When Thou Hast Shut Thy Door


colette_icon.gif joseph_icon.gif

Scene Title When Thou Hast Shut Thy Door
Synopsis A random chance meeting brings two friends together for an overdue reunion. Not for the first time.
Date March 11, 2010

Brick House

"…ask Meredith nicely and maybe she'll help us keep the darn snow off the hatch leadin' out…"

These words are what echoes down a stairwell, a one-sided conversation with the other end muffled by the fact it's from a cellphone. In the Brick House, it helps to dress warmly, because abandoned buildings don't heat well— but it's not frigid if only by the efforts made over the past week or so, a couple of unneeded rooms sealed off, the windows covered, what damage that doesn't give them away fixed and patched over to the best of their abilities. With a coat hanging up elsewhere, Joseph is in jeans and a sweater, the line of collar of the T-shirt beneath just barely showing.

"An' I'll let Neil know we need another boat sent this way on Sunday— " Sundee— "maybe. Should be the last time for a few weeks, I reckon, even if the weather stays as it is." Riverside, the few open windows let in afternoon light, and Joseph's really only meandered this way for the sake of sunlight, even the cloudy kind, coming to stand near and study the water through glass and plastic.

The Brick House is a place that could use a few more windows, were it any season other than fucking antarctica outside. With most of the windows bricked up save for the back side of the building, those layers of plastic covering them drain away what little natural light was left in the old structure. It's under the artificial light of lamps and lanterns that a might as well be deaf teenager is making her way up those stairs from the basement entrance of the building to the ground floor.

Colette Nichols should recognize pastor Sumter's voice, and were it not for the earbud headphones plugged in and the tinny noise of music cranking out of them that is the source of her epileptic head-bobbing, she might have. Distracted by managing the step-clunk-step of coming up the stairs with a cane, Colette's eyes are averted to her feet until she's reached the top step. Emerging out into the kitchen where chemical lanterns hang from the ceiling, her snow-wet boots squeak on the goldenrod linoleum floor.

With a pre-programmed path, the young supply courier brings her shoulder-bag over to the kitchen counter, walking right past Joseph and failing to recognize who he is. Slinging the bag up onto the island, she unclips the straps on the front and starts taking out canned goods and boxed meals of macaroni and cheese, stacking them up on the countertop along with a few 'canned heat' tins.

"Hey Andy!" She unintentionally shouts, immediately grimacing and reaching up to pull out her earbuds, where the noise bellowing out from them becomes more evident, "Hey Andy did you want me to bring the little debbie snack cakes into your roo— " Green eyes are settled squarely on Joseph Sumter's far darker ones. "— oom?"

Fancy meeting you here.

Joseph kind of— turns in place as he tracks the progress of the young woman through the room, too surprised to do anything more constructive and even stalling out on the conversation he's having. Reservation settles his expression and posture as he watches her set about with food, bracing himself for the inevitability of— hi— being spotted. Which he is, promptly, and he swallows before remember the tinny voice nattering in his ear.

"Yeah— I'm still here. Yup, that was Colette," he says, turning his back on the girl in question and pacing away a few wandering steps, other hand braced on his hip. "Okay, I'll talk to you this evenin' if you're stoppin' by, Mer' will prob'ly be in come nightfall too. Alright, take care now."

And click, Joseph seals up his cellphone, a hand up to scratch through his hair. "Andy ain't in right now, if you were hopin' to catch him," he says, voice somehow coming out small and creaky, because, for one thing, it's reasonably clear that Colette isn't here to see him, if bright green eyes staring at him now are to communicate anything. His own darker pair avoid, scan over the supplies she's brought.

"You— You're back." Whatever Ferrymen network that Colette has been tuned into isn't a very good one, but isolation from the Ferry for a few weeks now has kept her out of that particular loop. The young woman starts to move, boots squeeking on the tile floor, cane left leaning against the island. That's a new addition, the cane, but more distracting is the expression on her face as she watches Joseph the way one might a wild animal that crept out of the woods; with a mixture of fascination and apprehension.

This time her reunion with Joseph is more subdued than the danger orange reunion of old, no running tackle towards the older man, just a slow and cautious approach towards Joseph in which the still bundled up Colette wraps her arms around his waist and just presses her face against his shoulder. There's ways in which a man of faith can provide comfort and a shoulder to cry on, in Joseph's case the reaction is somewhat more literal.

Inwardly, Colette is sick of crying, sick of breaking down and finding those little emotional moments that draw that reaction out of her. Finally faced with Joseph, these tears are a mixture of relief at finally seeing him and knowing he's okay, and guilt over having put so many people in danger trying to rescue him herself, atop so many other nagging mistakes she's made.

I'm sorry doesn't cut it for what she wants to say, only the final vocalization of tiny, once silent sobs against the fabric of his jacket is all that remains as she scrunches her eyes shut and winds fingers into the fabric at his back. "I'm sorry…" she needs to learn a bigger apologetic vocabulary.

It's the cane he's watching, instead of her, even as her arms go around him and the weight of her head rests against a teal-clad shoulder. Instinct has Joseph's arms settling around her, and there's nothing half-hearted or limp about the gesture. He holds her, even if his posture is frozen and words seem to be escaping him. Guilt is hard to speak through when it chokes, but he can hold her, phone clasped in one hand and the other hand splayed against her back, then up to the back of her head.

"Me too," he says, finally, a furrow making what feels like a permanent ridge through his brow. "You shouldn't'a followed me in there, Colette. You should've left it be. I thought you knew that, when you didn't— when you took off. Y'can't go an' drop off a bridge just because someone's gone and jumped off it first, I thought everyone's parents told them that."

Slightly more good humour in those last words, if heavy, if a little toneless. He doesn't release her back into the wild, arms a solid and warm presence around her waist and shoulders. "Are you okay? The cane— "

There's a slow shake of Colette's head, and the small young woman keeps her face pressed against Joseph's shoulder. "I'd do it again for you, because I'm stubborn. You'd do it too…" The words are hushed once, and he can feel the press of her nose between his shoulder and pectoral, like she's trying to burrow into one side of his body face first. Breathing in deeply, the teen leans back slowly, dark hair matted down across her face, hiding one of her reddened eyes. Colette swallows nervously, but her smile has no hesitation. One mitten-covered hand moves from Joseph's back, brushes woolen across his cheek and then comes to rest on his shoulder.

"I'm okay," Colette adds after a moment of silence, "I— bumped into a car. It knocked some sense into me, I think… 'bout the most severe casualty I think." There's a light-hearted hint of a larger smile there, despite the fact that she sniffles and uses the back of one mitten clad hand to dry her eyes.

"I— I freaked out. When we got out I— a lot've bad stuff happened, a— a lot." Stilling her lip from trembling by biting it, Colette just manages a warm smile and leans up to bump her nose against Joseph's, much less awkward than the kiss from months ago. "I um, I— I was scared and upset at myself. M'sorry for running from you… I'd— I'd go into that place again, if I had to do it again. No question."

Cracking a smile and huffing out a laugh despite the fact that she's still crying, it's clear these tears are happy ones, or at least relieved. "Ah' reckon, I'd do it again." Yeah, she's okay.

Joseph had rehearsed some of this in his head. Most scenarios had been difficult ones. This seems disproportionately easier, with a brilliant smile cast up at him and happy tears and— "I don't," he states, tensely, brows perpetually creased in worry as he brings a hand back to smooth locks of her hair out of her face, tears too. "Reckon, I mean. You should've stuck around. I coulda knocked sense quicker and gentler into you than any car, I'm pretty sure."

Hands settling on her arms, he squeezes above her elbows and tries to return the smile, but it comes across— difficult to do. It's good to see her okay. He seems okay, even, a far cry from the strung out shell-shocked detoxer curled up underground for the week and change after freedom. "Thought you mighta taken off when you, uh." Retracting his hands from her, he shrugs up beneath his sweater, steering a step back. "Well. When you saw first hand was happenin' in that facility. What she might've told you about— "

His smile has dimmed to fade completely, studying the loose tiles of the floor between them. His words are more rehearsed when he speaks again. "When you got in there, she knew. She knew you was a friend of mine, and she threatened to— to kill you. Leave you where they could find you if I didn't say anythin' about who else might be comin' for us." When he glances back up at her, black eyes are bright, expression guarded. "I didn't tell her anythin' anyhow. 'stead she just cut me off from Refrain. But I think she mighta done it, Colette, if she didn't have to move out as fast as she did.

"That ain't— that's not guilt that's gonna go away. That she thought she could break me in faster with Refrain than you."

"Don't— " Colette chokes the aborted sentence out, brows furrowed and head shaking, "don't— don't let her infect you." Green eyes open from the clenched position they'd started out in with that sentence, looking up at Joseph pleadingly. "Danko al— already did that to us. Don't let her poison you like he did… You— you didn't have a choice, Joseph." Colette swallows anxiously, thin brows furrowed and head tilted down, the delicate curve of her chin tucking beneath the fabric of her scarf.

"She wasn't gonna' kill me… she— Joe she experimented on me. She— she injected me with— with this stuff and it— it made me go all lasers in the dark. I— I can't do that, that's now how my power works. She was just— she was trying to hurt you, just trying to break you— lying. Making you just— second guess yourself."

A mitten covered hand comes up, brushes across Joseph's cheek gently; it's a heartbreaking expression that a girl too young to bear it does. "You're a good person… don't— don't you let her make you ever think otherwise. I wouldn't be nothin' if you hadn't met me, I— I'd probably never have found everyone, found this. Joe you gave me— you gave me like— a purpose. You're not— " Colette's eyes close, teeth toy with her lower lip and mittened hand comes down slightly. "You're the kindest guy I know…" Her voice cracks as she admits that, brows all screwed up and eyes glassy with tears again.

"We all gotta' live with guilt… ain't— ain't that something you preachy types can help get through?" Preachy types is said with a sweet tone of voice, she's not being dismissive, just a little uneducated. "Cause… cause I know it's like— about listening and stuff. I don't know much about God, n'stuff— but— but I'll listen to you."

There's a sort of despair when Colette puts it into words, experimented on, injected, that writes itself on Joseph's features, but it's a thin overlay compared to the harder kind of anger that goes with it. Quiet and still, and difficult to let go of. Set aside, maybe. He is not the first one to want to punch Bella Sheridan in the teeth, never mind manners, and he likely won't be the last. For her, it's set aside, and an easier smile comes. Loops a hug back around her, draws in her in enough to drop a kiss on her hair.

"You've got a good soul in you," he says. "An' that's half the battle when it comes to knowin' God. You're right, anyhow." He lets her go. "It is different t'Danko. I'm just worried about you. You got hurt by her and there weren't a thing I could do about that." Placing his cellphone down, he drifts towards the nearest window, a hand up to poke and fix at where plastic has come loose. "I'm just— tired of feelin' weak. Like I'm bein' pulled down one direction when all I want is to go another." A hand that doesn't have a ring on it, either, though Colette never did note the presence of one.

She squeaks, like one of those small doggie chew toys, when hugged. It's not entirely just an adorable expression but also because her ribs hurt, but she isn't going to let something like bruised ribs get in the way of a show of affection, or wipe that smile off of Joseph's face, she'll take a little pain if it means he might just be happy. Worrying at her lower lip with her teeth, Colette follows like a shadow when Joseph pulls away and moves towards the window, coming to stand at the side of him opposite of that hand exploring the plastic on the windows.

"You're not weak." Colette says in a quiet voice, one that a month ago might have agreed with the sympathies of feeling powerless, when she was too busy running from everyone that mattered to her to pay attention. One car accident and a lot of perspective has changed that outcome. "You inspire people… to be better, to do good, to— make a difference. You're— you fight to protect the people you care about. I saw you that day on Staten Island, defending everyone… That was the day I knew, no matter what happened in my life, I could always count on you when I needed help."

Lifting a still mitten covered hand up to Joseph's shoulder, Colette leans in and offers a tiny smile, rising up on her toes to try and get something more of eye level with him as she interposes herself in a squeeze between window and Pastor. "You're stronger than all've us… but everybody needs a hand now and then, need someone to help 'em back up, y'know?"

Looping her arms around Joseph's neck gently, Colette leans her weight against him and settles her forehead against his chest. "I'm kind've limpy… but I'll help hold you up, Joseph. 'Cause I know when I need it most, you'll be right there for me… 'cause that's the kind've person you are." She tilts her head up, chin pointed against his sternum, "you're like— a mirror, that shows us the best of ourselves, an' what we could be if we just gave a crap."

This should work. Hell, Ygraine said the same kind of words to him and he let it work then, too. It almost takes — a crooked kind of smile, an abashed sort of shrink to his shoulders, until context, until everything sort of is brought on home, the things he'd rehearsed. Maybe triggered by the way she wraps her arms around him, her body suddenly between him and the flat surface of the wall and window, her face tipped up. Joseph stops himself from holding her in turn by bringing his hands up, resting them on her arms.

"I'm an addict," he tells her, in a kind of slow, heavy plod of syllables. "Alcohol, once. Narcotics, now, whether it's my fault or not don't make a difference. I'm gettin' a divorce and I have a daughter I never got to see, but her name's Hannah. I'm not really— the same man that you saw on Beach Street, and it's not all to do with poisoning."

Pulling her arms down off his shoulders, Joseph looks a little pained as he steps away. "I'm a mirror 'cause I don't let anythin' about me get seen. And it's not fair, on— on people like you riskin' your lives to save me. Do you get that, any? I'd— believe me, Colette, your words are lovely and I'd like to just go ahead and accept 'em but it's not gonna be that easy. I'm real— sorry. I can tell Andy you came on by," he says, voice verging on stammering but he manages to get all the syllables out, rocking back another step and turning to go.

It's the first time that Colette's seen this side of Joseph, seen the hurt and the humanity behind the vaneer of the Pastor, seen the real him. She's not as polished, not as able to hide the flaws and social burrs that prickle up from her, so in a way seeing Joseph as a marble idol without flaw was both uplifting and deprecating of her own self-worth. Seeing him now, reduced to a flawed man, makes him less of an iconic figure, and more of what she's known since she met him— a friend.

Colette doesn't say anything, doesn't speak up, just steps forward to match his step away and snatches one of his hands witha mitten-clad one. The girp is form, and she tugs him back gently, green eyes wide, brows furrowed and she isn't really sure where to go from here and it shows. Colette knows she doesn't want Joseph to leave on that note, to step away on that solemn tone, but how does she respond to it.

"I killed someone." That's words at least. Colette's voice cracks on the admittance, and while self defense speaks a certain volume of worth there, it's not so much the context of the words but the implication that no mirror is without its imperfections. "Don't— don't make our flaws— don't make these things diminish who we are." Tension comes to the corners of Colette's mouth, tears well up in her eyes again, green never looked so much like water.

"Nn— None of us…" Wool covered fingers squeeze tighter against Joseph's hand, "…none've us are perfect people. I don't care if you're— if you're human. W— We all are. We're all— damaged." Jaw trembling, Joseph can feel the same motion in her fingers holding his hand. "Don't make it mean that we can't be helped— or help someone else."

Colette smiles, despite herself, clutching that hand like a security blanket. It's hard to admit that you need someone, especially when the last thing you did was push them away, but Colette's expression conveys that much. Words were never her strong suit, but the emotion is still there.

"Stay?" It's a plea, more than anything, "We— we don't have to talk." Colette's brows crease together in a furrow, raising in that emphatic look of plight. "But I don't know how to pray… on— on my own." It's hard to say you need someone, and it's even harder to admit you're needed.

When his hand is snagged, Joseph doesn't have enough conviction in his hasty exit to tug away from it, though Colette can briefly feel that line of tension up his arm, against her palm. It's where his eyes go, clasped hands, mouth in a mute line as he listens, despite himself. Now doesn't seem like the time to explain Baptist doctrine, standards, what sin does to a person — you learn early on that these things belong in church and in your soul, sometimes. Lifting his gaze to her, if offers a twinge of a smile, vague discomfort still sensed in his posture and the clasp of his hand.

"You're right. You're meant t'hate the sin, not the person," he allows, dark eyes skimming his attention away. "For a reason. I just— know sometimes it don't work that way and…"

And— "I ain't goin' anywhere." There's apology in his voice, relaxing a fraction, turning his body away from that direction and towards her. "I don't want you to think like I would. I jus' dunno if I've done right by you— hell, 's been months, right?" Sometimes it feels like years — sometimes it feels like he's only seen Colette, among others, in days, the time with Bella reduced to a monotonous blur that couldn't possibly be two months. "I c'n teach you prayer. 's meant to be on your own. Jesus said."

It's not something she's ever been interested in, ever cared about, right up until this very moment. "I'd— I'd like that." Because for all that Colette's trying to tether herself to Joseph, she's trying to give him a reason to tether himself to her as well. There's guilt and there's fear and there's honest discontent for what she had to do to get away from Bella, but it's not something she'd ever pray for, not before now.

With a tug of Joseph's hand, a squeak of still wet boots on the tile floor, Colette just watches the pastor in silence as she urges him back and away from the kitchen, towards one of the unfurnished and vacant rooms that clings with cold and isolation. Her gloves are warm though, so is her smile for whole different reasons. "I— I've got a lot I still need to learn…" she admits with a downcast quality to her eyes, staring at muddy water tracked in the wake of her boots.

Right now, prayer is something she's considering for the first time in her life. Not because she feels the desire for it, but because she knows Joseph needs that outlet. Because what's more important to Colette than the emphemeral notion of Sin and the notion of a corruption of her own immortal soul…

"You've done right by me, Joe…"

Is a friend's happiness.

"More'n you know."

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