|Matt Murdock is (sightless) wrote in rooms,|
@ 2015-04-01 10:11:00
|Entry tags:||!marvel comics, *log, matthew murdock, saint reilly|
Log: Matthew & Saint, céad míle fáilte.
Who: Matthew & Saint
Where: Marvel's New York
Warnings/Rating: Clean and safe.
By the time the advertisement had done whatever it was advertisements were supposed to do (attract eyeballs, tear-off little pieces of paper with phone numbers on them, engender prank telephone calls from the little pieces of paper) Saint had largely forgotten he had tacked it up at all. The small Marvel apartment had a small spare room, that he had (predictably) largely left unfurnished in the vague assumption that he would eventually, convert it to some form of dark-room. But this was not a project with any immediacy, and the salary associated with being a low-level and largely unassuming staffer on a newspaper with significantly less readership than the New York Times or National Geographic, did not allow for projects without immediacy. The rent relief from accommodating someone else was attraction enough, and had driven the posting of said advertisement onto nearby walls and bulletin boards.
Saint had subsequently forgotten about it almost entirely, except for the brief series of phone calls that were intermittent through the work day and distraction from combing through contact sheets of prints that were either unsuitable for publication (and Saint rather liked) or entirely suitable, and dull as hell. He had taken a series of calls and set up appointments in an ambiguously neat fashion, back to back, and gotten lost in the dark-room bathroom in between the morning and the afternoon.
He was thus occupied when the advertisement-ee came to the apartment door, bare-foot and smelling strongly of chemicals and with his shirt mostly buttoned with one pivotal one misaligned with the rest. Music, of a radio and often-interrupted sort, broke the fug of chemicals and dimming light that signaled the close of an afternoon rather than the beginning. It was vaguely jazzy and the apartment, even if it didn’t smell precisely welcoming, at least smelled clean beneath the acridity of chemicals.
Money was a problem for Matthew. Oh, he had it, plenty of it, in fact, as he had been moving in and out of the musty hallway, stashing away various hordes in various worlds for the past several months (perhaps more; Matthew didn’t keep time the way other people did, and the hotel did not trouble itself to do so either). No, the problem with money here was that it all felt the same. The rectangles of woven paper and cloth had no physical discerning properties to even Matt’s sensitive fingers, and the “bills” smelled precisely the same whether they were worth a fortune or a farthing. In more civilized places, different coins had different weight, and so did gold, jewels, and other valuables. Generally Matthew could tell what he was holding by the malleability, and if he could not, well, there were other ways to sense if he was being cheated. Here, Matthew could tell what was scrap paper and what was money, but there his knowledge ended.
So, when it came to purchasing goods, he was depending on barter, trade, and bribery; he would do so until he could find someone he trusted. Purchasing floorspace presented similar challenges. Gone were the days where he could sup on the temporary goodwill of an innkeeper, and so he had to find an empty room with an owner that was reliable without being extremely prosperous. (In the old days, he would have looked for a miser or a widow, preferably the latter, the uglier the better.)
Being unable to read outside of the magic book currently residing in his coat pocket, Matthew had relied upon charm to find someone willing to read him some advertisements, and using his other senses to determine how reliable his readers might be, he found himself on the doorstep of a suitable location.
The chemical scent was absolutely overpowering to someone like Matthew; he could sense it from the miasma of the city even blocks away. This was rather a good thing rather than a negative one; he would always be able to find his way back here, even from a good long distance away, or half-conscious.
The black glasses were deep and impenetrable as they tipped to one side when the door opened and footsteps stopped. Matthew was holding an umbrella, a handy device while the weather was bad, and he tapped it once on the floor between his shoes to follow the echoes around the silhouette of his prospective landlord. The jazzy music interrupted the depth of the questing senses with little pings of conflicting sound. “Good day,” he said to the smelly man, in a peculiar, heady accent of old, old English and a deep Ireland that no longer existed. “I have come...” how was it phrased? “...about the room.” Matthew smiled.
Saint was neither a miser nor a widow, but he was not especially prosperous. The apartment that the door yawned open onto was, it could be said, in good taste but hardly expensive. The chemical smell grew stronger as Saint wiped both his hands on the front of his shirt and then held one out in a friendly greeting. The black glasses didn’t disturb Saint, but his eyebrows narrowed fractionally together, an observation placed into the jigsaw puzzle that was the stranger at the door.
The brogue that lay underneath the accent was familiar if only faintly: it was distantly related to that of rather a lot of relatives who had come to Christmases when Saint had been small enough and his sisters few enough that they had made the trek to Ireland to see distant family. It was strange but not unpleasant, and he put the brogue together with the glasses and made at least two, if not three. The smile was taken exactly as it was given: Saint smiled easily and gave off the appearance and presence of being entirely at ease no matter where exactly he was, with whom and his actual state of being.
“Hello,” he said, his own voice low and neutrally American with the faint echo of being from North and East and accustomed to salt-breezes and storms. He stepped back, away from the door and did so audibly enough that the door creaked as his weight against it moved. “Come in. It’s not particularly tidy,” he warned, but the faintly apologetic tone was colored by a smile, “But there aren’t a lot of things.“
Matthew could tell by Saint’s tone, and not his face, that he was smiling. Voices were generally more truthful than mere expressions. Matthew’s work as a spy had brought him into contact with a great many liars, and generally he found people did well fooling with their face, not so with their voices, and never with their hearts. Saint was calm, and his heart was strong. From his scent (barely discernible though it was under the layers of stinging chemicals) Matthew derived sex and a very general age.
“Perhaps if th-- if you go before, and warn me of obstacles?” Matthew suggested, finding that such was a good way to take a man’s measure. He moved in on soft shoes, preceded by the tip of his umbrella, into the center of the room, so he could take in more clearly the extent of the room. He didn’t turn his head, moving without fear despite the foreign room. He had on both flannel and wool against the weather, and a knit cap was stuffed into one pocket. The abundance of clothes were clean, and despite the length of his extremely red hair, Matthew was clean-shaven.
“You have a distrust of a chair or table?” Matthew inquired with a smile, prodding about with his umbrella though he didn’t need the extra information. “Or you are a great dancer, and require the practice.”
Saint laughed. It was an easy sound, with every indication that he did it often, and he palmed his hand across his chin as he spoke, the sound was muffled. “No distrust. Just an aversion to finding them. Buying them. Bringing them back. I have a couch.” A wave of his hand, a couch was significant enough a distance from his earliest position of nothing beyond the mattress in the furthest corner of the smaller room (Saint did not require a great deal more other than space for clothes, and he had few enough of those that it took up not much room at all).
He moved through the apartment at an easy lope. The gentleman with the umbrella was not suspicious: his hair was remarkable, but in the way a particularly pretty girl on the street was remarkable. Saint’s mind drifted vaguely toward how he would set up a photograph of it, how the dark glasses might feature, and the composition, and caught itself up with the present as he stopped at the lip of the couch. “I’m not a dancer.” Saint’s grace was only present when he had entirely forgotten about himself and his own body. Dancing required thinking of both.
“Four steps, and then to the left,” was the guidance from the edge of the couch, “And then you can sit. I’m Saint. Reilly. I put Saint on the flyers. And you?” His eyes crinkled. It was another smile.
Matthew was generally nomadic, but he liked his comforts when he could get them. Such sparsity was more concerning than amusing at first, because it might indicate that the man Saint was in dire straits with some moneylender. However, as he moved deeper into the room, he could detect no hint of excessive alcohol or exotic substances (the scent and taste of which he had learned over the past several months) and the place seemed to indicate a preference for space as opposed to a need. He took the appropriate steps described, turned to the left, overshot it slightly and corrected immediately with an exploratory poke of the umbrella. He sat, not shedding his coat just yet, but putting his legs at ease.
“Saint Reilly,” Matthew said, approvingly, allowing his tongue to thicken ever so slightly as he relaxed. “Tis a fine name, it is. I am Matthew Murdock, and most pleased to make your acquaintance.” He put his head slightly sideways in introduction and ducked his head down toward his chest in the direction of Saint’s voice, a pleasant nod to seal the greeting.
“What is… that smell?” Matthew asked, politely enough, turning his head in the direction of the dark room.
Saint observed the motion of the newcomer with the practiced tendril of interest that was a peripheral acknowledgment of something unusual. Matthew Murdock’s course-correction at the couch’s edge was noted, as was the motion of his head, despite the ease with which Matthew had aimed the smile earlier. But Saint was not suspicious: interested, perhaps, to a fault, but his interest canvassed the information given him and the information he knew he did not have and rarely expanded beyond into the information he didn’t know he ought to have or had no likelihood of possessing. Matthew’s brogue thickened into something more reminiscent of late nights on the stairs at those Christmases, when the glasses and bottles had made appearances and Saint’s smile was fleeting but readily present. Family was not an unpleasant memory, even if it was a distant one.
“The smell?” He cocked his head toward the dark-room, the bathroom with its door cracked open long enough to let the unfortunate smell disperse before he had to shut himself in to shower. “Oh. The smell. Chemicals. Developing fluid. I’m a photographer. Hazard of the job. Bathroom,” the punctuated speech rattled as Saint’s thoughts untangled themselves into something more fluid, and he shrugged an unseen shoulder. “I develop photographs in the dark. In the bathroom. I need water. And no light. Bathroom is easier than the kitchen.”
Of those responses to the flyer that had been taped to the wall, Matthew was one of the least intrusive. There had been a girl, with feathered eyelashes so unnaturally splayed and dark that they looked heavy and she blinked frequently and at such pace, Saint had thought she looked like a doll and been so distracted he’d forgotten to write down her cell number. And a young man who had trailed his jacket and been perpetually chewing on a piece of gum tucked into the lower bottom of his cheek that what he had said had been unintelligible. Matthew was not unintelligible even with the brogue. “What do you do?”
Matthew was not particularly concerned with the juxtaposition between his nighttime activities and his daytime ones; he wore something that would be called a mask, but he came from a world in which the knowledge of someone’s name did very little to help you find that person. Here there were cameras and ID numbers and fingerprints, but Matthew didn’t care too much about that, as long as no one knew enough about him to be waiting at his pillow with a knife. The barefoot photograph-man did not pose a threat.
Matthew turned his head in the direction of Saint’s voice, listening to the explanation. His expression grew faintly perplexed. “Photographs,” he repeated, sounding out the word ever so slightly and not asking any special question about the concept just yet. “The…” (here he smiled with faint amusement) “bathroom is then not available for use? Your photos are developing there?” Matthew felt that all people in New York and the colonies were obsessed with bathing and sweeping refuse away with water. He didn’t exactly object, but to him it was a significant cultural quirk. He had to admit the city smelled a little more pleasant, if you could ignore all the chemicals and turpentine smoke.
“Do?” Matthew repeated again, the faint rising lilt of his accent almost laughing. “Oh, do. I am after finding that out, Mr. Reilly, that I am. I haven’t found a clerk or king looking for a blind man to do his books yet.” The flashing smile. “I’m living off my dead mother’s behest, bless her soul,” he added, lying extravagantly with an elegant wave of his hand off of his umbrella.
Saint had never stood at a man’s side with a knife, and it could not be believed that he ever would. Violence was a strange and unwelcome visitor, and Saint was more prone to being visited upon rather than visiting it. But he saw the amusement that curled on the newcomer’s mouth and his head dipped toward his hands, turning the backs of them up for his own inspection. “No,” he said, of the bathroom being completely out of use, because it was not. “But occasionally, yes. It might just mean your shower has company. Drying photographs.”
And he liked the pleasant rhythm of Matthew’s voice, the cadence of its lilt. It reminded Saint of those far off Christmases, and the pattern of his speech reminded him of people who told stories who were good at telling them and he thought Matthew, with his cane and his glasses and his brogue might have many to tell.
“So long as you can pay rent,” he said and he shrugged one shoulder as if to say, what difference did it make how Matthew made a living? But the bright smile shone in the room like false gold, too bright and Saint ventured, “I’m sorry, was it recent?” to that kernel of undistressed truth about mothers.
Matthew had come upon many a man with a blade in his hand. And they feared him as they did the devil he kept for his name. An assassin’s work did him no credit, however, and Matthew thought better of himself than some casual killer for hire. He dealt in knowledge, not at all the same as wisdom. He was bereft without it, like being struck blind once again. “If I shower your drying photograph, I think, it may not be dry when I am done.” He smiled.
“Recent, no. And yet not far hence.” Matthew sighed. He did miss his mother, and his brothers and sisters, but it was an old pain. The faint agreeing cadence in Saint’s voice was reassuring.
Matthew rose up to his feet, moved along the couch. “Th--You will not mind if I look around? I look by touch.” To illustrate, he put his hand out, his left, and let sensitive fingertips skip and slide over the peeling paint. He followed the wall toward the door to the smaller bedroom, and moved his hand over it, not slow. “Had occupation here before, have you?”
The small bedroom smelled like salt and lemons: a clean smell taken from the tumble of linens at the foot of the low bed (Saint had graduated to a bed in a circumlocutious fashion, by way of visiting a junk shop for the pictures that could be taken of old postcards next to the electronic detritus of a decade ago and noticing the bedframe in the very back, piled under some old canvases of rather splashy poppies. It was, however, a bed. The poppies were on the wall, opposite the foot). It smelled like Saint himself, and very faintly of the air outside, the co-mingled fumes of traffic and the dry-cleaning fluid from the place below. There was a chemical tinge to the clothing piled up close to the door that broadcast more of the developer fluid currently clinging to his shirt.
“Yes.” Saint said it apologetically, but his gaze had narrowed in on the way Matthew felt his way along the wall, fascinated. It was a story, in as much as anything small and precise became a story when it was blown up large. The paint, bubbled under from long-ago damp, pressed up against Matthew’s finger-pads in a way that was both prosaic and poetic. “The back bedroom. To the left. That one’s free. It’s bigger,” he said, by way of explanation. There was not a lot in the strongly-smelling room, beyond the bed that was a tumult of blue and white bedsheets and the clothes at the foot. There were, however, photographs, tacked to the wall. Predominantly black and white, they nonetheless dominated the view for the sighted.
Saint liked knowledge a great deal. Acquiring it was a ramble through someone else’s life, which he enjoyed in the same way other people enjoyed crossword puzzles, or walks in the countryside. Matthew did not show the dampened signs of recent grief, the deep-welled oblivion of loss that was keenly felt. “I’m not very tidy.” That was apology again, a rescued coffee-mug from an end table cradled in one palm, fingers curled over the top. “But I can learn.” The smile was slow, but it caught both the corners of his mouth and turned them upward.
The sting of fruit in the air was an unusual one to Matthew still. He did not associate it with cleanliness the way these people did, and it was the devil in him that kept him from disdaining ninety percent of what these people ate. The sheer variety of it made his eyes water and his tongue tingle, and that was simply tasting it on the air. Yet the room smelled good, not unwholesome or stale, and Matthew detected no sickness in the air; he tasted it, with a visible movement of his mouth and the flat of his tongue as he turned his head. A glint of gray eyes staring into the nearest middle space was visible under the flat of his lenses as he turned the circuit of the room, fingers trailing and foot questing.
He nudged at the piles on the floor with little accompanying quirks of his head and mouth, amusement in both features. He bent without any daintiness and dipped his fingers into the cloth that he found with the tip of his umbrella, and when he rose again away from the bed, he found the squares on the wall hanging with visible surprise. “What is this?” He put the umbrella down over the bend of his elbow and raised the flat of both palms to investigate, not having the respect for art or even understanding the nature of the damage the oils in his fingers might do. He found more of them, attached with bits of metal at the corners, smooth and smelling of the chemical in the room. “Paintings? Pictures.”
And then, after a slight second pause, “A second room? Kingly.” He was not joking, and abandoned his investigation of the exotic squares, which he imagined to be landscapes, akin to ladies’ watercolors that he had seen once in the priest’s rooms when he was a boy. He smelled the abandoned richness of stale coffee in the air as the cup tipped and was caught, and turned, nostrils flaring, to examine it, before he followed the line of the wall back toward the couch and second door. His memory was good, and he recalled it cleanly, moving around its padded length.
Saint was more attuned to sight rather than scent, and the collection of them was largely lost on him, both through familiarity with their combination (developer fluid, a particularly noxious one, was entirely absent an effect) and through simple disregard of their existence. Hours spent crouching by trash receptacles would do that to a man, far less one who crouched willingly for days on end in order to get a story. Matthew’s way of turning his head toward the scent was not lost, and the questing motion of lips and tongue was noticed in the way Saint cocked one shoulder against a door-frame and took up space with an absence of active presence that said he was watching rather more than strictly necessary.
The pictures were splayed beneath palms, and he itched for the camera in the same distant way someone else might feel a tickle on an ankle, a nagging sensation, the peculiarity of hands outreached for what the eyes could not see. It was evocative, and it was poignant, and Saint doubted Matthew thought of it either way. “Pictures,” he agreed, his voice warm and agreeable and mellow. “Mine. I take them of the city. Of places I’ve been. The ones that I like are usually the ones with mistakes. So no one minds.”
Matthew’s affinity for the space and his ability to navigate the obstacles in his patch was not lost either. Saint’s mouth was hovering somewhere between a smile and approval, and the coffee cup remained held fast, secured to his palm with the gentle spread of fingertips around its edge. The back bedroom was larger. The air smelled like the city and dry-cleaning fluid from the window onto the space below, and the gust of steam from a vent very near the window. It did not smell stale, but the noise was a distant thrum rather than a presence in it, which meant the window was closed. There was a bed in this one too (the junk shop had given up more than one treasure) and somehow it looked sturdier for the lack of rumpled bed-linen. There was a chest of drawers, pushed up against the far wall, and that was it.
“There’s not much.” That faint note of apology.
Pictures of the city. Matthew readjusted his mental image, but because his full understanding of the city was constructed with the peculiar echoes of his ability and the varying scents and sounds available to him, his image was a filtered through with the tastes on the wind and the funny ping of sun glinting off glass on his skin. He smiled, artist enough to appreciate such an impulse. “Quite fine,” Matthew said, with his faintly breathy click of syllables thickening as he grew more comfortable.
He moved on to the other room, allowing his fingers to trail over the wall above the couch and then beyond it. The umbrella’s point drifted before him, and he made his way inside without trouble. He made a fist and knocked his knuckle against the wall, and listened to the sounds that even Saint could hear. “Big, it is,” he observed, appreciatively. “My mother and near five of my sisters might find comfort enough...” his voice trailed away, good-natured. He moved forward with surprising confidence, pacing the length of the room and the width to get a better feel for it.
Matthew was impressed by the furniture. He shook the bed and found it solid, and quested inside the drawers. “And where do you draw your water, then?” he asked, turning finally to face Saint again, tipping his head inquiringly as the dark lenses flashed.
Saint could not picture the world without colors in it. It was a failing: he grasped for empathy as someone might stretch for something they know normally to be easily within reach and his fingers skidded on a complete inability to comprehend the world in darkness. Sound, he supposed, would mean more. The apartment wasn’t silent: it was located in Manhattan, which meant unless significant amounts of money were lost on complicated windows, it would always have the fug of distant noise of people living in it. Saint could tune himself out from it, lose himself in the silence conjured by his concentration Perhaps it was not that way for Matthew.
Taste and touch and scent tangled together in Saint’s mind, like the pencil lines on which the color could be applied to make the picture. They were present and they were necessary, but he did not think of the building blocks of his surroundings, he honed in on the sense he was particularly attuned to. The faint scent of faded living and of coffee did not resonate with him. Nor could he make much of Matthew’s own - but he noticed the way Matthew made use of the umbrella and the space, the way a cat might use its whiskers. It was unobtrusive, an umbrella. But it was used cleverly.
“Draw water?” Saint’s eyebrows rose sharply, but his voice remained pleasantly neutral. “You mean the bathroom? It’s shared. The next door. Right hand side.” The peculiar turn of phrase had not been lost, but deliberately, Saint said, “Five sisters? More than me.” It was casual, but he wanted to hear what Matthew said next, almost without thinking about the way of achieving it. People gave away more when they were relaxed.
Matthew remembered color. He felt fortunate to do so, though it was tempting to diminish their glory in memory, to avoid resentment and fruitless frustration. He had his senses, and he knew that none had what he had. Surprisingly, it was not much help. Matthew was not a proud man.To be a spy often meant submerging his personality under his purpose, and pride did not lend itself to that.
Matthew had not meant the bathroom. He knew about bathing rooms, an almost breathtaking luxury that was now the norm for all but those starving in the streets. He meant, actually, where Saint found his water, but he did not explain that, sensing he had made a mistake. Hardly troubled, as he was not spying on Saint, nor being anything but himself. “Five being when I last left, a goodly number of spry lasses,” he confirmed proudly. “And as many boys, excepting my humble self.” He moved confidently forward, hand along the wall, to find the next door. It was not a difficult journey; he could smell the chemicals even without his abilities. “You are oft a host? Many friends?”
Being a reporter did not require the submergence of personality, but rather the angling of it, the way one might use a piece of glass to refract glass to a particular point. Matthew’s brogue drew a timbre out in Saint’s voice that echoed pleasantly of family gatherings and green places far over the sea and he leaned into the wall, a shift of hip and of weight that was audible in the rustle of denim and shirting fabric over the flaking paint. Saint wasn’t proud of talents or abilities, but things of substance. A particular photograph, taken in a certain light at a singular moment. Being able to draw out a smile, a remembrance echoed in the shape of someone’s face as they recalled it. Even then, pride didn’t generally surface from the miasma of being reeled into someone else’s world, the nexus they formed simply by existing.
Five and five made ten: Catholics had children in those numbers still, but it was a very large family all the same. Saint had been to Ireland, it was as modern in its cities and as dirty and as filled with different people as any other place all over the world. “Sometimes,” he said, of hosting, palming his hand across the wall and ghosting into Matthew’s shadow easily. The bathroom was small, and somewhat cramped. The sink was tucked between the end of the bath/shower and the wall, and the toilet itself cradled up against the end. It was a tight squeeze, and there was a red lightbulb, unscrewed, resting on top of the tank. “I tend to go to other people’s places. They don’t come to me. As much. You were one of ten? What was that like?”
Matthew disliked it when one of Fury’s adventures required that intensity of purpose that forced him to lose something of himself. He was not an especially honest man, but there was still something in it that he did not like. (Matthew also did not trouble himself with concepts like morality, finding his life was already quite complicated enough.) The longer Saint spoke, and the more Irish he sounded, the better Matthew liked it, and the less likely he was to trouble himself to keep his secrets. Saint had also not accused Matthew of putting on a show for pity, and others had commented on his speech with words that led Matthew to believe that they thought he was some kind of theatrical performer. This amused him greatly, but did not inspire trust. Saint seemed without pretense, other than his art. Matthew knew the type, and was not familiar with journalists that did more than lip-service to general goings-on.
Five and five and Matthew made eleven, actually, no small number for one woman, hale and hearty though she be. Matthew suspected that one or two of his siblings might have been adopted from a sister a few villages away, a sister who hap’ not to be boast a husband. Said sister was long dead, and no one spoke of it, but even so, the Murdock household had been overflowing with red-headed children that were rivaled in their cunning only by the sheer amount of noise they could make in one room. Some of them may have died since he last visited, it occurred. It was a common happening. He hoped not, especially his favorite sister, a middle girl of quiet, kindly demeanor.
Matthew thought a moment, his expressions fairly transparent as he touched the wall and the porcelain appliances. Princely. “Noisesome. I am an elder of the horde, and quite enough of a man to be more fond uncle than wayward brother.”
Saint had a handful of sisters. When he had been young, they had knotted together in an amorphous, unhappy blot of long hair, candy-sweet perfume, the acridity of nail varnish and loud, high-pitched voices and a storm of giggles. They had only begun to separate when the eldest went off to college. Ruth had become herself in her own right, someone who liked far too much eyeliner, Keats and the color yellow. He hadn’t been home in years: Ruth could be anyone now.
“Yes,” Saint agreed with the introduction of noise, a faint wrinkle in his forehead creasing between his eyes. “They can be. I have sisters. How old is the next one down from you?” He did not ask how old Matthew himself was: the movement of him across the room was steady and even, even if the eyes were hidden behind glasses Saint knew he was not old, but the mannered speech (which he noticed, but did not remark upon simply because he didn’t much like his own shutter-stop speech remarked upon either) said something entirely different. “When were you last home?” The brogue was thick enough that either Matthew was a newcomer, or he clung to the patina of home. Either way, it said something about the strange man.
“And do you want the room?” There was a smile in Saint’s voice. He hadn’t thought about why the odd man appealed, but he did. He was not a loquacious woman who looked suspiciously like she would spend hours in the bathroom-darkroom, or a laconic college student, who would keep even odder hours than Saint himself. Matthew, Saint assessed to be harmless.
Matthew looked blank. His mother didn’t keep a calendar. The whole of society barely kept a calendar; the Catholics kept trying to take away days, and no one cared for that much in England. “Some four years, mayhap,” he said, uncertainly. “There is one nearest, but she took sick after I left, so I heard upon my last return. That was, indeed, at least two years… ago.” His expression became shadowed, faintly guilty, faintly bitter. “Always sickly, was Mary, God be with her.” He made a faint motion with his hand toward one shoulder, a half-remembered movement, but it stopped as he moved his umbrella to his other hand and ventured back into Saint’s direction.
“You have family, then, in New York?” he asked, obviously expecting that Saint, being a single man with no discernible trade (in Matthew’s estimation) must have prospects and family hereabouts. They moved back out into the main room, Matthew going a little slower as there were more things on the floor that kept trying to trip him up. In the end, he stopped in the middle. “It is a fine place. I can pay, but not in Bills.” He seemed to think “bills” the appropriate phrase. “You know a merchant for these, maybe?” Assembly more modern words in the most half-hearted fashion, he produced out of nowhere a tiny diamond, dull on four sides and sparkling on two. It was no modern cut, but considering the size, worth five or six months’ rent, even in New York. Matthew held it in two fingers and offered it in Saint’s direction, eyes staring patiently somewhere to the right of his head.
The distance counted off in uncertainty resonated with Saint in a way that the brogue and familiarity had not. It had been years, not months, since he’d returned to family. The door now was closed, their lives lived at distance. He occasionally thought of them with fondness but with the lack of ownership of long-ago friends rather than close family. “No,” he said, to Matthew’s question. “No family. They’re some way away.” It was the easiest explanation that surmised locked doors and hotels that had no entrance or exit, and he didn’t invite further question. Nor did Matthew’s remembrance, with the accompanying hollow look, suggest he would like to reminisce about Mary or his other siblings.
Saint took a seat, one long leg swung across the arm of the couch and the forgotten coffee cup still cradled between palm and long fingers. He looked up, momentarily distracted by shuffling papers out of the way of the couch as they cascaded from the side-table to the floor and saw the diamond twist and flash between Matthew’s fingers.
Saint was not a jeweller, nor a man who had had significant reason to know what uncut stones looked like. But he had been in Africa, where the rock was cut unevenly, and where diamonds came with questionable origins, and he recognized the glint that sparked against the light. “No,” he said candidly, reaching out to take it, and rolling it between finger and thumb. “Jeweller. Probably one of the smarter streets. Smaller place. Old. They’d buy it. Don’t know anywhere in particular.” Matthew’s lack of bills suggested either a worrying impermanence to his presence that might indicate transigence - or something sharper, more permeable, such as a residence in one of the doors that lined the hotel. Saint’s voice was soft, quizzical as he placed the diamond carefully back in the stretch of Matthew’s fingers.
Matthew nodded to himself several times upon hearing Saint’s response about family. As a man who had never seen his own reflection in a mirror, he didn’t concern himself very much with the way he was viewed, and he had a tendency to dip his head more times than necessary when he was thinking, and his heavy lids didn’t trouble themselves to lift or focus behind the dark glasses. Matthew scratched his cheek, still thinking sadly of Mary and wondering if there might have been more he could have done for his poor mother after her loss. He thought not. One more body in her crowded cottage. The money he sent was enough, he thought.
Matthew heard and felt the tumble of the papers, and twisted in that direction, automaticall halting movement so that he didn’t step on anything important. In Matthew’s world people didn’t keep piles of paper around unless they were important; paper was expensive. He uncertainly toed in one direction and then another, as the umbrella’s point wasn’t sensitive enough to inform him of paper leaves falling, and his other senses were of no help while the room was quiet and movement stilled.
Matthew pushed the diamond back into Saint’s hand. “I would not be of help with such a dealer. He would tell me it is a bit of granite, and not a glimmer at all, and there would be little enough I could say. Jewelers try to cheat me most regularly. It is my payment, then, for some… six month?” Hopefully.
Saint raised both eyebrows at the reaction to the cascade of paper as it fell across the carpet. Paper was neither expensive nor infrequent in modern New York, and Saint had lots of it, untidily stacked around the place. Some of it were proof-edits of articles he’d tried submitting (mostly unsuccessfully, although there were one or two good ones) and some of it was paper copied from other places, snatches of words, sketches, and other temporary moments taken down to semi-permanence. The flutter of it was a usual accompaniment to moving around the apartment - while he had little furniture, he had detritus that was as impermanent as Saint himself.
But Matthew’s movement did not have the confidence and fluidity he had had making the uncertain journey from one room to the next. It meant something different, but Saint couldn’t parse what from the threads of the picture he had as part of the whole. The diamond he did, however, and his attention momentarily refocused on the rock in his palm.
Jewelers might try to cheat a blind man, but Saint wasn’t sure he knew much about the rock that caught the light as easily as if it were polished glass, to get a reasonable price. It might be worth considerably more than six months’ rent. “Perhaps,” he agreed, thoughtfully. “I can see what it’s worth. Take you with me. Worth more, you’ll hear it yourself. Worth less, you’ll hear it yourself. We can figure it out.” A smile. “Welcome to the apartment.”