singthesong: (Stage Lights)
The Balladeer ([personal profile] singthesong) wrote in [community profile] bigapplesauce2016-03-30 08:49 pm

History Obliterates [closed]

Steven is finally gone, and the Balladeer is alone with himself.

He needed this. He hates to be alone, but he needed this. For days the knowledge (and lack thereof) of what he's done has been crawling under his skin like a physical itch - the one assassin he should be most familiar with, and all he knows is what Greta relayed to him second-hand, from a search somebody did on their cell phone. It's funny. It's really very funny.

One way or another, he ought to know everything about this lost assassination. Either it's his job, or it's his. So once he's alone, he takes himself to a library and gets out every reasonable book he can find, plus a few documentaries on DVD. There seems to be a lot of ridiculous conspiracy theories surrounding the whole thing; sadly, he can't quite convince himself any of them could be true. If Lee Harvey Oswald was a patsy, the Balladeer would never have any connection with him at all.

(The stop at the liquor store is an afterthought, a whim built on memories of a thousand morose drinking sessions he never joined. He wonders bitterly if Sam would laugh, and buys whiskey the man could never afford.)

He goes home and spends the day reading. At some point, he opens a bottle. He meant to eat something with it - that helps, right? - but instead he ends up putting one of the documentaries on to watch. He just needs to know.

He loses track of time.
andhiswife: (listening - mild)

[personal profile] andhiswife 2016-03-31 02:07 am (UTC)(link)
It's getting on towards evening before Greta stops by. Steven had texted her a couple hours ago, letting her know that the Balladeer was alone, but she'd resisted the impulse to head over immediately and make sure he was all right. He's been all right - as much as anyone could be, under the circumstances - and she doesn't want him to feel smothered, or as if no one trusts him to handle himself. It's just a few hours. A bit of alone time might do him good.

She distracts herself with baking, which at first keeps her too occupied to fret about him, and then gives her an excuse to stop over. She can't eat all of these muffins herself, so she might as well bring him some. If he seems as if he's holding together, she won't even stay. It'll be a friendly little visit, not a paranoid check-up.

A few minutes later, she's outside his door. Half a dozen muffins are wrapped in a bit of cloth and nestled in a basket (she doesn't particularly trust plastic bags, for all that they're cheaper), which she balances on her hip so she can knock. "Balladeer? Are you in? I've been baking, and I've got something extra."
andhiswife: (profile - uncertain)

[personal profile] andhiswife 2016-03-31 03:26 am (UTC)(link)
At first, she hears nothing, and it occurs to her that he might not even be in. But then the muffled sounds of toppling objects reach her through the door, and she frowns. That... doesn't sound promising.

"Balladeer?" She gently tries the doorknob; it's locked, which is disappointing but not all that surprising. "Are you all right?"

Maybe he just wants to be left alone. Maybe she's overstepped, coming here. But he's her friend, and she's his friend. Is it really asking too much for him to just answer her, even if it's only to tell her to leave?

She opens her mouth, intending to make it easier for him - she can offer to go, she can leave the muffins outside, she doesn't need anything more than some verbal confirmation that he's okay - but she's cut off by a few sizable thuds from inside. "Balladeer?" She jiggles the doorknob in helpless frustration, straining to hear what might be going on inside. Is he hurt? Is he himself? The last thing she expects is for the door to actually open, but the knob suddenly turns beneath her hand, and she all but falls into the apartment, the basket of muffins spilling to the floor.

"Oh, for--" She gathers them back up and straightens, her eyes widening as she takes in the state of the apartment. Books are splayed across the coffee table and the floor below, jostling for space with several DVDs and - her heart sinks a little - some empty liquor bottles. She sets the basket aside, then cautiously approaches the coffee table, her lips tightening once she's close enough to make out the subject matter. Oh, dear. He's been busy.

There's a sound from the bathroom. It might be a sob.

Greta slowly draws in a breath, then walks over to the bathroom door. This one, at least, is already open, and there's more than enough ambient light for her to see her friend, awkwardly folded up in the tub like a discarded toy.

"Oh," she breathes out, the first half of a phrase she doesn't quite know how to finish ('Balladeer' or 'my dear' or 'you poor thing' or 'you idiot' all seem like potentially viable options). She steps inside, then drops into a crouch beside the tub, moving slowly, as if he's a wild animal she doesn't want to spook. "What are you doing in here?" she asks softly.
andhiswife: (welp)

[personal profile] andhiswife 2016-03-31 04:55 pm (UTC)(link)
For a moment, she worries he's passed out (oh, god, isn't this how it started, last time?), but then he answers her, proving himself to just be fantastically drunk. She grimaces at the explanation - or maybe at the fumes - and reaches up to push his hair up off his forehead. The wound that Steven accidentally doled out seems all right; she doesn't think he's banged his head on anything since this morning. He does feel a bit warm, but that's probably just the alcohol.

Greta pulls her hand back with a quiet sigh. His torment is real, but she's not sure how serious a response his current ridiculousness deserves. He's sitting in the bathtub as if it's his own personal prison, for goodness sake.

"I see," she says with more gravity than she feels. "You've shot someone. Just this morning, I take it? Is there a gun in the apartment?"
andhiswife: (perturbed)

[personal profile] andhiswife 2016-03-31 07:20 pm (UTC)(link)
No, she wants to say, I don't know what you mean, but it wouldn't be entirely honest. The difference between the Balladeer and Lee Harvey Oswald is so stark, so obvious to her, that the thought of blaming the Balladeer for Oswald's actions seems outrageous - that much is true. Whatever might have happened in his own universe, whoever he might have become, who he is here matters more. She ought to know, considering the fate her universe set out for her.

But it still wasn't easy or painless to find out she would have died - that perhaps, for a moment, she did. Escaping a horrible fate doesn't make it less horrible.

"I won't," she promises, this time with a soberness she feels. It's not a hard promise to make. She didn't even know there were videos, but if she had, she would have had no intention of watching the grisly business. She rather wishes the Balladeer hadn't watched them, either. However similar the history, he's not personally responsible for anything that happened in this specific universe.

But this isn't a conversation she wants to have with him while he's sprawled in the tub and potentially too sloshed to even remember it. She needs to get him out of the bathroom and make him drink some water or something.

Greta straightens. "Come on," she says gently, reaching into the tub to take his arm. "I think you've been in there long enough."
andhiswife: (straightening you out)

[personal profile] andhiswife 2016-04-01 12:07 am (UTC)(link)
Greta slings his arm over her shoulders, ready (and hopefully able) to take on some of his weight if he needs her to. She's not sure if his admission is meant to double as an apology or not, but that seems like the most sensible way to take it. There's plenty for her to disapprove of here already; she doesn't need to add 'made a rubbish attempt to hide from me' to the list.

"It's all right," she says instead, helping him out of the tub and over to the doorway. She wavers there for a minute, weighing the benefits of 'closer to the kitchen' against 'farther from all the research materials,' then elects to steer him out towards the couch. It'll be easier to keep an eye on him out there. She doesn't like the thought of him re-immersing himself in Lee Harvey Oswald's exploits, but as far as research goes, the damage has been done. He probably won't be able to do much reading in his current state, anyway.

They lurch unsteadily out into the living room, Greta nudging bottles and books aside with her foot until she can deposit him onto the couch. He comes perilously close to taking her down with him, but she manages to catch herself with a little squawk. "There we are," she says a bit breathlessly, straightening. "Sit tight. I'm going to get you some water."

And then what? she wonders as she putters to the kitchen. Tidy up the incriminating library books? Somehow convince him he isn't to blame for any of this? Much as she wants to help him, she doesn't really know what she's doing. This is so much more complicated than a timed scavenger hunt.
andhiswife: (uncertain)

[personal profile] andhiswife 2016-04-01 01:10 am (UTC)(link)
Greta leans back from behind the refrigerator door to take a dutiful look at the book the Balladeer's waving at her. She can't help wincing at the sight of Lee Harvey Oswald's face, so like the Balladeer's, but not. Similarly unsettling is his talk of being a terrible husband. She hadn't really thought of Oswald being married, having children - god, his poor family - but she also can't reconcile such details as applied to her friend. It's hard to imagine the Balladeer as anyone's husband, if only because he'd never seemed particularly interested in such things. But it's especially hard to imagine him as a bad one.

She crosses back to the couch, glass in hand. "Here," she says, making sure he has a good grip on it before letting go. Probably best not to damage library books with an accidental spill. Actually, that's a fine excuse to move some of these away. Greta makes a stack, starting with the ones closest to the potential spill zone.

"Do you remember any of it?" she asks, glancing up at him. "Wife, family...?" Oswald hadn't remembered anything of being the Balladeer, as far as she could tell. She'd assumed it would go both ways, but what if she's wrong?
andhiswife: (disapproval)

[personal profile] andhiswife 2016-04-01 02:52 am (UTC)(link)
"Not that weird," she says, gathering the last of the books on the coffee table and adding it to the stack. "When I saw Oswald, and spoke with him..." she hesitates, frowning at the memory, then lifts her head to give the Balladeer a level look. "There wasn't even a crumb of you in him. He was a complete stranger to us - and us to him. Maybe it's not so surprising that you don't remember his life at all."

Frankly, it's a relief that the divide between the two of them is still so absolute. She's not sure how she would have felt if Oswald's life and memories had started bleeding their way into the Balladeer's mind. It's better that he doesn't remember, she thinks - better that this all be something he read in a book or watched on television and not something he lived.

She arches an eyebrow at his request, then pointedly slides the stack down to the far side of the coffee table, out of easy reach. "Drink your water," she orders. "You'll have to sober up a bit before you're ready for more reading." She gathers up the empty bottles, then straightens and gives the Balladeer an assessing look. "When was the last time you ate anything?"
andhiswife: (listening - mild)

[personal profile] andhiswife 2016-04-01 03:54 am (UTC)(link)
"Fair enough," she mutters under her breath as she takes the bottles over to the sink. She returns with one of the muffins, sets it within easy reach, and then settles down on the couch beside the Balladeer. "You should eat that," she says, giving his knee an encouraging pat. "You'll feel better."

From here, she can see the DVD menu screen looping on the television. Ugh. She casts about for the remote, finds it wedged between the cushions, and pries it out so she can turn off the screen. Better. She sets the remote aside - also out of easy reach, lest the Balladeer decide it would be easier to torment himself with a film than a book - then shifts to face him, propping her arm up on the back of the couch and her head up on her hand.

"So, have any of the other assassins gone on guilty drinking sprees, or just you?" she asks dryly. She can guess at the answer.
andhiswife: (listening - confused)

[personal profile] andhiswife 2016-04-01 02:07 pm (UTC)(link)
Greta listens to his slurred explanation, trying to picture it in her mind. It's been some time since she saw the Balladeer's universe (or it's dream-based equivalent), or heard him talk about it. She hadn't really wanted to press for details after that first time. It had all sounded so unpleasant - and, yes, weird - that just letting him enjoy the break had seemed... kinder.

So much for that.

He's naming assassins she's never met (though she recognizes 'Leon' - that's the Polish one Johnny mentioned), but the details don't matter as much as the larger picture she's trying to put together: that the Balladeer is nothing like the rest of them.

She suspects he already knows that. Even now, he's talking about the pack of them as if he's not included. She wonders, suddenly, if it was because the Balladeer kept himself apart, or because the rest of them never tried to draw him in.

"Did any of them ever... I don't know. Say anything to you? Hint at anything?" She frowns thoughtfully. "Do you think they knew? About Oswald, I mean." It's hard to imagine Sara Jane keeping a straight face, or Booth not being insufferably smug about it, if so.

Then again, maybe that explains why they tolerated the Balladeer's antagonism instead of lashing out at him. Maybe they knew he had things to do besides just telling their stories.
andhiswife: (indignant)

[personal profile] andhiswife 2016-04-01 04:21 pm (UTC)(link)
Greta hums in agreement. She'd taken it as a given that the Balladeer would never have remembered turning into Oswald - he didn't when it happened here, and that was without the added complication of time behaving oddly. But that only excuses him, not the rest of them. Could they really have kept it a secret? Would they have even felt the need to? How many secrets can there be in a universe where the same stories play out over and over, and they all sit around and drink between sessions?

The Balladeer's explanation takes a sudden turn for the alarming, and Greta lifts her head off her hand. She hasn't heard this part of the story before, but there's already something a little too resonant about things getting bad just before a Rift intervention. "What happened?" She scoots a bit closer so she can lay her hand on his shoulder. "What did they do?"
andhiswife: (confused)

[personal profile] andhiswife 2016-04-02 03:12 am (UTC)(link)
"They mobbed you," she repeats, caught somewhere between concerned and stunned. That doesn't seem like them, from her admittedly limited perspective. What were they even trying to do? Kill him? Would that have allowed Oswald to sort of... step in? The thought makes her shiver, but it's only a guess, and not much of one. There's just no clear path between 'the assassins ganged up on the Balladeer' and 'the Balladeer became Lee Harvey Oswald' (if that's even how it happened, or what would have happened).

It's not as if he needed anyone else's help for the change to occur here. Steven is about as far from a gang of murderers as it's possible to get, and the Balladeer didn't die, he just fainted for a few moments. But the assassins turning on him feels too significant to just be a coincidence. She can't see how it relates, but she also can't see how it wouldn't.

"Nothing like that happened before?" she asks. If it did take mobbing him to make him turn into Oswald, and it's something that had happened over and over, would he at least remember the 'being mobbed' part? Maybe he wouldn't.

Ugh. This is all so... mad. She might have a whole stack of personal reasons for wanting to downplay any connection between that horrible man and her friend, but even if she didn't, it's proving to be an awfully elusive connection.
andhiswife: (listening - not okay)

[personal profile] andhiswife 2016-04-02 08:07 pm (UTC)(link)
And down he goes. Greta watches him keel over, wincing in a sort of weary resignation. It's good that they're talking about this, but she still wishes--

... Well. There's not much point in wishing, anymore.

"No, you're not," she says, giving his arm an encouraging rub. "You didn't remember any of Oswald's business. You still don't. I'm still not convinced you're even the same person." She leans forward a little, trying to catch his gaze. "Regardless, you can't blame yourself for not remembering. That's not your fault."
andhiswife: (shade)

[personal profile] andhiswife 2016-04-02 09:14 pm (UTC)(link)
Greta sighs when he shrugs her off, but pulls her hand back. She doesn't want to smother him, and she certainly knows how it feels to not think you deserve any comfort.

Still, that doesn't mean she has to take any of this quietly. "No disrespect to your universe," she says with a disapproving little frown that suggests all the disrespect, actually, "but it never did make that much sense. It wasn't even just you and them; there were other people - crowds of other people. How could you possibly have known?"
Edited 2016-04-02 22:48 (UTC)

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