Log:Healing Old Wounds
Zephyr entertained a caller for awhile this morning, then dozed, took a lazy bath, and now he emerges, decked in his trinkets and sparklies, dressed in sage green robes that match his eyes. He is a vision, and one can't dispute it. Some people were born to be Companions. He finds a place to lounge where the sun comes in, bathing him in warm light. He has a small book, one recently penned, of poetry from one of the Artisans, and he peruses it lightly.
Cinder slept in. He sleeps poorly some nights and supposedly had a client late. He emerged later, bathed and took a client. He is returning from walking them downstairs when he sees Zephyr. He drops down near by and pulls out his sketchpad. He flips past a nearly finished portrait of a particularly high cheekboned War Kid and to a outlined scene of a couple by a fire. He starts working on finer details. It's the light that Cinder wants so he scoots closer to Zephyr, probably unintentionally. Cinder ignores his little brother's presence usually. As if he's invisible. The rest of the time the insults come. "Is that new?" Cinder asks Zephyr, nodding at the poetry book.
Zephyr is a pro at pretending not to notice Cinder most of the time. Today, however, so soon after speaking with Lyra, suppressed experiences and feelings have been given a stir, and he looks up from reading his book, staring straight ahead. It's an almost feline irritation; if he had swiveling ears they would be lying flat. This is his sunny spot. When Cinder speaks to him, he starts to retort with something snippy, but he bites his tongue. His brother is asking a question, not making an accusation (justified or otherwise). Closing the book, Zephyr runs his fingertips over the pressed bamboo cover and says, "Yes, I bought it yesterday in the bazaar." Z's not known for going down there very often. He rarely leaves his cage.
"You left?" Cinder looks legitimately surprised. "What made /you/ decide to mingle with the lessers?" The words still bite, but not as hard. Probably because of his surprise. He turns back to his drawing. "It wasn't so bad now, was it? You're still alive." Cinder has been hanging in the Garage lately and his clothes have a lingering smell on them. They aren't his prettiest attire anyway. Meant for Garage days. "Maybe next time, see the Garden and the Farm. Expand your horizons." The last sentence is said dryly with a little eye roll.
Zephyr tilts his head slightly as his gaze draws toward Cinder. Everything about the way he moves is poised and polished. Pretty as a statue, and just as warm. "I wanted something to read," he says, and while there's technically nothing in his tone one could call scathing, there's just that small lilt that seems to say 'duh,' at the end of it. "I can't exactly be one of Sanctuary's hidden delights if I'm out and about where everyone can see me." He pauses, then adds, "You smell like a War Child."
"Do I?" Cinder sniffs himself then his shirt alone. "It's the clothes." He pulls the shirt off over his head and folds it to sit beside him. Cinder is typically very modest. All long sleeves and closed collars and rarely does he just display himself, even in up here, under the dome. Cinder is still sketching though and doesn't seem to want to stop for too long. He has a few scars on his body, as well. Maybe he tries to hide the old scar across his heart or the newer ones on his side and sternum.
"I'm working on a gift or...well, it's a commission, I suppose. A portrait of a War Child for a friend. I like it down there anyway. The noise. The busy kids. The gas and oil. You /should/ spend time among the people. Get to know the clients in their space." Cinder is the opposite of his brother. He's too big and clumsy to be graceful or poised. He's warm and kinetic instead.
Zephyr's nose wrinkles and he glances away, shaking his head. "They're brutish. Don't get me wrong, I enjoy the raw power of a machine-worshiper as much as the next rent-a-paramour, but up here they have to abide by certain rules. What's to keep me from getting devoured whole or worse, dirty?" He tries to steal a glance at the drawing without getting caught, but it's kind of hard to. He hesitates, then asks, "What's it like over there?"
"Yeah. Brutish but...they know life is short. They want to live it to the fullest while they still can. It's admirable." Cinder explains. He pulls his drawing to his chest. It's instinct. "It's hot and smelly. Gas, oil, dirt, sweat and...sometimes, if someone has taken a hard turn, sickness and death. As long as you stay out of the way, no one will hurt you. They used to pick on me. Wonder why a pretty thing from the dome came to them but I'm able to connect still. Pick up on how they talk and think. And...I'm a Wastelander too, technically. Years removed but still. That helps with relations." And for it, Cinder is a top War Kid pick of Companion. He releases the sketchbook so it can be seen. It's a young couple sitting beside a fire but that's all that's apparent.
"Oh, well I'm used to being picked on," Zephyr says, and he glances blatantly at the drawing in progress. "That isn't bad," he allows, graciously. "Sometimes I get a War Kid. I like hearing the stories, and whether you'd believe it or not, once I'm paid, I can be a damn fine listener. I feel bad for their lot in life, but I admire the dedication with which they live their short lives. It must be nice to believe in something so powerfully."
Cinder frowns and grunts. He gets back to his sketch. "They are often good storytellers. It comes from their faith. Each moment out there is intended to be their last. He put their all into it to reach Valhalla. To get the perfect body denied to them in life. Sad but beautiful." He pauses. "'Once I'm paid...'" He echoes. "Do you realize how that makes you sound?" He smirks. "Inhuman, that's what."
"Is it so bad? To be inhuman? Look at humanity's works, they don't have a lot to recommend them," Zephyr says. "Maybe I'm nobody's friend, but I have what I need. People let you down, things don't." It's more fire than Zephyr usually shows toward, well, anyone. The near robotic calm has faltered. He looks away, inspecting his impeccable manicure. "Not all of us are cut from such noble cloth, O Savior."
Cinder is startled in silence at first, but his expression softens. "You don't have friends because you are so closed off and your kindness is bought. It looks false that way." He shifts to look fully at his little brother. "Most don't mind that. It's what they pay for. Some like it to create the separation. Either way, the Gilded Cage is made of lies. I like making connections. I like people. People can let you down but they lift you up, Zee. It's so nice when they do." He's tense. He's leaving so much unsaid. From the way his eyes avert and he chews his lip, he's afraid.
Zephyr lowers his gaze, and in that small gesture there is fragility, brief before his features become smooth again with the polished confidence that gets him through. "People like you," he says. "I've observed you being kind and caring, personable, decent and loyal." A small pause, then he says, "From a distance." He brushes smooth the way his robe falls against his thigh. "I know the truth has no place here. No one wants the truth. The truth is ugly. It's scary, it hurts. People want pretty. They want to feel good. Maybe I shield myself from the nightmare so I can still give that to them. Maybe it's good not to know any better."
"Fuck." Cinder mutters and then his armor cracks. It's good armor. It's served him well. "Let...let me get the ugly out of the way? The anger. At you. At myself." He sighs. "You don't know ugly, Zee." He scoots closer and lowers his voice. "You were too little. Just a little wobbly baby when they came and murdered everyone we loved. He covered my mouth to keep me from crying. I covered yours." Cinder has spoken very little in the way of detail about that night to Zephyr. Pushing it off to 'when you are older.' and older came and went. Drak's memories are unknown. He looks to the future. "I know ugly. I know what's out there. I helped to keep you shielded. I don't regret that. But as you grew up here, only knowing this place? I came to resent you. Envious of your ignorance and complacency. You stay in line because you only know the line. I do it to survive."
He takes a moment to breath. "That said, I was so mad after you were born. Jealous because Mama held you instead of me. Childish, sibling stuff. But I promised the night it happened that I would be a good big brother. I would take care of you and protect you. Papa would have wanted that. But you were so little and I was caste away from you. In that short time, I lost you. Today, I'm angry. I want to live free. I want my children with me. I want a wife." He sniffs and flicks away a tear. "And I have no one to take it out on. So it's been you. Easy target. Because I'm convinced that you don't care."
Zephyr is quiet for a moment after Cinder finishes speaking. Tension has crept into his fluid form, and he sits poised, so close to Cinder that Cinder can see the way his pulse flutters quickly in his throat. Poised for flight or fight or freeze. He takes a slow, unsteady breath, self-soothing. When all else fails, just breathe. He can't find his voice at first, and he swallows hard, looking at his hands folded on his lap without really seeing them.
Finally, he does speak, and it's lowly, with a small tremor in the calm. "My first memory is of the Cage. I don't remember the heat, but I remember that I had been hot, and now I felt cool and refreshed, and there were women cooing over me. One of them pointed at this redheaded boy and said, "There's your brother."" He purses his lips, shaking his head as he says, "I remember joy. And relief, because I felt like the world had been taken away from me, but it hadn't been, it was still there."
He draws his thumb along his pale hand, not quite fidgeting, but walking the line of it. "I don't remember when I realized you hated me, and that nothing I did would ever be good enough. I thought I had done something, but I couldn't imagine what it was. I racked my mind at night, tossing and turning, about what it was about me that was so terrible that the man who loves everyone detested me."
They look at Cinder finally. "Do you know what that's like? To feel so fundamentally flawed? And helpless because there's nothing you can do to change it, it's just who you are. Unlovable." He shakes his head. "I don't want connections. I don't want to know what it feels like when they finally see what I'm really like."
Cinder listens, soon sniffling with downcast eyes. He stiffles a sob at the end, covering his mouth and holding very still. Not wanting to let everyone know how distressed he is. After some moments of deep breathing and face wiping her says, voice trembling. "I failed you." He looks up now, meeting his little brother's eyes. "I failed you and I failed our parents. I was supposed to take care of you. I think, for a time I hoped Drak would but...he took care of me until I didn't need it and then he went crazy and I am part to blame for that. That's a different story for another time." He reaches out and takes Zephyr's hands. He can pull away but Cinder will reach again. "You are not unloveable. I'll say it again so you will hear me. You, Zephyr, are not unloveable. I was a stupid jealous kid but I remember taking you outside at night when you were restless and Mama and Papa needed sleep. We'd look at the stars and the moon. And our parents loved you so, so much. Papa was proud to have three sons with his red hair. Mama? It was like the sun rose and set on you. She looked into your eyes and sang and rocked you. You were loved deeply. So, please, know that much."
Cinder sniffs. "I failed you so badly. I'm sorry. Those are weak words, I know. Weak words that won't begin to heal a wound I made. You should have never been a target of my ire, my inner rage at being away from my children and watching people I care about and love die or get sick over and over. My loneliness. Hopelessness. I aimed it at you and...I'm not asking for forgiveness. I don't deserve it. I am asking for a open heart and a fresh start. A chance to rebuild and extend my kindness to you. Please, Zee? Give me a chance to be a good brother."
Zephyr tenses, though he doesn't pull away. His brow furrows, and he sounds perplexed as he says, "What are you doing?" The sniffling, the sob, it startles him. He glances down at his hands in Cinder's, and they are soft from a life of no labor, no real hardship. "I don't remember," he says bleakly. "I wish I did. I feel like I'm dishonoring them so much by not remembering them."
He takes another calming breath, letting it out softly. "I don't hate you, Cinder," he says, and in fairness, given the cold way he treats Cinder, it would be fair to assume he did. "I stole your ring so I would have something of you. I knew you wouldn't give me anything, and I don't give away anything. I just..." He lifts his chin so he can look at Cinder directly. "I'm all right. You should know that. I studied hard, and I'm good at what I do. I learned how to take care of myself. If I want something, I can afford it. I lack for nothing. I've done well. So, in a way, you did take care of me. You made me tough, and you have to be tough to survive in this place."
"Still..." Cinder whimpers and shakes his head. "You can have the ring. You actually look nice in white. It just washes me out." He coughs out a bit of a laugh. "You were so little, Zee. You weren't done suckling all the way when it all...all happened. I remember the night you were born only because there was a duststorm. We were all bunkered down in our tent and Drak and I were right there to watch you come into the world. Drak doesn't recall my birth but we are closer together. Three red haired, healthy boys. We honor them by living and being happy, Zee. I honor them but doing right by you. I should have never let it get so bad. I was mean and you were mean and it was a cycle. We--I should have broken the silence sooner. You're tough for all the wrong reasons." He takes a moment to regain his composure. And like he's done a million times before, he zips it up and shoves it down. "I have something for you. You should have it Just..."
Cinder gets up and rushes to his cubicle of sorts. He returns with sketchbooks. He doesn't keep but a few, so the paper may be recycled. But he returns with them and flips past pages and carefully tears one out. He eventually has about six or seven sheets, including the one he was doing when he began. "I started have vivid memories and dream about them a long while ago now. I started to draw. So, that's Mama. That's Papa. That's one of our tents. This is them at a fire..." All of these drawings are bits and pieces of a life long dead. "You should have these. I remember it. You don't. Please. My first official peace offering. Because you are my baby brother and we are all we get here. You, me, Drak. Just us. By blood and born in the dust."
Zephyr watches Cinder get up, and it would be typical of him to just get up himself and walk away. To retreat. But he doesn't. Instead, he works on maintaining his composure. This is new ground for him. The backbiting and snipping he knows. This is unfamiliar and unsettling. But he stays.
He studies Cinder for a moment before he takes the sketches, then he goes through them one by one. "You and Drak look so much like our father," is the first thing he says. "I look like our mother." Save for ihs red hair, of course. "I... Thank you, Cinder." The words come awkwardly. He rises to his feet, holding the sketches dearly. "I should put these away before something happens to them." He starts to walk away, toward his little area. He needs to retreat and think about all this.
Cinder follows, darts in front of Zephyr and hugs him. Cinder's name is an understatement. He is a furnace. Cinder doesn't hang on or linger. He does kiss his brother on the forehead. "I am sorry and my actions will prove that moving forward." He steps aside.
Zephyr pauses as he's hugged, and he's careful not to let the sketches get wrinkled. "That will cost you a ring," he says, not without humor. He even half-smiles. Then he says, "I have not always been gracious and kind, myself. I will do better." Then they flit away and are gone.