PHD #030: Peacocks
Summary: Sister Karthasi and Demos find Tisiphone and Stavrian as they work through last night's events.
Date: 41.03.28
Related Logs: The Sin of Mistakes, aka last night's events.
Demos Karthasi Stavrian Tisiphone 

Some storage unit on deck 8. One of several, all cavernous and bland. This one has a bonus that it's one of few that doesn't house hazardous chemicals, which makes it ideal for soldiers who want a place away from the masses. The floor has a bunch of hastily swept-over ashes, the remnants of people who've come here to smoke in the last few days. There are other tiny traces of presences here too — bits of torn paper, a stray pen on the floor. A crumpled potato chip wrapper, shoved between two crates.

Stavrian's sitting on one of said crates, most of his blocked from sight from the door by a row of shelving holding silverware and mess hall fripperies. Flipping through a small, flat book resting on his knee, brightly colored pink and blue.

Two and a half thousand people on the Cerberus, stacked in their racks, crammed into lines for their food, using curtains to pretend they've got time alone — and despite all that, the ship is still immense. Tisiphone's been prowling the corridors, searching. No sign in the officer's berthing. Not on-duty. Scratch the galley, the rec room and gym, even the observation deck, her own favourite haunt. Her list of location's running down to the end, beyond which she's refusing to think. It's on that note that booted feet carry her from one of Deck Eight's storage chambers to the next, pulling her toward the center of the room with a restless and not particularly hopeful glance around.

Stavrian ignores the sound of boots walking around. It's common enough — usually they come in, light up their smokes, hang about until the thing's down to filter, and then leave. Nobody the wiser to the identities of others in this mundane shared sanctuary. He turns a page, and it rustles in the empty silence.

And there's the crinkling rustle of plastic-coated paper against cloth — the cigarette pack being dug out — followed by the rasp of flint and steel and the first harsh drag carried on the scent of lighter fluid and smoke. The scuffing footfalls of boots barely held on with loose-tied laces, pacing in a small, meandering circle. Another drag and a hard exhale, followed by the thin, whispery clatterclick of beads. A moment later the footsteps spur forward again, more purposefully. Sweeping the room. The contents may differ from the previous one, after all.

Marco. Boots on the floor. Polo. Another page turned, treated tenderly by Stavrian's calloused fingertips. He looks only once, along the floor to where the feet of those boots would be were they right in front of him, and then back down to the little brightly-colored book.

They appear eventually — the boots, that is, the toes earning their first worn seams, dusty and scuffed from days without a pass of the polishing-rag. Crimson- and gold-striped socks peeking out from beneath the rumpled, unbloused fatigues. From much further up, Tisiphone's voice, scratchy-soft after a drag off her cigarette that hitches at the end. "I wasn't sure I would find you anywhere."

Stavrian lifts eyes first, then his head. His shoulders rest back against the bulkhead, both hands settling over the open face of the children's book over his knees. Rainbows and glitter and clouds. A sticker book, still intact. "Berthings," he says at length, and pauses to clear some thickness out of his throat. "Smelled like feet."

Tisiphone's faint grin is pinned and repinned between too many emotions to be anything but crooked. In the eyes, though, is a thick layer of relief overlaying the concern. "How you doing?" she asks. Determined. Eyes fall to the sticker-book, travelling over the sparkly rainbows and cherubic clouds. Her grin twinges at the corner for a second, before her cigarette smooths it all away.

"Fine." Stavrian's voice is low and insincere, and he looks back down at the same time. He's sitting on a crate, blocked off from sight of the hatch by a long row of shelving, a flat pink and blue child's sticker book open on his knees. Tisiphone's standing in front of him, smoking a cigarette. "What about you, are you…okay?" He looks back up once that's asked under his breath.

"Fine," Tisiphone replies, attempting to match Stavrian's tone. Brows lifted at the medic, even though he's looked away. She knows it was a stupid question. "You know-" A harsh drag on her cigarette, smoke blown hard at the ceiling before she gestures with the rebrightened cherry. "Wrung out. Hollow. Can't stop thinking about last night." None of it really falling under 'fine'.

Stavrian's lips press together, thinning in a mirthless excuse for a half-smile. "Yeah." He rubs his fingertips over his brow, the puffy skin under his eyes fair testament to one of the longest nights of his life. His thumb runs on the corner of the sticker book, eyes turning back down to the pages. "Tell you what," he says finally, scratchily. "I'll trade you a cigarette for a sticker."

Demos arrives from the Dual Stairway.
Demos has arrived.
Karthasi arrives from the Dual Stairway.
Karthasi has arrived.

The hatch opens slowly and Demos steps out into the hallway. She pauses to lean against the bulkhead, the hatch left open for someone else. "Oof. I am already tired of playing the invalid. But, in all honesty, this is… difficult." She lifts a hand to brush a lock of ebony hair from her forehead, "Who knew that you use stomach muscles to climb stairs…" She glances about, frowning just a little at the opened hatch to one of the storage areas, "Um. This is a pretty quiet area, Sister. If you wanted to talk here?" Her tone falls off until she pushes from the wall, "Wait here, Sister. I need to check this." Her hand falls to her sidearm and she walks softly toward that opened hatch.

Karthasi heads off of the stairwell in Phaedra's wake, back not overly straight, hands folded all-but-casually at the small of her back as she listens to the woman's pains with a quiet patience. She opens her mouth to reply, but then— duty calls, and she closes it again, giving the woman a quiet nod and a barely vocalized acknowledgement in the tune of, "Hm." She proceeds to take up a post there by the stairwell while the MP goes to do her appointed rounds.

The storage rooms on Deck Eight are a not-so-secret getaway for many folks seeking solitude. There are traces of other visitors having been here before — ground-out cigarette butts, crumpled scraps of paper, inconsequential bits of trash stuffed between crates. Tisiphone's expression gentles a bit from its odd, forced wryness as she nods, digging out her crumpled pack of cigarettes from her pocket. "You bet." She turns and leans back against the crate Stavrian's perched on, lighting his cigarette from hers before offering it over with a sidelong glance. "Which one you-" she starts to ask, pausing at the sound of new voices at the doorway.

The page Stavrian has the book open to is full of bright blue sky. Sticker birds with glitter-spangled wings are frozen in motion over rolling hills, the kind one would expect in some child's imagining of Elysium. The festive colors are all the more poignant in this drab storage unit, surrounded by their brutally drab uniforms and the stink of stale smoke and bland sweat. Stavrian keeps his eyes down on the book, his shoulders slouched in a way they rarely are. "Whichever. Like birds?" He reaches up for the cigarette and his hand pauses too at the sounds.

When she reaches the opened hatch to the storage area, Demos peeks in. When she sees Stavrian and Tisiphone, she blinks, then visibly relaxes. Rather than intrude on their 'quiet time', she ducks back a step or two, then turn to walk back the way she came, "Sorry, Sister. Nothing nefarious. I thought… Well, since the fire in the storage unit on Deck 11…? I suppose I am a hair on the jumpy side."

Karthasi remains with her back against the jamb of the opening into the stairwell, feet bracing her into a lean. She doesn't approach the hatchway to the storage unit, having assumed some sort of clandestine meeting, herself — but she's certainly not going to tell an MP how to do her job. "Of course, Phaedra," she murmurs, keeping her voice low, pitched not to carry as far as the storage unit itselt, "It's completely understandable. Why don't I let you finish your affairs— we can meet up later. Unless you need some assistance? Are you certain you don't want to go by tthe sickbay?"

Tisiphone and Stavrian, the nefarious ciggies-for-stickers cartel kingpins. The former looks over to the side as Demos steps in, fixing the other woman with a level and barely-blinking stare. There's no hostility or bristling to it — just a very, very intent patience, as if expecting their scene will explain itself. Waiting. When the MP turns to move away, she breathes out a slow sigh and looks back to the sticker-book. "No ravens, are there?" she asks, scanning the glittery page. The fresh-lit cigarette is wiggled just slightly. Medic, your cancer awaits.

The cigarette's finally accepted, and transferred to Stavrian's left hand. Seated, he doesn't have as clear a view to the end of the shelving as Tisiphone does, relying on her expression as a kind of radar. "There might be," he murmurs, turning the page. On the next one are a few brilliant, shiny peacocks — not what she wanted. He clears his throat, reddened eyes glancing back up towards the end of the row. "Who is that?"

Demos shakes her head, a blush coloring her cheeks after surviving Tisiphone's glare. "No… No. Everything is in order." She lowers her voice, then her gaze, "But, why don't we move to the security hub? I think I should probably sit down soon." Her tone softens a bit more as she puts a hand out to pull on the hatch's lock, "The environment is a touch hostile here."

"Alright," Greje replies, angling her tone once more lower in pitch to keep her voice quiet but plain to the woman at her side. "Do you need some help, Phaedra?" she wonders, offering a hand to the bottom of the MP's upper arm, just above the elbow, by way of a light pressure of support, in case she needs to avail herself of it. "What do you mean, hostile?" she goes on to ask.

Tisiphone's radar is showing one bogey, retreating. No orders to pursue. Her eyes look through the page of jewel-toned peacocks to some distant point through the room's floor as the hatch is worked with, then snap back to focus. "One of the MPs," she says, glancing up from the page to Stavrian for a moment. "She was there the night Private Trista died, I saw her in the Sickbay. What's next?" Back to the book she looks, fidgeting with her cigarette.

"I should go check on the marines," Stavrian murmurs. Though not right now, says the fact that he doesn't get up. He turns another page, now going from fields to an idyllic picture of a farm, his fingertip landing by a black bird sitting dignified on the top of the brightly-colored house. "There. Is that one?" It's a cartoon, so gods only know what the artist intended it to be. It's black, anyway.

Demos sighs, her gaze remaining low, her voice lower, "One of the Ensigns, Sister. She is not overly fond of me. I cannot blame her. When we met, I was pretty…difficult. My guess is that she and her friend are looking for quiet time and I really do not want to make things awkward for them. Or any more awkward." She pauses, then smiles at the woman, the offer of support accepted, "Thanks. Let's just go." The hatch is opened and she steps through.

Demos heads through the exit labeled <MS> Midship Stairway.
Demos has left.
Karthasi heads through the exit labeled <MS> Midship Stairway.
Karthasi has left.

Tisiphone's silent for a count of five after the last sound of footsteps outside the hatch. "Closer," she compromises. "There probably won't be any. They make better tatau than stickers. You- sure you want to?" Again she looks up and sidelong to him, teeth at her bottom lip for a moment.

That question leaves a long silence in its wake. Stavrian presses his fingertips into his forehead and slide them from one side to the other, ironing out the dusky skin as they go. They reach his hairline and tangle into the front of his curls, pulling down as he lifts his head again. "Yeah." He exhales, tightly. "She always…gave her stuff away. Anything you'd get for her, she'd just…keep it long enough till she found someone that she thought it'd make happy. She'd have done the same for this."

Tisiphone's eyes flicker away to her cigarette, stalling on the hectic ribbons of smoke as she adjusts her fingers just so. "How about one of the peacocks, then?" she asks, shifting a quarter-turn and leaning a bony hip into the crate to face him more directly. "I bet- She wouldn't've given away the blackbird. It would've been something bright and pretty." She holds her left hand out to Stavrian, fingers curled, back of her hand presented like someone awaiting their admittance stamp, sleetstorm eyes a little too bright.

"She'd give away the whole book if you let her," Stavrian murmurs. This, for some reason, makes the corner of his mouth move just a little. "She didn't get that from me, mind you." He licks his lips and swallows, clearing his throat. Turning the page back to the glittery peacocks, he works his fingernail under the adhesive and starts to peel it up, showing the white backing. "Maybe it'll make her happy." His eyes tense at the corners and there's a light sniff, as if he might be catching a little cold. That's all, nothing more. The peacock's pressed onto the back of Tisiphone's waiting hand.

Stavrian catches a little cold, Tisiphone has her problems with allergies. It'd be laughable if…well, if it was laughable. She looks up at the medic for a moment as he presses the sticker on, then lets her eyes drop back to it, reaching over with her casted fingers to trace over the edges to make sure it's firmly seated. She clears her throat and looks away, over to the next row of storage crates, dragging again on her cigarette. "That's- one of her mother's traits, more than yours?" she asks, easing the question out.

"Kind of." Stavrian's eyes stay down as his hands retreat to the book, flipping through another page. "She was a good woman." The assessment, while warm, sounds distant. A silence passes then, in which he breathes in through his nose a couple times as though about to speak, but doesn't. His cigarette's been burning forgotten all this time, and he flicks off the growing column of ash before actually taking his first drag from it. The smoke's treasured, held in and then exhaled slowly, and a moment later he squinches his eyes shut, with an almost comical look. "Whoa, shit. Been a while."

Now there's an odd look, turned back from the inspection of yonder boring storage crates, surprise stumbling over puzzlement onto guilt. Tisiphone chooses to look away — to the poor, neglected cigarette patiently smouldering itself away. The subsequent reaction startles a quiet, knowing laugh out of her. "Headrush," she teases. Lightweight. "I miss that. Couldn't believe you asked me for a smoke, actually."

"Oh, man." Stavrian snorts and presses his fingertips into his closed eyes. "Quit when Noura was born. People in Tashraan thought I was nuts, you know? 'What do you mean, don't smoke around a baby? What, why?'" His voice tenses up into a high-pitched imitation of someone or other, then relaxes again and he pulls a fresh drag from the cigarette. "Long habit of yours?" The chatter's deceptively relaxed, covering the lack of eye contact and empty slouching.

"Comes and goes." Easy conversation is a welcome relief from tense and awkward; Tisiphone rolls along with it, for now. "The ritual of it's hard to let go of for long. Had a hookah for years, sold it when I came aboard. Too big to be worth packing, you know? Chamalla pipe, but-" Tiny grin, and a light shrug. That's /different/, of course. "I'm gonna hate myself once the cast is off and I'm training again. My wind'll be shot. Been smoking more than Lasher these last two weeks."

Stavrian even coughs once. /Lightweight/. "Heh. I can't believe they let me aboard with half the things they did. Medical immunity, I guess." Right. Ahem. "Lasher? That one's the blond with the big mouth, yeah?" He glances at her face briefly as he pulls off the cigarette.

There's a particular grimace Tisiphone gets when she remembers, always belatedly, that the callsigns mean next to nothing to anyone outside of Chez Viper. It crosses over her face now, sinking away to a subtler, more troubled expression as she considers her answer. "Yeah- sorry, Lieutenant Laskaris. Black Knights Squad Lead. We've been avoiding eachother since he threatened to have my throat out." She smirks slightly, as if trying to shrug the statement away. It doesn't quite work. Next best tactic: evasion to fresh topic. "You bring anything just for shits and giggles?" she asks. The grin sneaks back a little. "Or is it all medicinal?"

Stavrian looks her right in the eye. "It's all medicinal." Deadpan, until his lips twitch. As does one brow.

It's contagious. Tisiphone looks right back, grin creeping across her mouth until some of her teeth peek out. "Shit, man. You should bring some by, sometime. I mean- the tea's great, but. C'mon." The grin splits to a smile, then slants away again as she drags on her cigarette.

"Maybe." Stavrian still seems to be smiling, vaguely. It's starting to fade away again, back into the distant eyes and warnings of premature lines. Once it's completely gone is when the next words come. "Maybe that'll make it easier to figure out. Last night."

Insert one (1) quiet sigh here, as Tisiphone mourns the death of another almost-but-not-quite smile. Too soon. Always cut down to soon. What's left of her own smile shrivels away as well. "It wasn't like that at all, when I- at home. Before I left. Not-" Quieter, confidingly. "Not with my sisters, not with anyone."

Stavrian goes back to the cigarette now. With the initial buzz over with, what little comfort it offers can be eeked out. "Wasn't like what?" He asks, unassuming.

"That…" Tisiphone struggles over the word, as the last dregs of her cigarette smother against the filter. "That /vivid/. It's not how I remember it being at all. She was- I nearly touched her." The thought of this action brings a frown to her face. "It- should have been different. The, the longer she was there, the more wrong it felt."

"You've seen your sisters?" These are moments when you know you're talking to a Sagittarian. That while curious, it doesn't seem /strange/. Stavrian pauses, frowning slightly as he thinks back, eyes down and flickering to the right. "I am not…very versed on the art." Of necromancy, one assumes.

"Not since I left home. My mothers would have taught me when I was- older." Not the word she was going to use. "I tried, a few times, on my own, but…" Tisiphone's mouth quirks and twists uncomfortably as she tries, and fails, to shrug it casually away. "It wasn't right. I… wouldn't want to see them now, anyway. They'd just ask what was taking me so long." Another uncomfortable not-smile. "Thing is, there was a… a /feeling/ to it. You know? Last night was so different."

Stavrian's eyes flicker at the first plural. He caught it, but for now it's filed away. "Do you think," he asks at length, tensely, "It was really her? Or…or was it something else?"

Tisiphone lifts her cigarette as she considers the question, only to find a dead filter waiting between her fingers. She flicks it off toward the opposite crates and starts digging out a fresh one. "When I saw her," she begins, slow and careful, "she had my gift. The llama I sent her. She didn't, last night-" A point against. "-but she mentioned it." And a point for, bringing it back to a zero-sum reasoning. "It looked like her. It sounded like her. But I… I don't know. I'm not sure anymore."

Stavrian doesn't seem to mind the chain smoking. His own is nearly dead, having been neglected for the first quarter of its smoldering down. And now he's smoking it with the ease of a long dormant habit easily reawakened. "Whatever it is, it must have a reason to be doing this. I can't believe it's just…that prayers brought her back. I can't. There are thousands of prayers on this ship."

It's like riding a bicycle. A cancer-causing bicycle. Tisiphone draws out another cigarette, looks over at Stavrian's with a moment's hesitation, flipping it around in her fingers. A second later, she reaches for her lighter. "I…grieved," she says. "No different than anyone. I gave her a gift. And I- I /missed/ her, sure, the ship's so godsdamned lonely, but-" The look she turns to the medic is almost pleading. "It wasn't different. Like you said. Others are- there are so many others so more deserving."

"I don't begrudge," Stavrian says, after a long moment. "I lost my head last night, I…" He breathes out a bare, humorless chuckle. "Sister probably thinks I'm frakking worthless. It's not a matter of deserving, it's just it bothers me. The why. The death without ritual? There have been others even since her, also that people knew, and none have done this. It just doesn't make sense."

"There was something she was saying, that the Sister was trying to ask her about, when it-" Tisiphone's words abruptly catch in her throat; she has to clear her throat to get them past, her eyes sliding away to her cigarette. After lighting it up and taking the first drag off of it, she continues. "When it went all horrible and wrong, when I thought she'd talked you down to Hades right then and there. She'd said something about a- a trick she'd learned, do you remember? Some kind of knack. Maybe that's the only difference."

"Yeah." Stavrian's frown becomes more troubled, either at that memory or the other one Tisiphone brings up. "Learned something she wanted to try, that's what she said, right? That she wasn't sure she should be doing it, either."

Tisiphone nods around her cigarette, eyes skittering up toward the ceiling for a few seconds as she holds the smoke for a count of three, then exhales. It's repeated once more before she nods again, and looks back. "Yeah. Yeah, wasn't sure she was supposed to be doing it. And it took effort — at- near the end, she said she was losing control of it."

Stavrian sits there in silence, thinking over that. His eyes watch some spot between here and the wall, cigarette finally giving up the ghost. He exhales slowly through his nose and drops it, crushing the butt under his heel. "Listen, I have to go to work." This is not apologetic, nor antsy. It's kind of toneless. "But I'm going to write down everything that I remember she said. You do that too, okay? We'll look over them and…maybe there's something in there we missed."

"Yeah. Yeah, okay. You bet." A Course of Action(tm). Tisiphone can get behind this sentiment, her skittish gaze settling into something more purposeful. "I should- get back to the godsdamned flight footage, too, but- I'll try to remember everything first." She flicks some ash at the ground, toes at it for a moment. "Jesse?" she finally says, looking up. The next sentence comes out without a hitch. "I'm really glad I found you here." As opposed to the morgue, or being reeled from hard vaccuum, you know. "And- thanks for the sticker."

As opposed to the morgue. Stavrian's eyes flicker away, not prepared to make eye contact and deal with that lingering pain at the same time. "Yeah. Thanks for bringing me back to the smoker's fold." Just glib enough to knock the previous thoughts away, cue ball against a stripe. He looks up and offers her a half-smile that doesn't quite touch his eyes. "And you're welcome…keep it safe." He tucks the sticker book into the crook of his arm, standing up.

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