Two Lost Souls


deckard4_icon.gif joseph_icon.gif

Scene Title Two Lost Souls
Synopsis …Swimming in a fish bowl come full circle. Also: brohugs.
Date June 6, 2010

Guiding Light Baptist Church

The Guiding Light Baptist church is simply no more. Where once a church, with its arching glass windows and concrete cross fixed to the edge of the pointed roof once stood, now there is naught but crumbling stone, blackened wood and the stick of soot that clings to the air. Curving stone steps lead up from the pavement to an open archway where charred black doors have collapsed off of their hinges. Stained glass windows that shattered from immense heat are now gaping and open, charred black around the edges. Across the doorway yellow crime scene tape wards off visitors, and portions of the sidewalk are likewise cordoned off to avoid pedestrians getting too close to the unstable structure.

All that remains now, of the once illustrious building, is the concrete cross that lays crooked in the middle of the floor through that gaping doorway, cracked and broken into two pieces, laid skewed across a pair of burned pews that struggle to shoulder the weight of its burden.

There's a steady stream of water running through the gutters, though it hasn't rained in a very long time. The street is pretty much clear of snow, or clear enough for it to be marked as substantially different to the prior winter wonderland. As ice melts, scars are rerevealed, and the Guiding Light Baptist Church is no exception. Probably it would be too fairytale to imagine the winter cloak's reveal giving way to a building not burned to a husk, as if the cover of snow had healing properties, but no. The blackened walls, broken windows and crusty wrought iron fencing are very much the same.

Or rather, worse for wear. Standing water within the building, where the roof had caved in during fire, caved in some more from the weight of ice, which then proceeded to melt everywhere. The cover of cloud veils the moonlight, so its up to street lamps to flicker in the ripples of puddles within.

Something skitters, metallic and sharp sounding. An empty crumpled soda can is kicked out from the gaping doorway of the burned out building, rolling down the curved stone steps and onto the pavement, bouncing into the continual run of gutterwater to be carried down the street and catch in iron grilles, though Joseph doesn't feel too badly about this. It's practically a warm evening, though he's still bundled in jacket and a sweater, hands free of gloves, all denim and boots. The last time he'd stood in the doorway of this building, he's probably been dressed a lot nicer.

Across the street, in the spaces where orange lamplight fails to stream, something watches from the shadows. Coyote eyeshine ringed a lurid, unhealthy tint of blue belongs to a brute that is no less rangily, mangily lupine in its way. It wasn't there before.

But it is familiar.

At a distance Flint's all angles and lengths, overcoat lending him some extra mass over a grey suit nicer than anything he's ever had to pay for. His hair's scruffed after the recent removal of a knit cap and greyer too — either because he's getting older fast or because it's been months upon months since he's seen Raquelle. Probably both.

The sensation of his stare is familiar for anyone who's tried to coax a suspicious stray mongrel closer off the sidewalk; he looks like he might scamper if anything else clunky and metallic comes clattering out of Joseph's hell hole.

He needs. Like. A broom. And a mop and bucket. And a lot of money to make cleaning out the burned up building at all have meaning, but even a grave can have some dignity. Though he's not about to lay down fresh cut flowers, not even for Mona, not here, Joseph can at least clean away the debris of trespassers and let the Guiding Light rot in imposing peace. For tonight, however, clearing out the doorway seems like enough of an effort, and with an absent knock of the side of his boot against the charred doorframe, Joseph goes to take a step down.

And stops. Half-descending and frozen, Joseph is, naturally, caught off-guard by the sight of blazing blue eyes shining out from across the street, his duller irises of black-brown far less definite from this distance, if even seen at all when Flint has his eyes on.

Both feet come to settle on stone step, and his smile is uncertain but certainly there. One bare hand raises, a still wave and invitation both. Hi there.

Joseph's movement out before it stops is enough to strike a start in Flint across the street, one boot scuffing sideways and back into a puddle the color and texture of liquid lead. Ripples push sluggishly out from the plant of his heel and he settles warily again to sniff against the cold, still for as long as Joseph is.
His head is ducked too. Moreso now that he's been spotted — not that it helps him to blend in any better. Like a rickety length of dry firewood left at random on the runoff soaked sidewalk, he stands out. The suit doesn't help.

He shouldn't be here, probably. But Joseph (being Joseph) waves hi and his bristly chin lifts in automatic acknowledgement, reflex making his decision for him. "Hey."

The suit is really only seen by the time Joseph is moving on over, a scoping glance up and down displaying some amount of puzzlement, but it's only a minor chord. There are bigger things to be confused about, like Deckard's presence at all since Teo's magician's trick — now you see him, now you don't — but also things to be relieved about. A distinct lack of death and inability to even be here, and so Joseph's smile brightens a fraction as he steps up onto the pavement aaand keeps going.

"Don't panic," he instructs, a second before arms go to cinch around Deckard's shoulders in an exuberant kind of hug, kind of as if maybe they give classes on how to back in east Tennessee. It's over not too long after, hands gripping elbows in the last moment of contact, and another jarred glance up and down at the lines of the suit beneath the overcoat.

Okay, sure. "What, you just get— where've you been? I didn't— expect to see you. So soon." It's not really soon, but the days kind of compress into a vague block of time, more and more. It's hard to think Joseph's been in this city over a year, for instance.

Moving in on Deckard to try to hug him is a little like hugging a statue of someone that isn't sure what to think about being hugged. He stiffens and leans back enough to resist without actively wresting himself away, awkwardness and retarded alarm in equal parts subdued enough that violence is not immediately forthcoming. Being self-conscious about the sanctity of one's manhood to Joseph seems like kind of a waste of energy anyway. For some reason.

Except then it's an actual hug and not just the imminent promise of a hug, with squeezing and pressure and warmth. Flint's breath strains off and catches in his chest; the muscles wrought into his abdomen clench into an arch against Joseph's middle. He muffles a hiss and pants instead.

Not in sudden onset homoeroticism, but in the same hot poker pain shuttering his pupils wide and drawing veins out thick in his wiry neck. But it all happens quickly and quietly — difficult to distinguish from lower key shows of resistance save for the fact that he's still reeling a little vacantly once the hug has dimished to a grasp at his elbows. Don't panic.

"I dunno," is still strained. Slightly wheezy through the usual nasal rough of his voice. Brows knit. "It's complicated." So complicated.

There's a brief moment of more intent study of Flint's long features before Joseph is abruptly releasing his elbows, a hand splaying, something of a sorry gesture when he realises that perhaps the other man is hurt. But apology is merely manifest in releasing him and stepping back, tucking his own hands into pockets — he's not going to be sorry for a hug, that's fer sher. "Don't 'I dunno'," he says, chastisement bundled up in the velvet of relief, glad-to-see-you-ness and gentle amusement. "You do so."

Twisting a little at the waist towards the black silhouette of his caved in church, there's something of an aborted offer that never gets vocalised, one hand traveling up to fidget with the fabric high up his chest, the slight shape of a pendant probably visible once fingertips find the shape beneath cotton they're looking for. Probably a crucifix.

Aaand another question is probably bitten back, judging by the starts and stops of vocalisation, before Joseph's mouth twists in a rueful smile and he settles simply on; "Teo didn't tell me a heck've a lot, about after the Garden."

There's something almost like muted distrust in the way Flint watches Joseph once he's stepped back. If not of the (former?) pastor, of reality in general. Maybe of whether or not he's really here as opposed to passed out at a rest stop somewhere and slowly freezing to death. At the very least, his faint disbelief serves as armor over underlying unease while he flexes his left hand carefully against the side of his arm and succeeds in summoning up another aftershock of hot pain for his exploratory efforts.

The overall effect is strange on his gaunt profile — neither complete reticence or hardwired reflex while he tries to puzzle through a Southern Baptist's capacity for forgiveness in the cold and wet. After the Garden. After he made modern art of a few innocent people's viscera, more like.

Where he intended to say, 'He found some people to reset my brain,' he lets his mouth hang slightly open instead, narrow jaw slack until it shuts in time with a deeper furrow at his brow and a slower, more deliberate dig of long fingers to battered tricep. "Something went wrong with me. He found some people to make me better." Vague, vague. But he smells like manly deoderant instead of whiskey and his hair (however grizzled and bristled) is trimmed as neatly as it can be. His suit is fine. Whatever lies in that lack of elaboration — it looks like it might be working.

The problem being that if Joseph wanted vague, vague, he could have gotten it from Teo. Or implicit denial of concrete knowledge, and the like. For a second, his shoulders go into a flat horizon of affront, chin up and black eyes studious, but whatever it is that passes as assessment seems to still the demand of questions. Maybe it's a nice enough suit, and visual manifestations of improvement are enough. Maybe Joseph knows a thing about methods of getting better that don't need to be talked about in great detail.

He also knows he is naturally nosy and self-aware enough to try not to be. "Good. That sounds…" Time to play fill in the blank as another unfinished sentence is settled on. He looks down and then away, weight shifting back on heels. "Just came by to say hi?"

Predictably hangdog in the face of silent affront — the kind easily read into the alignment of clavicle and scapula and spine — Flint looks off sideways under a guilty wring at his brows. The averted sear of his stare is easier to see in its study of lamp and wiring and cracked curb.

It would be a lot easier if he came here for something. Like a place to sleep or.

Actually, he could probably use some money unless he wants to sell the suit or his remaining kidney; his chilly eyes cut unconsciously aside in absent search of a money clip 'round the region of Joseph's pockets until he catches himself and looks even more inwardly discombobulated than before. It's fairly pathetic.
"I didn't know you'd be here," is dismally honest, at least.

Honesty, even dismal, does better in that it induces a huff of laughter — kind of rueful, kind of abashed, but there. More steam into the chilly air than actual voice, and he's not particularly savvy enough to spot a money sweep over when he gets one, Joseph's hand is only incidentally clasping the slim shape of a wallet in his pocket as opposed to any meaningful grip — it's still cold out. "I started comin' on by Sunday mornings, but then when the snow started, I didn't get to do even much of that. Not like you could see much anyhow.

"You didn't know I'd be there the first time 'round either." He shuffles past Flint, now, leaning a hip against the wooden bench— surprising dry since it's been cleared of ice and precipitation has been a big fat zero in the sky in the form of a bleary sun in unthreatening cloud— he'd been perched on not so long ago, with yet another precog. "Think I should get it rebuilt?"

"I guess not," agreed with vacant nostalgia, Flint looks past Joseph long enough to skim through charred wreckage and weakened structure. Less guilty, now, hands sliding into his pockets in natural mirror of Joseph's. Guiding Light's conflagration was one disaster he had nothing to do with, even if he did nearly cross a line in the region of thou shalt not kill within its walls. Sumter's skull peering dopily out of architecture branded blue into his memory, hands lifted. The patter and pat of stale runoff between his boots.

The taller man sniffs against too-sharp recollection and the cold alike, teeth briefly exposed as if against a bitter taste in his mouth. "I dunno." Dunno, dunno. Why does his opinion matter? It's not hard to read a squirm into the way he looks down and away again. "I liked that it was old."

"Yeah." And this time, a heavy silence weighs between them as Joseph fails to reward statement with much more than that one somewhat melancholy syllable. Enough to be awkward, probably, except that when Joseph is awkward he tends to try to fill the silence.

His shoulders hike up a little not out of defensiveness, but a physiological response to chill. Spooky, really, is what the Guiding Light is now — almost as much as blue eyes that glow in the dark. A wandering hand finds flaky paint work on the bench to fidget with, getting grit beneath his fingernails in favour of deep green levered off in broken scales from silvery pine.

"You could find another old place," Flint says to the bench.

That he should be the one to break an awkward silence this early into it is ludicrous and he seems to know it, uneasy to his rickety core. He's quiet again immediately thereafter, uncomfortable in the saw-toothed scuff of hand under nose, knuckles grazing coarse against perpetual stubble's grain. His eyes are dim as the next person's when they roll skywards, all sickly light pollution and a sliver of moon. No god that he can see.

"Can I stay with you tonight?"

Joseph takes a breath in, night tasting mainly still of snow, in a sense, or maybe just water and ozone, and clear and crisp in the ways that the underground railroad is not. It's not like he could have guessed the question, but it's not outlandish either. Pushing against the bench and resting weight on two feet, he nods once and goes to take a step that would steer him away from loitering out front the ex-church across the street. "Yeah, sure. Been down at the Terminal since the snow — Brick House ain't what it was — so unless you mind bein' underground…"

A tilt of his head, shepherding the rangy-limbed ex-con to follow.

Coat black around the backs of his knees and squarer at the shoulders than his build probably deserves, Flint's face looks much the same as it always has accounting for occasional variations in weight lost or gained. There are still a few patchy lines under his throat where neckbeard is no longer able to grow. Maybe a faint scar near the bridge of his nose.

Detail sinks away again when his eyes relight, slate at his chin and temples fading the same murky blah as the rest of his scruff with the sudden increase in contrast. "Underground is fine," lied with a gravelly kind of resignation, he swallows back mounting reluctance and stays close to Joseph's lead. Hovering, maybe. A little.

"Not really. 's startin' to get to me like it did the last time," Joseph is ready to concede, a glance sidelong that turns into a doubletake to see the flare of ice blue again. A whisper of protest doesn't actually graduate to words — only hesitation, fine silver of warm breathing in cold air, and a glance back to where they're going. Or at least, down to where his feet are going. "But I know a shortcut."

So there's that. "You look better," is offered, some carelessly traded olive branch though what peacemaking needs to happen is unclear. Possibly, Joseph owes him this assessment. It's an honest one, at least.

His steps don't slow through a track of their own design, navigating the remaining puddles of icy water and the sleety, urban-dirt grey ice remaining collected in them, soaking cold up through boot soles. For all that Deckard might not be supposed to be here, their only watchers are apathetic street lamps, haloing neutral gold and white, finally working after all this time.

"We could get a hotel room." By which Deckard means — Joseph could get one, and he, deranged drafted and slightly brainwashed Company agent with homicidal tendencies, could sleep in it also. Mainly owing to the fact that he still isn't sure he's like. Getting paid. His pockets are all empty. Not even a lighter on hand.

Meanwhile his reaction to compliments or honest observation (or reassurance) is a little wary — an ice-ringed, brow-knit sideways glance and pitchy quietude. Like he's not used to it. And suspects an ulterior motive.

Probably because he isn't. And does.

Still, he sticks close, a lean, undead shadow with glowing eyes and grizzled mug to dredge damply in Sumter's wake. "Thanks."

"Y'welcome. I'd say that Old Lucy's woulda been ours for the takin', gosh knows where Abby goes these days and no one stayed up there for a while, but the place burned down." Don't come to Greenwich. Homicidal maniacs will cause fires in buildings precious to you. Joseph shrugs— c'est la vie— and wrinkles his nose a little at the prospect of spending money on things he does not have to, strictly speaking. This hesitation that usually gives into stubborn refusal probably made his wife crazy.

Ex. Anyway, he relents. "There's a place not far from here. I think I stayed there at some stage, and that was when I still had an apartment to speak've." Another sort of shrug, yet another dismissal over one of those things that counts as serious — terrorists breaking into your apartment while you're gone kind of serious.

Joseph almost asks, Where were you gonna go if y'didn't happen to run into me?
It's like giving Deckard an 'I dunno' for free. So on second thoughts—
"You should stick around this time. The Ferry could— dunno, use you again. No matter what— what happened."

A slow blink and distance lost at Joseph's heels is all Deckard really has time to reel with at news of Old Lucy's having been razed as well, dull shock concealed efficiently enough in osprey eyes not to raise red flags as they slog on through the cold. But the implication is that she's fine. And was fine without him.

He doesn't ask for further clarification.

"I don't know if I'm better," eventually slated out in quiet response to the suggestion that he stick around, the scruffier rustler folds his arms stiff across his chest, one hugged in more firmly than the other. "…Do you have any food?"

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