((Warning: Some graphic imagery included.))
There was something restless under the grower's normally stoic exterior tonight when she reached the Inn?s porch where Bjorn and Anya stood. Gigi started for the door but pulled back with an odd hesitation and dug out a joint from her pocket instead. She was itching for something worse so she gave her hands something else to do by lighting it with a frown and a lean against the porch rail.
Bjorn parted his lips briefly, attempting to scent it out - probably in order to see if he was going to bother her to share whatever it was. ?Haven't seen your face around here in ages,? he told her, pulling out one of those indecipherable, imported 'cloves' that smelled like unknown spice intermingled with a few more familiar scents, subtle, but heady, slivered up in slow-burning leaves, finger-sculpted. Putting one in his mouth muffled his next question, and although he spoke to Gigi, he had not forgotten Anya was there, watched her here and there from the corners of his eyes while he tugged a match out of the other end of the case where a floppy book had been pinned, half out. ?Your pretty face fall off the edge of the earth, or what? Gigi, that's Anya.? Chin-nod. ?Anya, Gigi.?
It was then that Geist strolled loose from the alley, although he'd been maintaining an even stroll for far longer than he'd care to show, from sheer restless energy. The scent from the porch brought a slow, sentimental smile and a sidelong glance to the grower, with little more than a stoic nod before sliding through the door.
"I know how to stay off the radar when I need to. Most people prefer it and don't ask." She inhaled the joint and blew the smoke out the side of her mouth with a nod at Geist's passing. Perhaps a future customer one day when she had business on the forefront of her brain. "We've met." This about Anya. "And you know pretty is a f**king overstatement." But for her dry tone she held up the joint to him as an offering if he wanted it.
Anya respectfully nodded to both of them. "Thank you. We have met once before." Name confirmed. The piece of paper Camilla left for her at the bakery immensely bothered her. Fingers drawn from the rail and pushed inside her pockets. "It was nice seeing both of you again. I wish you safe travels." Hood drawn up to hide her hair. Descending the stairs and setting a path to the bakery.
If it was marijuana, Bjorn accepted it and put his own crap away. Hell, why not. It'd been awhile, and he wasn't a regular, but it wasn't as if it was crack or something. Had a good pair of lungs, that man, and he held it in for a long time, added another shorter draw to fill his lungs up all the way, and passed it back. Stayed close, like she might keep sharing it, but not so close that they touched. For some reason, Bjorn frowned after Anya, briefly watching the street - but as smoke started slowly slivering out of his mouth, he'd keep talking, ?Or an understatement, but it don't offend me none if you can't take a compliment,? easily, like it was a B-thang. He'd been in mostly a damn good mood all day, somehow. ?By most people, you must mean the womenfolk. They're a wily lot. What you been into??
It was that homegrown green and Gigi took the joint back for another hit when he relinquished it. She ran her hand through her hair and frowned at his question. "Too much these last few days. Seen something I can't shake and I've seen a lot of f**ked up sh*t. So I'm here for milder distractions." Distractions from the replayed image, distractions from dipping into her own yola supply. The need for distraction made her more honest than usual.
?I find disappearing into a bottle of whiskey helps with that,? and Bjorn wasn't endorsing whiskey so much as he was endorsing the unhealthy habit of disappearing into one's favored habit until the bad feelings started to fade out. No accent, though, or if there was, it had nothing to do with Europe. ?Or doing some #$%^&* you ain't proud of so you have something else to think about.? Honesty begets honesty, seems like, and his index finger, his thumb, invited another pass. ?You want to talk about it??
Gigi passed the joint back to him and rolled her neck. "I've seen a lot of f**ked up things but I can't shake what I saw yesterday. I don't know that you want to imagine it too if I describe it."
?Girl, word on the street is people're carving my face into dead bodies and I saw a friend of mine scrape her fingers down to the bone painting on a concrete wall off the harbour topless before a shadow-whatever busted her face open,? he told her before he took another hit, deep, long, held it in and spoke in the way smokers did when they weren't ready to release their lungs yet. ?I doubt you'll surprise, shoot.? Bjorn'd had enough of his own crazy, and seemed more than open to hearing about someone else's.
"That's an odd way to pay tribute." She meant about the carving his face into bodies with a twitch of her nose. She ran her fingers through her hair again and worked on telling the story while leaving out the details of her business that might get her in trouble to share. "I went to see this chick... about something she owed me. She works in a brothel, a cheap sh*tty one at that. I... busted in unannounced while she was with a customer letting him do something to her that was f**king disgusting, but not the part that bothers me." Here now she reached for what little was left of the joint to kill it before she could continue.
He didn't Snoop Dogg it because, chances were, she needed it a whole lot more than he did ? he yielded it, his thumb pressing it to her index finger while his moved out of the way, sliding off slow so her thumb could come in. He might not have been a 'regular', but he'd had enough experience in this arena to seem proficient. ?What's the part that bothered you?? Patient, easy.
"I expected she might be working. And the screaming and the surprise at seeing me." She took it in a seamless exchange and sucked down what she could before stamping it out. "I saw this shoebox pressed up in the corner of the room. I thought what she had of mine would be in there so I ripped it open." Her caramel skin came as close as it could to blanching. She almost looked like it might be her turn to dry heave on the porch before she swallowed the thick lump in her throat.
That had him undeniably curious about the disgusting kink she'd had the misfortune to witness, but she hadn't added it so he assumed it to be irrelevant ?or somehow connected ?to what would come next. If he felt concern for her at all, he did a good job of keeping it from his face, but he did watch her closely now, reaching to grab the bottle of Dalwhinnie while she finished off her joint. Unscrewing it, he moistened his mouth first and offered it over. In kindness, Bjorn gave her time to compose herself, let that hang in the air, before he asked, ?What was in the shoebox??
She took a deep drink with a slight nod of thanks. "A baby." Gigi?s fingers tightened around the neck of the bottle.
Considering, he'd let her hold on to that damn fine, properly-aged alcohol for a little while longer. In times of crisis, he shared freely. A baby in a shoebox ? babies didn't seem like they were supposed to fit in shoeboxes, unless it was some seriously big, big feet, so he didn't assume it was alive. ?What all exactly did you see, Gigi? ...did something?? Bjorn caught himself short, was quiet, let her sort out what she needed to say.
"Maternal isn't a word I'd use to describe myself but..." she took another pull from the bottle and returned it. Gigi's gaze went from Bjorn's face to her upturned hands as if she still held that shoebox. "It... I mean, he, I think. He was so small and twisted. Like a broken bird. And purple with old crusted blood from his nose and his mouth."
Glass shattering inside the crowd Inn; Bjorn had heard it. But he didn't look toward a window or away, lion's gaze attentively hooded, the generous mouth that was more poet (while the rest of him, the chiseled lines, the strong jaw knew nothing of softness) remained fix, shut for a time, unreadable. Only once did he look apart, brief, very brief, when the hooded creature came out and bounded by. ?You don't have to be maternal to flinch inside at seeing something #$%^&* awful,? he told her, calmly, taking the bottle back and a drink for himself. Now he really wondered what had been going on in that brothel, what all Gigi'd seen, the whole story around it but the bits she gave him, he knew they must've been bad enough. ?He wasn't...? Alive, he'd meant to ask.
She shook her head once. "No." How long his junkie mother had left him there to take care of her own work was anyone's guess. Gigi held her arms loosely around herself for warmth. She considered how she could explain why she felt complicit in the heinous crime. "She's not in a right mind, even before I found the shoebox I knew that. It's what made her take what she did from me." It usually came back to drugs and money for the black sheep of the Granger clan. The prostitute had stolen yola from Gigi despite the semi-frequent displays of her handiwork on thieves, rivals and unruly sliders.
Bjorn remembered the offer Gigi had made to 'Leo' ? to him, all messed up and put back together wrong for awhile, but it'd still been him; a part of him, parts of him that hadn't had the memory of him now. Didn't mean he didn't have the memory of Leo, though. It helped him draw a few assumptions, ones he didn't stay attached to, ones he didn't know if they were correct or not, and if there was a sliver of guilt in her voice, hiding underneath the stoned but shaking bravado he witnessed, he'd have somewhere to start. It'd been long enough that he already felt the dull prickle of a buzz start up, the haze of the whiskey smoothing out some of life's rougher edges, and it made him decide to quit the bottle while he was ahead - offer her more, before he'd think of capping it. ?You saying she took something from you that helped her into that wrong mindset?? Quietly, but without judgment.
One more sip and Gigi put the bottle down on the railing between them. "She'd been taking plenty of things from me that put her in that mindset. It was gradual. But I was there because she'd crossed the line and taken what was not available to her without permission or payment."
?So long as she knew what she was stepping into...? Bjorn started, half-turning to cap the bottle; from his coat, he grabbed a pen but had no paper, offered a hand for hers to lay down in if it would so he could get to the palm. ?You can't blame yourself for other people's actions, or choices. Still, what you saw would've made anybody with anything in them's skin crawl and there's no shame in that. Sometimes, helps to talk.? And maybe that's the only thing he could give her, besides whiskey, if she'd let him - an open line to someone to talk to. ?About what's bothering you, or about anything but what is.?
Gigi took a leap and let her hand nest in his palm up so he could write on it. She fell silent and watched, not questioning his motives with her normal suspicion. She was talked out for now. "I should get on my way, Bjorn." The slow drawl held a touch of something tender when she used his name and not her own terminology. There was an implied debt of gratitude in there somewhere.
Bjorn scrawled out his phone number there, small but neat numbers in blue ink across a lifeline. ?I should, too.? He told her, avoiding sentiments that might've been somehow misplaced for all her vulnerability - like taking advantage, he thought, maybe. Pen put back in his coat, he was for his bottle to take with him, but at the top of the stairs he told her: ?And I know what's it like around here, vishya? I'm a man that can keep a secret.? A half-smile, something nice, that'd known kindness before he hit the steps to hail a taxi. He'd been gone hours more than he'd planned, but him and bars had a strange sort of relationship.
Gigi held the hand with extra ink up in a still wave at him. When it came back down she squinted in the dark at it to see if the numbers were clear. She slipped her hand with more care into her coat pocket and opted to walk home.
[size=9]((Thanks to Bjorn Andrews' and Anya's players for the scene!))[/size]