Friday, June 11, 2010

Chapter 17 After breakfast

After they finish, they get up. Henri glances over at me like he's not sure I'll remember.

"I got it." Cleaning up is definitely something that I can do.

"You'll be fine," he half asks and half tells me. I just nod. It's going to be my first day alone in his house, but I'd have to assume that this is one of the safest places to be. I mean, it is his place.

Brandon slows down to talk to me as Henri and Jimmy walk towards the door. I don't want to hold him up, so I walk with them. Henri leaves quickly, but Brandon stops just by the threshold.

Jimmy stops just on the other side of the door and turns to look back at us. "You've got five minutes," he says. "Don't make me have to come back."

He sounds so stern, I look up when Brandon responds, "Yes, sir." Then I'm aware they're both teasing each other again but with faces so straight it's easy to miss the way one corner of their mouths rise up in similarly subtle smirks. Jimmy walks off after Henri, and Brandon actually smiles at me. "He's being nice today." Brandon leans against the frame of the door sticking his hands in his pockets. "Are you okay?"

I nod. "I admit I was surprised that I have a bed. It even has a blanket."

"You were expecting him to stick you in a closet?" He grins at me, catching the strong mental image. "I guess there is a plus side to not getting your hopes up."

Leaning against the building, his friendly smile turned on me, he looks so young. I've never asked him how old he is exactly, though I can guess probably only a few years older than me, probably in his early twenties only. But then there's a slight sadness to his eyes which dims his smile a bit. Softly he says, "I guess you're getting the idea that I'm high ranking already."

I've noticed the full tattoo of course, same as Jimmy's, and I'd assume the same as Henri's if he has one. The breakfast talk sealed it, but I wasn't about to ask because I didn't really want to know. So all I do is nod while trying to keep my buzzing thoughts close to me, mentally holding tight to them.

"The stuff I've done isn't witnessed by a lot of people." I can see that mature look of his again. It settles in his eyes, making them appear clearer somehow even as the rest of him looks a little older. "Most of the others who don't know assume that I got my rank because of Jimmy and Henri." Brandon takes a hand out of his pocket and runs it through his dark hair, pushing it back from his forehead. The move is always useless, his hair falls right back onto his forehead. I watch the strands fall from his fingers one by one.

"So they want you to show the others." I say, only half glancing at him. In the time I've spent with Brandon, I learned to trust him completely, but now I realize how dangerous that is-- to reach out and pick someone to trust before you know all the facts about them. This is a thought I try my best to keep close to me, but I'm sure he can read it on my face.

But he doesn't say a word about it. I can feel his gaze still on me when his hand goes back to his pockets, his hair still in his face. "The ranking fights are optional. They come around every few months. It's something to do." He shrugs. "Mostly those of lower rank fight to gain rank and get noticed. It's the perfect time to demonstrate abilities. Usually all the top ranks will fight one last time- from beginning to end taking on any challengers and without losing. After that not much more needs to be done. Once you prove yourself, you never really have to do it again."

I glance up at him when he pauses, realizing that I was staring down at the floor. I push my hair behind my ear as he looks away, his arm still in contact with the wall as his eyebrows draw down in a hard, serious look.

"I don't want to be like them." He looks back at me, his eyebrows still down. "There's certain expectations that come with the rank. I'd rather not deal with it."

It seems that neither one of us really want to be here.

Brandon turns his head, I get a sudden tingle that tells me to turn too. At first I worry that Jimmy really did come back for Brandon, but it's the green eyed guy from the village with all the tattoos. He comes through wearing a tank, but even in a normal piece of clothing, his tattoos stand out against his darker skin. The way he smoothly moves over to us with the hint of a friendly smile makes me think he's almost being careful as if he didn't want to startle me like I'm the wild animal that might bolt. His movements are definitely different from anyone else around here even Jimmy though I'm hard pressed to explain how exactly.

He stops just before us, his green eyes landing on Brandon with a slight upturn. "Jimmy sent me to get you so he wouldn't have to," Green Eyes says with a smirk. There's a slight accent to his speech that I am completely unfamiliar with.

"He is being nice today." Brandon crosses his arms.

Green Eyes glances at me through his long hair which falls into his face. He looks to be around the same age as Brandon, but at the same time I gather the sense that he's done plenty of living in his own way. I'm not sure where I get that idea from, and so I pretty much assume it's just all the tattoos I can see on him.

I catch his eyes again, a little embarrassed to realize that I'm probably staring, but he's looking at me too, the curiosity clear in his gaze.

Brandon motions towards me as he looks at the green eyed man. "Alex, this is my sister, Paula, of course." There's a slight emphasis on "my sister" which I'm sure is also supposed to be unobviously obvious. "Paula, this is Alex. You'll probably see him pretty frequently. He'll be around keeping an eye on things."

Brandon says it casually, but right away, I glance up at him in surprise, my mouth falling partially open. He means that Alex is going to be keeping an eye on me.

The idea makes me uncomfortable. I hate to be enough trouble that someone has to actually sit outside and watch me. And what do I know about him? How do I know I can even trust him?

"He's all right," Brandon says as he looks down at me, his mouth curving slightly in a way that appears meant to comfort me. "Just don't look into his eyes. Oh, and if he says anything inappropriate, just smack him with one of those rolled up papers."

I'm sure my eyes are huge at the mere suggestion of smacking any one of these people with anything. Brandon pats my shoulder, another comforting smile directed at me, and then he and Alex leave, walking down the stairs with their friendly laughter trailing along behind them.

Next Chapter -->


Info on the ranking fights can be found here. Just a cursory overview really.


  1. I wanted to wait until someone else left a comment so I won't sound like an idiot.

    Brandon telling her to smack Green Eyes with a rolled up paper like you'd smack a puppy. Oh yeah. Like she'd do that. And by the way, don't look into his eyes while you're grabbing for the paper.

    What struck me most was the Henri and Jimmy and Brandon are supposed to be joking, sharing some kind of inside amusing joke. Is that real? Brandon doesn't seem jocular when he's talking about how he gained rank. Running his hands through his hair, that's uneasy, unsure gesture.

    And certainly his emphasis on his relationship with her, SISTER, get it, back off, nothing is so telling.

    They are afraid of each other. I'm wondering what holds them together.

  2. S.B. LMAO! You are NOT an idiot!

    And Lunar, can you believe I am here?? Must be because you updated in the afternoon instead of the evening, I am actually on-line!

    I don't know who I find more fascinating, Jimmy or Brandon. This whole rank/fight dynamic reminds me of the whole ancient Rome Gladiator thing. They had rankings. And fought for position.
    Brandon's reluctance is quite telling here.

    "The stuff I've done isn't witnessed by a lot of people."
    He is almost like a Mafia enforcer.
    He seemed almost wistful, and regretful, like I said, fascinating.

    I agree with SB, Alex is not a guy you want to smack with a rolled up paper.
    Enjoyable, great update!

  3. I can't help feeling as if Paula has some sort of latent power somewhere buried deep that everyone is waiting to manifest itself. Probably wrong but the way she is so aware really strikes me.

    And Henri...he really is larger than life. You can see it in his stature as well as the way he carries himself. I really enjoyed how almost normal they seemed as they were leaving, like a typical family. And yet there is so much more buried under the surface.

    Don't look Alex in the eyes...I wonder why? All these fascinating powers that these people have and I love how you slowly peel away layers.

  4. "Just don't look into his eyes". Yeah...I don't think I'd find that too much of a comfort. I don't blame Paula for feeling nervous about having Alex keep an eye on her. Then again, Brandon is one of the few characters who I trust quite a bit (I still don't want to say totally!). If he thinks Alex is "all right", then maybe he is. But maybe Brandon's trust is misplaced. But then he can catch people's thoughts, so you'd think he'd know instinctively who he could trust. Hmmm...a lot to think about there!

    Like Gayl, I really liked how Henri, Brandon and Jimmy leaving seemed so normal. This chapter and the last one have both been examples of situations that crop up in Ruin from time to time that look so mundane on the surface, like it could be something any of us would go through on an average day, but there's so much more happening.

  5. SB, lol, you never sound like an idiot! But it's amazing to me the completely different outlook you have on these things. I'm very much a rose colored glasses girl I think.

    The whole thing with Brandon-- well Paula wonders why she should trust Alex, and Brandon's giving his approval. I do think he actually cares about Paula, so I don't think he'd lead her wrong.

    Alex is... different. I hope I can show that, but I really think I'll have a lot of trouble convincing you to like him, lol.

    Brandon is uncomfortable standing in front of Paula telling her about his rank. Maybe I'm not illustrating it properly, but next to her, he's rarely comfortable when it comes down to him being frank about his position. She's already accepted him as he is, but that doesn't mean a person can't change their mind.

    As for what holds them together, I have to imagine that there is something real there, or else nothing would hold them together. Well, maybe fear, but with Brandon's power, I think he'd be at the greatest advantage. If he didn't want to be there, he really wouldn't have to be, fear or no fear.

    Drew! What a treat for me. I was very surprised, I had to take a second look at my screen at lunch, lol.

    Seriously, I do need to look more into the Gladiator thing because it is very much like that, just instead of fighting for freedom, they're fighting for power.

    And Brandon and Jimmy are a team. It's one of those things, I mean Brandon is basically born from Jimmy in his own way, so I think a lot of Jimmy rubbed off on Brandon even though they're so different.

    He is almost like a Mafia enforcer. Almost. He's not an enforcer though. His talents are a bit more subtle. Jimmy's more of the enforcer.

    lol, don't worry, you don't know Alex yet. I'd smack him with a rolled up paper. I've threatened to before when he snuck into the story like this. It was so not called for.

    Gayl, uhm, is it bad if I say that I actually get that feeling too? Am I supposed to say that as the writer? She does have a natural talent when she actually pays attention and uses it. It's completely possible that this is her power. I mean her brother has mental powers.

    Alex and the eyes, we'll find a way to get to that; that's for sure. Thank you.

    Carla, LMAO! Seriously! I can't say I counted on any of that, but I should have seen it coming. I think it comes down to: Do you trust Brandon? Brandon can catch those stray thoughts that normal people wouldn't speak out loud. He doesn't catch all thoughts though. So how much do you trust his abilities and how much do you trust him?

    You know, every time I swear that I am NOT going to do any more meal time pieces, and these things always come up! I think it's the mundane side of life that's the most telling. How are people living from day to day? How do they interact to each other? SB asks an important question too. Is it real? This is all stuff I like to think about when I'm writing.

  6. Hmm...

    To me, Paula would be a prime target for anyone wanting to get at Henri, which would explain the 'protection'. But you have to wonder how genuine someone like Alex is, it is possible that there's the odd one or two people out there who Brandon can't read or that can disrupt his ability.

    You honestly have to wonder who can and who can't be trusted...

    Great chapter, this is getting very intriguing.

  7. Green Eyes is one tasty looking sim. ;)

    I love how murky the lines are in this story, how difficult it is to tell good from bad, to know who you're rooting for. That's nice, I like murky, it has more intrigue...

    I think there must be more to Paula than she knows, whether it's a power, some history she has that she's not aware of or some area of her character she's not yet discovered. Seems to me the others sense something about her she hasn't yet picked up on.

  8. Henri telling Paula she'll be fine seems like he's trying to convince himself of that fact, too. I wonder if she's the only one of his children he's ever let live with him? I think he resents feeling obligated to protect her, but he knows he can't let her get hurt because that would really make him look weak.

    I wonder why Jimmy's being nice today? He seems to be in a good mood...

    Poor Brandon...I wonder what expectations he's alluding to--presumably, it's stuff that Jimmy and Henri have to do.

    Prospects are not good for Paula being able to resist looking into those eyes--after all, that seems to be the first thing she noticed about Alex.

    Brandon's introduction of Paula as his sister and his "of course" could be his acknowledgment of the weird situation--maybe Henri doesn't often take young women under his wing, and so the presence of one in Henri's house makes it obvious that it has to be the fabled weak and (so far) powerless daughter of the great Henri? Plus, Alex is going to be her bodyguard, so some introduction was necessary...

    Brandon might be playing the brotherly "back off dude" role though, because he does make the newspaper comment.

    I wonder if Paula has a hidden power, too....I also wonder under what sort of conditions it would manifest itself.

    Sorry for writing a book! I'll shut up now.

  9. Poida, true, you'll always have to wonder. People are still suspicious about Brandon too which is really probably the way to be.

    Thank you.

    Rad, lol, he isn't bad to look at, is he?

    Thanks. I like to take each character as a different case. They're each good and bad. Very few are all bad.

    Rachel, you picked up that too? Haha, that's what I thought when that scene first popped into my head. We'll see more of him as time goes on of course, so I think you might get some answers.

    Alex's eyes are very noteworthy. You see how green they are? Dangerous! It's like an evolutionary accident. You can't help looking into those eyes unfortunately.

    But a proper introduction was necessary. Alex will sort of be her bodyguard, so it's important.

    As for the newspaper, I was sure you'd be the one to get that reference, lol! Don't worry, as you see more, I think hopefully it'll become clear how Brandon can joke around about Alex like that.

  10. Hahaha!! Whack him with a newspaper! Even though it's probably impossible that Paula would do that, Brandon's comment is actually very reassuring. It meant that Alex is either submissive or a friend who doesn't take offense easily and I believe it's the latter. :)

    Henri actually wanted to make sure Paula's okay! :D I think at this point, any form of concern coming from Henri will surprise me. XD Jimmy too, even though I already knew he's not entirely a cold-blooded beast, but still, his demeanour around Brandon makes me chuckle.

    And, aww, Brandon is (still) love! ^^ I'm surprised he actually want a different route from the others. When somebody grew up in such a harsh environment, I wouldn't expect them to think of anything else other than survival. I wonder where he got his kind heart from. Henri? No way! lol

  11. lol, I'm glad that someone found Brandon's comment reassuring. He wouldn't suggest she whack just anyone!

    Any form of concern from Henri should surprise you, lol. As for Jimmy, around his brother, he is a different type of person completely, unless they're "working."

    I assume that Brandon's power has a lot to do with it. Though Jimmy did raise him. Plus, I'm sure Mary had an effect on him.

    Most people can't think of much else other than survival, but in this area, they operate quite efficiently, so even though they're always training, they have time for other things normal tribes in the Wildlands wouldn't.

    As always, thank you for the comment. ^___^

  12. Alex is an interesting character. I don't get a sense of menance from him that I get from Jimmy but Brandon's comment about not looking him in the eye is intriguing. I am wondering what sort of ability Alex has - maybe subtle persuasion or manipulation of the mind/memories/facts?

    Very interesting.

    It's strange to think Brandon could be capable of something that earned him the rank he has now. He seemed like such a gentle child when he was younger and again when he was looking after Paula but there is a hidden depth, a hidden capacity for violence that we haven't seen yet. It's scary to think that is him and I wonder ... whether what happened to Mary played a part in that hidden part of him, being capable of things probably even he didn't know he was capable of.

  13. Henri looks really big and strong in that first picture. I can imagine Paula feeling safe in his house. It's nice of him to "half ask" whether she will be fine. It shows concern.

    I like Jimmy and Brandon joking, but it almost gives the impression that an order from Jimmy is only valid to Brandon if Brandon wants to follow it up - whether Jimmy is "being nice" or not.

    I always thought that Brandon's reluctance to talk about this part of his life was a form of compassion, because he knows how badly Paula was affected when she saw the first fight (the one over a stray). She was also very anxious when he returned home with someone else's blood on him... and I can imagine that those bewildered and fearful thoughts were quite strong.
    But now I think there is more to it... because of the slight sadness in his eyes.

    At first, at breakfast, Paula really didn't want to know... but now she doesn't really want to know... It's very subtle, but I think there is a difference there.And Brandon who had a look of consternation on his face when he picked up her thought at the breakfast table obviously is going through pains trying to explain something he already knows she doesn't want to hear. Is that because she needs to know about these things?

    The stuff Brandon has done isn't witnessed by a lot of people, and obviously those people haven't been talking about it either. I think Brandon from the start asserted his prowess with powerful opponents. Jimmy must have trained him very well.

    I find what Brandon tells Paula about the rank fights a little confusing. And although that's most probably the way you wanted it to be, I'm dying to find out what it all means.

    Am I right in thinking that Brandon would not shirk the responsabilities that come with a top rank, but only the "social expectations" from other people.
    Do the top ranks only fight challengers from lower ranks and never each other? And where do Ghosts fit in this?
    When he say I don't want to be like them... does he mean Henri and Jimmy or the lower rankers who fight for a place in top rank?

    I like the way Paula picks up on the way "green eyes" moves. She almost immediately attributes the friendliness and carefulness in his movements to herself, the person he doesn't want to frighten.

    I like the way Brandon says "This is my sister paula, of course". It sounds almost like he is answering a direct thought from Alex.

    Lovely the way Paula immediately knows that "keeping an eye on things" actually means "keeping an eye on her". Henri, Jimmy and Brandon have got it all pretty neatly organized between the three of them.

    Brandon talks of Alex as if he is some sort of pet. They both seemed to enjoy the huge eyes she made.

    She is treated with so much subtle deference by all of them. I hope she realizes that. :)

  14. Sorry it's taken me so long to reply to these comments! I'm all over the place this week too, and having trouble focusing. XP

    Carnaxa, I'm glad you find him interesting all ready. Personally, Alex was an interesting character for me to learn about, and I think it's for the reason you actually mention. There is no sense of malice around him, which is surprising. That might be part of why Brandon trusts him.

    As for Brandon and his capabilities-- we will definitely get back to that. I think it might be surprising where he turns up. But there very well might be a hidden capacity that we haven't seen yet under the right circumstances. He just wouldn't use it to pick on people weaker than him like many others.

    Mary will always be a part of him and a part of his development.


    You know, I think I mention in one of my notes the very same thing-- that Brandon and Jimmy's joking might give the impression that Brandon only has to follow Jimmy's orders when he wants to. I came to the conclusion that while it may look that way, it's more that they're like a team. They've grown up together, and they're honest with each other. Jimmy wouldn't usually give Brandon orders, but if he did, he would make it clear that it's not optional. This would be where the different sides of Jimmy come into play. He's got a darker meaner side that I doubt even his brother would want to face. (We'll probably get to that later...)

    With Brandon, there is always more. I haven't even explored the depth of his reluctance, but it pops up constantly. And yet here he is, doing what he says he doesn't want to do, being what he says he doesn't want to be. But he is definitely uncomfortable in front of Paula discussing this at all. It might not be her specifically, but what she stands for in general that makes him uncomfortable. It probably doesn't help when he can catch her nervous thoughts

    Maybe Brandon is telling her because he's opening up. Before she left his place, she accepted him the way he is, remember. Maybe some part of him is actually testing that. Will she really accept him as he is? This is something that crops up in one of Brandon's other stories, so I think this is one of his themes as well.

    Like I said above, you might be surprised where Brandon shows up, lol. I know I was.

    There's more on the fights in the previous post, which is linked at the end of this post if you're curious about the fights.

    "Am I right in thinking that Brandon would not shirk the responsabilities that come with a top rank, but only the 'social expectations' from other people." You are exactly right. :)

    Ah, great questions!

    Do the top ranks only fight challengers from lower ranks and never each other? They don't usually fight each other, but they can be challenged. If someone wants a position that someone else has, and they think they can take it, then they will challenge that person.

    And where do Ghosts fit in this? Ghosts are meant to be hidden so that even people in the tribe hardly know of them. So they don't participate in the fights unless they're moving over into a more public role. How do they get their ranks without fighting? Oh I can think of a few ways.

    When Brandon says he doesn't want to be like them, he's particularly referring to Jimmy and Henri. That will also come back around if I have my way.

  15. Thank you for your reply! :)

    I just wanted to say that Brandon could make for a good ghost, but I know that he's probably too publically known already.

  16. Actually, that's interesting that you'd say that. In a way, Brandon is a ghost because no one really knows what he does. But he is too publicly known. Plus there are other plans for him. :X

  17. Interesting! These people who don't really seem to know how to act as a family are actually a close knit little group. If you're not looking for it, you wouldn't see it, but I'm pretty sure neither Jimmy nor Brandon would just rock up for breakfast unannounced if they didn't have a father-son relationship. I don't see that anyone else would make that bold a move with Henri.

    I'm not surprised that Brandon doesn't want to publicly take that next step. Remembering how he reacted to the "punishment" that Jimmy dealt out very early in the piece, I can see that he would be reluctant to perform such chores himself.

    While I have no doubt that Brandon is every bit as capable as Jimmy of being violent (let's face it, in the right situation most of us probably are capable of some form of violence), I might be wrong, but I think he would see it only as a last resort, something he did when there was no other choice which is why so few have seen it and why people think his rank is due to his bloodline.

  18. Haha, exactly. brandon and Jimmy definitely have a very special relationship with Henri that is very much Father-sons. Though Jimmy isn't related by blood, there is a lot more there to it which I actually found by going back. One of these days I will probably end up posting the story of when Jimmy was young...

    You're on the nose there. Brandon wouldn't want to do what Jimmy does, though he probably is very capable. There's definitely more to it though which we'll get to sooner or later.