Time Like Clay


benji_icon.gif nick_icon.gif

Scene Title Time Like Clay
Synopsis While the future seems to promise yet more failure for one man, one of the two people he's failed reminds him it can be changed.
Date April 30, 2011

Pollepel Island

He’d been seeking Eileen, traipsing through the woods and rock that surround the castle, for some time, but eventually deciding that his sister would be found if she wanted to be found; after all, birds are ubiquitous here on Pollepel, flying overhead or chattering in the trees. After a couple of hours, Nick has returned to the castle. Eyes cast down to avoid conversation with any he passes en route, he looks in the usual places — kitchen, dining room, store rooms. He doesn’t actually seek her in her own private room, which might be the reason his search efforts come up short.

Finally, he makes his way to the roof top where the meeting had taken place. If nothing else, it’s a quiet place, a solitary place — which suits Nick’s purposes most of the time, but today, more than ever.

He has a lot to think about.

Moving to the edge of the roof, Nick looks out across the water as he distractedly pulls another cigarette from the pack in his pocket; this time he doesn’t light it but simply holds it in one hand. His forearms rest on the stone wall and he bows his head, closing his eyes.

He could almost be praying — except that it’s Nick, and he’s long ago given up on any such faith, on any God that would allow the things he’s seen in his life, the things he’s done in his life. Which isn’t to say he doesn’t believe there is a God — it’s simply one he’s turned his back on.

Benji tried to sleep.

But with only a small reserve of medication on him and preserved for the evening hours besides, this had failed, leading to staring at the grey ceiling as weak curtains did not much for broad daylight. Climbing out of the thin-mattressed cot. Redressing, re-emerging, and doing her best to avoid those that had been at the meeting not a couple of hours before — which is possibly why she finds herself slowly plodding up the staircase to the site of the meeting itself. In blue jeans and white blouse, the patterned detail at the collar doing enough to make it firmly so, it's a change from the dark palette of blacks and greys that she usually slouches around in.

The warmer weather calls for a warmer dress sense, maybe. The last traces of makeup had been cleaned away before attempted sleep, save for the ashy remains in the creases around the eyes, between eyelashes. Fingernails clear — just bitten.

Stepping out of shadowed corridor and into the sun comes with only then seeing the dark-headed figure kneeling at the ledge. Benji pauses even as boots crunch grit beneath pragmatic soles. Deciding she's possibly outgrown the compulsion to turn and disappear again back inside, she stands in place in paralytic indecisiveness, hands folding together, hoping to be seen before she has to say anything. Or not.

At the scrape of boot on grit, Nick turns, eyes widening as he sees who it is behind him. His hands reach behind him to grasp the railing, before dropping again to his sides. His gaze drops as well, and he studies the space between them.

“I was looking for Eileen,” he murmurs, feeling the need to fill the silence between them with something. “I- I’ll talk to her. I’m sure she didn’t mean what she said. Not … not really.” His stammering makes him flush, giving an exasperated shake of his head before he finally looks up, studying Benji’s face.

Pale blue eyes — Delia had said eyes like his, but Nick can see they are brighter than his own glacial blue, somewhere between his and Delia’s cornflower, perhaps. Dark hair — like his, but for the curl that Delia said was like hers. Both in need of a cut, or perhaps a growing out.

The name Ryans still rings in his ears — Nick knows that means either Benji took his mother’s name deliberately or that he was never given Nick’s. Which name Nick would give a child, he’s not sure — Ruskin is not a name he’s proud of. Neither is York. Ryans is a name to be proud of, but it hints at further failure on Nick’s part.

He flounders for anything else to say, and so he doesn’t, for a moment.

Standing in the doorway, Benji's attention is more observant than engaged, a hand wandering up to pluck fingertips at the thin silver chain around her throat, on which the pendant disappears behind white cotton and remains hidden.

The subject matter has her lowering her gaze, though, but not in a way that communicates retreat. She even edges a little farther into the courtyard, slinking around to rest a shoulder against the wall — a sight more mature than fleeing the kitchen mid-prep without explanation. "Would you?" is demured — not sarcastically, either, a wavery kind of warm appreciation for the sentiment that Nick would talk to Eileen. Benji would rather not.

"I haven't been making the best impression."

A heavy swallow is followed by a short nod. “I’ll do my best,” Nick says quietly. “Things were hard for her, the past few weeks. I don’t understand it all, but I think it’s tied to …” His hand gestures vaguely toward Benji, “you and your friends.”

He’s still a little unclear on the details, and he shakes his head with irritation at that.

“She’ll want the others to go after this Calvin bloke,” Nick points out. “I agree with her that it’s not just your problem any more — not because I don’t respect or trust you,” he seems eager to add. “Just that it’s the entire country’s problem, now. Even worse, possibly. So we need to work together to stop it, as much as we can.”

Focusing on the problem seems to ease the awkwardness a little, the younger man that is his father straightening out of that slouched and uncertain posture, his eyes focusing more on Benji’s face. “The rest of the group might listen if I have a better solution. I don’t know nothin’ about biology and virology and whatnot, but my thought is your friend is more valuable alive than dead. He might be able to help, if we can get him back…?” The last is lilted into a question, and Nick sighs, hand holding the unlit cigarette raking through his hair nervously.

He takes a slight step forward, blue eyes probing blue. “What would you like me to ask them to do, Benji? I’m … they may not listen to me, but I can try.”

"My friend," Benji says, breaking eye contact and letting it list elsewhere, arms folding defensively across her narrow torso, "couldn't have done this alone. He has an education— a real one— but… he isn't a virologist. So keeping him alive would be nice, yes. He isn't the root of the problem. I can't— " A hand splays, as if to still the conversation somehow. She hasn't intended to resume the subject matter of the meeting, despite stepping out here.

She doesn't want to forget who she's talking to. "I don't have a plan. I just don't think he should die. I don't think it will help."

Swallowing, she looks back at Nick, but doesn't move from her position against the wall, shrinking leaning back into it as she considers him. Studies him, again, as young as he is. "Do you really?" she muses, with the smallest hint of a smile at the corner of her mouth. It's not an overly friendly expression. "Trust and respect me?"

Nick nods at the first — killing someone won’t solve this problem; it will only serve as revenge to make people feel better. “I’ll try,” is a weak promise in his own ears, as he much as he feels all his efforts eventually end in vain.

The second question takes longer to digest. His own glance skitters away and his jaw twitches as he considers his words. Finally, he shrugs, left-shoulder rising and falling. “As much as I trust anyone else,” he says — and while there’s a crooked and self-conscious smirk at that, there is honesty, too.

“You obviously have the others’ trust, and you’ve helped the Ferry and kept its secrets, or we wouldn’t still be here. You’ve the courage to come back and to risk your lives, the courage to stand before us and admit things got screwed up,” Nick offers quietly, eyes downcast. “And Delia trusts you — though I’m not sure that’s a point in your favor.” A tic of smile is both genuine and affectionate of Benji’s mother, of her (too) trusting disposition.

The left shoulder rises and falls again, Nick’s eyes troubled as he studies Benji’s face. “Prob’ly I should be the one asking but I don’t expect the answer to be complimentary.”

There's minor shame in the way Benji looks away, red darkening her features that she's coaxed these words from her would-be father, making freckles stand out, the unfinished washing of makeup. Shaking her head, already, by the time Nick is finishing, and a guilty look pointed his way at finishing self-deprecation. "No," she says. Corrects. "I don't have a right to ask anything of you. Much less now.

"You can ask me anything you like, or choose not to. I just— don't want to make things worse. Scare you away even more."

The words are almost an exact echo of what Nick has said to Delia — the idea of rights when it comes to relationships and expectations. On this end of the dialogue, they sound hollow. Who else would have the right, if not Benji?

Nick shakes his head, exhaling a huff of breath that is neither laugh nor anger but simply exasperation at himself. “You have the right,” he says, “to ask or tell me whatever you want.” As for getting scared away, his cheeks flush at that, that his son — daughter — thinks of him as afraid. It bothers him…

…because it’s the truth. He glances away. “I’m … trying,” Nick manages. “Trying to understand, and trying to be supportive. I’m not good at…” He gestures vaguely between them, as if anyone could expect a 23-year-old to be a good parent to a grown child. “Family.”

A 23-year-old talking so to his grown child is a notion that has the corner of Benji's mouth tugging into compulsive smirk, a thin exhale through her nose and a dismissive hand gesture. It's apologetic, too — she doesn't mean to laugh at him. "Mister York," she begins, head tipped to the right, "you have enough flesh and blood in this time to worry about. And in the future— " She looks passed him, easily sobering, pushing off from the wall as arms fold around her waist.

"You leave," she states, plainly, simply. "Because you're not good at family, or— I'm just quoting you. I like to think you would have been wonderful."

Coming to halt at a closer distance, hedging just shy within conversational bounds, she wanders her hands up, to the back of her neck, and unclasps the chain. Slithering it out from her collar and allowing the pendant to dangle against her knuckles, she shows off the older version of the token exchanged between her parents. "You give me this," she says. "I never told mom you did, I didn't want her to think of it the wrong way. I knew what it meant."

Black brows knit together at the name ‘Mister York,’ and Nick swallows as his “future” is foretold to him. Silently, his lips move, something that might read as “I’m sorry.” But his eyes come up to look at what Benji shows him, and his hand moves to the silver at his own neck.

A shaky breath is taken.

“I donno how much has changed,” Nick begins, voice rough, eyes a little lost, searching for something easy to anchor on and finally using the heart-like medallion as a focal point. “But I’m sorry for whatever I did or didn’t do, if … if that makes sense.”

He glances back up to Benji’s face. “But you’re wrong if you think I have enough flesh ‘n’ blood now not to worry about you, too. I donno how to do this…” Another vague gesture between them. “But I’m not gonna run this time.”

He reaches a hand out — palm up, fingers slightly curled, not a handshake but something more friendly, something more like an offering. “Call me Nick, I guess? Mister York… isn’t really me.” Even if, in some future that may no longer be, he ran like Gregory did so many years ago.

Benji remains frozen in place for too long, pale blue stare squared on the offered hand, open palm and slack digits. Later, she'll unpack the vicious compulsion to take revenge by way of rejection on someone who hasn't even committed the act that condemns him. For now, it's shelved high enough to ignore enough for her to place her hand on his. It isn't the prettiest hand, nails kept short and a little ragged from bad habits, and a rougher quality to fingers and palm that speaks of labour, ropes. He'd been the one to catch her, borrowing the boat, so maybe it's not a surprise.

There's a hesitation, before Benji's grip tightens. "Just— if you're honoured with the opportunity," she says, flicking a look up to the face of her father, "if she allows you to. Make her happy. It isn't difficult."

She retracts the hold then, turning her back in a step away as she goes to reclasp the necklace around her neck.

Nick glances down at the hand, and keeps his gaze down when she retracts her hand; the muscles in his jaw do their dance beneath the scruffy skin there.

“D’you,” starts too soft, voice not quite breaking through to full voice before he clears his throat, and tries again, “D’you think I’m capable of it? When I … when I was there…” He doesn’t know if he was there long enough for Benji to know him, and that makes him shake his head again.

His brows dip again, and he looks up, something pleading in his eyes, questions he can’t bring himself to ask. He nods to the necklace as Benji clasps it once more. “I guess that didn’t help me much, though like all her metaphors, ‘twas a pretty one. Maybe it’ll be better for you.”

"You still have yours, Mist— Nick. Everything's already changed, time like clay in your hands. If we can't divine the specific order and nature of events, let us leave you with that at least." Glancing back over her shoulder at him, it's difficult to read what's going on behind clear blue eyes. Nothing bad, maybe, considering that there isn't any tension making sharper the angle of her jaw, or prissier her mouth. Goes back to adjusting her collar.

Sparing him a smile. "You're capable," is all she leaves him with, before moving for out, not quite fleeing, but no real uncertainty in each step.

His hand going to his own collar to touch the pendant there, he nods, not correcting her on what he meant, or perhaps taking to heart her words that there’s a chance for change. Nick doesn’t stop her retreat, but looks up again when she is almost gone.

“Let me know if you need my help,” he offers, voice a little stronger, a little more confident, if feigned and deliberate. “For… anything.”

After a beat, he adds, “Please. It’d mean a lot to me. And her, I think, too.”

He’s trying.

She pauses her stride only with the intent to communicate she heard him — a simple nod seems like excessive agreement, but Benji can't will herself to just ignore it.

Expression unseen— which might be a good thing— means that Nick only knows that he's heard, because, with a last and vaguely musical fidget of fingers against the frame of the door, Benji slips out of sight, leaving him back at peace with the green view and unlit cigarette.

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