pospreterito: black silhouette with white fire in one hand, green background ({stories} ..bracketverse arcturus)
[ pos.pɾe'te.ɾi.to ] ([personal profile] pospreterito) wrote in [community profile] copreterito2012-04-06 03:15 pm

{bracketverse, 31_days} the loss of a lonely man never makes much of a sound

Title: the loss of a lonely man never makes much of a sound
Rating: PG13 at most
Wordcount: 2,295
Story / World: bracketverse
Challenge: [livejournal.com profile] 31_days: January 05 2012, everything reminds me of my baby
Other: after (long after) January 01 (there is an ebbing and flowing stream), spoilers for There Are Bodies On The Ceiling And They’re Fluttering Their Wings
Characters: January Salt, Ciel Noline, Cosma Noline and Arcturus (mentioned)
Notes: January’s one of the few people both native to the Side and almost baseline human that I write here. Her outlook’s kind of interesting.


well what if i am never thrown that bone, and what if this tear in my side just pours and pours and pours?
i wonder if they've noticed that i’m not around; the loss of a lonely man never makes much of a sound

January stares at the tangled mess in her hands, at what she's just pulled half-braided and wound around itself out from under her bed. A true seashell's priceless and it's just as well she hasn't lost it, she needs that thing, but -- as for the rest, she was so sure she had thrown it all away. Hadn't she?

Wasn't she?

Her hands are too full to spare one to run through her hair, so she leans forward instead and squints cross-eyed at the braid that falls obliging in front of her face.

Dark blue beads, light blue ribbon.

She blinks and abruptly -- selfishly, childishly, in overreaction and sentiment that by all accounts ought to be classed as undue in spades -- feels cold.

Well.

It feels like long ago that she'd decided in a single bright instant (chalk white, to be particularly, painfully specific) to trust Ciel Noline at least a bit farther than she could ever throw him. Which isn't very far -- it's highly unlikely that January could ever so much as pick him up -- but it's been enough. January's still unaware, not blissfully at all, of the end costs of what they've done. She'll see it in ten years, maybe, something of the shape of it; this is nothing she could ask the Aleph, nothing doubtlessly precise numbering of the bereaved, the dead, the wounded and the refugees could quite sum up.

January can see it. (She wonders if the Nolines, apparently unwilling infinite life-long devotees now to their respective order and chaos and thus utterly constrained by them, will be able to, will ever truly notice what they've done. Somehow she doubts it.)

She sees it in the flights of birds, the wheeling over-abundance of pigeons now that Mouse and its like are long gone. She sees it in herself when she looks in her cracked and mist-stained mirror to check she's gotten her knots and braids just right.

She sees it in the way people she doesn't even know flinch and bow or cringe and duck away when she walks by. Some sketch blessings she knows she doesn't deserve, and that's a bit worse.

As long as she's known the Side their slightly off-centre city centre -- such as it is -- has been an exercise in condemnation, dust and disuse and brick turning to powder left from when it was worth it to build with such crumbling things. It's been intentional, too. There's nothing but artifice and pretence to stop any baseline random from stumbling across the edges and back again, and it is in the best interests of the Side's inhabitants that they have no stories to tell when they get home.

These days the lack of care evidenced in the chunks of mortar and rock and brick and cobblestone and asphalt she kicks along the streets is real, though, and no one can bring themselves to actually bother with the previously careful pretence of desertion. If the Outside were to come down on them, they would buckle and crumble and burn out.

She sees it in her selfsame unwanted patrons, with their utter wrongness spreading out under them in fractals and the way they can't even manage being chalk or ink right, and she sees that they're blind to it. If January were a diviner she'd be able to sketch and point the shapes of what's to come and maybe have her words be trusted, but she's never cared for drawing blood and inking a future with it. She's never much cared for drawing blood at all, come to think.

(It has always seemed so crass. January, she's been told from many quarters, is really too soft-hearted for her own good. Most of the people who have told her this are now dead, though.)

A while ago January found her way up a rattling spiral staircase that screeched holding itself against the weight of her steps and tried to knock her down with smears of oil-slick ichor that in bad light could pass for blood or ink or something that actually belonged anywhere. She found a dead boy on a roof with both his legs broken, and she found that the evening mist had fallen on something shaped like a sword that was certainly gone now, and she found one of the twelve signs everybody knows, drawn ugly and fast in drying blood.

For someone with all of the past and future knowledge of humankind at his fingertips Ciel Noline is incredibly naïve; she wouldn't actually be surprised to find him unaware of what she knows. His sister, though, is different.

And a little while back January picked up all her black beads, her pretty silver ones and the sea-linked green, and all the ribbons that went with them. She told herself she started wearing blues and reds because they're neutral, and because for more people than already knew to find out where her actual allegiances were and that she mourned and who she mourned for would be more dangerous than it was worth.

She stuffed her supplies all clumsily into the wide mouth of a white-green seashell ridged with trails of true gold like rust or rot. It's lucky, she supposes dully, that she needed it on hand.

Colours show allegiance in a language that's hard to read, can signify rebellion, sometimes, in ways impossible to quite quantify or persecute without looking entirely insane. Cosma speaks that language, actually, oddly well for someone not born to the Side (on the Side, rather; she's the Untitled, she was born to belong here, her bad luck she had to find it alone), with her black skirts and the silver in her hair and her red red fingernails. January knows what she's saying, but she's certain as anything that Ciel -- for example -- is utterly unaware of the significance of the unintentional message he wears clearer than bloodstains and the fact that he's chalk would be.

(January has never known what to call his sister, a far more obvious abomination. She could call her tall, January supposes. It's true. She is very tall, and very pretty, and knows the ways of the Side better than her illegitimately-instated forever-backwards everlasting brother does, and everything about her is very clearly wrong.)

With the casual nature of someone who has never bothered to own a clock -- the amount of people she knows who can break or set them off by being around is ridiculous, and thus knowing the time to seconds has just never been worth it, so January got good at guessing instead -- January knows it's a bit past midnight. Something like that. Whether the bit in question is minutes or hours is anyone's guess but hers, though.

So it's tomorrow. She looks at her ribbons and beads and her ill-gotten near-forgotten true seashell, and she thinks.

Then she turns out the lights and pretends to sleep for a couple hours, on principle.

She wakes up the same morning enough hours later that it looks acceptable, with no idea whatsoever when pretending to sleep turned into her usual fitful tossing or whether it is actually her mattress that she's nominally been sleeping on. The makeshift bed was mostly laundry, but it was originally on top of something, she's pretty sure.

Pretty sure.

January Salt has lived in the exact same place since she was a student, old enough to get kicked into independence and young enough to be unsworn and nowhere near ordained, unanointed and innocent. (Sort of. Not really. She's told she's good at faking it. Being chalk as the dust in the corners of a classroom Outside probably helps. She's always looked younger than she is.) It's a luxury afforded by not being important enough for anyone to care. She doesn't use the name she was born to, only a madman would do that -- on this Side childhood names are known place-holders, after all -- a madman or Arcturus or... January stops herself. She has the luck to not have to move around, not risk mobs or murder, the damnation that is the over- or under-approval of crowds. That's what matters, not other people's choices, not the fact that she can find the Aleph in an Outside telephone book or things a boy she loved a long time ago inadvisably did.

(But the Sea Queen gave him that name, even. January never understood why he chose to trust it. He was Outsider in a ridiculous number of ways, the little ingrained assumptions more telling than three rows of teeth, the fact that he lacked all the preemptively defensive reactions he'd sorely needed. As evidenced by tense, in fact. It is not January's place to wonder what the Queen ever hoped to achieve. Whatever her hopes were, they're gone now. So much for that.)

Her routine is burned into her steps and her wrists, and she could do everything with her eyes closed. Nothing ever moves, and January is nothing if not precise when it matters, precise when she actually cares.

Even so she opens her eyes when she's at the mirror and looks at the braids and the beads she's done in the eyelid black like a secret.

She inclines her head to the splinter-girl in the broken mirror, exactly the angle needed to be polite.

And no more, of course.

When she walks down the couple flights of stairs to ground level -- there's no one on the Side who won't look for high places, really, or if they are they're too stupid to qualify as even lucky -- January never looks where she's going. So when she stumbles out the door that she's not managed to close in all her years here the last thing she expects to happen is that she walks into Ciel Noline.

The first thing that happens, of course, is that she walks into Ciel Noline.

Even if it's a language he can't read January thinks incomprehension no excuse to send no message. She's braided silver and green into her hair in perfect, equal measure, one of each at her temples, too light a green and too much silver to be the Sea Queen's colours. Her wrists are bound up in broad black ribbon and she's wearing silver and green for laces and for her belt. She stands very, very straight.

Let no one tell that January Salt does not respect the dead, she thinks.

Ciel smiles guilelessly at her, looking honestly glad that she's managed to show up. He slouches towards her and he grins and he looks so happy, and the colours that he wears aren't a threat or a promise or a claim, they're just his.

It's not for January to have that luxury, but she supposes she's glad some people can manage it. Unintentional or not, even.

January looks up at him level and mild, her mouth a straight flat line. She pulls her coloured braids out from behind her ears, on principle.

The Aleph spins his hands and bids her good afternoon and then blinks, obviously intentional, and January lets him coax a smile out of her anyway.

"Your ribbons look really cool!" he says, ridiculousness in a flavour she recognises, one she's let win her over before.

"Thanks," says January. She falls into step behind the boy whose colours she wears' murderer, and wonders how long she'll be able to keep up.

She's been told that to play keep-away with Death and then lay the dead to rest and to raise them up again are two sides of the same coin. January has never been a gambler, not even on fifty-fifty chances, and she doesn't dare flip.

Arcturus joked about that, a lot. Even if he breathed in brine more than he inhaled funeral ash, he said that was maybe why they got along. Point and counterpoint.

The pedant in January notes that the opposite of black and green and silver is not white and orange at all.

January has studied and followed rules all her life and what she has to show for it is that everything she learned but the things she knew herself is gone. She's alive and stuck in a city she barely recognises.

No one else recognises it either.

Revolutions never end well, she's been told. Some things are unavoidable and others are too coded into human nature to be fixed even if the solution is obvious and self-evident. Everything anyone could try has already been done. There is nothing new in the eyes of the world, she's been told, and nothing to be done.

That's all right, though, because almost everything other people have told her has been wrong so far.

To snatch the dying out of His grey spindly fingers without so much as a Columbine's idea of where one is going and to coax them away from His domains once they're gone are the two sides of a Möbius strip, travel confusing and circuitous and unwanted by all essential laws involved. Healing preemptively is appreciated but taken for granted, necromancy an ironic killing offence. January herself is unremarkable and unnecessary, a pawn by all accounts, chalk-white but stoppered and made useless by things beyond her control, just a healer with strange fashion sense. Just a young woman who's slept in the same room almost all her life and seen those she knew die or change around her as they ran away.

She could have burned the world down, a long time ago, and could even manage it now were it not for that she keeps trusting people she shouldn't. January is still a chalk time-bomb, just one whose count has been frozen for years.

All she can ever do is move ahead.

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