Log:Low Places and Whiskey Spaces
The Coward brings the Caregiver back to his room. On the door is carved an image of a lanky man with curly hair--clearly Coward himself--cringing behind a rock, while a dragon fights a group of knights in the distance. He averts his eyes from it with a curl to his lip, not looking at it as he opens the door. "C'mon in."
His room is hotel-perfect. Not much in the way of personalization has happened. There's a violin case and a beautiful antique book bound in green leather. There's a deck of Tarot cards. A fancy silver flask with two collapsible cups stands on the desk with the other things. The Coward pulls a bottle of whiskey off a shelf and finds a glass for Caregiver, absently pottering about.
There's a bare knit of Caregiver's brows as she passes by the carved door with trailing fingers, on follow behind the lanky man Eilis McTavish knew as Colorado... both in the flesh and without for those months in the Colton Family embrace, his presence meshed with Sebastian Munson. Once they're in with the door closed, she leans against it with her back and curls her bare toes at the floor in alternate. It's a bit like a cat kneading out stress relief as she just stands there, letting him pour drinks. Eventually, she speaks, tousling a hand through her hair, voice quiet, "Thanks. Everything got too... different at once." She pauses, "I don't always feel like Eilis now. I think that's... she was strong. I'm still her, but it's..." Then suddenly she's sheepish, glancing at the floor and her toes with self-deprecating humor, "Well. You know exactly. I'm sure."
The Coward offers over the glass, with a generous few fingers of fine bourbon in it. "Think I might know," he says, quiet. He sits on the comfortable couch that's the other major piece of furniture in his room. Everything is very comfortable, soft and rounded. "It's a real bear, tryin' to deal with...all this." He waves his glass around. "Not knowing who I am. Or what I am, if not some...some coward." His eyes drift back to the door.
"I looked at mine, but I just thought... it was a marking picture. Instead of a number. I didn't think they really..." Considering anew, she takes a lengthy drink from the offered and taken glass. And Caregiver finally steps away from the door with a hiss of noise between her teeth in thanks and appreciation for the neat finish of the fine bourbon. As she wanders to the couch to sit with her bare legs curled up alongside herself, in that shirt that's probably a certain other former-Colton's from the look of it, her free hand plays with a silver familiar cross on her neck to match, like an ensemble of Defender and Pierce Colton in hybrid-- other than the darker lines of her underwear beneath the crisp white shirt, she's immersed in -him-. Again, it's not unlike a cat, burrowing in the pieces of the person who owns them.
Given those long hard months with him at her side, despite his state, well. It's little surprise. And the television is a bad impression on her honestly, as far as modesty goes-- she never really had that much for a lady, considering, and those people on the screen in the videos tend to wear little.
Then she gets a bit of Eilis spine right back, watching The Coward carefully for a moment, "... how would you define a coward?"
The Coward's eyes slip back to the Caregiver, and he smiles at her, natural and sincere. "It's good to see Pierce about you. Ain't seen him in the flesh, but...good to know he's here. Good to know you and him, you're," he makes another gesture with his glass. "Gettin' along." He carefully keeps his line of sight above her collarbone.
At the question, he shakes his head, drinks. Dips his head at the image on the door. "Oh, I know it's a little ironic, that picture, when I died fighting Giles. Still. Rado was the town coward. That," he pauses, trying to find the word he wants in the depths of his drink, "hurts."
"We haven't... I mean, honestly, we stared at each other, I fainted, we said a lot of repressed things, I tried to screw him in the hall with a particularly stellar lack of impulse control before he stopped me... then we ended up quiet once in the room. Just holding. He finally fell asleep. Into a good sleep, you know? I don't think he's had that in... a long time. He doesn't know I poked through his things yet." The brunette once-Eilis glances down at herself with a bit of a wistful and maybe nervous or worried expression, though not about nosing through his things-- nope, she doesn't feel sorry for that, especially since she's wearing the decisive spoils of it. She's going to be real confused when it disappears later and she thinks he's taking his things back.
She pauses after her distracted explanation and swaps focus to Colorado, eyes kind of catching again on what he is now. You can see and feel a thing, but that doesn't mean it doesn't take a while to sink in, "Mm. I'll spare you the lecture about what we're -perceived- as versus what we -are-. God's truth, most people don't have the eyes to see between the lines, they don't slow down to see -right- nine times out of ten. And between the lines is where people really live." She pauses, "What were you most afraid of?"
The Coward laughs. "In the hall. Good Lord, El. Not surprised Pierce stopped you." He quiets to hear her out. His eyes stay hovering around her collar, when they're not directed down at the carpet. "Mmm." He drinks. "As Rado, I hardly know anymore. I was afraid of everything. Afraid of the Reaping, of my father, of the miners that'd come in and see me as a target. Some of 'em saw me as more than a target for jokes or pushin' around. Some of 'em..." the Coward pulls in a breath. "But none of that really happened, did it. Just somethin' I was made to remember. As if it was a book I read once." He rubs over his face, bristly with a half-grown-in beard. It's almost invisible, it grows in light blonde.
"I just... I didn't care. At all. Everything else shut off. There was only him. God, alive. Tall. Strong. Moving. Talking." The Caregiver shivers abruptly with her small explaining byline to the laughing commentary after a barebones moment of appropriate shame. There for a tick, it's as if she's feeling echoes of how powerful that wave of falling into him once more was after so much terrible and time spent with him broken at her side imprinted on her. Something the Coward says distresses her, though. She flinches, then drains the drink entirely like a champ before wondering in that pointed, genteel way of hers that stuck, "... will you tell me about the boys? How many pieces of them do you have?"
The Coward raises an eyebrow. "Expected that to last you longer," he murmurs, and pours Caregiver a little more. He pours himself a little more while he's at it, and smiles. "The boys. Troublemakers. Junior had a gift for the Sight--it pops up in our line every so often. Not so strong as mine, at least, not while he was young. He'd tell me the birds made pictures in the sky. That he could see me through Bastian. Robbie decided Cale was the man he admired most in all the world. Nothing would do but he be a gunslinger and a brawler and a cattleman, even when he was five years old."
Tilting her glass to catch the pour as she feels the burn and warmth of the draining drink on the tail end, Caregiver listens to Colorado Colton's spiritual memories as played, her lips turning up small with smile. It's not sad, though. It's proud. She also watches the Coward's demeanor shift with the telling. And maybe that was the point of asking, even though yes, she did want to know. Because it sets the scene for her next comment, late tailing his other more dire bits, "I think... if I'm a pawn... and I'm put on a board, it's not the set of squares that make the game." She pauses, "I've never been big on chess, but watch people play it. It is never about the board. It's rarely about the set placement, even. It's about what the pair of people hash out right there in mental sparring to move. It's heavy. It's thick with possibilities. Every piece has a role, but they're constantly in flux." Her features are ruminating with her gentle reflective words, "It takes people sensing, maneuvering, thinking to make the variables. That's what brings the game to life.""
She eyes the amber liquid instead of the man on the couch next to her now, but when she finishes speaking, she cuts her lashes his way to observe, "Stop feeling like less of a person because of what you can't control. You're not the piece. You're the possibilities. Just like those babes."
The Coward drinks while Eilis-the-former has her say. He's getting looser as the liquor in his glass goes down, sinking further back into the couch cushions. He makes a wordless, thoughtful sound.
"You're saying that it doesn't matter all that much what play we're in. What...orchestra, we're in, maybe. That we all have our roles." He raises his eyebrows, staring into the drink. Then, lifting his head, he frowns at the door. "I need to fetch Bastian. Thought he'd be here by now. Be back directly." Standing, the Coward's still steady, but clearly the alcohol is working on him. He goes out for just a moment, as promised. When he comes back, it's with the Scholar in tow.
The Scholar has coverd half his floor with books, like he found a reference in one and immediately went on a tangent to look it up in the other, which lead to another. He doesn't protest being fetched; doesn't say much of anything, in fact. He glances over his shoulder as they go, looking hard a copy of Josephus, like he's trying to memorize where he was. (A futile effort, he knows he can't remember things like that, yet he still tries. Maybe one day it'll stick.) He smiles and murmurs a hello to Eilis once they come in the room.
"Maybe. I know this is all new to me too, but I've heard enough to know one thing or another. More importantly, I've felt enough. Feeling... was always what broke me down and ended up putting me together again, you know. Over and over and over. I have no shields. There is no safe middle to protect myself with. Theoretically, from the outside, that makes me weaker than others that can make their walls. But what brings me down is always what ends up picking me up in the end, too." Pausing for a moment as the Coward rises with excusing, she smiles some with genuine suffusing warmth despite the small pull of lips when he returns with her Bastian-darling. She sits leg curled on the couch with a whiskey glass, apparently deep in said-feels as well as a whole realm of possibility she's pulling the man she's drinking with toward. Then she finishes the thought, "Being made with fear, it's not a bad thing. Maybe it's a bigger part of you than it is for others, by way of your supposing, but... good lord, you're a Colton. I shouldn't have to tell you nothing kicks back harder than a spooked horse." She tips her head a little to the Scholar then, indicatively, "And look where it ran your wagon."
The Coward doesn't sit again immediately, when he returns with the Scholar. Boots planted, he bows his head, listening to the Caregiver, who has a lot to tell him. When she's done, he swallows and looks up, his blue eyes overbright. "If there's anything in this world I want to be, it's a Colton. With my family. With my husband. With my...sons." He hesitates over using the word 'sons', not sure if he deserves to or not. He looks between Eilis and Sebastian. "It's so good to have my own body again. To be in a room with both of you. And I'm afraid to feel that, because it means I can lose it."
The Scholar's smile turns wry as he hears Eilis say that, both for guessing after the nature of what they've been discussing and her conclusion. He sighs, sad and tired, and runs a hand up the Coward's back. It would feel hypocritcal to comment on that in particular, since he already knows what that kind of loss feels like, acutely, and can't actually say it's not something to fear. He certainly does, above all other things, if maybe not in the same way the Coward does.
Thinking about Eilis' analogy with the horse, he says, "It's not about if you're afraid or not. It's about what you decide to do."
"Mhm. No matter what stage we're on, no matter the role we're given, it's up to us to breathe it life. Even scripted acts tend to adjust with the actors and variables. Trust me. I was a fucking actress. And this is all far too messy to be scripted, at that." Her dry last bit might point her toward a little whiskey warm, because it comes with a lifting little cheers of her glass and another tossed back sip of the amber liquid. She glances down at the cross around her neck after she watches the Coward with the Scholar as they are in this different way of life, bottom lip trapping between her teeth to work in rough back and forth before she draws in a sudden breath, "I'm just... I just know one thing in the middle of knowing very little. The very day I start thinking of myself as 'something' instead of 'someone', it all falls down. So I won't. And neither will you if I can help it. Either of you."
The Coward slips his arm around the Scholar's waist, leaning in to kiss his cheek. "You make me brave," he murmurs to him. Again and again, he's said that to him. As Colorado, he said it. Now, stripped down to an archetype, he says it. The Cowardly Lion, finding a heart.
He sits abruptly, a little too abruptly, and looks at Caregiver helplessly. "I don't know how not to," he says, tears rising in his eyes. He is good and drunk.
The Scholar leans into the kiss, smiling despite how he seems near to tears. "I'll never be happier than when I hear you say that. But it's alright if you can't always be brave. Let me be brave for you, sometimes."
He crouches down in front of the Coward so he can look up at him. "How to not think of yourself as a thing? Oh, Rado," he reaches up and frames the Coward's face with his hands. "You're not a thing. No more than I am or Eilis is. And I know you don't think we're just things." He arches a brow, daring the Coward to contradict that. "This situation we're in, it's difficult and painful and confusing and...terrible, in every possible way. Be you're still a person, even if you're afraid. Maybe especially because you are."
Eilis McTavish Colton wasn't always soft with the words. She did what she needed to do with the words to make them stick, more than anything, where people needed them to stick. And the stars know she's no angel-- while Pierce was incapacitated, they know she took to door closing simply to dress him down a good number of times with feeling while he was helpless and broken, suffering and cursed. Because sometimes, things just have to come out how they come out. "I'm calling your bluff, cowboy. Go on. Ask me why." The fire of whiskey in her bringing out -this- particular piece of Eilis again in Caregiver is maybe reassuring in some backhanded sense. But these things also tend to go fifty fifty because it means she might end up in tears too like a bounceback effect after all the passion is out.
The Coward sniffles hard, gripping the Scholar's wrists, looking into his lovely mismatched eyes. He gropes for something to say, shakes his head; he doesn't know how to reply to that. That fire coming out of once-Eilis makes him flinch a little, just like Colorado Colton, but he recovers from it. He turns his head to cough, again just like Rado. "Okay, McTavish. Why."
"If you can't believe it for yourself, then believe it for me. The same way you're brave for me." The Scholar tries to think of something to add to that, can't. And then Eilis has him back in Prosperity with that tone of voice provoking a very Colorado-like response from the Coward. He blinks, and more than a little of Sebastian's refusal-to-react-to-anything settles over him. He stares at Eilis, wary.
"Because you fuck your husband like a man. When you start feeling nothing in that, you let me know and I'll give you another reason. Actually, no. No. No. I'm going to give you another reason." Oh lord. Who knows when the last time she ate was. Caregiver is drunk as she slams the rest back out of her glass, that slow rising flush perked to full rowdy with spurring. It reads like her body was just waiting for the passion of opening to all come out with unfiltered daring. Her body shifts into kneel on the couch. She's not really being mean at all, she's just being direct as hell and daring someone to argue with the logic of it. Because love is passion, passion is sex, sex is lust, and lust and all those things together is the most human thing of all, arguably. But maybe not arguable to her, the little feeling thing she is. Then she tilts her head, voice softening, "Pierce Colton is the strongest and bravest man I know. I'm biased, but I don't think you'll much argue it. We know what drove him to drink from that cup. But do you know what drove him to -betray- our promises, -drug- me, and -leave- me in the end to do a cursed lifelong errand with a demon? Fear. Weakness. Do you think less of him?"
The Coward presses his forehead against the Scholar's, tender and miserable. A mix of emotions he's particularly good at. "I'll try, baby," he whispers. "I'll try." And then that comes out of Caregiver and the Coward's chest leaps in a startled laugh, and he shoves his face into the Scholar's broad shoulder, weeping and laughing at the same time. "Eilis McTavish-Colton!" he scolds, muffled. "Jesus Christ!"
He lifts his face to look at her. He reaches out to wrap a long arm around her waist again, hugging her tight. "No," he murmurs. "No. I think Pierce is a hero. A big damn hero."
"I can't ask for more than that," the Scholar says, strokes the Coward's face. Eilis' speech draws a choked laugh out of him, and he gives the Coward a coy, sideways glance which suggests he might have to prove her first assertion true later. He nods, ducks his head. "Fear can be a proper guide. It can keep you alive when other reactions won't. That's not always wrong. And sometimes," he lifts his eyes to Eilis, they're full of apology, "it can help you save people. People who are very dear to you." He clears his throat, smiles a thank you at Eilis for her pep-talk. The Coward's not the only one who needed to hear it.
"Me too." Caregiver Eilis proudly and drunkenly smiles to the big damn hero bit and sits brimming with a bit of pride at the reaction she jarred too, leaning into the loop of arm for one big family hug with the Coward and Scholar. She also might have some pent up aggression issues coming out after playing angel at his withered side so long after her fateful drugging, "Big damn hero." Her eyes settle on once-Sebastian across the way with her lopsided, affectionate, whiskey-aided smile at blossom despite the subject matter, "He's a big chicken when it comes to me. But it doesn't change -who- he is. I was going to hand him that damn cup. I was going to let him be Pierce if it came to it. And he knew that. But he -had- to give into one fear in order to face another." She pauses and too-cheerily confesses aside, "I'm entirely waiting to knock the shit out of him like I did Cillian." A pause again, "Okay, well I -tried- to knock the shit out of Cillian. And Pierce's jaw and chest would both probably break my hand."
"Oh, I'd say he deserves it," the Coward says, laughing low and hoarse in his chest. "And yet I can't ever thank him enough for saving Cale from it. And saving everybody at the same time. Kind of move only Pierce could make. Damn him." He leans to nestle into the Caregiver's hair, kiss the crown of her head. "And. I can't help but wonder what was the point of it all. What was the point, when we all woke up here anyway?"
The Scholar mms lows in his throat, loops an around Eilis and leans his head against the Coward's. "I was thinking about that earlier. Why is why I had all those books on the floor." He sighs, tries to bring his thoughts together. "Here's something to consider: what if this was the afterlife, and we'd lived entire full lives we knew and could remember in full. And now we come here to find reincarnation is very real, and we're going to keep going through lives again and again, only to come here each time for a brief period between them." He raises his eyebrows at them. "Would that have any more point than this does? Is the painful part that we're being reborn, or that we know we are, that we're given time to go over what we had and no longer do?"
He sighs, reaches up to rub the Coward's back with his other hand. "It's not that I think we are. I..." He swallows, shakes his head. "Clearly, we're not. But our lives have meaning becuase they're our lives. Whether we live them to the full and remember it all and are reincarnated or...this. Whether something is doing this to us or this really is the afterlife. They're still our lives, either way. We still lived them." His eyes soften. "Put another way. I love you. I loved those children. I loved our family. That was the point. At least for me."
"Uh huh. Bastian-darling has the smarts of it that I can't say pretty right now. But see. See. You're someone, not something, you're supposed to wonder. Someone could look at how I died and see it awful tragic after such lengths were taken to -save- me from that fate. But that's not how it was. And look. Look..." Caregiver-Eilis nuzzles into the kiss at her hair with easy ready countering for the Coward after Scholar's words, starting to sound more whiskey soaked with the lapsing bonelessness of her body at melt. Her free arm slings out to bring them all closer together with rampant squeeze that's a trifle demonstratively rowdy-playful as she wiggle rocks them on the couch as a tough little interlocked unit of hugs, "Look how we're sitting now, rooted together with no roots at all. This isn't even me being ridiculous or optimistic, that stuff was awful. I don't wanna do it again, but if it gets me things like this to keep? Love is a chain. We made it, we passed it down, we reclaimed it. No one said it was easy. It's not supposed to be. That's how you know you get the good stuff, I think."
The Coward kisses the Scholar, a kiss that tastes like the saline of tears. "S'why I love you, Bastian. You can see these things. See 'em, and show 'em to me, too. But to answer you, I don't know if it'd have any more point or not. Reckon it's above my pay grade. That's for folk like you to work out, and me to admire from afar."
He holds the Caregiver up as she goes melty, and turns to ease her down onto the couch. "Gently there, Miss El. You're right, you know. You're absolutely right. It's not easy. Nothing good ever is."
The Scholar returns the Coward's kiss, sweet and light. "I don't know that I deserve the much praise from you two, but since we're all feeling a bit heartsore, I'll accept it." He rests his head against the Coward's, startles when Eilis starts to rock them around. He helps the Coward ease her onto the couch. "No, it's true. The things worth having--love, family, joy--we have to work and fight for them. That's often quite difficult."
He surveys Eilis' condition with wry humor. "I suppose we don't really know our tolerances in here," he muses. "You and I might need to take it slower until we do."
"Pssh. We're owed so many drinks. And we aren't that singular or special, you know. Lookin' for a whole point in our lives. People always did it with just the one. It's why there's a lot of really awful poetry. I ain't never read a poem that had it fully figured out. Pretty sure I read a lot of them too. Sometimes we aren't made for knowing all the things. 'cause we're just a little person. We come and go. Maybe this is life for -everyone-. Just 'cause you don't see something doesn't mean it's gone." Eilis is downright slosh babbling now, even if she's making some decent whiskey-theory sense. But then as she's laid out on the couch to curl up and just listen to the pair of lovers with a slight, lazy smile at her lips and half-lidded eyes, she's got other ideas, one of her legs coming up to lazy kick at the air with sling in that wiggle-drunk fashion, "And you know. The next person that gives me that -look- about being here that just reeks of me being in trouble for existing, I'm gonna turn it around on them and tell them maybe they shouldn't have loved me so hard into existing. I -hate- that look. S'all my brothers and father and uncle and cousins ever -did- for TWO MONTHS. Then after that it was the eyes. The ones that were all... goddamnit Eilis please don't be here. I'd -really- like to know where I'm supposed to be if I'm -not- with the people that love me, I really would." Seeing Capitalist earlier might have kicked that delayed rant into gear, but he's not the only one that's given her 'the look'. It's a recurring theme.
"Won't ever give you that look. Promise." The Coward strokes the Caregiver's hair. "We're all in this shit together. Ain't no point at all in pretending otherwise."
Eventually, the Caregiver falls asleep. The Coward looks at the Scholar with his weary smile, then, and offers, "Bed? Not sure my dick will work enough to fuck you like a man, but I surely can try."
The Scholar huffs a laugh at Eilis even as he dodges her waving leg. With a glance at the Coward, he says, "Maybe seeming to me what they are, as doubtless they indeed but seem, as from my present point of view, and might prove as of course they would, nought of what they appear, or nought anyhow, from entirely changed points of view." He chases that with a faint, impish smile.
"Bed, yes." He slides an arm around the Coward's waist. "You can just hold me like one, and leave the fucking for tomorrow morning." A bob of his eyebrows, and he glances down at Eilis. "Leaving her to your room?"
All the petting of hair seems to shut Caregiver right up into tiny content noises like drunk human purrs. At some point, she probably goes to crawl in with Defender. But she's kind of bad at this whole things restarting bit, as per Facility routine-- so the wake without his shirt on in her own bed after passing out on the whiskey is probably a mess he's going to catch. But for now, she's as sleepy and unwitting as a kitten, comforted by the presence of what she knows as family.