|MJ's a little (flirty) wrote in doorslogs,|
@ 2013-05-27 19:39:00
|Entry tags:||cheshire cat, march hare|
Who: Lin Alesi & Tristan Sable
What: Tears for fears, hugs for thugs, and a confused hermit.
When: Backdated: pre-13th Fairy Plot
Warnings/Rating: Allusions to murder, lots of crying, some swears.
It was undeniable. Though he’d witnessed it only in glimpses, in staccato black and white seen through red, blood through ribs, it was undeniable. He’d heard the screams. He’d heard that last sigh, the escape, and there was nothing else. That was it. Warmth. It was as in a nightmare, in the suspended, violent space, that eerie tendril of a galaxy, between waking and dreaming, when muscles refuse to obey, and all one hears is the sound of one’s own silly heart ticking out the time as terrible scenes unfold in haunting origami shadows. He couldn’t run. He couldn’t stop it. He couldn’t do anything. He had no eyes to hide and no ears to cover. He could only watch.
It was only now, now that the Cat, sated, stomach full of plump bird and spitting yellow feathers, passed through that door, that Lin had any control at all, and even that was questionable. With knees weak, it was all he could do not to stagger and fall and fucking vomit on the threadbare old carpet of the hotel. It was pretty and patterned, art deco, olive and purple, white where feet trod, and Lin didn’t want to ruin it. That would be a shame. Instead, he leaned into the wall across the hallway with his shoulder and slid down, until he was on the floor, in a weepy, pathetic puddle, with his knees drawn and gathered close. He was curled in on himself, as small as he could be. His own t-shirt, a pink-faded red, was wet in a way it shouldn’t have been. It appeared to have been splashed by water, but Lin knew what it was. What it really was.
The Cat was the first of Lin’s many, many alters who deigned not to speak with the boy. Or perhaps he simply couldn’t. It didn’t matter. Regardless, he kept to himself, though his insidious, starless claws remained out and ready. Lin could feel the weight of the man’s creepy fucking smile at the back of his head, heavy like too much alcohol or too little sleep. It was terrible.
It was undeniable. He’d killed someone. That bishop. He’d killed someone. It wasn’t him though. Alice had done it. But the Cat... And Lin. Oh, god.
Pressing his eyes to the cool blue of his knees, Lin couldn’t have stopped the onslaught of hysterical, bewildered tears if he’d wanted to. So he didn’t try. He let it happen. The tears were of the painful make, the ones that sting the eyes and burn the throat with their frenzy to get out, but he didn’t care. He didn’t understand what was happening or fucking why. All he wanted was to go home.
Reading the journal, even if he had kept most of his own responses corralled to a quick sketch or brief word, had revealed that either everything had gone crazy (mad, his brain insisted), or that there really was a hotel that was steering everything with a masochistic hand. With the new addition to his own mind, he could either accept the hotel theory, or that he himself was losing it. He chose the hotel, though the choosing of it meant actually going there. Venturing out of the suite, out of the too-expensive building where he was living. It meant putting on shoes and going out on the street to deal with the dry, warming desert air and sun against his vulnerably pale skin. He felt dried out before he made it more than a block, but he kept on. Walking had never hurt him.
It both wasn’t what he’d expected, and yet made perfect sense, and he found himself studying the decaying lines of the building, knowing that they would make it into a painting soon. From the feel of it, maybe something about nightmares. But even that thought didn’t keep him outside, not once he’d confronted the building and the need and pressure grew in him until he couldn’t ignore it any longer.
The hallways were dim, and nothing much seemed to interest him (or that curious presence he’d acquired) until the draw of one floor pulled him in. He knew the second he put foot to carpet to start the journey past the doors, that he’d found something. It was harder and harder to ignore, and by the time he’d gone a few steps, the compulsion was so great that he knew he wouldn’t be able to turn back. One specific door ahead drew his attention, and his eyes were locked on it when a body suddenly spilled through in a rush and hit the opposite wall before crumbling down.
Tristan froze, startled and staring, still a good 20 feet away from where the body had fallen into a pile of sobs and grief. Whoever it was, was still too consumed by... something... to notice that Tristan was even there. It was possible that he could take a step back, turn, and walk away again, and for the first moments, that was exactly what he tried to do. But the door that had expelled its prize was also the door that he’d been so focused on, and he found that he couldn’t walk away. That the only way to go was forward. And so, with a sigh, he closed another half of the distance. He was still far enough away to not infringe on even the most excessive personal bubble, and after a moment of still not being noticed, he cleared his throat.
Whatever the position of the sun in the sky outside, whatever the weather, the season, the time, the anything, inside the hotel it all stood still. Dim, cool, and untouchable, everything sat, frozen in some lost crystalline year fretted in polygons and sunbursts, waiting for an exhalation of breath that would never come. And here, in the long, lackluster corridor, up the stairs and to the right, where the strange off-yellow light sank slowly, where Lin sat with his back to the wall and cried, it was the same. Waiting, waiting, waiting.
It was the black stutter of movement, caught only in the corner of the eye, that alerted Lin to the tall, bedraggled stranger hovering, so very cautiously, a few feet away. He moved like a large worried bat, his black t-shirt a good enough stand-in for patagium, with hair dark and his face reading only resignation. Red-eyed, cheeks streaked with tears, nose running, desolate, Lin gazed up at the man, distracted from his personal purgatory for only a moment. He hiccuped on sobs, sad little sounds, and just shook his head. Wordless. He didn’t care how pathetic he might have appeared, how weak and wet and small. Because he was those things. All of them. He was a child.
He felt so terrible. So gut-wrenchingly guilty. His hands hadn’t held the knife, no, but he had walked through the door. He had made the decision that day to go through with Angie, and he’d climbed the creaking stairs, hand trailing on the shining wood of the bannister. He’d done it. He had. Fuck.
“I’m sorry,” he told the dark man uselessly, with words hushed and broken. The boy despaired. “I didn’t know.”
Lin came forward then. He uncurled himself and pushed off the ground with one bloody hand until he stood. (It didn’t appear bloody on this side, though, did it? Still, he felt the wetness that stuck to his palm, slick and warm and dead.) He gave the man no thought. He simply saw another human being, someone whose heart still beat red under his breastbone, and he saw arms and in an ugly, needy, childish moment, he thought it would be okay. He came closer. He leaned forward. And he hugged the stranger.
The ball of sobs and misery unfolded itself to reveal a young man - a boy? - and Tristan tried to study him as much as possible in the dim light, from his continued distance. He had no idea if this was a common occurrence for the hotel, this strange grief that spilled over in public, but he was certain that he didn’t like it. It was just another reason for him to turn around and walk back up the hall, go back to his suite and never return to the hotel again. Something kept his feet planted though, unable to retreat, and then the boy was talking, saying things that made no sense to Tristan at all. Things that earned a frown from him, but no other response. Not until there were suddenly arms around him and he couldn’t pull away without a shove.
“What the fuck?” The tone could have been harsh, especially in that strange moment, but it came out more confused than anything, accompanied by arms that refused to come up to return the hug.
He didn’t expect anything in return. Nothing more than a solidness that was human and living, something warm, something not white. Lin didn’t think he could take seeing more white today. Or red. Or red on white. Especially that. But, black was fine. Black was safe. It wasn’t bleeding all over the fucking place and it wasn’t the color of a madman’s smile, so that was good. Lin could handle that. He could handle bats feet taller than him, skinny men with clouds of dark hair and eyebrows that were used to frown. He just wanted breathing, and the man breathed.
“I-I-I-I did-didn’t think-” There was another swallowed sob as the boy stood there, wretched, pulling himself closer out of pure, selfish desperation. The stranger’s words of discomfort or perplexity or whatever it was he was feeling, whatever it was, fell unheard to the frayed, long-running carpeting underfoot. Lin squeezed his eyes shut as he tried to calm himself, to let this man go. It wasn’t right, he told himself. It wasn’t fair to corner someone. But he didn’t know what else to do and he felt so confused and lost and sad and guilty and he just didn’t know what to do.
His throat hurt. That place where Chloe’s dagger had cut him so long ago itched at him, a stupid, asshole of a reminder, and Lin pushed his face, the flushed, hot skin of his cheeks against the soft, thriftstore-worn cotton of the man’s shirt. He opened his eyes. The black was flecked with colors, hard little spots of paint. Sucking in leveling breaths, the boy also took in the heavy scent of cigarettes, tobacco laced with coffee, something astringent, and something clean underneath, soapy, human. For some reason that lent some reality to the situation and, though his breathing still shuddered and his tears refused to stop pouring like fucking Iguazu Falls, the boy could at least release the man from the vice-grip of the forced hug.
“S-s-s-” Lin frowned, irritated by the syllables that stuck to his tongue. Half a step back now, he swatted at his tears with bare wrists. With effort, he managed: “S-sorry. I-I-”
Well shit. Tristan let himself be hugged for the long, shaky moments that it took for composure to return and assert itself again. It had been years since he’d been touched in a way that had nothing to do with sex, and it had been even longer than that since he’d lent a shoulder or arm to someone that needed it. It pulled at long-buried memories of a passing friend and of a foster sister too lost in her own mind most of the time to deal with what the world threw at her. He was rusty at it, forgotten memories barely enough to count as experience any more, but he finally sighed, even as the still grief-stricken boy was stepping back.
“Jesus,” he grumbled to himself, voice cut through with the rasp of smoke and coffee that too often replaced any sort of healthy sustenance. With a shake of his head, he wrapped a hand (more of those colorful remnants of paint that resisted scrubbing away) around an arm that still shook with whatever it was that had set off the tears in the first place, and pulled back toward a setting of two dusty chairs he’d seen on his way toward the door (ignoring the way it shifted appearance as they moved away from it). Maybe his ‘bedside manner’ left much to be desired, but the gruffness continued as he pushed down on the boy’s shoulders, forcing him down. “Sit.” He kept one hand braced on a shoulder, making sure that the boy didn’t curl into an unresponsive ball again. “What the fuck?” It was less confused this time, looking for actual information.
Lin was dragged to the old fashioned gentleman’s seating arrangement in the recess of the hallway, white(!) fingers wrapped around his thin bicep as he wept. The wallpaper here was brighter, even in the shadows, safe from the dull light that suffused the hotel elsewhere. The patterned contained in paper was gold, beaten, shining, beautiful. The boy couldn’t help but look at it all, those little gilded lifelines, dazzled, tears prisming the color into something wonderful, even as he was then ...guided to a seat by a forceful, painted hand curled around his shoulder.
He did as it bid. He sat. And though the hand held him down, and, yes, kept him from folding in on himself like especially tragic origami, his own hands came up to his eyes and his shoulders curled forward, and his knees rose. Feet resting on the edge of the velvet cushion circa 1922, Lin sat in a half-formed ball, in an approximation of the fetal position, as much as was allowed. If he couldn’t get a hug, then his body wanted some kind of comfort, however masturbatory.
“I k-k-k-killed—the-there w-was a b-b-b-bish-shop.” Lin tried. He really did. He shook his head, sobbed, and he tried. He let his hands drop and wet eyes met the stranger’s pleadingly, hoping to be understood, begging to be forgiven, bare in their need. Lin was more vulnerable now than he ever wanted to be, but there was nothing he could do about that. “In the d-door. K-k-killed. I did it-t. B-b-blood everyw-where. I did-didn’t mean t-to. And-And Alice.”
He was a mess, and he didn’t care. He couldn’t muster any feelings beyond a self-involved, generally inconsolable misery and desire for that to end. It was all he could do not to reach for the man’s hand.
Tristan’s eyebrows went way way up at the stuttered words spilling out from the boy. He’d killed someone? Tristan wasn’t accustomed to spending time with killers, but he had to guess that the curled-up mess in the chair wasn’t one of them. Not with the way that just the admission of it made him shake and sob. He had no idea what to expect through the door himself, but if the weight in the back of his mind and the writing in the book was anything to go by, he had a suspicion that it wasn’t them through that door, doing things. Even more especially at the spiky lance of interest at the name of Alice. Someone up in his head knew the name, that much was certain.
“Okay, first slow the fuck down and breathe or you’re going to pass out on me and I’ll just leave you here.” It was an empty threat, and Tristan knew it, but the kid in the chair didn’t. And the gruffness to the statement wasn’t feigned, lent it credibility. “And you’ve got to give me more than that. I don’t know what the hell goes on in there.” He tipped his head back toward the door, the movement of it moving his hair more than anything, the mess of it more expressive than whatever scowl was still on his face.
The kid in the chair didn’t know it, no. He thought the threat serious, and all the warning served to do was make him close up a little bit more, to feel that much more forsaken. His arms hugged his knees as they had the man moments before. Lin tried to do as those hard-edged words, however, commanded; he was determined to scrape up some bit of dignity, and he breathed, focusing his attention on the inhale and exhale of stale hotel air that was probably older than he was. He tasted unchanged dust, but he kept at it with all the mindfulness of a New Age-y hippie trying to hold the edges of two very different worlds together, theirs and the present. His breathing stuttered and shook, but the tremors lessened and it really did help. He grew a little softer.
“I-I- Th-the Cat.” Okay, so it’d helped, but it hadn’t done anything to eradicate whatever bone-deep fear it that shook Lin’s words together like so many scared children. The boy was endlessly frustrated by this fact and he bit his tongue then, hard, until he drew blood, until he could actually fucking talk. He closed his eyes, took a deep breath, and tried again. “The C-cat and Alice. They k-k- they murdered someone. But, I didn’t st-stop it. I tried. I w-wanted to try.”
It hadn’t quite come together into a full realization that the man had yet to traipse off to the worlds behind the deceptively blank-faced doors. Lin thought he was just, you know, trying to deal with the sudden dumping of a sobbing, distraught, huggy man-boy-child into his lap. It didn’t occur to him that really, the stranger had no idea. Lin swore angrily at himself and smudged palms to his cheeks, smearing the tears there.
Tristan found his own breath matching that of the boy in the chair. Not as deep, but the same slow cycle of in and out. It was lulling, smooth, and calm. But then there were words, and the calm was gone in an instant. Interest flared hot and bright in Tristan’s eyes, and he had to pull away, take a step or two back, and just stare. And then he was back again, closer, eyes dark and backed with something that hadn’t been there before. “You know the Cat?” His hand rose, and one finger circled his mouth in an approximation of a wide grin, though his own expression stayed somber.
Lin frowned at the invisible smile drawn across the man’s staid features, and at that renewed curiosity that belied recognition (or so he assumed). He wiped his nose with the back of his hand, sniffed, and frowned some more. There was a new flinty hint of suspicion in his brown eyes, but it was immediately flooded out by the still-coming tears and washed down Lin’s cheeks with everything else. The boy nodded glumly. He deflated.
“I have h-him in my head,” he confessed with the tip of an index finger to his temple, pressing there too hard. It dug. The nail was scratched pink and purple. The same finger then pointed down the corridor, indicating the door that had spewed him forth moments ago, years ago. “Behind-d the door, I’m in h-his.”
The finger was withdrawn and used to paint a sad frown in the air over the line of Lin’s mouth. He sniffed again and, after a bit of a mental struggle, managed to tear his mind away from the gory snapshots of the bishop it was busy replaying and torturing his conscience with. A quirk of a question formed in his own red-raw eyes.
“Kn-kn- do you know him?”
“Is that how this works?” Tristan asked, still trying to excavate how the hotel functioned, what the weight and pressure in the back of his head meant. He could tell that it was someone, by the way the images and emotions pushed into his own awareness. He’d been drawing faces that were strangely familiar, and his interaction with some of the names in his book had confirmed that the faces were real. But he was still uncertain, looking for the how and why of it all even though he was usually content to let things be without explanation. It was a little different when there was someone actually in his head with him.
“I don’t know him, but... someone does?” The frown on his face betrayed how strange a statement he found that, but he merely cleared his throat and scowled some more. “...I think, at least.”
And then he was digging for the sketchbook in his pocket. Not the journal with the blue leather cover, but a smaller, flexible one that fit into his pocket on those certain occasions that he left his rooms and ventured out. A few flips of paper to find a blank page, and then a stub of pencil was scratching across the paper, laying down quick, sure lines that coalesced into familiar eyes, high cheekbones, but wavered around the mouth, replacing strong jaw and smirking lips with a wide, jagged grin. The mixture of the two was somehow compelling and horrifying in the same breath, and he tapped the pencil against the page with yet another frown. “That’s him, isn’t it?” And he turned the book around to face outward.
It was the answer—the answer that was uttered and bookended with a heavy, thick-brushed question mark helped dredge Lin out of himself enough to realize the man didn’t know, and not just about the Cat. He didn’t know about the hotel. He didn’t know about the doors. He didn’t know. And he had come here... looking, no doubt, compelled by that stupid gut feeling Lin himself had had at one point, so many months ago. Now the questions, the statements, the man made more sense.
With the obfuscating fog of, you know, woe and despair and shit dissipating a touch, Lin was able to see a little more clearly, metaphorically speaking—and literally, if you want to get into it, his tears far from gone, but thinned, the Amazon diverted into a dry sip of a canal. The drawing helped too. The entire act was distracting enough that the boy’s breathing actually slowed and his hiccuping sobs became quiet afterthoughts, a physical phenomenon rather than emotional. It was a smooth choreography, as natural as the beat of a butterfly’s scaled wings. The man’s hand floated above paper of a small, travel-worn notebook.
The pencil scratched. The book turned. The spiking, distorted smile of the Cat turned Lin’s stomach immediately. It lurched and threatened, bile boiled to the back of his throat. He’d seen that smile. Not only in his mind’s eye, but before, he’d seen it—in the surface of a smudged, green glass, so, so green, held up to a gas lamp in a filthy, freezing cellar somewhere that dirtied the shoes and muddied the pupils. The stranger may not have known the creature from Wonderland, but clearly whoever resided in his head (hand?) did.
“Y-yes.” Lin’s eyes were wide, black ringed in brown ringed in white ringed in red ringed in black again. His wet eyelashes stuck together, long and shining. A zing of fear leached into his muscles and he tensed. What if the stranger had someone worse? The boy frowned and looked up at the strange man in faded black. “You d- you don’t know who you have?”
Tristan watched the boy’s face as he looked at the drawing, the sick acknowledgement of a familiar visage. He nodded in turn and looked at his own drawing again, knowing that there was something wrong with the combination of face and grin, but closing the pages and sticking it back in his pocket. With the confirmation, there was no need to keep torturing the kid with the picture. Especially when it looked like he was going to snap and break at any moment. A dry twig under a boot heel. Tristan wasn’t cruel; he knew when enough slipped over into too much.
His shoulders shuddered into a loose shrug at the question. “No. Not yet.” It wasn’t entirely true. He didn’t have a name or even an appearance. The presence didn’t talk to him, not in words. But he knew it was from Wonderland, and he was slowly narrowing down the characters he knew. The Cat and the Mouse were both crossed off the list, as were several others whose appearances were starting to fill his sketchbooks. “I know who I’m not.” It seemed an appropriate enough statement.
It was an appropriate statement, but it was so Wonderland-y in its whimsy that Lin almost started crying again. He placed hot palms over his eyes and turned physically away from the stranger and his notebook. He was perhaps a little sensitive at the moment, but he couldn’t deal with anything that wasn’t as solid an answer as ‘yes’ or ‘no’ or ‘what the fuck,’ not without the pain of the push of tears that backed up below just-dry tear ducts, ready to go.
“Okay, okay, okay.” It was a mantra for himself and not for the man in black. Lin pressed his face further into his hands, but there was nowhere to go. He took another sharp breath through his nose and sat back up again. The hallway slowly flickered back into view from behind white suns of light that had been birthed behind the hollows of hands. The ghost-white face was still there next to him. Lin blinked hard. “I... C-can you do me a favor?”
He needed to get home.
Tristan frowned at the chanted, soft word from the boy in front of him, and wondered if he was going to have to deal with someone that couldn’t pull themself back from a breakdown. “What kind of a favor?”
“Can you give me a ride? I-I’ll give you money for gas.” It was a simple enough request. While Lin didn’t want to impose on the still nameless man, he didn’t think he was really in any position to be driving himself, and he needed to get out of the fucking hotel before he got sucked up into the aging walls and joined the parade of others, now ghosts in the arabesque gold-on-gold wallpaper, or before he was doomed to forever sob in the lonely corridors, or, you know, fuck, both.
There was no reason, outside of empathy, that the man in his tear-stained, paint-painted black ought say yes, but Lin’s options were few and so fucking far between. He was operating on a weak-limbed, scarcely used faith. But what else could he do?
A ride. He probably wouldn’t have said yes even if he’d had a car. Maybe. Possibly. But the fact was that he’d walked to the hotel from his too-pricey suite, and he had no way of actually toting this kid home. He frowned, watching the continuing crumble of face and hope, and sighed. “I can’t. I didn’t drive here.” And yet, he felt some weird sort of obligation that kept him from simply walking off. He sighed, annoyed and obvious about it, but he stood tall and held his hand out. “Come on. I’ll find you a fucking cab or something.”
Lin laughed. It was unexpected and surprised even him when it brushed brusquely through his earlier despair to bubble past his lips in a distracted, half-hearted sort of giggle. He raked his hair out of his eyes before taking hold of the offered hand, tight, and extracting himself from the velvet chair with the stranger’s help.
“I’m -happy w-with a regular cab,” he assured the man with only the slightest dip in breath from tears. He drew up short next to the skinny shoulders and his red-pink shirt stood out all the brighter, all the more like some wound left open and untended, blood thinned, next to the black on black on black. The boy pretended not to notice and he slammed the mental door on all the niggling, insidious reminders of the Cat, his clawing smiles and smiling claws, and the stupid, fucking green-running vein of Wonderland.
It was only once they were outside and about a block away (because the abandoned hotel was suspish), back in the dry reach of the setting sun that Lin swung his eyes up to the stranger’s as the gleaming shell of a cab pulled up to the curb as promised. He didn’t need the cash the man put in his hand and he tried to say as much, but by then he was being folded into the dark interior of the vehicle, and he only had time to say, once, quietly, with as much sincerity as someone like he could muster: “Thank you.”
The door slammed shut and the cabbie asked him his address. Lin pressed his forehead to the back of the front passenger’s seat. He thought about the man. He thought about the Cat. He sighed.
“This is a regular cab, right?” He asked the woman with a dim, but flickering smile and his palms curled in on each other, tight and comforting.