Logs:Isolated Comfort

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Isolated Comfort


Characters: Phoebe and Tris
Date: 2020-01-13
Summary: Tris checks up on Phoebe after the New Year's Eve bloody mess and is Phoebe's shoulder to cry on over other Lost matters.
Disclaimers: {{{disclaimers}}}

.oO( Common Area - Changeling Community Center )Oo........................o.

This wide-open space is furnished with multiple couches of muted blues, greens, and purples. There are tables formed of raw wood blocks with glass tops to serve as the centers for these little semi-circles of conversational spaces. Brick walls, exposed supports, and polished concrete flooring lend a clean and purposefully unfinished sort of look to the Center, one meant to evoke a casual comfort. A fully-appointed kitchen (stocked with both quick snacks and fresh ingredients as well as drinks soft and hard) is separated from the main space by a counter, but visibility is maintained. Above the kitchen, with a glass half-wall allowing visibility and sound, is a small computer lab and library - about a dozen computers (with high-speed access to the internet) are available here, along with books (fiction, psychology, reference, and history mostly) and board games.

One whole wall (to the left facing the kitchen) nearly from the floor to the ceiling (which is twenty feet from the lower level’s floor) is covered in windows that face the backyard.


Though the Community Center's kitchen area is exceptionally appointed (thank you, Ian's credit card), tonight, the counter space in the area holds the addition of several family style serving dishes from which heavenly aromas are wafting along with the steam that indicates their fresh state. They're fresh because Tris has just finished pulling these culinary masterpieces from a white bag with fancy gold lettering on its front from one of the hottest gourmet places in the city.

At the end of the line is a tray of cookies that look... well, quite sad really. Possibly more like coasters than cookies. One might break a tooth if one were too brave or too stupid and tried to bite on, but, listen, Tris tried to put the homey touch on his impromptu contribution to the dinner of whatever residents or visitors are about at dinner time on a Monday. Tris doesn't hesitate in collecting a paper plate and setting about filling it from the offerings.

--

Phoebe emerges from the dormitories, blinking owlishly and rubbing sleep from her eyes. "Something smells delicious," she says, before she notices Tris. "Oh! Monsieur! Are you a chef? These things, they look wonderful."

--

The Changeling with the gossamer scars stretching like glimmering in a long line from temple to chin on the right side of his face, the luminescent strands reaching like veins toward his cheek turns toward the feminine voice. As he turns, scars that were ruby and violet, abruptly shift from just those shades to pink, green and gold instead, the colors interwoven wherever his scarring is apparent (face, neck, under the jaw and around the ears and down his bared forearms), capturing a little of the other Changeling's glow and emitting a much more muted light. It's not enough that he could ever be a source of light, not like Phoebe, it's just enough that Tris can never really hide if there's any source of light in the vicinity.

"Phoebe," is a startled breath released as a word, part relieved, part concerned. He's not burning here, now, but if she comes within two person-lengths of him, the extreme dry heat of sunbathing in the desert at midday is easily felt. "Phoebe," is a more conversationally volumed address, dark blue eyes studying her face. "I've been looking for you. Are you alright?"

--

"Monsieur Tris," Phoebe says politely, as she moves towards the man and offers her hand in a polite, albeit exceptionally old-fashioned, manner. Pale silver light streams forth from every inch of her, except for the slight golden shine of her eyes. She is wearing, as always, a dress with a high necked bodice, long sleeves, and a floor-length skirt. "Whatever is the matter?"

--

Any other Millennial might not know what to do with that gesture, unless they were a fan of old movies, but this Millennial was raised to be a debutante's chaperone and to do it well. After twisting to set his plate on an empty wedge of counter, Tris not only takes Phoebe's hand the way it's meant to be taken, but he executes a smooth dip of his head over that hand. It might not be quite the exact right form of old-fashioned greeting, but it might be better than a firm shake or something equally modern.

Perhaps he can be forgiven for not answering questions about the food when there's matters more pressing (at least to him). "I was concerned about you, after New Year's." He's still searching her face, although he manages to remember to release her hand. "You made it home safely and...?" And aren't too over-wrought about EXPLODING CORPSES OR ANYTHING? He probably can't figure out how to ask that politely, so the sentence hangs with an uplift of worried brows.

--

Phoebe smiles happily when the playboy executes a move out of a 19th century cotillion. "So people are still taught manners," she says in appreciation. Then Tris is talking about Chubby's, and her face falls. "Oh. Yes. That." She wraps her arms around herself. "I had hoped that such things were left behind me, in Arcadia. I assume the... gentleman... did not survive?"

--

"The privileged few," Tris replies, his lips tipping at the edges into a very slight smile. Privilege has so many meanings just there. The rest remove that hint of a brighter look. "I wish it were so." The Beast's voice conveys the depth of the sincerity behind those words. "But you're safe here," a gesture takes in the CCC in its entirety; he believes that.

"He did not. The... other being... did." How much did she see? He seems unsure as he looks at her a little longer. "I had a bad night after," he volunteers his own vulnerability quietly. "A bad night before, really. I'd wanted to check on you sooner." But life doesn't always work out as anyone wishes.

--

"That is... very kind of you, monsieur," Phoebe says. Her voice is soft. "But I... I have seen worse things. I provided light to Mistress for a very, very long time. Her punishments for those of us who displeased her were--imaginative."

--

Tris' head dips in a subtle show of understanding without the need to go into it in words. "My imagination has nightmare fuel that could be described similarly." This is not the Crimson Courtier claiming sameness, but simply a kinship to one or more of the varieties of trauma the Returned share. "I've never seen an apparently sentient puddle of blood before, though." He frowns. "I'm looking into it though," is almost dismissive, but then Summers do have a tendency to roll like that.

His attention snaps back to the Fairest from his brief distraction. "I'm glad you didn't have to deal with it alone." That's sincerely delivered, too, but he doesn't seem to need to linger on the topic if Phoebe doesn't wish it. He does make gesture to the arrayed dishes. "I stopped to get takeout on my way over. Hungry? I was going to have a bite before I headed home."

--

Phoebe clutches herself tighter. "I was alone," she says, in a whisper. "I merely--I merely observed from above. No one but Mistress entered the cage. No one but Master spoke to me."

--

Tris sees his misstep, but only now that he's made it. One hand reaches to lightly touch one of Phoebe's elbows. If that seems alright, the fingers will grasp gently but firmly, just as he did her hand. He had meant on New Years', but a correction doesn't seem like it would be helpful now. "You're not alone now," is what he finally settles on to say.

--

Phoebe snaps out of whatever dark reverie she is in. Her eyes refocus on Tris, and she gives him a smile. "Yes," she says. "That is true. "I am not alone now."

--

"None of us are." That's worth a smile bright enough to be charming in its joy. "There are even cats here." This is important because one of the cats is approaching, with far more interest in the smells on the counter rather than the Changelings themselves. Tris watches the cat, but it's decidedly to Phoebe that he asks, "Is this where you're living? Or just visiting today?"

--

Phoebe says, “I live here. In the common dormitories. It's... I do not like to be alone. Or in small places. I know it is a stupid thing, but it reminds me of Master's hall. I tried to stay in the rooms, like a normal person, but I woke up screaming each night.”

--

Though Tris' dark eyes briefly flick toward the incoming cat just one more time to determine the feline isn't about to leap and scatter dishes in its wake, his expression remains attentive to the Fairest speaking to him. "It doesn't sound stupid to me, Phoebe." There's a quiet assurance to Tris' voice. "We all find ways to cope with our individual horrors. I wake up at night too. Then I have to run because I can't stay still because I feel like I'll crawl out of my skin." Given the way his scars are lines of subtle and artistic stitching in some magical variety of thread, that may not be a wholly figurative feeling.

"But there are things that help. You already found one by staying in the common dormitories. My therapist would say that's a small victory and worth celebrating. It's something you can point to when you're feeling hopeless about the rest," because they all do feel that way sometimes, don't they? "You can say, 'I did that, now I just have to figure out this, too,' whatever 'this' is in the moment." The smile he offers is small but encouraging.

--

Phoebe nods at what Tris says. Then blinks. "What is a therapy-ist?" she asks, tilting her head to the side in curiosity.

--

"Here, let's get food and we can talk while we eat." Tris suggests, reclaiming his plate and making quick work of filling it. Once he has it, he waits gentlemanlike for Phoebe to get what she wants before leading the way to the couches with their adjoining glass-topped tables to settle and eat. "A therapist is someone who's studied how to help people by talking about the experiences they've had. Some use medicines and that can be useful, depending on the problem. Mine... I talk with her about what I went through, telling her they're vivid dreams because she doesn't know the truth." Tris glances around the CCC, indicating it with his fork before his next bite, "I believe the staff here has some training, but not as extensive as what a therapist does. It helps to talk to someone. I didn't have anyone for a long time."

--

"Oh!" Phoebe exclaims, in sudden comprehension. "Like a priest. I understand."

Perhaps not perfect comprehension.

"But how do you speak of such terrible things to a person? If I were to make honest confession, the priest would think me mad. Are there therapists who are... like us?" She takes a cautious bite of the food, and closes her eyes in bliss. There's silence as she finishes chewing. "That /is/ delicious," she says.

--

Phoebe gives Tris a smile that lights up the room. Literally. The poor Beast practically glitters in her shine. "That sounds wonderful. Listening, helping people. And Spring courtiers do this?" She looks down at her food thoughtfully. "I would very much like to learn more about that. I have so few skills that are applicable now. I was born three years after the War Between the States ended, monsieur," she says, looking back up at the man. "I remember the centennial celebration of our nation's birth, in 1876. And now it is 2020, and men fly in great metal birds, and build towers that seem to rival Babel, and create marvels beyond all comprehension. Mister Edison's contraptions have become as ubiquitous as the air itself."

She shakes her head. "But people do not talk so differently, for all that. Perhaps I could listen. And help."

--

Glitter he does. Tris' gossamer scars don't actually get any brighter, but there are more dimensions to the colors split by the prism-like fibers and they twinkle like strings of stars knit in his flesh. "Not all, I don't think. Some though. I met a few in New York, after I Returned who had those gifts. I'm sure it's something that can be learned, if you wish to. I think sometimes all it takes is being willing to listen and trying not to judge what's said." At least that's how he seems to approach it.

That's the easiest thing for him to address, so he does it first. Then, there's the matter of one's birth year. "It's a lot to take it. I've met some who've skipped a lot of time in this world. Sometimes it's hard to have people to ask questions to. You can ask me, if I'm around. Learning to use the computer or a phone is probably the best way to serve learning it yourself, if you can manage it." He pauses and then adds, "I was born in 1991, which makes this my world... but still, not." Different challenges than Phoebe's, to be sure, but challenges all the same.

--

Phoebe giggles slightly. "Mister Bell invented his telephone the same year we celebrated the centennial." She clenches her jaw, then, and blushes. "My apologies. I don't mean to mock... I simply... hm." She gives Tris a nervous smile. "Everything is very strange. I am blessed that St. Louis Cathedral still stands, and mostly unchanged."

--

"Mock away. I wouldn't know your world any better than you know mine," Tris is blithely unconcerned about any feelings of mockery that he probably didn't even have, really. "Phones are more like computers that can make phone calls. The internet is really the thing that puts all the answers at your fingertips, if you can figure out how to type, and how to ask your question and where to ask it of. There are some basic computer classes taught in a couple of places. Maybe I'll ask Jules about trying to set up something like that for the freehold." His lips purse in consideration, but it doesn't last. "I've never been in St. Louis Cathedral." There's a pause. "Are you from here, originally?"

--

Phoebe nods. "Yes," she says, quietly. "We lived near Canal, near the Faubourg St. Marie. Where the Americans were." She chuckles slightly. "The least surprising thing upon returning was seeing that they'd torn all their buildings down and replaced them with stores, while the Quarter remained so similar. /We/ always appreciated tradition. "Pierre was not so wealthy, but we were well off. And he was so very kind to me. He had lost his father in the war... and so he was so involved in little Octavia's life."

Her glow is fading, now, her hair falling limply against her back. Tears spill from her eyes, sparkling like diamonds from an unseen light. "Ma pauvre petite Octavie. I left her. I left her all alone, and Pierre died during the great flu, and..." She breaks off, shaking her head wildly. "At least she lived a full life. She married--she married someone. Perhaps she had children. Perhaps she forgave me." Phoebe swallows. "Or she never knew. I am buried next to them both. Some--some awful copy of me, that acted like me. But they must have known. They /must/ have."

--

Tris is quick to move, quick to set aside his plate, to take Phoebe's from her and to settle himself beside the Fairest to wrap an arm around her shoulders and pull her gently into what's meant to be a comforting embrace. There isn't much a person can say to inarguable tragedies such as these, but what the empathetic Beast can say are simple words that mean more than they appear. "I'm here." Two simple words that mean Phoebe isn't alone. Maybe he knows how little 'I'm sorry' means in the face of great loss, of true trials of the heart and soul. So instead, he stays, he listens. When she seems to have spent the words she needs to say, he's still there. "It's hard not to know." That much he can say with truth, with empathy. "We go on. One foot in front of the other. Somehow. Or we rest and begin again when we can."

--

Phoebe begins to cry, softly, weeping against the changeling's shoulder. "I should have been there for her!" she sobs, clutching at Tris as though he is a liferaft and she a drowning woman. "I should have been there, and I was in Arcadia, in a cage--" Words dissolve into a grief that wracks her body, and she clings to the Beast with desperation.

--

Soothing circles rub across Phoebe's shoulder blades as she weeps. Tris doesn't flinch from the outpouring of emotion, the solid presence of his strong frame is here and well able to brace her need for something to hold onto while the storm washes over her. Mostly his murmurs mean nothing, but some stick out, "None of us deserved what happened to us. None of our loved ones deserved what happened to them. It's not your fault, Phoebe. You did your best. One foot in front of the other. You're still doing your best."

He doesn't rush her through her tears, he'll hold her as long as she needs to be held, but at some point, he offers another kind of lifeline with a quiet urging, "Bring yourself back to this moment, Phoebe. Think about the sounds you hear. Name three sounds." If she can do that, then it's, "Name two things you can smell," and if she can do that, it's finally, "Name one thing you can see," to see if adding those tactile details of the now can help her ground herself in what is present rather than those memories that Tris knows can consume a person all too readily.

--

Phoebe gulps deep breaths until she is somewhat calm. "I--I--" she starts, then takes another, shuddering breath. "Water running in the building. My breath. Your voice. The--the food we ate, I can smell, and..."

She pulls back, flushing silver, looking decidedly away from Triss. "The soap in the kitchen," she says. It's an obvious lie. "And I can see that table."

--

Despite the close contact, the former playboy's hands remain solely comforting, easing back as Phoebe seems to master herself. Maybe that has something to do with the ring on his left ring finger. Maybe it's just that comfort is just that, comfort. Tris can't help that the colors in his scars briefly shift to add shades of blue and silver before returning to their previous state as her flush fades. "Good," he reinforces the return to the now. "Take a couple of deep breaths." Maybe he's imagining yoga or meditation exercises on his list of recommendations for the Lost in addition to keyboard classes. "Sometimes when I'm struggling with my memories, feeling them too keenly, it helps to pick certain numbers of tactile things and identify them. Usually it can bring me back. My therapist's idea." He gives credit where credit is due.

--

Phoebe takes a few deep breaths and dabs at her eyes with her napkin. "Thank you, monsieur," she murmurs. "That is... that is helpful. Perhaps my desire for a garden might serve some purpose beyond mere vanity." The Fairest stifles a yawn. "Pardon me. It is getting late, and I should retire. I fear I have embarrassed myself enough for a night." She rises. "Thank you for listening."

--

"If it would help, I can cry on your shoulder next time," Tris' humor is gentle but perhaps designed to lessen whatever embarrassment Phoebe feels. "We all need someone to listen from time to time. If I have the time, I'm glad to help." He means that. He's an earnest sort of Beast.

"If you like gardening, maybe you can talk with Miles. He's just starting a gardening project." Maybe he thinks everyone just needs a few more friends. Either way, before Phoebe's on her way, he makes sure to slip a business card out of his wallet with his number on it in case she needs to get ahold of him for any reason. "Get some rest, Phoebe," he recommends with a smile, collecting the plate(s) and heading for the kitchen to at least clean up after himself before heading home.

--

"You too," Phoebe says quietly, before turning and leaving the room. Her hair lingers, floating, shining. Then it too fades, and the room is back to its ordinary lighting.