, from his chat, and mine, with smecker
. Darkness and Light. That says it all. Oh, and deep and wrenching. Oh, yes.Not exactly meta, not exactly RP-- somewhere in between. What started as a (rather silly) meta chat game of Skinning between john_h_holliday, smecker, and onewingbloody shifted pace and ran away from us into stuff that was too deep and wrenching to leave merely as a chat. Featuring smashed!!Smecker (there was originally an actual reason he was getting drunk, but trust us, the details are not important).***
John smiles sweetly. "Why I do all kinds of things for fun, Paul. And cards are surely enjoyable. I shoot, I play cards, I fix teeth. I do enjoy the theatre and play the piano when I am able. And yourself?"
John deals down a king of spades. and then an eight of clubs, removing both eights from the table.
Paul snorts expressively, though exactly what he is expressing is not clear, and plops his chin on his hand. "Shooting, hmm? S-shtop the presh- pressesh- preshh-- oh fuck
it fuck, whatthefuckever. We have shomething in common."
And then his expression grows oddly wistful. "Piano too. I... like that." He has, apparently, lost track of whatever interest he was supposed to be having in the game.
John leans over, so Paul can see him smile, "Chopin, Paul. Chopin is my favourite. Do you like the piano? And shooting?" He deals down a five of hearts, then a six of hearts.
Paul stares at John as if trying to figure him out, which task is obviously made more difficult by the alcohol haze he is in. After a while he makes a complicated gesture that seems best described as 'resigned shrug,' chin returning to his hand while he blinks slowly at the cards on the table. "Chopin'sh a goddamn genius. Fan-Fantaishie Improp, Impromptu in C sharp minor... or the..... Etude in E major... could jusht... slide the fuck away on what, what he doesh with themesh and, and, and notesh, and... take you right out of thish world..."
"Opus 9, Number one, Nocturne in B flat is a favourite, Paul." John sings it, la la la. His voice is his ever true and high tenor. He loves to sing. "Transporting. Yes. Something sure and perfect."
Paul's eyes droop half-shut when John begins to sing, and he moves his head to the easy lilting notes, free hand marking the time with a careless grace.
"And per-perfection ish pretty... damn hard... find here," he mutters when John breaks to deal. John picks up singing at once, looking at Paul.
"Perfection. It is in music, isn't it? The perfection of mathematics and the variations of vibration built into castles and landscapes and flights to high emotions for which there are no words. Perfection the masters arrange and rearrange."
Paul just stares at John a moment after his words on music, then sighs, head dropping forward, hands falling to the table (and knocking over his chips this time. Gabriel helpfully rearranges them neatly and takes a small commission for doing so).
"Yes," Paul breathes. "There's order there, no... s-shenseless death, no stupidity... higher revelation... than philoposh. Philoshopy. Beethoven.... said that. He. He... and he became deaf
..." Paul snorts then falls silent.
John deals down a Jack. Nothing. A ten of clubs. An eight he discards. "Philosophy is words, and Beethoven, oh, he could still hear that perfection, those revelations, yes, soaring, use that to create, to create the Ode to Joy for instance, despite his deafness. The Ninth Symphony... a witness to perfection."
John deals down another ten and removes them both from the table. Then a third. And another jack. All gone.
"Pure order, Paul. And yet... algorithmic representation, I have said, for it is the representation, the visions it creates, the inspiration born from it. The infinity of beauty in order." And he asks, apparently offhand, "Do you miss the order in death?" He looks at Gabriel. The creator of Perfect Symmetry."Beethoven,"
Paul says abruptly, with more passion than clarity, pushing himself back straight and into his chair, "was fucking mad
, okay? Out to fucking lunch
. Bash-bastard and monster. Fucking sadisht."
His fingers find the tumbler (which, thankfully, has not been knocked over) and he finishes off the remaining liquor in it, eyes bright and face flushed. "Because only a fucking
sadist would dilver, de, deliver things like the fucking Ninth
to the-- the rabble
. Like tossing
fucking gold in a goddamn pigpen. Shadism and, and masochism intermingled, crazy fuck, throwing glory to the dogs
to be mis, misused, and, and, and the rare fucking soul who shtumbles on it and knowsh what it fucking ish, Jesus. Jesus. What the hell?
"Like that sorry bashtard needs to shpend the resht of hish goddamn...."
Paul pauses momentarily to catch his breath, oblivious to the looks from the rest of the table. "...his goddamn daysh knowing
how much better
this world could be. Like we need
that glimpse of goddamn glory to, to drive home a little fucking harder
what a fuck-up this all is. I would kill Beethoven if I met him. No excuse. No excuse for that, that s-short of fucking cruelty.
There's a moment of silence, and Gabriel looks from Paul back to John and says mildly, "Not really. I'm kinda used to it now."
John looks first to Gabriel, first always, and says quietly, just for him and with a smile, "The Symmetry is yet Perfect." And he inclines his head towards Paul, so Gabriel will know the question and answer he had meant for Paul, now lost though.
"Paul," John is earnest now, the grin gone. "It is true, all of what you say. I don't know how you saw it, what revealed it to you. 'Looking into the eyes of fate for that brief revealing moment.' Death, you say. Oh yes, it is death, as you said, but death in life. People. I have not liked them. I hold myself apart - an... 'insouciant' I say... grin, politeness. The rabble, almost all the world. And death facing one in even that fact, perhaps mostly in that fact, as one goes on, and on, and on. Logic and order thrown away by them, their kindness even somehow random. Suicide dishonourable. But one learns..." John's own face twists at the lie, and he looks at Gabriel, his eyes sad - he never learned. "... somehow to carry on day to day. To deal with it. To wake in the morning.
"And then, there is Beethoven. With what seems to be a lie, the beautiful dream of perfection and order. Schiller promising... joy.
An affront, unforgivable, to break the hard-held... will and routine that keeps one. The... temptation to let go of that and reach and hope, with nothing to reach for, nothing to hope for. To risk the will
failing with that change and one lost, with nothing at all. Not that one has anything, but when one is left with even less...
"But Paul, it is just like gambling. It is all odds and perfection. Beethoven walked this earth. And there are people who also are not rabble. People who do not offer false ... pity."
John says this with sharpness. "Or panaceas and foolish platitudes, so much less than one's own... numbing."
And he says this with sharp bitterness too, for it is just this he could never summon - all the whiskey in the world was not enough, and laudanum was death. "Those who do hold order and see visions. One must wait, for those moments, and sometimes it seems they will never come. And carry on and on, life in death. but The Ninth Symphony is not a lie, but a promise. Beethoven meant it as a gift to us.
An Elysium in this hateful endless world.
"And because he created it, it is undeniably possible. And as we continue on, death in life, it really is something. And, Paul. I've seen those moments, sometimes. Truly, and without lie. So rare. So very very rare. but it is worth it, the death and waiting." John is strong for Paul, but he is crying, not showing it...
Paul snorts at John's words, head back in the chair staring blankly at the ceiling, hands fallen to his sides like a puppet's strings cut. "Like gambling. Yes. I don't. Gamble.
Not any more," he slurs, raising one hand to the table. Where Gabriel has rearranged his chips he dashes his fingers in the midst of them, uncaring where they land. Slowly he raises his head to meet John's gaze, a humorless wolf's smile, almost grotesque, on his face. "Because," he whispers, lips curling further, "the housh-- the house... always winsh
, at the end of the night. Mone... mom... Momentar
y runs of luck not withshtand
ing." Paul lets his head fall back again, eyes closing wearily, fingers of the one hand splayed on the table.
"'Beethoven walked thish earth.' Yeah. Yeah. And went mad. It takesh
madness..." a soft sequence of breaths that, after a moment, can be recognized as a laugh. "I'm getting there. Oh
I'm doing it... with the, the, the help of theesh, these lovely
momentsh you mention, all fucking glory and divinity. Yep. Yep, I've sh-seen
God. His... shervants anywaysh. Cute little... sociopaths..." He laughs again, silently, chest shaking with his black amusement. Eventually it dies out in a long shuddering breath, Paul's face drawn and exhausted.
"Sorry," he mumbles after a long moment. "You, you tried, maybe, maybe fuck I don't know I don't know I DON'T KNOW
-- maybe you're right, truth, maybe, fuck, caring about the truth getsh real
fucking old, it. I'm sorry. You was-washted a... a lovely speech..."
Gabriel regards Paul mildly from his seat next to him, his fingers steepled before him, his face grave and compassionate at once. He raises a hand to his lips, begins to extend it to Paul-- then stops, glances at John to see if his friend has anything more to say to Paul.
John looks at Gabriel and holds up a finger. Not yet. He will be able to see John's cheeks wet, his clenched eyes, but Paul is too drunk, John hopes, and he keeps his voice itself steady. "Paul. Madness... is mercy. I... wish madness sometimes. But it is not so easy. Oh, how nice, how... easy
it would be, if one were unaware, were to lose oneself. I'll not be one to tell you lies. I tell you, and truly. Those moments. I hold them, and when I feel, as you do now. For I do feel this way
. They're talismans. Just something, anything
to hold onto. Because I cannot
go mad. And because I cannot
kill myself. And that symphony
is one of those moments, portable and always available. I'm not giving you false things or lies, but what helps me. What helps me when I can't bear this life and I cannot
do anything else."
Paul says nothing at first, his breathing slightly raspy in the silence left at the end of John's words. His hand grips the edge of the table tightly, enough that his knuckles whiten for a moment, then the tension that cords his forearm, tightens his shoulders, abruptly releases, again reminiscent of a puppet's strings being cut. His chin drops to his chest, his eyelids fluttering. Finally just one word drops from his lips, a harsh exhale: "Yes." Which part of John's steady, pained words he is agreeing to is unknown, unknowable; perhaps only the declaration that madness would be easy, perhaps the statement that madness is not the answer, perhaps the words of moments to hold to... perhaps all of them, or none.
Gabriel moves, completes the gesture, fingers in the air before Paul's haggard face. Almost immediately Paul's face clears in unexpected peace-- in oblivion, truthfully. Steady sleep. His fingers drop from the table to his lap, head falling slightly to the side, breathing deepening and slowing.
"Gabriel." John has undone himself. "Gabriel."
The angel turns his gaze upon John-- he has seen the pain in John's face, if Paul has not-- and stands from the table, circling to John. A light touch to his friend's shoulder, first, and his other hand raising to gently brush against the moisture on John's cheeks. "You tried," Gabriel says simply, and pulls John gently towards him.
He reaches for his friend with his eyes shut, comes to him. He lets himself cry, still silent, shaking. Nothing is likely to brush the moisture from his cheeks just yet. He can't really help it.
"Gabriel. Oh, I see myself in him. And I... oh, I want to... give him whatever I've learnt, but... it isn't perfect yet. I try not to let myself feel... those things he knows... but now I do."
Gabriel nods, saying nothing at first. He only settles his arms around John, holds him close, feels him shaking. Gabriel's hands move in slow circles on John's shoulders and back, occasionally reaching higher to stroke John's hair. "I know," he says after a moment. "There are so many wounds, John. Every day. All around I see lives in pain. And healing.... is not my task, no matter how I think I ought be able to do so. Nor is it yours. It is His." He presses a soft kiss to John's temple. " 'Let not your heart be troubled,' " he adds in a whisper.
"Paul doesn't believe in Him." John feels like a child, presses his face to Gabriel's shoulder.
Gabriel nods again, hands still stroking, comforting. "No. He doesn't. But his heart, John; it strives for that which he refuses to name... and that is his... road. Not ours. He must go where it leads him."
John says another sentence into Gabriel's shoulder in reply. He has only tiny thoughts right now. Simple sentences. "When we talk, those times, they are like that. The ones I will hold onto. It does heal me."
Gabriel smiles, tinged with sorrow still for Paul, but with love for John as well. "I am glad," he says simply, patting John's back slowly, as if John was the child he feels himself to be.
"Maybe life is collecting little pieces from Him. He must surely love us or there wouldn't be any pieces."
"Maybe," Gabriel says. "Only have faith, John. The pieces will become a whole, in the end. And it is such a beautiful whole."
"Sometimes..." John is honest. "Sometimes, it doesn't seem so. I think always for Paul. And sometimes for me. I... when I tried to tell him, I... had to look out of his eyes, and... I saw... that emptiness. It isn't light, Gabriel, it's... nothing." He is still crying.
"A light too bright for eyes, you know..." He swallows.
"Faith, John," Gabriel murmurs again. "As you said. Take the moments in which you understand more, in which you see the pieces of love and light, and let those keep you through the times that you do not. That is... what faith is." His fingers comb through John's hair soothingly, simple comfort through contact. "Paul... is not without all faith. Some of it he has placed in things that cannot bear the weight of it, but some he places in true things. I can't
say he will be all right-- I don't know, I don't see the future. But that you tried... it was a good thing, John."
John just cuddles into Gabriel, nodding against his shoulder. "Faith." He pauses like that a little, letting himself be soothed by his friend's care, losing enough agitation that he can feel for his heart and the movement of his chest. "Paul... isn't all right, right now. I don't know that there is any worse that he can be. Madness is mercy...
"Gabriel?" John puts his arms about him, holding himself tight against him. "Paul... it's like he's... kin, you know. Those things that make him... broken... they make him family, and I care very much. Something beyond other people. I am crying for him too.
"Those people for whom one waits... that's Paul. So valuable, even with his... destructiveness."
Gabriel is quiet a moment, still except for the slow movements of his hands, his breath warm against John's hair. "I know," he murmurs. "You care for him. It does you credit, John, such credit." He kisses John's forehead again, gently, then says slowly, "He is in a darkness. And he thinks, he... believes... that he must walk through it alone. Because he always has. It is.... not right... but you cannot make him see that he has.... family, as you say. Near. He has not had that. He doesn't know what it is."
"He is in a darkness." John repeats it, so true.
"Oh, Gabriel.... he has Faith in darkness, as we strive to have faith in light. Who am I to shake that faith? But... but oh, it hurts him so.
"And he not only has that faith, but... he cherishes it, nurses it, banishes anything that would harm it."
John closes his eyes, finally feels the soft breath in his hair. Finally feels the gentle fingers. He is coming back to himself, trusting Gabriel to hold the hand of his soul, and lead him back in the dark.
Gabriel's eyes close in pity-- for Paul, yes, and for John's pain, and for them all, for every soul born to this world, some born to greater shares of darkness than the rest. He holds John very close to him a moment. "You're right," he says simply. "It's what he knows... and what is known, for you people, is. So much easier than what is not. Even when, like you say, it hurts him." He sighs and opens his eyes, seeking out Paul where he sleeps in rare untroubled sleep. "For now he's resting, John. At peace. Let that comfort you, if it can."
"Mercy, Gabriel. You gave him mercy. And it does help, for this little time to see him quiet. Yes, peace, just for even this moment in the seeming forever of his pain. Maybe it will touch him, a little light in his dreams, in his muscles even, that he must let in against his usual will." He feels himself drawn closer still to his friend for a time, lets it warm him. He feels so cold, for once.
This time Gabriel says nothing to John's words, just continues to hold him, subtly rocking them both; allowing the warmth of his own body to bleed to John's, giving what he can, as long as John needs or wishes it.
This is just what John wants now, just to rest like that. be loved and... rocked. He is quiet, letting the gentle movement, Gabriel's body against his, holding him, warming him, take him away, not asleep, but comfort beyond thinking.
"Gabriel," John is loved and rocked, but he thinks, even in that of a small thought the wants to tell. He speaks quietly in the peace of his body enfolded in Gabriel's. "Do you remember yesterday, when you kissed my hand? I was afraid. Like Paul, that if I let go of that... loneliness, let any of it dissolve... that I would break, just like I did tonight, with Paul. And when that happened, all I wanted - needed, was just this. Your love, and my trust. So easy to ask, even, when it was called by need. This, that we have, I know it is a blessing He gave us of a part of Him. I don't know how... I can tell you how much I love you. Because it is too big."
Gabriel smiles, small and quiet, a reflection on the mystery that is love.... beyond all else, it is ineffable, he thinks. And yet, not so complex, no. The simplest... the first thing... to do. Without it there is no life. Only survival, if it can be called that. "Love is bigger than the Universe," he says with a small shrug of his shoulders. "Nothing in the entire order of created things is its equal. Because He
is love. So yes. It is his gift, blessing, a part of Him. And when we know it for what it is. Then we can do nothing but give it to each other."
John doesn't answer with words. A very gentle but slow kiss at his friend's chest. He doesn't move, but just rests still in the quiet motion, the warmth about him. "Are you... comfortable, Gabriel?"
Gabriel smiles gently. He does not forget
the sorrow and pity he has seen-- none of it, not from the first day he was aware-- but his nature allows these things to slide from him as water, to leave his smile free of any taint. John has noticed this in him before-- that rapid play of light and shadow. "Oh yes," he says. "Yes, John. Comfortable and content."
æther radio: An die Freude. And Chopin. Oh, yes.