benji_icon.gif howard_icon.gif

Scene Title Traction
Synopsis Seeking conversation with Howard is like a certain form of masochism.
Date January 7, 2011

Pollepel Island

Footprints in the snow are a sure sign of man's presence.

Melted footprints in the snow are a sure sign of a specific man's presence.

The screams can't be heard for very far away, thanks to the natural sound barriers of rocky knolls and hills in the woods obfuscating the origin of sound at a distance when it doesn't outright block it out. The lights, were it dark, would be easier so see. Thankfully for the Ferrymen, the noise of electrical discharge doesn't spread past the copse of woods that it is occuring in, nor was the man responsible callous or careless enough to perform this act at night.

The span of snow melted around the footprints that the young man called Benjamin Foster has found grows the closer to the noise he gets. What started out as ordinary tracks by the entrance to Bannerman Castle quickly escalated into a trail of melted snow right before making his way into the wooded lot where Howard Phillips has chosen to undergoe his torturous release.

It is an act all too familiar to Benji, though one that never can be grown accustomed to, only tolerated and endured. An olive-drab military style jacket — precious as it is — has been discarded to a snow drift to spare it an ignoble fate. It is the only article of clothing Howard bothered — or had the opportunity to — shed before making it to this place.

Beneath the boughs of tall pine trees with snow-laden branches, Howard layd curled in the fetal position, teeth clenched together and eyes wrenched shut. Veins bulge in his neck and on his forehead as strangled screams like that of a wounded animal slip out thorugh his tightly closed jaw.

Arcs of electricity leap off of Howard's body, each bolt that leaves him causing an irridescent white-blue glow beneath his skin as hs bones are illuminated. The snow has melted around Howard in a ring, sweat beads on his bare shoulders and chest, runs in rivulets down his forehead and crackles with static electricity.

That he's almost done is a relief, even if a small one.

The jacket slides off the snow drift as Benji takes it by the collar, and there's the soft sound of the other hand beating it free of ice and dirt both in soft, searching pats. He's an upright figure in all the white and greenery, shivering beneath his own coat of woolen and mock-silver buttons, a blue scarf bundled around his throat. Icy dampness tracks halfway up his calfs, soaking denim, and his feet curl chilly in pragmatic boots that sink into snow that's gone to slush in the wake of one Howard Phillips.

Eventually, when the last of the electrical snaps through the trees seem to be dying out, the raven-haired refugee makes his approach, his footsteps sounding wetly crunchy through the forest floor as he does so with the kind of wariness that comes with survival instinct. Or.

Guilt, even. When Howard does come into view, his clear blue eyes hold something of a spectator's interest and doubt, as if the sight he comes across, familiar as it is, makes him hesitate that this was ever a good idea in the first place. But much like the kind of release that Howard finds out here, Benji deems his visit to be necessary. "I was thinking about what you said," he greets, voice light, gentle, barely audible. "And I, uh. Mm." A wisp of silvery vapour flags along a huffed chuckle.

Self-deprecating. "I think you were right after all."

"You're just— " Howard grates out between hissed breaths as a few sparks of electricity snap down one bare arm, "tryin' t'make me feel better 'r somethin'." Swallowing dryly, laying on his side in the snow, Howard turns his cold stare up towards Benji's blurry silhouette in unfocused vision further distorted by teary eyes.

Looking at one shaking hand, Howard watches tiny bolts of electricity leap between his fingers, a few tiny static arcs flickering in his hair, before finally the electrical discharge ends entirely. He tries to stay still, visibly pained by small movements, winding up laying his head down on the melted snow and hard ground beneath.

"What was I right about?" Howard breathlessly asks into the snow, eyes falling shut and throat working up and down again in another attempt to swallow the soreness in his throat away. "I could use t'feel a little better right now."

"Oh. I don't know if it will. Sorry." Just so we're clear.

Benji bites his lip before deeming the immediate area safe enough to approach, snow turning to liquid and mud and rock beneath his feet which doesn't stop him from coming to crouch a respectable distance nearby. "I think that you're right that we don't have a leader. I shouldn't have implied otherwise." He folds the jacket over in his hands in a fidget, fingertips playing over the rougher, thinner patches of the well-loved jacket, fidgeting with the collar.

He holds it out, then, for Howard to put on rather than take — the shoulders spread, the interior offered out. "We're all free to make our own decisions. Even you." That last part comes with a half-smile, signifying and gentling teasing, even if there's a certain melancholy to it.

"S'that mean I can beat the tar outta' the clone here?" Howard asks without so much intent for permission but perhaps as subtle warning. One hand is splayed down in the snow, and Howard's right arm straightens as he pushes himself up into a sitting position, his free hand wiping sweat from his brow. "'Cause there ain't no good reason why I shouldn't kick that fucker's teeth in for what he did…" though Howard's own ire on that seems to have faded, if only just.

By the time Howard actually bothers to think about Benji's statement, there's a dismissive wave of his hand in the air. "We do have a leader," he admits, perhaps just to be contrary. "Well— had. Whatever— Hannah an' ol' Ferrit-face do a fine job'f keepin' shit t'gether. Why, did one'f them say otherwise?"

One of Howard's hands reaches out towards Benji, not for a hand up, but judging from the curl of his fingers back, he's making grabby-hand motions for his jacket.

The jacket is folded out of its offer, and then passed on to Howard's reaching hand, and Benji remains crouched with his arms coming to rest on his knees. His chin tucks into his scarf at Howard's words, and he shakes his head. "Nm-mm. It's nothing they've said," is slightly muffled, quiet, and not entirely intended for Howard — or whatever meaning shadows those words isn't, anyway. Hands link together, a glance back for where he knows Bannerman's castle lurks beyond the thick of the woodlands, seen in glimpses of grey rock.

Subtle pink begins to stain his skin again in a self-conscious blush, always brought about without intention and sometimes mysteriously, even to Benji, but at least, out here, it can pass for simply being cold-nipped. It probably doesn't have to do with Howard's shirtlessness or. Anything like that.

It's easier to be confident in the midst of conflict. Every other time— "I want to know that if we take our eyes off you, you won't hurt people as your first solution. You won't put yourself in danger — with your power, and. You wouldn't forget what we're doing and why it's important. That if you weren't on Pollepel Island— " Husky-blue eyes settle on Howard once more, wide with study, as chilly as the weather but not intentionally. "— you would be fine."

"I ain't been fine," Howard begins, swinging the jacket around and bringing it over his shoulders and the sleeves down his arms, "since I was born. You know that." When it falls heavy on his skinny frame, his grubby hands go about the process of checking the new scorch marks and burn holes on his jeans, eyes averted as he speaks. "Violence's the only answer I know for anythin'," and at that his blue eyes angle back up to Benji. "Don't play like violence ain't the only language you know either. We ain't exactly from different neighborhoods."

With one brow raised, Howard pulls a leg beneath himself and slowly manages to get up to his feet, wobbling for a moment before his attention turns back down to the older man. "What'd Christ-Chick and Ferrit-Face do t'get you all wishy-washy like this? Whipped puppy ain't such a great look fer you, 'cause you sure's anything had plenty'f fire in you the last time you wanted t'talk t'me."

"And where, Mister Phillips, did that get us?"

Benji gets to his feet in one motion, a somewhat defensive set to his shoulders and hands curling into the fists he never actually uses against anyone, but it does make him feel a little better. Howard, not a man who gets 'articulate' pinned to him when described, does have a way of finding exactly the right things to say to bring about reaction — maybe a bully's instinct, or simply knowing Benji well enough to do it. "They ask me for my opinions. That's all. And I think we both know what I'm not."

Leader material. Leaders are military, or ruthless, or able to raise their voice to a normal conversational level without effort. "I wanted you to know that I asked Eileen about leaving the island. Nora needs to seek medical help eventually, and I know you— " A seesaw sort of shrug, Benji's hands coming together as he picks at his slightly bitten nails. "I know you want to leave. So, you can. You can meet with Joshua, or you can use my apartment on Roosevelt Island.

"I'd sincerely appreciate it if you did stay. Or at least came back," is a sort of unwieldy addition, looking somewhere past Howard's left ear rather than at him.

"Roosevelt Island," comes out with a snort from Howard. "Seriously how fucking dumb were you t'get that place? The last goddamned place I wanna' be is Roose-fucking-velt Island. I ain't tradin one water-surrounded prison for another, you can be damned sure of that." Snapping his fingers together and creating a tiny spark with the motion, Howard snaps his attention to the treeline.

Blue eyes linger on the woods briefly, before turning back to Benji. "Maybe I'd come back here, but right now— there's shit I gotta do off'a this island. I gotta' see a man 'bout a machine, maybe cross some names off a list. You should leave too, I won't say that your folks are missin' you 'cause fuck— like any'f our parents give two shits about us but… maybe you need't remember why you're here."

One of Howard's fingers points in Benji's direction. "If we ain't got a leader, it means we ain't got a plan. Or at the very least, we ain't got direction. Which, I guess, means it ain't no problem for me t'take the initiative myself and make something happen."

In contrast to the kinetic energy that is Howard, Benji is still and silent, his demeanor frosting over as swiftly as blushing at each word leveled his way. There's no flinch for the point brandished his way, even after seeing those sparks fly from fingers, just a further straightening of his posture as he unhappily looks the other man up and down. "I don't want to be responsible for you getting yourself or anyone else killed," he says, and his frown deepens at how weak that sounds once said out loud. "And yet it feels so inevitable."

A hand drifts up, a little shakily, to rub knuckles against his brow, before coming to rest on his chest. The entire city is islands, goddamnit.

"What is it about you and friendship that you can only respect if it comes with the chance for revenge? Of any kind? No, just— throw trust to the breeze," and a somewhat loose limbed arm gesture to accommodate that, a crooked smile, "and put everyone in danger because you need a dictator, and I have to say things that I hate just to protect you."

Hands splay. "Fine. Stay here."

"Fuck you," Howard suggests with a wave of one hand in the air, "if you're so goddamned worried about me, why don'cha just come along an' fuckin' baby-sit then? You could make sure I don't fly off the deep end/ and actually do something when some multiplicitous," that may not be a real word, "prick decides he can just fuck with one of our friends. If we lie down, an' we get stepped on, an' we //keep lyin' down nobody's gonna' think anything of us. All we're ever gonna' be are the people who roll over and take abuse."

Shaking his head from side to side, Howard paces away from Benji and turns his back on him, if only to put some distance between the two as he vents — figuratively now and literally earlier. "I sat on my fuckin' hands when they locked you up, because you said to. Did I break you out? No." Howard clenches his hands tightly shut. "Did I want to? Fuck yes I did. But I be-fucking-haved, and where'd that get us? Nowhere. They're bein' nice to our faces and having captain identity crisis drag our asses away one-by-one."

Howard turns around, slowly, his hands animatedly moving with every conspiratorial thought voiced. "You really think playin' possum's gonna get us anywhere? Because I sure as shit know when you saved me from that fuckin' machine? It wasn't love and peace and friendship at work. It was fuckin' brutal, honest, violence and action."

"Yes," is breathed out, hissed out, all warm breath turned to steam in easy confession. "I know." Benji was, after all, there.

And he isn't going to let Howard walk away, either, having drifted a few steps after him upon the back of his approach, a hand going out like he might cling onto the other man's sleeve— possibly shake him— but never gets there in the end, simply hovering between them. "But this time, Howard, we're the enemy, and if we hit back like the enemy, that's all we're going to be to them," is next to whispered, earnestness written into his tone, his expression. "Brian didn't act on behalf of the Ferrymen. He made a mistake.

"And he released Calvin the same day you almost went in swinging. These aren't bad people, there's no need for brutal, honest violence. Not today. But you and I know there'll be a time, soon, when we'll need that." He glances the younger man up and down. "We'll need you. Yes, you behaved, when I was locked away, and it got us allies who might trust us."

He swallows, sharp gaze unfocusing a little. "And that's why I thought you could do with some freedom. And trust. I thought you understood, despite the other day."

"All I understand…" Howard admits as he turns to to look away from Benji, thens turn back to face him again. "All I understand is that this plan of ours sucks. If we don't figure out how we're actually going to do anything here, I'm gonna' start takin' matters into my own hands, which means breaking shit until I feel satisfied that my job's done. But what we've been doin'— this?" His fingers wave between himself and Benji. "It ain't workin'"

Scowling, Howard's expression becomes more serious, his head shaking slowly as blue eyes meet Benji's far clearer ones. "She was right you know," seems so obscure, right up until Benji pins a perfect clarifying point on it. "We should tell them what we're doing. We need t'decide, because if nobody else does…"

Howard's hands curl around the collar of his jacket, lifting the collar up to the back of his neck. "I will."

"Oh, Howard," comes with a chuckle that is a little despairing, not entirely insincere, Benji's head at a cant, "it's working. It works. But you can't see the forest for the trees. But then, no one ever asked you to, did they?"

A step of crunching snow and cracking sticks has Benji coming closer, if not entirely invasively, just somewhat fearless, which belies what he next says: "You frighten me." Coolly delivered, it could easily be a lie, but it's also sadly spoken. "But I think you're even more terrified than I am, and you want everything to happen yesterday, and on your own terms, and fuck everyone else." And he steps sideways and around, putting himself in the path from here to the castle.

"Tell me this — would you give me the same chance we all gave her? Or Hannah, or— " His mouth twists a little, in inappropriate, suppressed amusement. "Ferrit-Face, which is a very unkind name, by the way. But a chance, just for a little longer."

Howard's quiet for a long time, eyes down on Benji's feet, rueful as much as dejected. There's a sniff at the air, more a snuffle, followed by an askance look to the direction where he'd melted much of the freshly fallen snow. Howard's shoulders hunch forward, his brows furrow and eyes close slowly. Much as someone of generally good conscience is occasionally tempted by their own personal devil on the shoulder, so too is Howard occasionally tempted by common sense in the form of Benji Foster.

"He does look like a Ferret," is admitted after so much silence, only when Howard's eyes flick back up to Benji.

"Well he does."

"Unkind," Benji insists, which. Isn't a no he does not, Howard Phillips. His hands link together as he studies Howard's features, as if unsure that this fresh silence is portending good things or not. In the end, however, he has to be good for all that trust he's been flashing around, and a sets about making sure his scarf sits as he desires it in a restless fidget. "Come on. You can walk me back to the castle," he insists, with a head tilt.

A glance over the melted snow, and wondering if there's enough woodland in the world to provide buffer room for someone like Howard.

"You can follow me," Howard asserts purely to be contrary, stepping around Benji and taking the first few strides towards the castle before turning around, arms out to the side. "But I ain't walkin' you to the castle, why y'gotta make everything so queer, seriously?" Blue eyes roll upwards, and Howard turns back around with an overly dramatic sigh, hands sweeping up to rake back through his hair as he walks, sneakers with fresh burn marks in them treading footprints right back the way he came through the forest.

Despite all of that seeming like such an argument, one that ended with little traction on either side. In the indeterminate languages of Benji Foster and Howard Phillips, this series of disagreements is far from a losing argument. Headway was made, ground was broken, and reason was ultimately seen, even if doign so required the emotional equivalent of speaking in tongues.

That's just how they are.

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