Motor City Burning
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Ghost stories

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Ghost stories

Post by Kazakin on Tue Jun 07, 2011 12:48 am

Later that morning, after seeing Joshua and Chris out of the door, Sara finally hit the sack and slept. Despite the madness that was occuring around them at the moment, she slept like a log. That probably had something to do with the amount of time she had had to bed down in unsavoury conditions in the field. That and sleeping in sodden tents in the woods as a child when on camping trips.

She awoke at around one in the afternoon, and while it wasn't long enough of a nap for her, it was enough to replenish her energy levels enough to grab a coffee. Sara switched on the TV, absently flicking through channels to hear updates. It had less to do with her wanting to hear more bad news headlines, and more to feel as though she was doing something useful.

Joshua had returned home of course, to check in with Terri, and eat breakfast with her. Making sure she was alright was his number one priority, and he was relieved that after the lurking danger that seemed to be swelling, nothing had happened. He came back afterwards, though. He hadn't forgotten the pain he'd seen written all over the face of his cell mate.

He knocked on the door.

Sara glanced toward the door, swivelling on the couch with a frown on her weary face. Quickly she checked the peephole and, seeing Joshua opened the door.

"What's up, Padre?" Sara questioned, a note of concern edging her words. She stepped aside to let him in, and gestured to the couch. "Take a load off."

Joshua flashed a very small smile and sat down on the couch. "Thank you," he said politely, nodding to her. "You look exhausted. Are you alright?"

Empathy roll:

It was plain to tell that, despite her bravado, Sara was still tired. She nursed the coffee mug in her hands as she sat down on the chair. It looked more well-used than the couch. It was likely that she didn't have visitors often. She smiled, but the response was strained.

"I'm just peachy, Padre," Sara responded, in a way that she clearly thought was casual enough to fob him off.

"No, you're not," Joshua said, in a tone that was much blunter than he used with the others. "You look like you've gone eight rounds with Mike Tyson, and you're strained. Let's not pretend here."

Sara looked vaguely affronted by the accusation, and it was a testament to her respect for the priest that she didn't outright call him a liar. Unstead she settled with a somewhat surly, "Mike Tyson's got nothing on me."

Her eyes flickered to the window, to the side of the couch, as a car screeched past.

Joshua sighed. "Sara? We're all in this together, and you trying to shoulder everything on your own won't help," his gaze flickered up too, and he took a soft breath, shaking his head. "Every time I hear a car, I wonder if there's going to be another crash."

Sara didn't look back at Joshua, preferring to study something that wasn't judging her. "If I don't, nobody else will," she responded uneasily. "Chris isn't even giving himself proper medical treatment, for fuck's sake."

Josh smiled at Sara. "I'm right here. And you can't accuse me of not giving myself appropriate medical treatment because I'm fine. There's absolutely nothing wrong with me."

Despite herself, a faint smile flashed briefly before becoming lost again in the deep hole of cynicism. "So you came back here to give me a pep talk?"

"Not if you don't want me to," Joshua said gently, leaning forwards. "I just came here to talk to you. We can talk about anything, if you like."

Setting down her mug, Sara rose from the chair. "I...I'm not really one for deep conversation, Padre," she stated in a voice that was bordering on apologetic. She moved into the kitchen, and opened the fridge. "Want a drink?"

"That's alright," Joshua said affably, leaning back against his chair. "I'm not asking for deep conversation." He smiled, his gaze tracing over the walls. "I'd love a coke, actually."

The walls were pretty plain. There was a couple of small framed pictures hung on the wall: one of a mountainscape, and one of a desert. It didn't look like any known photographer had taken them, although there was a pencil scribbled name in the right-hand corner of each.

"Coke... I think I have one- aha!" her triumphant voice suggested that she had located her prize. Sara returned to the living room with a can, and handed it across to Joshua. "What kind of conversation does a priest usually want then?"

"Sara, I'm not some mysterious guru," Joshua said lightly, opening the can. "I talk about all sorts of things. Hobbies, sports... what was on TV last night. Whether or not the next Pixar movie will be as good as the last one..." He waved a hand vaguely. "I like animation. I know it's a little childish."

Sara arched a brow. She had never seen any animated films recently, but she was aware enough of one starring a clownfish who got lost. "Last movie I watched was True Grit," she offered. "The original." She gave a small shrug. "I don't really watch movies."

"That's a shame. They're a good way of taking your mind off things," Joshua offered, studying the pictures. "Are those yours? They're very good."

It made sense. Immerse yourself in a fantasy world, and the shit outside could be forgotten for a couple of hours or so. Her attention flickered to the pictures, and her jaw tensed for a moment. "No. I didn't take 'em," Sara remarked gruffly. "They're...not mine."

Joshua studied her again, and he stood up, looking more closely at the name. He sipped from the Coke can as he bought himself a moment of time. Daniel Lawrence. A brother, or...? He looked back at Sara.

"I'm sorry," he said quietly. "He must have been very dear to you."

Her expression hardened for a moment. "Sorry for what?" Sara asked simply.

Her thumb twitched in the general direction of her left index finger. It might have been an unconscious flicker, as she studied the priest. Then again, she might have just been testing the tenderness in her knuckles from her fight with the punch bag. The bandages were off, and a few shallow abrasions and bruises remained.

"For the fact that you lost him... probably recently," Joshua said quietly, sitting back down. "You're still grieving."

Josh's empathy: 3 successes
Sara's resist: 0 Successes
Sara not breaking down: 2 Successes

"Yeah. Recently," Sara responded huskily.

She picked up the coffee mug again, and although the contents had gone cold she drained it anyway. For a second it appeared she might open up, but something seemed to harden inside and she turned away again.

Joshua looked at her and sat down next to her, studying her.

"It's alright," he said softly. "It's natural to grieve. It might not seem like it at the time, but it's the most natural thing in the world."

A derisive laugh sounded. "Yeah, so I've been told."

What the fuck did her shrink know anyway? The pictures on her fucked up green walls showed a smiling 2.4 children family. She had a rock on her finger large enough to fill the Grand Canyon, and a husband who looked like he'd never even seen a fucking gun, let alone had one pointed in his face.

"By a psychiatrist, probably," Joshua said, his voice quietly understanding. "Which did nothing for you, because they're safe in their quiet little office and you have to go home every night to an empty building where his personality was carved into the walls."

Solid as a rock: 2 Successes

Sara closed her eyes, and shook her head stiffly. "Don't...don't goad me," she instructed. She knew, on some level that he wasn't intending it to come across that way; but it was easier to concentrate on anger.

"I'm not," Joshua said quietly. "If you want to be angry, Sara, go ahead."

Her eyes darted back to him, and narrowed. "I'm always fucking angry," Sara growled through her teeth.

"Only on the inside," Joshua said, his voice remaining gentle, as he made eye contact. It didn't waver in the slightest.

Setting the mug down, and ran a hand across her face. She needed sleep, Sara knew; a long sleep that wasn't filled with the sound of sirens from outside her window. "He made a fucking mistake and was killed, is that what you want to hear?" Sara shot back, her tone mildly accusatory. Her heart wasn't really in it though.

"No," Joshua said quietly. "Not unless it's what you want to tell me. You've been bottling this up for too long, Sara."

Sara got to her feet again, too restless to remain seated. She moved to the window instead, perching on the sill as she started outside - watching but not really seeing. "He thought the coast was clear; that the enemy had been neutralised. Started cheering about it, bragging that the mission was over. A sniper shot him in the head from an abandoned building a few feet over. Another unit said they'd already cleared it, but a space'd been carved out in the wasn't spotted. The little fucker had been hiding there for days, eating berries and pissing in a rusty can. When he heard the cheering, he must've thought he'd hit pay dirt-," Sara shook her head.

But a cool, detached smile passed across her face, reflected in the glass. "He hit dirt alright, just not in the way he expected."

Joshua stayed quiet, just letting Sara talk. His calm, almost serene expression didn't change; but he was careful, controlling his body language to be reassuring and open so that Sara would feel comfortable to keep going.

Sara continued to speak, as though Joshua wasn't actually in the room anymore. "It was too late to save Daniel," she added, her voice softer. "The shooter was dragged down, and held in the building for interrogation the next day. He died before anyone else could question him." She finished abruptly, as though there was something more; but she was skimming over it.

Joshua empathy: 1 success
Sara resist: 0 successes, chance die

Joshua studied her, knowing she was holding something back, but he didn't push it. The tragedy of death, of any death was something that he'd become intimately familiar with as a priest.

"I'm sorry," he said quietly, and meant every word of it. "How long has this been eating at you?"

Sara paused, blinking in confusion as though Joshua being there had slipped her mind. She half-turned. "Three years," she shrugged. "Time just...blends sometimes."

"Have you ever actually spoken about it before?" Joshua said quietly, not moving towards her. He leant back, giving her plenty of space to walk out of the conversation if she wanted it.

"No. Not like that," Sara admitted, her tone still curt but...calmer somwhow. "It's weak."

"It's not weak," Joshua said reassuringly, sipping from the Coke can. "It's human."

Sara allowed a dry smile to surface. "Someone has to be strong. And you guys are civilians, you...squish easier." She was trying to inject humour into the conversation, but it fell flat.

"It doesn't always have to be you," Joshua said levelly. "I've been doing this since I was a boy."

"If you get injured, it's on my head," Sara replied. She almost wished she could go back to the cafe many nights had it been now? Ultimately her actions would have been the same, but at least she could relive those last few minutes of relative calm again.

"No, it's not," Joshua said. "We're not children, Sara. We know what we're getting in to."

This time her voice rose, anger punctuating her words. "Then they need to stop acting like children!"

"They've got flaws, Sara. Everyone does," Joshua replied patiently. "It still doesn't make you responsible for every little mistake or thing they do."

Sara shook her head, frustration mounting. "Forget it," she responded dismissively. She moved back into the kitchen, returning with a beer a moment later. He didn't understand; not entirely. She couldn't fault him for that. Her attention moved to the wall, to the pictures and her expression softened a little.

"No," Joshua said quietly. "They're not your unit, Sara, and they're not trained soldiers. But they chose to get into this, and while their motives may not be the best of motives, if you keep treating them like they're children, they'll never have a chance to find out what they might be capable of."

"They're adults. They should know what they're capable of by now- and I asked you politely to forget it," Sara replied, her voice not rising this time. "Please."

"You aren't going to," Joshua said quietly. "And unless you work this through, it's going to keep eating you alive, and one of them is going to end up with a broken jaw."

"I am working it through; just drop it, please," Sara stressed.

"Alright," Joshua said with a little shrug. "But I'm here if you need to talk. And you are going to need to talk about this sooner or later."

Her body language relaxed somewhat at the agreement, and Sara sat back into the sofa with the beer. She swirled it around, listening to the liquid sloshing around inside. She remained silent for several minutes, but when she spoke next she sounded uncertain. "Why do some people see ghosts?"

She appeared strangely vulnerable this time; as though afraid that he would tell her that only people with Faith could see them - that she must have been crazy.

"Usually, ghosts have some sort of unfinished business. I know it sounds a little bit cliche, but there you are," Joshua said. If he was bemused at the change of subject, he didn't show it. "There's all sorts of reasons someone might see one. Sensitivity to ghosts. Wrong place at the wrong time. They could be the source of the unfinished business."

Sara laughed, but rather than jovial the sound was bitter, forced. "They thought I was crazy. PTSD. Said it was...unsurprising," she spat the word out. "The stress must've been too much. Who could claim to see their dead fucking husband and still be 100% sane?" She took a long drink from the beer can. It was hard to swallow past the lump, and she barely tasted it.

"You can," Joshua said quietly. "That's why you reacted to Chris and I talking about ghosts earlier?"

"Enough people tell you you're tapped in the head, y'start to believe it," Sara answered, jaw twitching in irritation. "Believing that ghosts existed...just seemed like I was lying to myself. And then you talked about 'em."

"Is it any siller than vampires existing?" Joshua said with a little smile. "Of course, you're free to think I'm insane if you like."

"Vampires never haunted me before," Sara replied, her tone far more blunt than his. "And it'd be fuckin' idiotic of me to claim any one else was insane."

"They seem to be doing a good job of it now," Joshua said quietly. "How long has it been since you last saw Daniel?"

Sara hesitated, and gave an uncertain shrug. "A couple of weeks, Before this shit started happening. Last was during break at a VA meeting. D must've thought I was drunk." It hadn't stopped him talking to her though. That was comforting at least.

"D?" Joshua said, momentarily thrown. It seemed very unlikely that she meant Daniel.

She frowned for a moment, but a quick flash of realisation crossed her face. Sara turned around on the chair, her back to Joshua as she pointed to the photographs on the wall above the computer desk. "He's the guy with the set of wheels."

"Ah, I see. Long time friend of yours?" Joshua said lightly. He could pick out the unit tattoo on D's arm as well. in the picture, although he could see it was very different from Sara's.

"Yeah. We've known each other a while, even though he was Army and I wasn't," Sara gave a short nod. "The red-head is Beak. Gave himself the name, before anyone else could try-," she turned back, gesturning that he had a big nose. "That's Trigger-," she pointed to a tanned woman hanging out a humvee. "Not for the reason you might think. She had an obsession with Roy Rogers, lived on a ranch before joining our unit...Daniel's in the middle."

It was obvious which one she must have meant; she was only hugging one guy in the pictures.

"He looks kind," Joshua said quietly, studying Daniel's face in the picture. "Do you still keep in touch with the others?"

Slowly, Sara shook her head. "No," she answered, her voice blunter than she probably intended.

"That's a shame," Joshua said, his voice very gentle. "But I suppose they're still deployed?"

"I...assume they are. If they were KIA too, I don't want to know about it," Sara tore her attention from the photographs, shaking her head. "Sometimes it's better not knowing."

Joshua didn't say anything for a moment, his eyes on the photographs. He knew exactly why he'd felt like he'd intruded earlier. This part of Sara's life was something she'd kept intensely private until now, and he suspected that he was probably the only person not on the wall to have caught a glimpse of it.

"I can understand that, too," he replied, his voice low and thoughtful.

"I...I should take a nap before more shit hits the fan," Sara stated awkwardly.

"If you want me to clear out, don't worry about it," Joshua said quietly. "I won't repeat anything you said to another person."

Sara seemed to settle slightly, and she nodded abruptly. "Well...good." She pushed herself to her feet. "Let me know if something comes up."

"Of course. Let me know if you want to talk," Joshua said gently. "I'll see you soon."

She moved to the door and held it open. "Thanks," Sara murmured gruffly.

"You're welcome," Joshua said, and he gently reached up to squeeze her shoulder reassuringly on the way out.

Sara began to close the door, before adding: "Be careful," and closing the door. She headed back into the bedroom, and fell onto the bed. She was asleep again within minutes.


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