Day 025: The Quiet
Summary: A conversation about silence in all its forms: the absence of the Ark's hum on Earth, sleep or lack thereof, the need to shut people up, and things that people don't like to talk about.
Date: 20 June 2016
Related: None directly.
Asher Cassandra Ruth 

The Wall Walk — the Camp
The so-called Wall Walk is a rough parapet about two feet wide that runs around the interior of the camp's protective wall. It provides a good view of the area around the camp, though actually walking the parapet is dangerous business as there's barely enough room to pass a fellow person. It sits about three feet beneath the top of the wall, giving a bit of a barrier and place to duck low should the need arise; the other side is completely open to the grounds below. It is made of metal salvaged from the dropship and lashed together sapling trunks, making the walking surface a bit precarious and very patchworked.
25 Days After Landing

The sun has risen on the third day of the blockade around camp, golden rays climbing between the minute yet telltale cracks amid the Wall Walk. The green, indolent teenagers that once came down from the sky in the first Exodus Ship, with no mind to do anything other than live free and throw caution to the wind, have been changed by the horrors and obstacles that Earth offers. Even now, at this early hour, the ephemeral so-called Guard and militia are already standing post, patrolling the parapets and casting their eye to the forest on the lookout for Sonia kom Trikru's promised army and devastation.

One such teenager, scrawnier than the others and now dressed in the vastly oversized clothes of a Grounder, is seated at the top of one of the foremost lookouts, to the left of the Gate. The serious head injury that nearly killed her and kept her out of commission for more than a week is starting to heal, though the large, fragile bruise on her temple is still visible, marking her skull fracture. No doubt she's been eager to take advantage of being able to stretch her legs and climb again.

Her back is turned to the rest of camp, swollen gaze on the woods that this new prison holds her back from. The curve of a thin, wooden short-bow can be seen above her leathers from below, along with the long-bladed steel machete that never leaves her side.

It's something akin to desperation that drives Ruth to this spot, gaze turned up to the walk. It certainly hasn't been her usual haunt these past few weeks, considering how atrophied she's become. Her thin fingers grasp determinedly at a makeshift ladder leading up to the walk, breaths coming in short. Though it's the easiest way by far, her expression is wound up tight with effort as she slowly starts to heave her way up.

"I'm doing fine, Stella," she calls down in a reedy voice to the fiery-headed girl standing watch with arms crossed and grin easy. "Thanks for your concern. I'm sure you'd definitely catch me if I fell." Sarcasm mingles easily with sincerity as she bites down on her tongue and presses her cheek against one of the upper rungs. In a lower voice, so the girl on the ground can't hear, she queries, "Hello? Is anyone up there?"

Turning at the sound, a head full of long, sleek black hair — cleaner than anyone else's at camp, somehow — flutters in the breeze before revealing behind it the medium-brown face of Cass Bonheur. Of all the people. Though she's collected newer, nastier bruises since, the ones gifted to her by Ruth Mercer on the fourth day since they'd landed are now gone, and that's only one of many changes that have come over Patient Zero of the Blood Fever in just under four weeks on the Ground. Though her body-language and guarded expression are as hostile as they've always been, there's no longer any trace of personal animosity towards the medtech girl, on her end.

"Just me," Cassie's familiar, brusque voice calls down. "I don't think you're needed on watch though, Ruth. Not unless you've come to give me a rifle." To nobody's surprise except her own, she was, after all, explicitly on the 'no' list the ex-Cadets devised for who does and doesn't get to hold a loaded gun around camp.

As Ruth's face is pressed flush against the ladder and her messy hair does well to obscure her expression, it's difficult to tell exactly how she reacts to Cassandra's presence; it's not impossible, though. Her grip tightens further and she ascends with renewed urgency, half-collapsing on the wall with only a modicum of care granted the sapling trunk one hand has found for support. Only then does she deign to respond.

"I'm not here on duty," she wheezes, winded by the exertion. "I wanted to get some air." Well, she's certainly not doing a very good job of it, judging from the sheen of sweat coating her brow and the understatedly difficult time she has taking in a proper breath. "Hell. You look like hell, too."

Ruth's lacklustre performance of acquiring more oxygen is noted by Cassandra, who makes no secret of her smirk, a faint exhale of amusement coming out of her nose as she surveys the half-collapsed heap of a willowy girl joining her on the parapets. Empathy is not her strong-suit, and so she shows none for her fellow delinquent's struggles now, opting to indulge in a good bit of open Schadenfreude instead.

"You'd think with all the free oxygen floating around, you'd be having less trouble with that down here on the Ground," the Agro-Station girl jibes. And on a more serious note, she furrows her brow and adds, "Thought you were a goner there. The other baby-docs give you the clear, then?"

Ruth has a bad case of dry mouth for a few moments, her tongue swiping at the inside of her cheek and lower lip to find the proper response. After clearing her hair from her face, she doesn't seem to have come up with anything, though her eyes do rest on Cassandra with the intensity of someone gradually grown accustomed to speaking less and studying more. It's been a trying time for many.

"I have strange dreams on the ground," Ruth confesses only once she's taken a proper breath, her ears half-cupped by grit-lined palms. "Colorful ones. I think it's the oxygen." Her bland tone doesn't change when Cass' does, remaining flippant. "No one's the boss of me." Yet Stella, the redheaded friend she's rarely seen without, watched her ascend only a few minutes ago. She's cleared off by now since Ruth completed her climbing task successfully. "What about you? Who's the boss of you?"

Cassandra slides her eyes suspiciously over at Ruth when the girl makes mention of her dreams. They may no longer be in danger of punching at each other (especially given that the wrong blow could too easily prove fatal to Cass, and she knows it), but a cold distance is still felt, exuding from the Grounder-clad girl in waves. That she doesn't want to engage the girl who gave her a beat-down against the Dropship in personal talk is clear. "No one's the boss of me," she haughtily replies, forearms resting atop her raised knees. "That's why the ex-Cs won't give me a gun. They tried, but I'm not about to suck their dick for one."

Ruth's exhaustion may be the reason why her own waves have been tempered, at least for the time being. She is as slow to stir as the sun currently cresting the horizon, her overly tall form sprawled directly in front of the ladder leading up the walk. Anyone ascending would meet an ornery girl with too-colorful dreams and a face near white as chalk despite the summer sun. "It wouldn't have been the first time you sucked a dick to get ahead, though. You'd just…" She gives her fingers a tiny flutter against the sapling currently in her loose grip. "Close your eyes and pretend you're doing it for good marks."

The look Cassie gives her, trailing down towards the ground on the other side of the Wall Walk, suggests that for a moment she's calculating the physics of what might happen were she to gently pitch Ruth over the edge. It would provide a good distraction for Sonia's scouts beyond the gate that the two of them are situated just off to the side of… and this is probably the real reason why she is not allowed a gun. "Suck mine, Ruth," she instead retorts, because sticks and stones may break bones, but words are better than murder. "What's this dream you've been having then?"

This is a fun conversation to walk into. Asher had been keeping an eye on the gates and and when someone else came to relieve him on guard, he makes his way up the wall walk with a rifle slung over his shoulder. Asher with a gun. How he got one and Cass didn't is an oddity. Or a travesty. Or perhaps just good common sense. Apparently he's caught part of the conversation, as he asks idly, "Since when have you got one, Cassie?"

A breathy chuckle is voiced when Ruth follows Cassie's glance to the ground below, her arms raising so she can splay her fingers above her head. One eye squints closed as the other one crosses a bit, her focus blurring as those fingers curl. "What, do you think I'd only have one dream? That's stupid. Only uncreative people have recurring dreams." She bends her fingers at the first joint. She's at least a bit double-jointed. "I —" Her head lolls to the side when Asher makes himself known. Apparently she hadn't heard his climb at all. "Eden, you scared me," she hisses with a low, deep cough. "I'm not moving over. Go around me."

Ruth's words may not visibly dent Cassie's armour, but the sound of Asher's voice has her abruptly turning in her seat on the parapets to peer down towards him, cheeks flushed with scarlet chagrin. "Hey, Ash," she cheerily calls down, though in the face of her embarrassment, it sounds a bit forced. Turning a steely look to Ruth, she turns one of the knees pinned to her chest her way, outstretching a suede-clad toe to try and gently nudge the medtech girl further down the platform and away from the ladder, without actually pitching her over. "Move over before he shoots you," she warns.

"Nah, I won't shoot her. I'll just yank her ass down this ladder and finish climbing." Asher states as he waits just a bit up the ladder. He starts to climb up the rest of the way, wether or not Ruth moves, because he's Asher and he doesn't take no shit off of nobody. Or something. At least he didn't shoot her.

"Oh, yes, show off how macho you are," Ruth retorts with a flex of her own arm muscles. At least she's wearing a long-sleeved shirt; it's just a bit less self-incriminating that way. In any case, she's not sitting up, and she has no room to roll over. The best she can do is scoot a bit. And she does, but notably away from Cass. "Throw a half-dead me off the wall. That's exactly how you get someone like Boner off."

"She ain't wrong," Bonheur admits, giving the half-dead Ruth a dubious look as Asher starts to climb the ladder. For her part, she scoots to make more room for him, so that at least if he decides not to get her off under those exact murderous guidelines, he can clamber over the prone medtech's form and onto the parapets, to take the spot where she was seated moments prior. Cassie's back presses to the wall, right up against the edge of the gate's left lookout post, and for a moment she even looks concerned for Ruth as she surveys the pair, albeit not enough to speak up in her defence. Her faintly swollen brown eyes remain narrowed.

Asher moves up the rest of the way and climbs up onto the parapet. He eyes Ruth a moment, smirking at her. Been there. Done that. "If I don't show it off, no one will." comes his reply and then he slips into a seated position, apparently between Cassie and Ruth. "See, now you're just givin' me a reason to chuck yer ass off this wall. Maybe I want to get her off?" Still, it looks like her condition is is something Asher takes in, his gaze flickering over Ruth.

Ruth's hazel eyes dart from Asher to Cass assessingly, her mouth curled downward slightly. She's obviously noticed their rapport. "If you want to get her off, then put your arm on the back of her neck and give a little push for me." Her right eye twitches in Asher's direction in what's likely meant to be a pseudo-salacious wink. When accompanied by the repugnant purse of her mouth (again, likely meant to be sexy), she looks like she's having a flash fit.

There is very little room to manoeuvre around here, but with Asher safely up on the parapet, Cass squeezes further along again and closer to him, draping a calf over his to affirm that rapport Ruth's picked up on. "Ruth was just telling me about her weird-arse psychedelic dreams," she casually mentions, giving the pair a wary look. It's not more significant or threatened compared to the usual dour expressions she wears: she always looks wary. Specifically to the kleptomaniac medtech, she adds, "I liked you better with your face smashed into the Dropship."

The leg draped over him causes Asher to glance down, then at Cassie. Ok. His attention shifts back to Ruth. This is an interesting conversation. He decides to stay out of whatever Cassie and Ruth are sniping about, instead nodding about the dreams. "So, what kinda dreams are they?"

Ruth's face turns immediately from seductive smirk to disdainful frown. It's a bit impressive, really, like she's two entirely different people in that moment. The eyes of both Ruths are still spaced too far apart, though, so this theory would be easily discarded. "I liked you better when you were eating dirt at my feet after you came at me like a needle being thrown against a haystack." Though she mixes her idioms, she does it with confidence. "Just… dreams. It's like…" She twists her fingers in deep thought, perhaps just a bit self-conscious of Asher asking this question. "Too much color and sound. Down here they're just different. I think I'm, like, the expert of sleeping these days."

Where ordinarily Cassandra would be offering Ruth a repeat of that tussle (which admittedly, she lost), or at least taking verbal offence to her comments, she grits her teeth and schools herself in Asher's presence, likewise self-conscious, although for completely different reasons. "You need to get out more," she says, which is definitely a reined in version of her usual snipes. She even expresses concern for the other girl's safety! "When the blockade is lifted. Assuming we don't all die. I don't have time to dream on Earth. It's too colourful outside when I'm awake. You should have heard the Dawn Chorus before you got here." Like clockwork, Cassie is awake every single morning before sunrise, and that Dawn Chorus is the reason why.

A brow arches idly as he looks between Ruth and Cassie. "So which is it, you to hate each other or becoming friends?" The answer seems less important to him as he glances over his shoulder, and over the wall to the woods behind. A moment later he adds on, "I dunno… I got used to the sound down here a week or so ago." Well bully for him. Cassie mentions the dawn chorus, and Asher arches a brow at her, canting his head a bit. "The what chorus?"

"That's a stupid question," Ruth admonishes Asher, her nose wrinkling with clear distaste. She doesn't even deign to answer it. "The sound here is too muted." She gestures about her ears as though swatting at a fly. "On the Ark, there was more… hum. Here, it's not like that. Even though plants are alive, Earth is alive…" She covers a yawn with the back of her bony hand. "It feels more dead than the Ark."

Cassandra's suspicious gaze turns to Asher now, before she clarifies, "Dawn Chorus. You know…" She lifts up a hand to horizontally clap her thumb and four fingers together, miming a 'talking' gesture, or the shape of a beak. "The birds. When they sing. At sunrise." Admitting to caring about something so whimsical, in contrast to the delinquent's violent tough-girl reputation, puts her on the defensive. So she makes the excuse, "Best time for hunting pheasants." She slides her eyes past him towards Ruth, adding to Asher, "I don't hate her. I nothing her."

A shrug is offered to Ruth at her assertion of it being a stupid question. "Whatever." He hmmms quietly and nods to her, "I always hated that fucking hum. Kept my drunk ass dad awake longer than silence would have." A beat pause. "I like the quiet here." He'd like it more quiet elsewhere surely. He ahhs quietly at Cassandra. "Yeah, I hear them in the morning." He watches her a moment, smirking. "You don't hunt pheasants."

"That's like saying you hated breathing. I didn't even know the hum wasn't a thing until that dropship landed… it was quiet. I thought I'd gone deaf. My ears were ringing, sure, so that was an honest assumption, but…" Ruth is rambling. It's not exactly in-character, but neither is making the effort to climb a wall this early in the morning to make small talk with Cassandra Bonheur. She does fall quiet as the two converse about birds, her eyes watching the dawn colors blossom.

"I brought in bacon once," says Cass. She did. She sounds rather proud to have done so, and Asher's smirk, though her calf is still draped over his, has her looking annoyed. "Breathing wasn't great on the Ark either. Here at least the air is free. I like the quiet, too." Quiet and Dawn Chorus, though she's done admitting to that latter quirk for now. Her head ducks as her voice turns to a murmur, and she eyes the green ground through the cracks in the wall at their feet.

"Fuck off. You could hear that hum in Mecha. It whirred constantly, there'd be this fucking clang every second cycle you could hear. Woke that asshat up every night." So it was the clang he hated more than the hum, but to him, they were one in the same. He nods in agreement with Cass. "It's clean down here too. Smells better than it did in the Ark. And the water. That's better too." Or it was, before they got surrounded and couldn't go anywhere. "Which reminds me, we need to do a water run."

"Float yourself," Ruth shoots back automatically, her upper lip curling in a scowl in Asher's direction. "If he woke up in the middle of the night because of some dumb noise, then obviously he must not have been all that drunk. You're probably just exaggerating for Boner pity points." If this were said with any brand of true malice, she might be Satan herself. Right now, though, she's just peaceful and complacent.

<FS3> Asher rolls Resolve: Good Success.

Cassandra's eyes narrow as they lift up from from the parapet, to fix upon Ruth's across from Asher. The calf she has draped over his tightens, meant in part to reassure, because as much as she'd like to physically hold him back, she isn't going to kid herself that she can. She has no clever retort, though: she'll leave that to him. Instead, she tries to diffuse the situation by rapidly changing the subject. "Stone mentioned something about this Operation Camelback to go get water. You should go with them, Ruth, now that you're all up on your feet and feeling useful and better again. Bonus points if you drown."

"Remember that guard I killed back on the Ark? The one whose head I smashed until there were brains on the wall?" Asher arches an eyebrow, gaze settled on Ruth. It's probably a good sign that he hasn't already hurled her off the parapet. Asher's father is really the only touchy subject with him. "If you don't shut your fucking mouth about my father, I'll do the same to you. Cool?" He smiles at her. Which is kinda creepy. A beat pause, "Plus pity goes nowhere with Cassie, obviously." He pauses and glances to Cassandra as she makes the suggestion to Ruth, smirking just a bit at her.

Ruth is not a smart woman, but… when she opens her mouth to retort, nothing comes out. Some things just come to you naturally, like self-preservation and french braiding your own hair. She chooses then to sit up, suddenly finding some energy in reserve that wasn't all that present when she climbed up here to begin with. "You're both dumb. If you fuck up here, at least make the Grounders pay for the show." Of course, when she says this, she's already starting down the ladder, out of reach. Convenient.

"Don't mind Ruth," Cass says to Asher, within Ruth's earshot. "She's obsessed with picturing me doing it." And towards the retreating girl, she calls out, "Come by our tent later if Martin turns you down for dinner again. We could teach you a thing or two!"

Asher is seething for a moment. He didn't actually harm her though, which shows restraint for the murderer who used to just punch people who annoyed him. He glances to Cassie, then back to Ruth. "What, you don't want to stay and watch?" he calls at her. It's still kinda angry, but at least he's lightening up. He glances to Cassie. "Fuck that, if we are bringing someone into the tent, it ain't gonna be her."

In true Ruth fashion, a voice from the ground calls, "Fuck off!" up to the pair, echoing Asher himself. A brief scuffle is heard as though she trips over herself at the bottom of the ladder before she moves away at a fairly slow pace, lost quickly in the city of tents.

When Ruth is gone, the show is over. Cassandra scoots closer to Asher, bending her draped leg at the knee. She doesn't continue the topic of voyeurism and exhibitionism, since she isn't Boner to him, anyway. Instead, she quietly asks, in a very neutral, casual tone of voice, "You okay?" She respects him enough not to imply that he shouldn't be by making a sensitive issue out of the matter, even if he isn't. Her eyes glance critically at his, but don't linger there.

Asher watches as Ruth departs and he smirks at her parting shot, shouted over the silence. His gaze shifts over to Cassandra and a shrug is offered. "Yeah… I'm good." No, he's not. There's this lingering dread that settled over him when the Ark was supposed to come down. His father is still alive. One day, he will be here. On that day, Asher will have to kill him, or leave. That sort of reality is tough to confront. His hand comes to rest on her leg draped over his. "Just… you know, I don't talk about that shit."

"Probably for the best," says Cass. "Ruth's a bitch." Like she can talk. But at least she isn't a bitch to Asher, or rather, is less of a bitch towards him than she is to most people, and definitely less than Ruth. Shoulder to shoulder, she brings a hand of hers to rest on his, glancing with subtle, unobtrusive concern between him and the wall. She didn't come here to be on watch, but she may as well. "I wouldn't talk about in public either, if I was you. Real tempted for a moment there to just pitch her over the wall."

"Yeah. Probably for the best." Asher replies with a nod. "It's no big secret. Most of Mecha knew about my dad." And the fact that the guard he killed was trying to break up a fight between Asher and his father that spilled out of their quarters into the hall. None of this is a secret, it was too public. He offers her a weak smile, gaze flickering over her face for a moment, then back to the ground below. "But yeah, I'm fine."

Cassandra has accepted that Asher is a murderer. She's a murderer too, by two counts, and is wearing the belongings of her victims — victims which, funnily enough, she shares with Asher. So instead of judging him or letting guilt consume her the way it's been consuming others around camp, like the executioner of Mags Trentin, Elias Lapointe, she chooses to either accept or just put it out of her mind — a fact she shows now by bringing her lips towards his, chasing his mouth for a kiss. It's a kiss that says, shut up, I accept you and stop thinking about it, for a trifecta of comforting reassurance and defence mechanisms.

Unfortunately for her, noble as her intentions may be, it doesn't last long. Her lips seek to brush against his for barely seconds before they're retreating again and she's ducking her chin, self-conscious about something.

Asher does indeed shut up when his lips are caught up with hers into a brief kiss. He barely had time for his eyes to slide closed before she retreats away and leaves him a bit confused. Asher arches a brow, opening his eyes and turning his head to face Cassandra. He watches her a moment. "What's wrong?" he asks in a quiet tone.

Cassandra doesn't know how much of the conversation Asher caught between her and Ruth, but she does know that like his alcoholic father and the guard whose brains he made a post-modern mural out of on the walls of Mecha Station, her reputation is no secret. It's not usually something she shows she cares about — in fact, usually she just fans the flames and makes a spectacle out of herself — but apparently she does. Apparently she wants him to know that. "I didn't suck anyone's dick for good marks," she says, suddenly defensive. "It's a straight up lie."

Asher considers her quietly for a few moments, brow raised. He reaches out to take her hand and hold it in his. It is one of those quiet, intimate gestures. He probably wouldn't initiate it if anyone else was around and watching. They aren't. "I never assumed you did, Cassie." He pauses. "I'm not judging you. So don't worry too much."

Cassandra nods her head, lacing her fingers with his. If proof were needed that she really wasn't just using him, that their time together meant something, there it is. With that out of the way, she opts to take her own internal advice, to shut up and stop thinking about it. She leans back in to kiss him more firmly, and this time doesn't pull away within seconds.

Asher falls silent as well. Nothing else to say here. What or who she did before is really pretty irrelevant. Unless they come a-knockin'. Then it could be weird. The kiss is returned, his lips lingering against hers. A hand moves to cup her cheek, caressing her lightly with his thumb.

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