The Goal Of Living


abby4_icon.gif eileen_icon.gif francois_icon.gif hiro_icon.gif

Scene Title The Goal Of Living
Synopsis Fate works in reverse when Eileen and Abigail go back in time to bury a body or save a life - whichever comes first.
Date November 15, 2009

Louisiana - Summer, 1994

It's hot, and the air is dense with humidity, a stark shift from the approach of a New York winter. Summer insects click and buzz in trees, between leaves and beneath bark. The sun is high in the sky and works to cook the three temporally displaced beings that find baking asphalt beneath their feet and light in their eyes and a common purpose intact despite the sudden change of geography and time.

The flipped car had no sign of life, but no sign of death either. As dazzling as the Subaru's exposed underbelly, the glittering fragments of glass and the crimson among them, and the heat bouncing off hot metal could be, the stale evidence of a scuffle was noticed first by Eileen's eyes. A dead body had been dragged from the wreckage, or, if heel scuffs in dust and dirt could indicate anything, an alive one. No belongings remained.

But this is a part of the story they know. Hiro was a shadow behind Eileen Ruskin and Abigail Beauchamp as they moved down the road, away from the overturned car, but by the time they got to the swampy brush off the beaten trail, the last samurai vanished into thin air after an announcement that he should secure the perimeter. And good luck.

When they'd come together, even the time traveler hadn't been sure if Abby would find a dead body or a dying man, but now it's up to her to lead them there, for better or for worse.

Its strange to dig out your summer clothes, and put them on underneath winter gear. But she did and when they'd appeared in the humid environment, Abigail'd stripped down to her shorts and tank top. Bug spray applied, hat and sunglasses. A little.. modern for the times but in the woods, all there would be would be a dead man or nearly dead man and possibly the five year old version of herself.

Possibly her parents and lets hope not, because that'd just be.. temporally confusing. Hi dad, I'm your daughter, you know, 16 years down the road. With pink hair. Nope, another conversation she's not having. But these are her woods and even at the age of five she had navigated them like she'd been born in them and not in a hospital next town over. Hiking boots on and thick wool socks to keep off the ticks, chiggers and all other manner of nasty bugs, hiking pack on her back to accommodate winter clothing, jacket and everything else, she'd headed out with Eileen towards where they'd been before.

There would be no red tags to mark their path and provide some manner of trail. Just following memory and a prayer. "What do you suppose happens, if I meet myself?" Probably a question better asked of Hiro and she's wishing she'd asked her father what time it was that she came screaming back to the house. Ah, hindsight and 20/20. "should be there soon" Voice dropped low in case some vanguard goons might be near. Her dad's old shotgun too, in hand and loaded in the hopes that she really won't have to wield it.

Eileen doesn't have any advice to offer Abigail — she's too focused on the woodland unfolding in front of them, gray eyes moving between shafts of sunlight spilling down to the forest's floor through the trees. Occasionally, the beams reflect off a glossy-feathered back or a flash of silver wing as birds of every shape and size dart in and out of the cyrillas and between maple trunks. Like the former healer, she's dressed for summer rather than winter, having abandoned her heavy woolen coat and stockings back home for a pair of faded denim jeans that sit low on her hips and an unremarkable black top sans sleeves.

She wears her hair tied back into a short ponytail at the nape of her neck, slick with sweat. This isn't the sort of weather she's used to, and it shows in the fine beads of moisture gathering on the surface of her pallid skin and her upper lip. Louisiana was better in the winter. "Quiet," she urges the other woman in a low voice, fingertips brushing the pistol in her leather shoulder holster though she has yet to pull it. Francois Allegre and Abigail's younger self aren't the only others in the forest this afternoon. Whoever was responsible for the crash may still be in the area, and if they are then she, Hiro and Miss Beauchamp have more to worry about than disrupting the time-space continuum.

Pinky is very much aware of it. That they might not be alone. Her fingers tighten then relax on the shotgun as she keeps moving quietly through the underbrush. Daddy Beauchamp too her and her mother camping, hunting, a whole wide variety of tasks in the woods of the state. She's at home here more than she is in Manhattan. While she jabbered, she was looking, watching, keeping an eye out with normal eyes and not glassy beady ones. There's a nod for Eileen when she says quiet, worried that maybe she'd seen something ahead. a finger comes up, pointing the direction to take, alter course a bit after a glance at a compass and a listen to place where the river is in comparison to the road.

A sage thrasher streaked dark gray alights on a skinny branch up ahead encrusted with lichen and hooks licorice black feet in the fungus to secure its perch. It lets out a shrill, warbling cry of alarm directed at the two women, but whatever it's seen must not be a threat because Eileen's hand drops from her pistol in the moments that follow. "Come on," she tells Abigail, booted feet crunching through twigs and dead leaves as she picks up the pace and makes the transition from brisk trot to a full out run.

Someone's found something.

The journey sped up to Eileen's pace unravels even quicker in familiarity for Abigail, as much as the landscape has changed to her adult eyes and conforms sharply to the inward gaze of memory of this land from more than a decade ago. It's a sleepy Louisianan summer afternoon, and at least when one takes into account the space-time continuum—

It's all rather exciting.

Francois Allegre, Francis Allen, doesn't yet think so. Pain has tided over into a settling sense of resignation and numbness, although it's a little too late for regret. It's too late for most things. He's about two feet away from where tiny Abby had found him against the tree, having made it that far in a last ditch effort to at least lead the Vanguard bloodhound away from the nice Southern girl and her family.

The leather of his jacket has gotten hot beneath the high noon sun, and blood has gotten thick beneath it. He's gripping onto a low branch, as if he could lever himself to his feet but in the end, gravity tugs him back down like laundry from a line, coming to rest against a tree in final resignation. So. He is to die here. By the time there's the sound of crunching foot steps, Francois can only a faint flicker of regret that he didn't try harder when he still had the strength to.

None of this is familiar to the southerner. Not even the bleeding man gripping the tree when she and Eileen make it to where he is. Abigail reaches out, hand to Eileen's shoulder, pointing with the stock of her gun to the down'd Frenchman. "Francois?" She calls out softly, loud enough for the man to hear. "Francois Allegre, Francis Allen?" Really, how many Frenchman can be dying in the woods in the backwoods of a small town. "Heavens"

She's excited too. He's alive, as much as he can be right now. Alive and they're here and… She glances over her shoulder, around and wary. "We're going to get you away from here, some place safe Mr. Allegre. We promise. My name is…"

How crazy is this going to be. "My name is Abby, this is Eileen. Can we help you, get you somewhere else before others come looking for you with not so saintly intentions?"

Eileen's not sure that their intentions qualify as saintly, but this is likely a moot point. When Abby's hand finds her shoulder, the muscles in it tense on instinct before relaxing, somewhat calmed by the touch. Her adrenaline is up and her heart pulsating; all the excess moisture in the air makes it difficult to breathe on top of the pollen and infinite particles of dirt and debris kicked up by their feet from under the mulch. Elias hadn't been fooling when he warned her that summers in the American South would smother her like a damp pillow.

She pulls away from Abigail, dislodging the hand on her shoulder with a gentle shrug, and closes the distance that remains between herself and Francois. A year ago, had she been in the same position and in different company, she might be here for very different reasons and with a very different purpose. "You can start by telling us where you're hurt," she suggests instead, her eyes scouring their sun-dappled surroundings for shadows that don't belong. "Vanguard did this?"

It had been only a handful of minutes ago that another girl had introduced herself with that name, enough to fish hook into his hazy consciousness and gain a glance, sloping forehead crinkling in puzzlement. There are women approaching him with a familiarity he doesn't share, his spine pressing into tree trunk as if he could disappear into it and die in peace. Saintly intentions?

He manages a response in action only, pushing away folds of leather to show the three hunting knife slashes and punctures visible in both torn fabric and flesh, red shining. Blue-green eyes flare a little at that name, Vanguard

"Only one man," Francois says, voice taut and words economical. "Kill you— both also." A number of questions vy for attention, as he swings a bleary gaze from Eileen and back to the pink-haired adult incarnation of Abigail, attention captured on her features for a moment before he selects one question that might sum up all the others. "Why?"

She'll let Eileen answer the why. She's settling her shotgun down and whipping out supplies, medical supplies. Painkilles in syringes, things lifted from Ferryman supplies for the purpose of helping Francois. "You met me, five year old me a few minutes ago probably. Maybe. If so, probably got fifteen minutes till I make it home, and another twenty to get people down here. Dah will likely bring the dog. Hiro Nakamura is searching the perimeter."

Carefully, Abigail approaches Francois proper at his little tree gravemarker. Hopefully the use of Hiro's name might make him realize that it's another one of those instances. "Can I see where you're hurt? So I can help you"

Eileen's attention flicks to the tree, its bark sticky and red where the Frenchman's jacket has come into contact with the trunk. She's looking for something, and when she doesn't find it the corners of her mouth twitch down into a pensive expression that isn't quite a frown. "You aren't meant to die here," she says, unclipping the utility knife from its hook on her belt. With a flick of her wrist, it cracks open in her palm and shines like a sliver of liquid lightning under the sun. Suddenly, in time of daffodils by ee cummings makes faultless sense. "We don't have twenty, Abigail. Staunch the bleeding and let's go."

Yes, he recognises her, in name and in a face as much as she's gotten a lot taller in the past decade and a half and dyed her hair. Through pain and general confusion, Francois stares at Abigail as she approaches all the closer. "Je ne comprends pas," isn't quite the truth, murmured as reverently as it is, and making no efforts to do as asked and show her clearer where the hunter's knife had passed through flesh. A glance to Eileen, and to Abigail—

He reaches out a hand for Abigail, delirium communicated in the slight sway in his movement. His hand weaves through air, comes to rest on her wrist. The lines at his eyes deepen in a smile, head resting back against the tree trunk. "You grew up," he says, hitched laughter in his voice. "Mon ange, you've come back. Time flies."

He coughs, once, enough to paint his teeth a little more red, the palm of his hand up to press against his mouth and pulling away slick with it. "Even Hiro— Hiro Nakamura would agree there is not much left. You should go before he— he kills you. There is no where."

"Some days, you just have to accept Francois, instead of understand. The lord provides" Blood in the mouth, is not good and she suspects it's not cause he bit a lip. As hand latches to wrist, there's a shake of her head if he was expecting her to suddenly infuse him with a warmth remembered by him not a few minutes ago. "I did. Grow'd right up and did good with what we had. Afraid it's good ol fashioned healing Francois though, from me. It's moved on, it rests in someone else now" Her free hand though, is lifting sterilized packets of gauze to her mouth so she can tear them open and suss out the wound. The way he sits, favours one side, all clues that lead her educated mind to his abdomen and peering there. Blood.

"How we doing Eileen, anyone?" More gauze torn as she takes her wrist back from Francois and starts to pack it onto the wound. Heavy duty chunks of it, meant to absorb blood. "Francois, lean forward so I can wrap it. We'll deal with it when we're safe"

"We don't die here, either," Eileen murmurs around a mouth crooked with morose amusement, perhaps to reassure Francois or maybe Abigail as she carves the words into the trunk with the tip of her blade. Although her eyes are intent on her work, those belonging to the birds in the trees track Hiro Nakamura's progress along the perimeter and aid him in his search. They weave through the canopies in glittering streams infused with brightness, some more colourful than others, communicating in diminutive voices sharp with excitement.

She pauses to blow wood shavings from her etching, dusting off curls of bark with the tips of her fingers. Making the words legible is more time-consuming than she anticipated it would be, never mind deep enough so they maintain staying power. "I don't see anyone," she tells Abigail, returning to her work, "but that doesn't mean anything if he's like Kazimir." Evolved. "The nineties were before my time. How's he looking?"

He moves as asked, leaning enough so that Abigail can wrap and tie bandages into place, a hand up to help grip the bundled gauze against his leaking wounds and keeping them firm. Hair sticks to his pale face, shining with sweat from humidity and shock both, cool despite the high noon. The world tips in and out of Francois' attention, eyes hooding, and he knows better than to offer out his own answer to Eileen's question as he observes, distantly, the way she grinds her knife into the wood for reasons he can't fathom.

"I have many questions," he offers, presently, head heavy on his neck. "Pray there be a time when I can ask them. Hiro told me that our gift saved the world."

"You'll have time. I may not have it anymore, but we know who does and he'll get you fixed right proper and I and Eileen can get you sewed up between now and then." Abigail's digging out a syringe with some painkiller in it. No full does being given, as she aim's for thigh and presses inwards, depresses plunger just a little. Cut down the pain, but not leave the frenchman unable to comprehend, move. The cap slipped back on and tossed into the pile of medical supplies sitting at the top of the pack.

"Fair warning, it's winter where we're going" She assume they mean to bring him back to 2009. "Up and at em frenchman, before I come back with my Dah, or some folks we don't want to catch us, come back. Eileen, grab my shotgun?" She slips an arm under Francois's, shoulder under his arm and hand curving around the good side of his body and helping the man up.

Abrupt as the rain and just as out-of-place on this bright summer day as obtuse weather, Hiro appears. Three feet from where dying man and women take up the shade of a tree, the contours of his coat eroded by a brief gravitational sift of settling despite the absence of tangible breeze, sound effects, or a visible pattern of gait in Hiro's feet when they arrive firmly on God's green Earth. Boot-clad, a sword across his back, ponytail tied off at the base of his skull and round features set in almost cookie-cutter stoicity, he is every part of him as abrupt, discontinuous, and eternal as his ability is purported to be.

Still, his face changes when he lays eyes on Francois, with a little bit more than the pity one owes a dying soldier in a righteous war. His eyes fall momentarily, make a sweep of red, dirt, and ragged fabric, circuit back to meet Francois' eyes.

For only a moment, the length of a gentle nod, not quite a bow, a ceremony as understated as a door held open, before his gaze clicks between women. "Where do you think we're going?" he asks. It isn't a taunt.

Eileen folds her knife back into the closed position and reattaches it to her belt. She lacks either the time or the desire to scrutinize her rendition of the stanza, bending at the middle to pick up Abigail's shotgun when this is requested of her. For the first time, she's giving Francois the attention his presence commands and studies his face with some apprehension, her expression vague

Hiro was right; their gift did save the world insofar as giving it a stay of execution, but as Abigail points out, there will be time for further explanations later. "New York City," she says to Hiro, slinging the rifle over her shoulder. "One of the Ferryhouses should do until we can find Deckard. What do you think, Abigail? The Garden?"

Oh, medication. There's relief as the painkiller hits his blood stream, flows its numbing warmth through his body all but instantaneously, and so he doesn't make a sound as Abigail steers him to his feet. Standing is not something he expected to do again. Not a big man, he's still a heavy weight against Abby as he braces himself against the once-healer, other hand caught against his chest where gauze is quick to saturate with red.

Hiro's appearance is as abrupt as the time he'd vanished from Francois' life all those years ago. The Frenchman murmurs something, the slick syllables of his own language but muttered too quiet to hear, slurred too mcuh to be distinct. New York City, winter. He's been there once. There's a lot to say, but he holds his tongue. There's not enough time for crucial conversation to be interjected by a dying man's sentiments.

Assumptions are only problematic when they are incorrect. Hiro's contemplative silence could have lasted an hour, for all that the girls know, but the decision is weighed and made without honestly having to bother either of their long-haired heads. Or Francois', for all that it might have been an unpleasant surprise for the Frenchman to think that the swordsman was about to become churlish about leaving him to one of the grisly fates that so often seem to come upon him. And if this works out, maybe—

"We need to move quickly," Hiro assents instead, stepping forward. "There are men coming this way. Their leader has dark hair and a big nose," described with a plump finger hooked out briefly beside his face, the emphasis meaningful only because he distinctly suspects that it will be so for Francois. "A gaijin.

"I will hold onto Francois and Eileen. Please grab onto my shoulder." Three is unwieldy to carry, but not impossible. Hiro levels dark eyes on Abigail's face, awaiting her response to the Englishwoman's question even as he matches his hands to the configuration he had mentioned before, his fingers closed on sleeves, one soil-scarred, the other slender. It prickles at his nape faintly, that he doesn't have a hand free for his sword, despite that he knows he wields greater power than simple steel.

"Garden. Close to the medical safehouse if we need it and close enough to the lutheran church. I can send Pastor McCoy for Flint." It's her preferred safehouse of choice. "We can always bring him back Hiro, if he's not meant to be with us in our time" A glance to the tree that Eileen had been working on. Now it makes sense, why Eileen's initials were on the tree when Francois hadn't met the woman before now."

Her grip is sure around Francois and tight, one hand reaching out to lay on Hiro and a fistful of Japenese-man's jacket. "Go, quickly"

Eileen places a hand on Hiro's arm, curling fingers around his sleeve and angles her face away from the glare of the sun, eyes shielded by her lashes. The autumn chill will be a welcome respite from Louisiana's sopping summer. Waves of heat distort the shape of branches closes to the ground, rippling up from the leaves like a disturbance spreading through clear water.

They have what they came for.

There is guardedness and disbelief in eyes twofold made unfocused from shock and medication. If there is something to learn in around seventy years of existence, it is that history repeats, and people hardly ever change. Not even when you really want them to. Hiro even had two women the last time he appeared and summarily abandoned him, too.

None of the three are privy to the moment Hiro makes his decision, but Francois imagines he is. Gratitude is a weakness that makes his shoulders slack beneath rumpled leather.

"Merci," is sighed out, and his eyes slide closed as his legs start to give out when rural Louisiana switches to the verdant ever-damp winter setting of New York City's Staten Island hideaway.

The Japanese man chuckles, shortly, cants the erstwhile healer— the girl one— a glance that isn't exactly pitying nor reassured. Put him back. As if such a thing would be more easily conscienced or carried by the flow of time and progression of events; not if what reality truly intends is Francois Allegre dead. Still, it's one way to trick a life back into fate. Using superpowerrrrs.

"Daijoubu desu yo."

He squeezes his eyes shut. The thicket ruptures a dozen yards behind Abigail's steeled shoulders, splits around brutish black boots and a thrust of remorseless gunmetal. The Vanguard crashes in and finds nothing but kudzu, and lingering suspicions. It won't be long before they find the blood, but to even the sharpest-eyed of suspicions, nobody died here. It is what a kami told Hiro once, an inexplicable disappearance.

New York City in 2009 is precisely what Eileen promised, also: cold, the ivy browning and shuddering desiccated on the wall that appears inches frm her shoulder. Nightfall presides. They're in the Garden. The Garden's garden, to be more specific, which is empty of children and overlooked by someone who abruptly then shuts a second-story window and yells a warning loud enough that they can hear it from outside. Incoming. Abigail's brought friends.

"Quickly." Hiro releases his hold on the Europeans, steps back across creaking porch wood, making room, his eyes hooded by speculation.

Bet your sweet bippy it'll be quickly. Tank tops adn shorts, summer clothing and warm temperatures replaced by cold ones and a biting chill against bare legs and arms do much to make one move fast. Even as Francois's start to wobble and give, Abigail's calling out to those inside to come out, help carry him in. Orders yelled for a room to be made clear for the man. Between her and Eileen, they can sure sew him up and get him out of danger. Someone will head out for blood supplies and all needed to bring a man from the past back to picture perfect health.

"Thank you Hiro. Stop in tomorrow, there will be cinnamon buns for you" Repayment in baked goods. She knows how much he loves them. "Welcome to two thousand and nine Francois. Sleep. Rest. You're safe."

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