I'm all bloody knuckles, longing for home

POSTED: Sun Oct 28, 2018 2:23 am

Would things be easier if there was a right way

He wasn't himself since they came back to Portland.

Actually, he wasn't himself since what had turned out to be a rather fateful evening on the beach, but nobody else knew that. The most noticeable difference about him now was that he stopped drinking, entirely. Sobriety sucked, especially at first when he'd done nothing but nurse a month-long headache, but then suddenly he felt better than he had in ages. He could think clearly again, as if a cold front had suddenly descended on him and snapped him awake.

It was unfortunate timing for him, however, because once the haze was gone he could see how clearly he had severed certain bonds, and how muddled he'd made everything between himself and the rest of them. It seemed like there was nothing he could do at first except to step back and watch them carry on without him.

That had been hard. He knew he orchestrated most of the hardships in his own life, but to really know it felt like a hangover he couldn't shake.

That was the beginning, Tiamat told him one time, when she was able to acknowledge him in the midst of her preparations. She didn't have the time to finish the thought, and he puzzled over those words long after she had moved on. He couldn't fathom enduring more of this self-realization, this self-hatred, this awakening to the patterns and pieces of himself that had come together just enough to pass on its toxicity to someone else. But then he did, every day, and little by little he tried to do something better than what he would have done before.

Ray did not acknowledge him at all. She didn't need to, and she made that clear enough. None of them had ever needed him as much as he had needed them.

So he shut up and worked. No matter how much he worked, he got the sense they were all waiting for him to fuck up somehow, like it was as inevitable as a wave crashing against the shore. Sometimes he believed it too, and he'd wait out the feeling out on Mara's ship, where they'd all been so hopeful and happy once upon a time. The memories made the ship feel like a safe haven from the rest of the world. They had all shared in this grand delusion of the future - closure for Tiamat, adventure for Mateo, answers for Ray, and love for him, or so he thought.

But there was nothing for them in Tiamat's homelands. No one said it, but no one had fought Tiamat on her decision to come back to Portland either. They were a ragtag group of wanderers - what had they hoped to find out there that they didn't already find with each other?

He tapped the ash from his cigarette - one of the last vices he kept, because he wasn't that strong - and blew smoke into cold air. The traders at Trader's Alley were finishing up for the day, and he expected to see one luminous face among them. Another change, he'd realized, was that he didn't dread this face any more. In fact, he couldn't even remember why he had in the first place. There were all sorts of things he was seeing now that he could see, and more and more he saw how Rahab shimmered, how her light beat away the drudgery of every day.

As was her way, Rahab's sudden appearance amongst the crowd caught him off guard. He hastily threw his smoke to the ground, stamped it under his foot and then went jogging after her. She'd been good about avoiding and ignoring him - and she had every right to, of course - but he had to keep trying.

Hey, Ray, he said, Can we talk?

When she kept walking, he lurched to catch her wrist, Please?

POSTED: Sun Oct 28, 2018 12:14 pm

No one else knew – not even her – but she suspected, and that was enough. If he remembered (and somehow she quietly thought he must, if only to justify his behavior as-of-late) he knew he didn’t really have anything to be sorry for, and yet somehow she blamed him all the same. It wasn’t sensible, and it wasn’t even right, but she couldn’t help it. Childish as it sounded, his aloofness in the wake of it left her feeling hurt.

It wasn’t just her fanatical vanity, which sometimes led to an unsustainable belief that everyone found her irresistible in some way, it was that they couldn’t manage to be friends but they could manage other things besides.

When her mothers asked about it she sighed and said very little.

After they persisted she relinquished her silence and asked questions (accusations) of her own: why would she ever admit to having once felt things for someone who so obviously preferred someone else? Neither Agrippa nor Mara had an answer for that, so she persevered in her treatment of the Winsor man; persevered because he was highly insistent that she talk to him. When he wasn’t working doggedly, admittedly throwing himself tirelessly into tasks better suited for a group rather than an individual, he was meeting her in Trader’s Alley on her way back to the ship.

It gave him a brief opportunity to implore once more every day that she listen to him, that she forgive him, that she let him have his say.

She didn’t do this, but she listened to what everyone was saying, how they noted his progress, his cracked hands, and that he managed all of it without complaint.

There wasn’t much time to ruminate over the trials and tribulations of their lives anyway, because like the rest of them she was increasingly busy. Their stay in Portland – as with anywhere they seemed to stay – felt temporary. The ship had been damaged this past spring during the crossing, but the necessary repairs had been completed. Still, they remained here because a return trip without trade goods was unprofitable.

Where they would go remained a mystery. Rahab didn’t want to return to her home, and she doubted Tiamat would relish the thought of going back to Onuba, no matter the welcome they’d receive. During their time there they’d rooted out systemic corruption and addressed old wrongs; Alta Baronesa Akantha Amaranthe would make them welcome in a way her mother hadn’t, but they all possessed wandering feet.

Maybe they would venture further east and trek across the fabled steppes.

Until her mother consented to make the crossing again it was a moot point. They needed trade goods, and Ray had taken it upon herself to convince the local populace of the merit in exporting goods to foreign markets. Initially she’d thought to do this by any means required, but the more she tried to talk to them, the more days she whiled away in the market, the more she realized that her unabashed desire seemed to have gone to sleep for an early winter.

Many seasonal traders were eager to leave Portland and embark on their own journeys home, eager to beat the snow that was coming. If they didn’t go soon, the first snowstorm of the season would catch them unprotected and unawares. Others were staying for the duration of it, and she courted both of them with a combination of deadly earnestness and determination. Sometimes she was lucky, but mostly she wasn’t.

They looked sideways and shuffled their feet and wouldn’t say much more about it. They had obligations elsewhere, and Rahab was beginning to think that some sort of embargo had been placed upon the portside pirates and their unlikely retinue of dogs and coyote hybrids.

Half-buried in a sealskin cloak, it was too much to suppose that it disguised her during the long walk back from yet another unprofitable day of haggling, wagering, and damn near pleading with merchants, traders, and thieves. Every day she wondered if today was the day Griffin would leave off and go sit in front of the bonfire on the beach, and every day he insisted on proving her wrong.

For this reason she was not completely surprised when he stumbled into her peripheral vision asking once more if they could talk. Exhaling pale vapor, the hybrid rolled her summer-blue eyes, a deep contrast to the grey sky, grey streets, and grey attire she wore.

He staggered forward intent, grabbing her wrist, and she knew it wasn't violence but a man at the absolute end of his rope. He might leave forever, and she wasn't sure if that would be worse.

Breaking his grip, she plunged her arms under the mantle of fur, hunched against the lingering bitterness of a wet, late-autumn day.

Fine, She conceded, glaring around them like he was somehow at fault for the weather too. Sensing this in herself, she nodded her head toward a building. They might have food; better yet, they might have something warm.

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POSTED: Sun Oct 28, 2018 9:44 pm

Would things be easier if there was a right way

Out of all the times he'd come running after her, he didn't think this would be it.

He let her go almost instantly, as if her skin was white-hot. He wouldn't have touched her otherwise, especially knowing full well that she could burn through a man as quickly as if she were truly molten, but desperate times had called for desperate measures. By the look in her eyes - which were startlingly brilliant against the dreary backdrop of a too wet and too cold autumn - maybe she had sensed this.

He wiped the surprise from his face quickly, a thumb lingering around his mouth. His mind was so blank that he wondered if he did have something to say after all. Then she nodded at the Mullen's bar and relief flooded his system - she'd granted him the mercy of time, whether she realized it or not.

Yeah, that's uh...thanks, he said dumbly, turning away quickly to hide his wincing expression.

In the bar, they were met with a certain reprieve from the elements. While they'd escaped the bitter dampness outside, they'd plunged into the suffocating humidity of a crowded indoors. The place was teeming with bodies of traders and townsfolk and transients, to which categories neither he nor any of their cadre had ever quite belonged. Whatever the reason was that they all gathered, they all seemed to know together, while he and Rahab shoved their way to their own private corner just to find their own reasons. That they managed to find an open booth at all would seem another auspicious sign for Griffin, but one that he mistrusted only because nothing good had ever panned out for him, and this was perhaps, like everything else, a doomed endeavor.

There was a moment when he had looked back to see that she was following, and he was stunned. Not only because she was, but something about the firelight seemed to make her face glow, and time slowed around her looking at him and himself looking back at her, and looking at her like he'd been granted the special privilege of looking at the sun without pain, without fear, without consequence. It struck him so deeply and so thoroughly that the image replayed in his mind even long after they had moved on.

He gave Rahab only a minute to settle before shoving up from his seat, saying he was hungry - are you hungry? you seem hungry I'm going to get something for us just wait here- when he really wasn't, and returning minutes later with a clay mug and a plate of boiled eggs. His shirt was gone, because he'd had nothing else to trade, but he pretended not to care or notice this fact as he pushed the mug of hot tea to the de le Poer and set the plate down between them with a clatter.

While he'd gone to fetch the food and drink that nobody asked for, he'd thought about what to say. He came up with a beautiful, heartfelt speech about how he'd been so wrong about things and how she'd been right - she'd always been right, and he couldn't stand that they didn't talk anymore, not even about the little things, and even arguing would be better than never hearing her again. Then it all emptied from his mind the moment he sat back down, and he stared at the eggs he was apparently hungry for but hadn't touched, and it was a long time before even a single word came to his lips.

H-hot, he managed to choke out, Um, they're still hot.


He rubbed at his neck.

Uh, This didn't used to be hard. First he could never shut up, and now he couldn't even find a single thing to say. He couldn't blow his chance this way.

Thanks for finally...agreeing to talk. Are eggs ok? Did you want something different? I can go get us something different.

POSTED: Fri Nov 02, 2018 4:43 pm

She followed as closely as the throng of bodies allowed; another day she might have placed a hand on his shoulder or grabbed his hand, effectively being towed through, but the bar was packed with the traders she’d spent all day begging, cajoling, and tempting with promises of trade. That is to say, it was not a dangerous place, but it was easy to get swept up or find yourself struggling to surface where you intended. Elbowing folk here and there to prompt them to move on, it was with a pointed sense of relief that Rahab sank into her seat.

She’d felt the same way when they’d set sail from Onuba, and again when they’d decided to winter in Portland with her family.

This was only temporary, however, because the first words out of Griffin’s mouth were not that he was sorry, but that he was hungry. Opening her mouth to say something – to insist that he sit back down – the crush of voices in the bar drowned her out, and she stared after his departing figure longer than she ought to. She was an ambassador’s daughter; she understood the concept of buying time… and yet, she could not help but think that he ought to have spent some portion of his months of austerity in contemplation.

Setting her walking stick – which is what she referred to it as when asked – she settled in for the duration with her hands clasped carefully in front of her, casting only the occasional glance beyond what was directly in front of her. The traders weren’t discussing anything of import; their families; what they planned to do when they got home; where they were from. None of it would help her broker deals tomorrow, so she sat in stony silence.

This continued upon Griff’s reappearance, which was abrupt and accompanied by the smell of food. On further examination, it was eggs.

If Griffin was to be believed, they were extremely hot. Eying him suspiciously, and noting his dwindling attire, she picked around the outer edge where cool air had cooled their food. She hadn’t been hungry when he’d asked, but her appetite raised its head long enough to eat a quarter of the food he’d gotten for them. Working her way around the plate in a clockwise direction, she ate a small bite with her fingers every time she thought she might open her mouth to say something.

When he spoke at last he sounded like her older brother when he was embarrassed or uncertain of his welcome. Squinting at him, her mouth was twisted around in a way that suggested (to some, anyway) that she might be mad.

She was trying very hard not to laugh.

If you order any more food you might come back without pants, She warned, pointedly nodding to his bare chest. When he’d caught her in the street he’d been wearing a shirt. and that might lead to interesting questions.

Running her hands through her hair, she mussed up what remained of her tangled braids.

You said you wanted to talk, She reminded him, unsure whether or not to put her hands on top of the table, fold them under her chest, or sit on them. No matter what she did, she was concerned about how it appeared; defensive, open, whatever.

What made this conversation difficult was that Ray didn’t even know what, exactly, she was mad about. While it had been a nice makeout session on the beach, he’d been incredibly drunk and she’d already been well on her way to getting righteously stoned. She’d known at the time that his feelings for Tiamat eclipsed any feelings regarding loyalty to the group, or for other individuals.

She wasn’t even sure she liked him that way.

It wasn't supposed to matter that she liked the way he tossed his head sometimes when his shaggy hair got in his eyes, or that occasionally he looked at her with a besotted look like he'd been staring too long at the sun. He rubbed the back of his neck and she considered it as being a sign that she made him nervous.

He was trying; she could do no less.

it would help if you explained to me exactly what it is you expect to get out of us mending fences.

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POSTED: Thu Nov 08, 2018 3:32 am

Would things be easier if there was a right way

Griffin was a skillful people reader. It was a trait he downplayed with bluster and buffoonery in order to mislead others of the depths of his savvy, but Rahab was one of the few who had noticed this about him right away. She noticed a lot of things about him, and this sort of knowing had always unnerved Griffin, because it finally put him in the unfortunate position of being seen the way he usually saw others. She saw him.

In this way, she was perhaps the only one who noticed when he'd done something right. While others were absorbed in their own matters, Rahab had always gone out of her way to acknowledge, usually by teasing, if Griffin had made improvement or picked up slack or otherwise done good without saying. It had annoyed him more than anything in the world. Then she'd stopped acknowledging him, for both the good and bad, and he felt like the sun had dodged behind the cover of clouds and the cold set on him quickly, ruthlessly, while he was unprepared.

Her attention, ever unreadable as it was to him, was a drink of relief. It still unnerved him, of course, but now it was less frustration with the idea that she was observing just how messed up he was, and more like a rush of adrenaline. He didn't know what to expect, and his senses were on fire. He watched her eat, tucking his hands beneath the table and out of her view so she wouldn't see them shaking and clasping together until they prickled with pins and needles. When he just couldn't take it anymore and bounced up to leave again, her voice caught him and reeled him back to his seat. He turned to her, lips tight and eyebrows raised.

She was quick to move on, though, and so very pretty - a distraction from the stupid thing he'd almost said, about how he liked a little mystery and ladies who were too curious for their own good.

His mind was still orbiting around these ideas when she asked him seriously, what had he come for, and then it happened.

I mean, I'm not expecting another kiss, that's for sure, the words came out before he could stop himself, and even as they came out, they sounded unnatural to him. Surely that wasn't his voice saying that - surely that idea hadn't been living in his mind when he wanted so much for the opposite, truly, and the horror of this realization spread across his face. That's not what I was trying to say, he amended as quickly as he could. Second chances seemed to go as well as the first chances for Griffin, and he couldn't blame anyone for not offering a third. No, as with all things, Griffin did this to himself.

In a panic, he reached across the table to her, pushing aside the plate of food, Rahab, don't go, listen, just, stay - I'm sorry, ok? I'm sorry. I'm so sorry. That night I was so messed up and you were right there, and, fuck, this isn't what I am trying to, fuck where is it -- he pawed at his chest as desperately as he scrambled for the words, before recalling his last cigarette had been in his shirt pocket. When he looked up at her, he was sure she would be leaving. His mouth opened, and then he rubbed at it until whatever idiot remark he would usually make to mask his vulnerability went away. It was that same destructive impulse that drove him to the bottle, and it was still there, even after he'd given up drinking. Could a broken thing fix itself? Did he have any other choice?

He pushed back the hair from his face, and sighed against his palms. Ray, I miss you.

It was a plaintive, pathetic little thing. The miserable whisper of such certain need, which a person like him had never known until now.