Logs:Syrup and Rain

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Syrup and Rain

Are we mask or mien?

Dramatis Personae

Brand, Denali

6 July 2015


Two friends talk and the veil begins to rise.

Location

Some dingy diner


TXT From Brand To Denali - Heading home for practice. Waffles before band practice?
     TXT From Denali To Brand - Waffles found good. See you in fifteen?
     TXT From Brand To Denali - yeah. Usual place.

And fifteen minutes later, the artist arrived as promised at the usual place. A classic ‘greasy spoon’ diner. Twenty four hours of artery-clogging goodness, served by a woman who could very well be a transplant from an earlier decade herself. The only sense one gets that the times have changed are the lack of ashtrays and the ‘No Smoking’ signs plastered in prominent locations. It’s the magical window between dinner time and the post-bar crowd that leaves the place quiet and unassuming. There’s a couple truckers at the bar top and a gaggle of high school-aged kids at a corner booth, drinking coffee and playing some card game. Otherwise, the place is in a soporific lull.

Someone has, however, opted to play Talking Heads’ Psycho Killer on the jukebox. Likely the kids, by how they gesticulate wildly during the chorus.

When Denali settles in at a table, it’s a booth by the front window with vinyl seats that creak under the slightest of weight. She’s wearing a black-and-white striped tank that fits snug to her form, barely gracing the waistband of the jean shorts she wears. These are purpose-made: not even cut-offs. The cuffs fold up neatly against the pale flesh of her thighs and one leg becomes visible as she settles in; drawing foot up onto the bench and leaning against her upraised knee. Really, she’s quite flexible for someone whose ‘real’ ID reports that she’ll be sixty this year.

With a coffee already set before her and a pair of menus to peruse, the woman sets to putting her blue hair in a braid as she waits.

The sway of headlights from a stylish 2014 Dodge Challenger signals the arrival of Brand Walker. Well within view of the diner's window, the leather jacketed ivory elf slips out of the door and uses his key fob to engage the alarm. The headlights flash yellow once and the chirp sounds out over the parking lot, letting everyone nearby know that his car is not one to be made with the fucking. Brand, however, is skinny and clad in jeans, his chain wallet, and an old 'Them Crooked Vultures' tee shirt. Old in appearance, of course, as the band is less than five years of age.

The bell chimes overhead as Brand shoves his way into the diner proper. At the central entry point he looks up and down the rows until he finds a shock of blue hair that belongs to Denali. On his heel he turns, slinking down the aisle, until he slips into the bench across from her.

"I hope you haven't been waiting here too long." Brand pauses, reaching for a menu. "No coffee yet is a good sign."

“Just ordered it,” the woman speaks around a hair band trapped between her lips. The length of blue is draped over her shoulder now as she winds down towards the end. She’s nestled herself largely into the corner of the booth; shoulder to the window and knee still propped up, pressed to her chest. “You know I won’t wait for my coffee.” Food, yes. Coffee, no.

And true to word, the single waitress appears with a pair of mugs and the carafe. Each is given a hefty pour of the dark liquid. “You two ready to order?” Denali offers a small shake of her head, but glances over towards Brand. In case he does opt to order immediately. There’s a few deft twists of her fingers and the hair band is retrieved to twist around the end of the braid. Brushing it back over her shoulder, the Swimmerskin reaches for her menu.

“How’s the band doing? Working on a new album yet?”

"If it's okay, a couple of minutes, please?" Brand looks up to the waitress with gratitude in his eyes as the coffee is poured. His fingers pluck up the menu for the first time, and as is proper, the waitress disappears to give the two a few minutes to make their decision.

"We're getting ready to lay down a few tracks and have been play testing some live material. Maybe another month or two at most, but it's definitely on the burner." Brand continues with a sigh. His face, half covered by the menu, becomes a cartoon pantomime of eyes scanning from left to right, stopping at sections to read pesky things like ingredients and little blurbs about what is -- or isn't -- Fare For the Heart. "Half of practice tonight is actually going to be that conversation. Ali and Matt are lobbying for two different tracks to be included, so some mediation may be in order. I swear, those two should just fuck and get over it, but I hope they don't all in the same. Those kinds of things never end well." A beat passes. "Anything new on the punk-front?"

As the waitress departs, Denali picks up her menu and begins to scan in turn. While an invitation for waffles generally means waffles, it’s not always required. This is just the best place if one decides to go the route of dough and syrup in a form most suitable for breakfast, but acceptable at any time of day. She listens as she reads, but the snort of bemusement at things between Ali and Matt indicate that she is listening to the words of the Fairest across from her.

“Bandmates should never fuck and yet… they do. All the time. Part of that whole being in close proximity so much of the time. It’s rather inevitable sometimes, I think. Unless you have bands full of straight dudes or chicks.” She used to work with a band. She knows.

Setting aside the menu, the woman reaches for her coffee and takes an experimental sip. Black is fine… in certain cases. The brew proves to be too bitter tonight and she’s soon adding a couple packets of sugar; silverware roll dismantled for the spoon within.

“Not really. Few shows being planned, but that’s it. I sold a painting this weekend.” There’s a pause as she takes another sip. Satisfied, the mug is set upon the table and her hands wrapped about it. Sapping it of its warmth. Or perhaps insulating it further. “I did meet someone earlier I’d like you to keep an eye out for. Spring. New to the city. A… Dr. Devlin. She’s tall, dark… But she hasn’t met any others, nor been introduced to the ‘hold.”

"I'll admit, at first there was something about Ali that I wanted, but I pushed her in a different direction. There was something I wanted more. This band." Brand intones, setting his menu down in favor of his coffee. He wraps his fingers around the mug's handle and draws it to his lips for a tentative sip. Too strong. With a blink, he sets it down and reaches for a creamer packet and some sugar.

"Let me know when the shows are and I'll be there with bells on, and which painting?" But at the mention of a newcomer, Spring no less, Brand quickly changes the subject with a wave. His spoon chimes as he stirs the sugar and cream in the mug, and when he's done, the spoon is left to spin in its little whirlpool of a bath. "A doctor? Interesting, we don't get many of those, we make for shit therapists because we always end up banging the clients." His teeth bare in a cruel, amused grin. A cheshire cat's fangy-snaggle. "Did you get her number? I could track her down and introduce her to the crew."

“Do you want the band for the music or to give you something grounding?” In these quiet moments, it’s perhaps a bit easier to delve into that something other. Denali and Brand may pretend they are nothing more than musicians in the same circles, but she can look across the table and see in those charcoal eyes that it simply isn’t true. With her earlier encounter, it makes the truth of their selves ring all the more loud. Satisfied with the coffee’s temperature, she lifts it for another sip.

“I couldn’t go back to a band,” the woman admits after setting the mug back in place. “Too long away. My bandmates are all on a vastly different stage in life or dead. It felt… strange to consider replacing them.” Hence her move to being a solo act. At least in part.

The woman blinks and to most, it’s a refocusing of her eyes. To a fellow Lost, well, the effect may be lost in those pure-white depths. “She… isn’t a Doctor in the normal sense. She’s actually a dentist.” The Swimmerskin is unable to suppress her shiver. Dentists. While she speaks, she’s angling to dig into her pocket and pull out her phone. “I didn’t get her number. I’m sure the Freehold knows about her.” They know all the newcomers. “Just keep an eye out, yeah? I told her to maybe find Liv if she wants to meet others.”

And then the phone is brought forth and turned towards Brand. It’s a quick snap of the painting in question, but one she’s been working on for some time. He’s likely seen it in various stages. Physically, it’s a large piece. Almost three feet tall and half as wide.

NaliPainting1.jpg

“Thorian bought it,” she offers, leaving the phone out in the middle of the table should he wish to see. “We’re gonna work on a Halloween exhibit this year.”

"Oh that piece," Brand leans forward to look at the screen. He's said it before and doesn't need to say it again. All of her art has this distinct horror to it that he finds beautiful, but overly depressing. If any piece of hers he's ever mentioned to like, they're always of the less macabre variety. This particular piece isn't one of them. "If he's another from your club, he's going to love it. He may as well surround his room in creepy clowns and wear a nightmare helmet when he sleeps. It's an effective piece, fuck, Denali, your art is beautiful, but I could never sleep with that in the room."

A compliment in some ways, Brand watches the blue-haired woman over the rim of his mug while he drinks his coffee. The apple in his throat bobs as he swallows, filling his belly with the molten liquid. As the cup is set down, he melts into his seat, stretching his long legs across the underside of the booth, not far from hers.

"So, a dentist? Maybe you'll finally be able to get those iron caps you've been wanting."

Only one of her legs dangles down in the dark recesses beneath the table. The other is still propped up; gathered against her thin frame. The only pleasure of being Taken is to be so old by mortal years and still so utterly youthful. There are times the Siren must relish it, to beat back the horrors that clamor at the edges of her peripherals.

“I think it’s going in the museum, but it sounds like he’s a collector.” Denali draws back the phone, wedging it back into her pocket. She picks up her own mug, taking a sip, one shoulder lifting and falling in a small shrug. “He is of my ilk, but he’d fit in with yours, too. He’s quite the flatterer, really.”

The last earns a snort of derision and she flicks a sugar packet across the table at the musician. “She kept staring at my teeth. It was fucking unnerving. I’m shocked she’s one of yours, to be honest. She was utterly skittish around another who was in the park. Not that I’d blame her, to be honest. Big man, bloody.” Here, those many teeth do flash in a grin.

“He is one of mine.”

The waitress returns to take their order, and though the Mortal cannot see… Denali’s features do smooth over: lips bending to cover those sharp needles she calls teeth. “I’ll have the bacon and egg sandwich, plus an order of sweet potato fries.”

Brand gathers the assembled menus on the tables while Denali orders, making good use of his time. The laminated displays are collected into one hand, which he offers to the server who turns his way. With a saccharine-sweet smile, he lifts the rounded half-point of his chin to her. “I’ll have the waffle breakfast with a large glass of water. Eggs over easy on a side plate, please.” With a wave of her pen, the diner-mistress smiles and rushes off to give their food order to the grill-master. Together, the two will bring about the return of Zuul.

“We have so many fucked up friends, don’t we?” Shoulders forward, Brand shrugs out of his leather jacket, leaving his lily-white torso clad in a Them Crooked Vultures tee shirt. His many necklaces sway as he shimmies, leaving the well-worn jacket in a pool around his hips. “That pretty much settles it, though, if Dr. Teeth is so skittish I’m going to have to lasso her down and figure her out. Last thing we need is someone twitchy drawing all kinds of attention to the club.” He pauses, tilting his head a measure with a smile that grows with every knowing second.

“So, wait, you’re saying that I’m a flatterer and this one is too?” Brand’s smile remains in place. Yes. He’s insinuating and he’s doing not a damned thing to hide it. “Flatterer comes in, buys your paintings, but he actually likes the horror of them. Don’t get me wrong, you’re a very attractive woman, Denali, and horror has its places, but...flatterer? Do I have a competitor to deal with, because if I didn’t know better, I’d assume you might be starting to enjoy flattery.”

“I would have pegged her for a Winter, personally. Perhaps it was a bad time.” Denali’s slim shoulders rise and fall in a shrug. One way or the other, it seems it bothers her little. She’s done her duty, as it were. She’s found a member of the appropriate Court and informed them of the newcomer to town. Lifting her coffee, Denali leans forward against her knee; shoulders hunching as she draws the mug in.

Eyebrows rise, arching over the rim in a sense as she looks across the table towards the musician across from her. To her credit, she does not sputter. No, the woman finishes her drink and sets it down before allowing a grin to take hold. “Brand Walker, are you saying I’m undeserving of flattery? Or are you offended that you may have competition out there?”

Setting the mug down, she straightens and leans back a measure. Her leg, dangling below, kicks out; boot intended to connect gently with his shin. Nothing too hard, mind. “You’re a flatterer and you know it. He is as well, though I can’t say it’s as widespread as yours. With you, I’ve always known I’m not the only one. Not anytime nor anywhere: I’m the one you have your eye upon for that second of time and sometimes, not even then.”

Stretching a measure, Denali’s arms reach up, over, and fall for the back of wrists to press to the window behind her. It leaves her near-languishing, after a fashion. “Thorian happens to make me feel like no one else is in the room and perhaps I enjoy that sometimes.”

With an alien tilt of his head, Brand centers his eyes upon Denali's face and holds her gaze. She's smiling; he isn't. Vanity being his absolute sin, he holds his features carefully while pressing a hand to his chest, tapping his calloused fingertips over his heart. "Mea culpa. I've done you a great disservice in leading you to think that you aren't the only one. I've always thought about you and when you're before me I can think of none other. Mea culpa, as well, that this Thorian has been allowed to make you think that there might even be some sort of competition for me to deal with. He may be Autumn and he may be a flatterer, but there is only one of me, and I assure you..." Brand lowers his volume dramatically. "...what I make you feel is for your own good whether you know it or not. I am who I am because I care dearly for you, and -- for all the things about me you have no first hand experience with -- Thorian will never replace me." Sex. Yes. Brand means sex.

With a turn of his heel, Brand swipes gently at her leg and props said boot onto her side of the table, near her leg. Arms crossed before him, he reaches to his ear to straighten a lock of hair, eyes bouncing from her elbows to her shoulders as she settles in. Amusement remains, as does his arched brow. "But he's certainly got his fingers in your veins, doesn't he? How long have you been considering your affections for him?"

There’s a vague narrowing of the woman’s eyes at Brand. Perhaps trying to pick apart his reaction. His words. Finding true for false. Real for imagined. Is he truly offended? Or is it all part of the play?

There is no fight for space as he props his foot up next to her on the bench. There’s a certain level of comfort that has been achieved. They dance around one another, but rarely does it delve into the serious. So rarely, in fact, that sometimes it’s difficult to tell what of the friendship is real and what has been finely crafted for their outer image. After all, if rumors exist that the solo artist and the lead singer of an up-and-coming band are dating… it hurts neither of their reputations and certainly helps attendance at his shows. Especially when he’s seen to go home with someone else, while the blue-haired artist remains behind to drink and ply the crowd.

It’s a narrative none have ever given true answer to. Many don’t wish to, for it’s a myth of Fallcoast’s music scene that is fun to talk about and the mystery is part of the charm.

“I’ve never doubted that you care for me, Brand,” ‘Nali points out, twisting torso to better regard him. Her head tilts slightly, tugging hair away from where it was caught between shoulders and window. Her hands slide down the pane; flesh dragging against glass. They fall, ultimately, to her lap. Her lips twist and pull faintly. “But I know you and I are not what rumor says we are, nor have I ever thought so. You flatter, you inspire, but that is all.”

Her shoulders roll back and she shifts a touch, hip bumping to his boot. “I don’t know about fingers in veins, but I haven’t had proper company in a while.” Too many partners frightened off by nightmares that Mortals cannot comprehend. “He gets me, yes. As you or others might. He understands why I might sit in the dark and not sleep. Beyond that, he seems interested in me. It’d be doing myself a disservice, I think, to not at least consider him.”

In a move that will only tie the myth tighter -- and allow Brand to sink his claws in just a little bit, should new rumors arise -- he lifts his boots onto her lap. The ankle-leather of his boots dangling a tad off of the edge of her trim waist, Brand paints yet another image of the two being couple-like, despite the truth that they are not. Or are they? Brand's had his arms around so many girls and has been seen in corners kissing other members of his own court. It's a topic of conversation as to whether or not he does these things for his own benefit, or to drop the stale honey of chaos into what could have been a normal social outing.

"Have you ever stopped to consider your use of language, dear?" Brand allows the question to flutter in the wind while he continues to watch Denali's face. The length of his fingers flatten, then curl back into place against the tabletop. Ignore the rumble in his stomach; it is an accident. "He gets you? This means you like him. Now, whatever rumors there are about you and I, they wouldn't exist if some part of you didn't feel so comfortable around me. You and I know we aren't a couple. We are close. We lack definition, but he gets you in a way that I don't, which seems to have caught your eye on him. Interesting." Tsk. Brand's cheek clucks as he turns his gaze out of the window. "One of these days someone is going to have to teach me that trick before all of the good ones are gone. Stealing my not-girlfriends is rude."

It’s perhaps a mere ingrained thing. A social tic, as it were. His leg shifts into her lap and Denali’s hand moves to Brand’s ankle. She rubs at his leg above the boot; fingertips pressing against the outer muscles of his calf in absent-minded circles. When he speaks, her gaze slides away. Her own reflection in the window shows not her Mask. She can’t remember what her human self even looks like. She sees eyes of white luminescence and a faint smattering of scales.

What color were her eyes… before?

The faint frown comes and goes before she looks back to Brand. To her fellow musician, her features are smooth. Her brow furrows a touch, constructing a considering gaze. “I never said I’m not comfortable around you. You and Liv, you’re… my best friends, really. You two keep me from giving into Winter tendencies,” the horror, “and I make sure you two remember to check over your shoulders every now and then. It’s… symbiotic.” She avoids being a hermit. They stay safe.

Jaw tightening slightly, she reaches with her free hand for her coffee, picking it up and draining what remains. The waitress will have to refill it when she brings their food. “I’m not going to date him, Brand. You know I don’t do that.” Date. “I just enjoy his company. You should be happy that I’m letting my guard down a bit. Isn’t that what you wanted?”

"Yeah." Brand replies to the window, his voice in a faraway place as he stares past his reflection to his car in the parking lot. He leaves his coffee behind, crossing his arms to rest chin upon palm like a child staring out into the rain. Ironically, the first few drops of rain begin to tap against the window. "I haven't dated since I arrived here, what now, three years?" His voice is distorted by the weight of his jaw. "I think some part of you needs this."

The tender, thoughtful moment is out of place for Brand. Normally, he has Olivia to knock him out of these moods so quickly that there was never much of a hint that they were approaching. There are no cameras present. No one would ever be able to prove that Brand Walker seemingly dropped his bullshit to appear to actually let something through his mask of vanity. Like a decent rave, it would have to be word of mouth only.

"I think I would have to strangle you, put you out of your misery if you jumped to Winter." Unfurling, Brand rubs at his shoulders and lifts his ankle, pressing his foot wantingly towards her hands. He gathers his hair over one shoulder with his hands and returns his attention to Denali's face, smirking in his coy little way to wax over the moment they shouldn't talk about. "Is that where you're going tonight after I leave you for practice? To see him? Did you wear something special..." Brand's eyes lower to her shoulder. "...something new?"

“I tried dating a couple of times after I arrived,” Denali offers, relenting to the push of his feet. Too bad, the boots are removed. The diner’s seen worse. She’s not a great masseuse, but anyone giving a foot rub is better than no one. Her fingers work in distracted, disjointed ways. One moment here, another there. Still, the pressure is good and she knows the right points to hit. “It just… it doesn’t work. I figure that’s just part of what’s broken about me.” Though the me in her words bears a sort of weight, with a glance up and across to Brand. Including him or perhaps all of their ilk in the single, simplistic word.

His glance to her shoulder is answered with a shrug. A small shake of her head. “Not tonight. I was out walking-” She does that, sometimes. Strikes out. Walks until whatever it is gets out of her system. “...when you texted. I’ll likely just go home and paint once you leave. I may see him later this week.” It’s very flippant. She’s interested in the Autumn Fairest, but she’s not clamoring. Not crushing in the way that some of Brand’s fans might. She’s interested and willing to follow the thread of her curiousity.

An errant strand of blue hair drapes away from the rough braid and along her neck as she ducks her chin. It lets her focus on the foot rub while Brand sits in repose, gazing out the window. As if she’s giving him space for his thoughts. It’s in this moment that food is deposited before them and coffee refilled. Just a small “Thank you,” is offered to the waitress who bustles off to help a couple kids fresh in from the rain.

Brand's neck stretches upwards, his throat bared to its length, his eyes skyward. With a roll of his shoulders, he twists his head around to make sure no one is close enough to hear them; that the waitress truly has put them out of mind until she sees their coffee getting low, or the unspoken amount of time between fits of asking them how they're doing. His eyes dart between the two new customers, marking them as more clutter to the checkerboard flooring and tabletops. Sim-Diner is being played somewhere and the money intake is increasing.

"You're welcome, Denali." The muscles in Brand's calf flex and his foot retreats. The boot scrapes off of her lap and onto the floor with a gentle tap. Sitting up straight now, Brand takes up his knife and fork and turns his attention to the plate of waffles that he's ordered.

"Let me take a moment to put a little pushpin in our friendship map." Brand pauses. "I should probably let you know that your warnings, the ones I seem to ignore, don't go unnoticed. I know exactly what's in my future and it's so fucking cliche." Fork in, Brand scrapes butter across the top waffle, sparing half of his allotment for the bottom. "Rock stars show up, make three or four prolific albums, and then disappear into thin air. I'm aiming for a VH-1 special."

There’s a question in the Siren’s gaze, but she doesn’t voice it. Perhaps it’s obvious to those that can see the blue irises she had in her old life. To the man across from her? They’re bioluminescent whites and without a pupil to contract to a pinprick or widen in interest… The cues for social interaction increase in rarity. Is that tilt of brow done out of concern or thought. Denali studies Brand for a moment in the wake of his reference to warnings.

She declines to speak on them. It’s a more obvious moment of evasion than normal. She lacks even a quip or a story to dash it aside. Instead, it’s covered with a deliberate reach for one of her sweet potato fries. No ketchup, even. The woman just begins to eat them. One, then another. A third, fourth… Finally, in a pause filled by scooping up half of her chosen sandwich, the Autumn looks up to the Spring across from her.

“You’re out there, at least. That’s good, for your ilk. You’re showing others who break free that they can live normal lives. Even the cliche ones they see on television.” Denali’s shoulders rise and fall in a shrug. “I may tease you, but… where my people are focused on protection, yours are focused on healing. Don’t forget that, Walker.”

"I think some people lose sight about that, I really do." Brand's eyes flit up to find Denali's solid, white gaze already upon him. It stops his fork, dripping with syrup, in mid air, dribbling sugary waffle back down onto his plate. The synaptic connection between the two manages to solidify like a television's antenna held just right to capture a channel, but a second later a muscle twitching causes the connection to be lost. The waffle is shoved into his maw and he chews.

"For some of us, it's about feeling and fucking and living, leaving no stone unturned, because we're fucking back, and we should take advantage of it. For others of us it's about bragging rights or being the fun club." Brand swallows, lowering his eyes back to his mess of a plate for another poke-and-saw of his waffles. He guides the next bite into the prongs of his fork and twists his neck, avoiding her eyes, to look out into the oncoming rainfall. "Desire is about need and wants that will consume you if you have too many or too few. It's a diabetic concept, having to keep so much sugar in your blood, but not too much, and that if no one else had people like us to inspire these sorts of things, we'd all only be anger, or sorrow, or fear. So, I like to think that we try to provide the element that keeps us from being dangerous, even if it does mean you have to be slapped in the face every now and then by a GameStop girl who thought that fucking you and giving you amazing discounts was a down payment on a forever you could never even begin to promise."

It’s strange, that held gaze. Her light, his dark. Yet beneath the surface, in many ways, the roles are switched. Yin and yang. Something held in the balance. She works with Autumn and the fading sun, but desperately seeks the light. He works with Spring and the rising sun, but seeks an outlet for his own darkness. Similar, yet different. Wending and winding around topics both need to share, but cannot yet face the potential consequences. Though Brand breaks the spell first, Denali’s shoulders sink with a measure of relief. Her chin drops and she looks to the table instead, listening as she eats.

“I think Spring may be the only of our Courts in which everyone can find something to aspire to,” the Siren offers in a quiet voice. It’s said perhaps part to herself, part to the man across from her. “Many have no desire to live in fear. Others are not the bold heroes of Summer. Some haven’t the stomach for facing fear head-on. But we can all… at least appreciate embracing desire.”

There’s a slow breath and she looks down at what remains of her meal. Half a sandwich and a smattering of fries. The plate is pushes aside and she digs in a tight pocket to pull out some wadded bills. More than enough to cover her half and a tip is tossed out on the table before she starts a slide free of the narrow channel of the booth.

“Feel free to take the rest for your bandmates. I… I think I stopped my walk too early.”

The mer doesn’t wait for a reply, nor parting gestures. She simply hunches her shoulders and scurries out into the rain.