Watch It Burn


delia2_icon.gif russo2_icon.gif

Scene Title Watch It Burn
Synopsis Arson is really the answer to all relationships.
Date February 10, 2011

The Mind of Bradley Russo

Hardwood floors made of darkly stained mahogany gleam with cozy reflections from a nearby fireplace. The room is small. Occupied by a few comfortable sitting chairs as well as a single beanbag chair— a mishmash of furniture that doesn't quite seem like it belongs together, yet it retains some measure of coziness. The room is far from cavernous, without echo, and the walls reflect a light yellow made slightly orange with the reflections from the fireplace.

The window to the outside world, the wall adjacent the fire place, shows gently falling snow, the kind seen in movies, slow, fluffy, pristine. Untouched. There's something nearly innocent in that first fall.

The warm, nearly home-y smell of cinnamon, apples, and pastry wafts through the warm textured air from just down the hall, presumably a kitchen. When mixed with the faint scent of burning wood from a crackling fire in a nearby fireplace, it becomes even warmer. The feel of the air itself is fueled by something external. It's not warm, even with the fire in the fireplace, even with the scent and general warmth of the room, the air is cold. Ridiculously cold.

It's as cold outside as it is in. And Bradley Russo should know. He peeks through the window. There's no good humour in his grey-blue eyes as he stands on the outside looking in, blankly staring at the closely guarded scene unfolding inside.

An auburn haired woman dressed in a frilly pink apron steps down the hall. She pauses, staring at the window to peek at the falling snow. She doesn't see him. Not even when his breath emits from his lips in a puff of warmth. But she can't see him, to them he's invisible.

A figure follows after the first, her lips extend into a satisfied smile. Bright. Whole. Defiant. Her red curly hair and blue-hued eyes are redder and bluer than is natural, but then memory is a fallible thing. If only people could be seen the way we see them. Her milk white skin, and bright red lips would put snow white to shame while her wiry figure contains more strength than expected. She's not frail. She'd have others believe she is, but she isn't. Her eyes themselves are determined, but she can't see him either. To them he's become invisible.

A third figure trudges into the warm room. Looking much like the other two with curly coppery tresses and cornflower blue eyes that are droopy from sleeplessness. She's dressed in a filmy white dress, a little too dressy for the homey room and wholly inappropriate for the time of day. Stretching her arms up over her head, she gives a bright smile to the other two and then leans in to give the older woman a kiss on the cheek.

The other two take little to no notice of her, continuing their conversation as she pours herself a cup of coffee. Turning, the youngest of the trio laughs along with the other two and then settles herself into place at the island beside the wiry figured woman. The oldest, it could be assumed that she's the mother of the two younger ones, takes out a bowl and cracks a couple of eggs into it.

From the outside, the scene in the large window looks so much like a happy home. So Saturday Evening Post, a person could paint a picture and leave it on the cover for decades to come.

When they move to the kitchen, Brad follows in slow sauntering steps around the home. Outside. There's always a window to watch. A window to yearn. It's nothing more than a pane of glass between them.

The temperature inside drops further such that it's colder in than out. The older woman's lips begin to blue. Slowly, nearly undetectably until the room is entirely transformed, the yellow hue within the home greys. The fire is snuffed out by the sheer cold while the paint along the walls begins to peel in loopy rolls that flake it into a sad state of dejection. The beanbag chair rips, allowing the beads to fill along the floor, pouring out slowly, infinitely like grains of sand in an hour glass.

Time is running out.

But the older two women don't notice. While the beads begin to form along the floor, the conversation continues. The merriment draws on.

The elder of the two— the mother— wraps a single arm around the wiry one's shoulders. September issues both of the women a smile in turn, particularly at the kiss on her temple. She's a single mother. She's a nurse. Her strength reflects in every corner of her face. She raised a defiant son all on her own.

"I think the pie is almost ready," her steps draw her back to the oven. "Bradley grew the apples in my garden." She smiles and taps the side of her nose. It's a memory, not just dream. "I poured everything I have into him. Lina," she reaches for the younger woman's hand, "he will take such good care of you. Do me a favour? Don't let him shoulder the weight of the world? He does that. Very protective. He can't control or take care of everything all of the time."

The younger woman chews her lips nervously as she squeezes her future mother-in-law's hand. "I make his life interesting. And I tell him every single day to stop being so serious! Sometimes I think the studio eats his fun side."

"Boooorrriiinnnnnng~" The youngest of the three calls out. A sip is taken from the once steaming mug, or at least it's feigned because when the cup is tipped back back upright, the distinct clunk of a solid ice block can be heard. From the outside.

Turning, the youngest of them looks out the window to catch the eye of the man outside. "I don't know, I still think he has a fun side. He just uses it like a mask, like a clown." Though she's talking to the women in the room, she's speaking to the man outside. Her bright blue eyes bore into his as she continues to speak, the room and time seems to freeze. "Just like Pagliacci did, I try to keep my surface hid, smiling in the public eye, but in my lonely room I cry."

The room becomes suddenly absent of her presence as she glides up beside the man outside. "You're living in the past, Brad. You're trying to put it behind you— but it's not working." Inside the house, the scene stays frozen, the two women turning blue and frosty as though in a deep freeze.

Brad's blue-grey eyes stare at the glass, even as everything on the other side freezes, his gaze remains. "No," he objects to Delia, although it looks like he speaks to the window. "I keep them there. It's where they're safe." In his memory. At that moment. His hands tuck into his pockets as he stares at the snow white face of the love of his life.

"I don't venture to the other side." In many respects he's saved it like their heaven, like he can keep them boxed away, out of reach from the world around.

He sniffs. "What are you doing here?" the question is bland. Bored, perhaps. His tongue dabs lightly along his lips, moistening the edges as he takes a step back and extends an arm to push keep Delia back as well. There's something expectant about the motion.

Within seconds the frozen room takes flame like some explosion occurred impossibly within the house. There are no screams. No words of warning, just tongues of fire lapping at the home. The glass is gone, shattered from the quick transition from cold to hot.

Brad's jaw tenses and his hands ball into fists. His eyebrows knit together tightly and he takes another step back to repeat with a hiss, "What are you doing here?"

"I need to talk to you, in a place where you can't refuse to listen." Delia turns to look at him, steam escapes her mouth as the last vestiges of the cold air from inside warm. Instinctively, she flinches when the glass shatters, cowering slightly, reminiscent of the explosion of the mirror in her hotel room. She recovers quickly enough though, brushing her dress free of any debris (real or imagined) that might have landed on her.

Her bare feet slide on the ground as she pivots and faces him wholly. "I don't like fighting, not with you." In many ways, she's begun to regard her half-brother as something of a father figure, especially in Benjamin's absence. "There's a lot of things that are going wrong, we shouldn't be one of them. I need you in my life, just like I need a lot of other people." She doesn't say who, he acn probably assume a few of them, but not all.

The fire goes out as quickly as it came, living nothing but charred debris in its wake. The brown bricks are reduced to rubble. The contents of the once cozy home are black, scarred with the traces of once burning fire. If Delia is heard, Brad gives little indication. He walks to where the wall had once been and steps over several blackened bricks, the remnants.

What's left is empty. Black. Soulless. Cold. The cold had attacked the home before the fire had even happened. His suit is smoothed once on the other side of the rubble to explore the contents of what was once a warm and inviting home, a place of love, a place of hope, and a place of peace. A place he couldn't go.

But this?

He can be here. He won't destroy it.

He sighs as he kicks a brick and bends forward to draw a charred picture from the ground. Only his fake smile in the photograph remains. The other two women burned out entirely. Within the photograph his face isn't his. It belongs to someone else. Even if it looks like him.

He glances over his shoulder. Is she still here? Her presence warrants a sigh. "I'm not fighting," he replies lowly as he lets the picture fall from his grasp. It floats to the ground where he carelessly (or perhaps purposefully steps on his own photograph). His arms extend to the side as his lips quirk into a moderately sadistic smile, "This is my life." He spins in a slow circle. "And I accept it for what it is. What I touch, what I care about— this is my life."

There's a twitch of narrowed blue eyes as Delia gets momentarily perturbed.

Then she blinks.

Then everything is gone.

Everything except for Brad and Delia.

In a white room, illuminated from above by a soft white light that allows for no shadow. No distractions. No circles. No memory. As it must be in the beginning of everything. He is in a white on white suit, she is in her filmy white sundress, both of them barefoot. Nicely dressed save the lack of footwear.. but it seems to work.

"Sorry, I'm not going to let you drag us through what you think you are." One hand is raised as she motions around the room they're in. A lack of furnishings only goes so far as to create an echo, making it almost impossible to tell where the walls might be. The only reason he knows where the floor is because he's standing on it. "This is your life Brad, not that. Life is a blank canvas, you paint your own picture. If it starts looking like something you don't like, you add some more colors and keep painting until it looks the way you want."

From out of nowhere, buckets of paint appear on the floor along with a collection of brushes and rollers.

Brad smiles bitterly. "You don't know." He lets out a quiet breath, the white is almost more unsettling than the black to him. The white isn't something he can contend with. "There comes a point when there is no point in starting over. When you've tried too many times and come up empty— when you can't really trust anyone with what you actually are." Whatever thoughts he may have on the matter are just there. "And life isn't a blank canvas. You start from where you are. Not everything can be controlled and some things— " he can't finish the thought, his eyebrows ticking up with some unverbalized consideration.

"You though. You still have everything to live for. A father. A sister. A pair of grandparents," all of which he knows. "They know you. They grew up with you." His lips press together tightly. "I gardened. For years I gardened. My mother loved it about me, it was one of the few things I ever did that wasn't destructive. That and school. I was always good at school." He swallows around the lump in his throat. Or the imagined lump in his throat.

"There's an attachment when you care for things. But there's a greater attachment when you're cared for; a dependency that irreparably changes who someone is when that care is lost." His lips white underneath the pressure. "You still have that Delia. You have people who know the good, the bad, and the downright ugly and care about you anyways. You have people who saw you at your best and your worst and continue to support you through it."

He clears his throat. "The only people that knew me. That really knew me are gone. Even those that are still alive. They're gone."

"I'm right here," Delia says quietly.

"You chose your loyalty," Brad counters equally quiet.

"I chose to care about people," Delia responds. Stepping up into the bare air, she takes a seat on a swing that isn't there. She hovers, seated somewhat near him, drifting back and forth in the air. "I chose not to hate. I chose to see the good and the bad… and ultimately… to have faith." One shoulder rises in a simple shrug as she continues to stare at him.

"It might backfire, it might not. I might get hurt, I might not… but it's always worth finding out. I don't give up on people." It's something he already knows about her, she clings. "I can't give up on people because once I start, they're going to give up on me…" And then there's the look the one that begs silently, 'is that what you're doing to me?'

The silent question is addressed with little more than a tick of Brad's eyebrows. "I'm giving up on me." His blue eyes shut as he attempts to shut out this world. But then it's all imagined anyways. "Any time I manage to carve out some measure of something resembling happiness it falls apart. So why bother?"

His lips tighten into a sardonic grin as he paces near around the invisible swing. "I'll just be the pretty face man; the one in the front of the cameras spewing whatever the people want to hear. Or whatever I have to tell them." There's an audible sigh as his head shakes. "There's no reason to bother. No reason to try. It all ends in naught. One way or another."

He unbuttons his suit jacket as he turns his back to her. "You chose just the same. And I won't even tell you that you chose poorly. Because at the end of the day? I haven't exactly been a safe bet."

"You're giving up on me," Delia emits softly, there's no malice there though. Fortunately. "We were happy, Brad, your apartment actually felt like home. And now you're giving up on me." Her hands grip at invisible ropes suspended from somewhere above the two of them and she extends her legs, pumping them back and forth as she flies farther through the air.

"Tell me about my choice. Tell me how you see it." She likely knows already, in fact, she's a little more astute than people give her credit for. All the same, she likes to hear the point of view, right from the horse's lips.

"I wouldn't say that. But I'm finished with trying. In all its forms. Why bother?" For a natural fighter Bradley Russo is unnaturally defeated. It doesn't suit him. His lips press together again and he shrugs slightly before shoving his hands into his jacket pockets.

"What good would it do? I said what I could. I said what I did. You made a choice. I made a choice to house you when things went wrong. You made a choice to leave. And stay with a man who clearly has a vendetta against me." His lips press together. "The choice is yours. You can agree with him and stay. Or you can move on. Your loyalty is your own, Delia." There's not cutesy nicknames to be had in his own head.

"As far as giving up… not every decision is about you. Sometimes things are the result of unfolding events over which few have any control. Sometimes the song and dance of life prevents us from what we want. And perhaps some people are destined for lives of pain."

"I didn't make a choice to leave, Brad, that choice was made for me. Just like everything else since I woke up. I was ready to stay and register." Delia's voice doesn't rise and fall as she swings through the air, it remains constant, perhaps the only thing that does in her own life. "You manifested, it was amazing, could could have run but you stayed and faced the consequences. I was ready to do the same thing. I've been ready to do the same thing for a long time. I don't want to run. I want to be normal and live a normal life, I want to be able to be a doctor… but— "

She leaps from the swing to land somewhere next to him and then turns to face him. "But I'm not strong enough to do what you do." She does what she always does, blaming herself for a weakness instead of voicing the reality that she won't finish registering because she's afraid for her father.

Her eyes drift to the floor, her pink lips pursing and turning white as his are. "It's not that black and white, Brad. I used to believe everything was black and white but they're not. What Mister Logan did, it was horrible, but I think he was hurting." After all, it was about a girl.

"Some things are just black and white, Delia, no matter how much you think they're grey. Some behaviours are never justified. Not unless there's a physical assault on your person," Brad lets out a gruff sigh. "I could've decked him. And now? I could seriously hurt him or anyone if I wanted to. But believe it or not, that's wrong. Hitting Dirk like I did on the air? Wrong. It's all wrong. Why? Because the moment we really give into our violence we lose our humanity. All of those years ago when I enlisted, I quit because I didn't want to be that man. I didn't want to be a soldier. I didn't want to be a weapon. Not anymore. That's no the man my mother raised. Some things are just right and wrong despite their motivations."

"Life is full of choices. We can run away or we can face the consequences of our choices. I'm living them— the consequences of my choices— every day. I walk them. I breathe them. I have so much grief I can barely see straight." He takes slow paces away from her.

His fingers begin to count the ways, "I love a woman who despite what she says is semi-incapable of loving me back. I'm engaged to another who I've committed to being an anchor to." He clears his throat. "I can barely stand in this choice, but I need to strong.. people need me to be strong. You need me to be strong. So don't tell me he's hurting. Don't tell me he's circling the drain. I don't care. There's a difference between pain and responsibility and no matter what pain he's in, there is no excuse. I bury my grief every day. I escape every day. But to the outside world?" his hands splay in front of her, "I'm the man of the hour. I'm the politico king. I'm strength. I'm confidence. I'm wit. Because I need to be. Because they need me to to be." His eyes track downwards.

"I don't need you to be anything except there," she says quietly. "I never asked you to be strong for me, that's a choice that you made on your own. No matter what you think, there's a lot of gray in this situation. You said that dad didn't have all the facts, this time you don't have all the facts." Delia silences for a moment before looking over at Brad, trying to catch his eyes with her own. "And as much as I want to tell you, I can't. I just need you to trust me and trust that I'm doing the right thing." Perhaps not the smart thing, or even the safest thing for her. Just the right thing.

"I'm sorry for the way I reacted when the mirror broke." Not he broke the mirror. It broke. "I shouldn't have been so weak and afraid, I'll work on that. I promise." She folds her hands in front of her, looking demure and a little serene.

"Eileen came to see me the other day," the change of topic is rather abrupt and it almost seems as though the redhead is trying to avoid the rest of what she wishes to say. "When I get better, I'm going to go back to Pollepel. They'll need me to help if the flu breaks out there. There's a lot of little kids, it'll be important to keep it contained as much as possible… since they can't get vaccines." Neither can she, not right now.

Brad sighs and shakes his head a touch. "No. You need to be strong, you just have no idea that's what you need. With the mirror.. with what happened. Just more evidence. Everyone needs me to be strong. Hell, my own mother needed me to be strong. It's a request everyone has from me. So I am strength." He glances at the paint and supplies left on the floor, a vague look, almost as if considering something. "I didn't cry at their funerals. I was too busy taking care of everyone else." The comment is matter-of-fact. Quiet. "There's always someone who needs me to be the rock." There's a weariness in his eyes as he twists to face her.

"Do whatever you want. Go to Pollepel. Stay with him. Do what you want. You will anyways." His eyes tighten shut as he paces a little more. "I'm pretty sure no one can get the vaccines without registration. Not easily. Not without some pull. The hospitals are doing SLC testing upon admission."

"Stop it, Brad. No one asks you to be strong, that's something you came up with on your own. It's the way you cope with avoiding the grief. You push your emotions away and invent an excuse to not feel." Her eyes follow his movements around the sparse room, turning bodily as he steps out of her line of sight. "If you want me to start listing examples, I'll start with you manifesting." Because it happened at a time she knew him.

"An accident happened on the air, rather than going on the run you stayed and faced the consequences because you thought that's what I needed you to do." She's not imposing on him, she's trying to make sense of a senseless situation. Them. "If you had wanted to run, I could have helped. You said you don't blame me for ruining your life as you know it… but are you sure you're not? I have big shoulders, I can take it."

"Ha! That's actually kind of hilarious. Everyone asks it." To Brad the notion that he isn't built or cornered into his strength is laughable. "I barely took time off after it happened. There was too much news to be had. Ratings to bring in. Sarcastic quips to be given. My grandparents needed me to be strong. My grandfather died months later. Months. My grandmother started to lose who she was. She called me Ben. Yelled at me for leaving September. So yeah. People ask it all of the time. Circumstances dictate it." By now he's put some distance between them.

He clears his throat. "And you.. do you think you're in any condition to be on the run? If they'd gone to the apartment I can't imagine the kind of price we'd have had to pay. I told you before, grief or not responsibility is more important. Knowing and caring for your family is more important. I don't blame you for leaving. That was my choice." There is something though. Some visible tension in his face, particularly as he struggles to formulate his next thought, thinking better of it several times over. Eventually he thinks better of it.

Those blue-grey eyes weigh heavily upon her, "You're a good kid. You've got a lot going for you. But I'm not one of your priorities." Colder he adds, "Nor should I be. I'm not a project like those you put first. I'm not some task to be completed." His lips part again, but the thought is lost.

"You couldn't sound more like Dad right now if you tried." Though she could walk away, or run, but she doesn't. It's what Delia does. She hangs on. "Everyone needs him to do what he does too. It's just too bad that you're exactly like him and refuse to just listen."

There's a fair amount of dismay in her voice and she raises her chin enough to gaze at Brad proudly. "I'm strong enough to do what I have to do. Everyone underestimates me, Brad. I'm not as weak and fragile as you think. I know so much… so many things that are horrible and great, wonderful and not. I'm not a genius, I'm not famous, I'm not beautiful, I'm not successful, I don't have anything to offer anyone… except me. When I start cutting that out… then I'm nothing."

The lack of fight remains. "No. I am nothing like that man. I was there for you. I am there for you even though— " no, he won't say. Brad refuses to say it. "I showed up when no one else did. Showed up when he didn't. Constantly show up no matter what the consequences are. Gave myself up to keep you safe. So no. I'm nothing like him. He left when he could've stayed. Thought his job was more important than his family. If you want to keep speaking to me, never compare me to him again." He shoots her a look. "I'm ready to wake up now."

"Too bad," it's childish and smug but right now, his little sister is doing what she needs to do. "You're not going to wake up until I'm satisfied that you've at least heard what I have to say." As for comparing him to their father… "You're right, you did show up for me when Dad didn't. You were there when he wasn't. You've acted like more of a family in a month than people I've known my whole life. It doesn't change the fact that you're acting just as juvenile and closed off as he is. You think that you know what's best for me, you dont."

There it is.

"Dad made a deal with someone that hurt you terribly. A man that I was friends with before I ever met you. A guy that's supposed to be this horrible monster… and a pimp." The last little bit makes her lips twitch, like she spouting some unfunny joke. It is unfunny. "It's just like Nick, you don't like him either. Nick doesn't like Mister Logan and won't visit with me until I'm gone. He tried to get me to leave too but— " She shakes her head and looks away. "But… Just trust me this time. Please?"

"I can't." Trust her on this one. "I care about you and I care what happens to you, but I can't trust you on this one. You've convinced yourself you're doing the right thing and while you do it, you don't care who you hurt in the process." It's almost an admission. Almost. Brad's shoulders shrug tightly, it's all he can offer is the truth as he sees it. "So I can't."

"And I've heard you. I've heard you say you know what you're doing. I've heard you say you understand the risks. But I don't think you actually do. Not in the way I see them." His lips press together tightly. "And maybe you don't believe that glimmer of goodness and light in you is worth protecting or preserving, but it is. I went out of my way to protect it." His eyes shift away from hers now. "And now you're living under the power of someone who purposely snuffs that out. You can tell me it's the right decision. You can insist until you're blue in the face that's a good one, but I won't be swayed. Some things are just more important than others."

"So live with your choice, Delia. It was yours to make."

"The glimmer is something like a fire, Brad. If you all you do is shield it, it'll go out. The only way to make sure it stays lit is to share it and hope that the ones you give it to start burning as brightly." Delia doesn't pace like he does, she stays in one spot, simply turning to face him every time he moves out of her field of vision. "If someone else's has been snuffed out, then the only thing you can do is try to relight it and hope it takes."

Slowly, the scenery melts away, back to the house with the window and the two women inside. And Brad, stuck on the outside looking in. A warm breeze passes by his ear and whispers, "I hope someday you'll forgive me and understand."

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