisper for Benjamin Ryans. He doesn’t dare enter, yet. He knows better. So he stands just a little to one side of the door, hand resting on the cold stone, while he hazards a glance inside.

He had been shaken awake by one of his guards, pulled from one of those rare moments of rest that he allows himself right now. The man had been nervous when he had reported what he saw. Ben was glad that the man had come to him first.

So Ryans was here with hair a mess, a red flannel thrown on; though not buttoned — which might not help the rumors — and his jeans. His approach had been silent, since he was barefoot. He hadn’t bothered with shoes. “Huruma?” Is repeated again and he waits.

The glance inside does not yield much; a familiar silhouette in the dark, facing something in a crouch— the flicker of a knife lifting in Huruma’s grip is a startling silver in the sliver of light falling between stone and wood.

Whatever she’s got receives another drive of blade downward, a violent, stabbing motion, the flesh of her hand and the hilt echoing against rickety shelves.
She does not seem to hear Ryans, nor acknowledge his presence at all.

There is a resigned sigh, before Ryans looks to the guard. “Thank you for coming to me first.” He glances at the door, brows furrowing. “Tell no one…” He can only demand it, but the guard nods and leaves the Special Activities Lead to what he needs to do.

He takes a moment to collect himself, checking the glock tucked at his back, before nudging the door wider with the bandaged end of his arm, letting the light spill further into the pantry. “Huruma?” He asks again, finally stepping into the doorway, a striking silhouette with the light behind him.

Having dealt with her in the past, he knows that she can be something of a wild animal.

Static fills her hearing. A distant ringing in her head, behind the eardrums. Huruma is braced on her knees in the dark, until the door creaks wider. Ryans’ outline in the widened door cuts a negative space in the light, and the contrast out of the corner of her vision causes her to hesitate, kitchen knife gripped in a downward point coming to a lingering halt, hovering beside her shoulder.

When the woman looks back, it is to tilt unfocused eyes up to the space over her shoulder, pupils large amidst ivory and— red— when they shiver onto Ben’s shape against the light. For a moment there is an unnerving familiarity to the way she stares at him, muscles tensing— as if he has come onto something that he wasn’t meant to see— the brief desire to punish passes over like a vulture and slips away when Huruma’s breath moves in a ragged exhale. The hollows around her eyes are a tint darker, irises standing out against reddened sclera.

Thin, hot rivulets trace tears along the lines of her face, mixing at lip with a fresh trickle of blood from her nose. Her expression is hard, the pressure of her tongue against the back of her teeth showing in the rigidness of her jaw.

There is no movement from the figure in the doorway — not right away, he watches her instead. Looking for a sign; careful not to spook her. His arms are held out a little, showing that he is unarmed; though that might not be totally true.

When he hears that exhale, that sign he was looking for, Benjamin moves closer. Silent, except for the rustle of his clothing. Crouching before her, he balances on the balls of his bare feet. Nothing is said, no pity or worry show on his face, he only gently and carefully reaches out in an attempt to take the knife from her hand. His bandaged arm, moving to lightly touch her own arm.

There is an understanding there, concern bleeding from him.

Somewhere she registers that he waits— for something. That sign that she’s not going to stand up and come at him. Her stare remains even as Ben moves closer and comes down to her level, the edges of her eyes following at still unfocused pace. The corners of her lips pool with tiny drops of salty water and blood, one knee meeting the floor.
The knife in her hand is held with a vice-like strength, but any further insistence on his part will prevail; the blade will either relinquish to his hand or to the floor, but it will drop from her fingers regardless, skin hot to the touch, the muscles in her hand stiff.

Her prey?

An unfortunate, wound-riddled sack of potatoes.

There is something to be said for her restraint, though she certainly says nothing of the sort. Her features sink from the hard, sculpted look, brow knitting and mouth falling at the edges. Huruma’s tension lingers, the blurry, bleary shade in her eyes remaining— practically staring through Ryans, rather than at him.

Once he manages to extract the knife from her fingers - which is kinda awkward to do with one hand - Benjamin straightens from his crouched position. It is luck that the kitchen’s towels are stacked neatly on a shelf. Setting the knife on the wire shelf, he snags one of the towels.

His knees pop as he crouched again, then lowers one knee to the floor. “We need to get you off this island,” he observes in a quiet rumble. Benjamin has lived in this world long enough to know what the blood seeping from her nose is… what it could mean.

“How long?” Has it been like this… that is what he is asking. The concern she feels, is for once echoed in the older man’s features. It is a concern brought back by a dream… He hooks a finger under her chin to get her attention. Hoping to get her to focus on him. “Huruma. How long have you been dealing with the overload?”

Both of Huruma's knees rest on the floor under the blanket of dim light, a quiet voice, and gentle manner, her eyes shifting study his face when he lifts hers to focus on him. It seems to work as intended, the sound of her breath weary under his questioning. The cocoon she has forcefully pulled around herself— her sensory field— loosens only enough to encompass the room, a fresh drop of red moving downward.

The concern that shows physically she feels then, eyes widening to where she appears to awaken somewhat from the stupor. Water collects silently at the edges of her eyes, not quite belonging to the rest. Incongruent.

How long? Huruma hears him, but it takes another moment before she answers, shoulders slackening and face turning downward. Shame. It is foreign on her.

“Days…? Weeks…?” Huruma's voice croaks in a murmur, throat swollen. More emotions blurred into smears and lineless clouds after long enough, pressing down on the empath like a heavy, smothering snow. It is clear that this circumstance is unlike what she has had to deal with before.

He is silent as he listens, thoughtful. Eyes narrow at what she says, lips pressing into an unhappy line. “You should have come to me or Megan.” He isn’t scolding her, just stating a fact. She should not have excluded her friends. “Especially, me,” he adds, letting go of her chin and offering her the towel in its place.

Thinking back to her case files - not that she’d really like knowing that - the former Company Director struggles to find a way to help her. He doesn’t want to turn to sedation; but, like this she could be a danger to everyone on the island, if allowed to go untreated It is a long moment before he finally speaks up again. “I will talk to Eileen. See if we can get you off the island, under the cover of darkness.”

Brows furrow a little as he shakes his head, “I’m sorry,” Ben offers quietly. Sorry for dragging here out there. Sorry for not seeing the signs, before everything went to hell. He scrubs his hand over his face, before it rests on his thigh, the injured arm resting on the other.

Ryans feels a little helpless. “I think you should talk to Megan. See if medical has anything that will help you until we can get you out of here.”

Fingers wrap carefully around the cloth near her chin, drawing it into a half-fist and scrubbing over the blood under her nose first, then the edges of her mouth. Spotted with crimson, Huruma stares down at the clutch of fabric for a long moment, listening.

“I can’t.” Huruma breathes out, a sudden jerk of her head looking up to him, as if he’s cursed her. “I can’t leave you all. Like this.” When she grits her teeth there is a pink stain, brief before she closes her mouth again, self-awareness sinking in. “Don’t— don’t apologize. It is not your fault.” There is nothing he could have done to prevent it— Megan either, really.

“I will not take from medical at a time like this. They need her. They need everything.” Huruma’s gritted expression eases away, more sullen as seconds pass. “I did what I could for her, too, but they need her more than I do…” A ragged sigh escapes, and she sinks fully onto the floor, holding the cloth against her face. There is no fresh blood, for now.

“I— it has been too long since I’ve felt this.” The tears are still silent when they spill over the edge of eyelids, her long throat swallowing hard against them. “I have to — I only have to be better.” She has to be stronger. In a fashion, it shows where the rest of her comes from; a place where she has had to learn to overpower anything that stands in her way— including herself.

Silently, Benjamin watches her - shifting away to give her room to curl up on the floor. It almost breaks his heart to see her like this; which is kind of an odd feeling for him… especially, in regards to Huruma. There is a moment of hesitation; but then she hear the scratching of fabric and feel his thumb brush at the tears on her cheek. He sighs out, “But, what happens —” He stops… “Can you keep it together enough…” It is hard for Ryans to say what he needs, too.

Best to be blunt, he decides. “Don’t force me to make a decision I will have to live with.” He has so many already, but he would make it if he had too. The last thing Ryans wants is to have to do something to protect the innocent, if she loses her control.

The field that lets her study the space around her contracts again, faint, when she feels it. There is a prideful shyness at the touch to her cheek, not quite a flinch, before she allows it. Huruma's skin is still too warm, a lingering heat of a breakdown dissipating that he has surely seen before— two daughters will do that. Of course, this is different.

“I won't… force that.” Huruma's chest rises and falls, breath focusing on that movement. In, out. Faint pangs in her side, deep breaths. Her brow knits again, a furrow that precedes a pause, thoughts sorting, slow and quiet. “I… have to keep it together.”

She may not see it, but Ryans nods his head slowly. “Good,” he murmurs, checking behind him..

Leaning back, Ryans plants his backside on the ground; letting his legs slide out from under him. Leaning his back against the upright of one of the shelves, he sighs softly - crossing his feet at the ankles. Seems the old man is preparing to wait there with her. It is one of those things that friends do for each other.

Despite the rise and fall of her breaths, water collects at her lashes unbidden, cheeks marked when they let go. The island is an inescapable pool for her, even if she does her best to push it out. A hitched, stifled sound moves through her chest as Ben sits down, the tightness against the backs of her eyes pushing Huruma to stare at him in the relative dark for a time.

Cloth still clutched in one hand, Huruma angles around to pin her back against the same shelf. Her weight against his shoulder is seeking for a brace. A reinforcement, a crutch. Not telling him about her problems before this doesn’t matter anymore, does it? So she seeks the support now, better late than never. Maybe she just… needed the reminder. That she can trust someone.

“…Benjamin.” Huruma takes her time before saying his name, only after settling there beside him. Even before she continues, her hand fumbles its way to the pocket of the loose overshirt she wears. Something sad crosses her features again, threatening to fix all the work she’s done in pushing it down. There’s more quiet for a moment longer.

“Have I ever shown you a picture of her…?” Huruma draws out the photo in her pocket, its edges rough, a bit of a crease in the corner. She offers it across laps, face up. The girl in it seems about the age of his own daughters, a more gangly version of her mother with a much sweeter face— small chin, large eyes, dark brows, a few thin scars that do not detract from a shining smile.

The former agent goes still when she moves to lean against him; but, he also returns the lean just enough to keep her upright. While she continues to settles herself, he watches her out of his eyes.

The utterance of his name, finally has his head turning her way, gaze angled down at the photo she produces. Brows lift a little, as he reaches to take it carefully. Tilting the picture so that the light hits it just right, he smiles a little. “I don’t think you even have.” He studies for a long moment, before offering it back; knowing what she was offering with that. “She’s lovely.” He offers truthfully.

Willfully leaning on others is a big step. Figuratively, moreso. Huruma rests her jaw against his shoulder as he studies the photo, her reddened eyes following his hand, flicking to the smile and feeling a mote of satisfaction there.

“She… she really is.” Huruma whispers, taking the photo back into her fingers. She does not have any of Dajan, nor Badrani. Just Riya, for now. It is a singular root, dragging behind the wandering tree, reaching for something.

“Whatever happens, I promised to see her again. I will, when all this is… done.” Juwariya’s photo finds her mother’s pocket again, gently tucked away. “She’s upstate, with Joseph Sullivan…” The name is one that Ryans likely knows from his work days, one that he probably hasn’t heard in a time and a half. “So if something—” Huruma breathes, hyper-aware of the flannel against her cheek. “If I can’t, someone else needs to.”

The one hand, he has left, comes up to stop her. “Shhh.” Ben shakes head is slowly, giving her a bit of a lopsided smile. “Don’t start that. However,” however… he isn’t going to leave her without the assurance of “I’ll make sure to see her…. If it is necessary.” There have been a couple of times in the last couple of months, he thought about asking the same of her.

Blue-eyes roll skyward as if he could see the dome above, “However, if I have anything to say about it, you, Megan, and my family,” yes that includes Nicole,” will get out of here alive.” He glances back down at her. “Just hold on a little while longer, than you can go see her yourself.”

Don’t start that, he says. Lopsided smile is met with a tight one of her own, and a fresh brush of cloth across her cheeks. For her part, the blood has stopped, and the wetness of her eyes has subsided into redness, glaring color against her irises. She hasn’t let go of her field yet, resisting it with a steadying breath. Not yet. It remains close, encompassing just the pantry and some of the space beyond it.

His words draw her gaze upwards again, stress showing faintly on her brow. Her smile is earnest as it appears, close-lipped yet softening the more severe lines of her features.
Asante, kwa kuniruhusu kuwa na hili…” Huruma whispers under those same breaths. “Thank you.”

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