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Old 03-22-2011, 09:11 PM   #1
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Out Of Control 28

This was a sad one to write.

And bad, bad, bad Ruth!


"In the wind we hear their laughter
In the rain we see their tears
Hear their heartbeat
We hear their heartbeat

See their tears...
in the rainfall...

—U2, "Mothers of the Disappeared"

“Has it stopped raining?” Ruth asked, gripping the windowsill and staring out the window. A few raindrops rolled down the windowpane, reflecting both inside and outside in clean halves and distorting her view of the world outside. Oisín, sitting at the table eating breakfast, turned and peered in that direction.

“Probably,” he said. “I don’t hear anything.”

Ruth gripped the bottom of the window and pushed it open, gazing out for a minute and remembering, for some reason, the old house in Dublin. Larry and Eve talking to each other in the grass while Ruth tried to ignore Isaac. She blinked, shaking the faint memory away, and let her hands fall from the bottom of the window.

She looked down, before she was about to turn away, and frowned: on the windowsill, there was now a faint dusting of black. She walked away, still frowning, and perched on the edge of Oisín’s chair.

“What is it?” he asked.

“There’s ash on the windowsill,” she said.

“Was there a fire?” he asked to no-one in particular, dropping his fork. “I don’t remember hearing about it…”

“It could just be dirt blown in,” Ruth said, not really believing herself. It smelled like ash, bitter char. She knew, deep in her subconscious, what were the remnants of fire. She remembered ash embedded into her clothing, when she met Isaac, when the bomb went off. Fabric scraping like wire on the edges of where it had nearly burnt away…it was ingrained into her memory.

“No, it isn’t,” he said, seeing her troubled face. “Ruth?”

“I don’t like fire,” she whispered.

Perhaps with that phone conversation from eight years ago, he understood what she meant.

“Ruth? Ruth? what’s wrong? No, I didn’t catch what happened in Belfast…there are troubles there all the time, it all blurs together…no, Cath’s not here…ssh, stop crying, you’ll be fine. Whatever happened, won’t happen where you are…”

“Can you tell her I called?” she asked. Oisín nodded, then scrambled to catch the phone when it fell from between his shoulder and neck. Ruth heard a great clatter in the background. He righted himself, wedging back onto the countertop next to the phone, face hot.

Nice going, ‘Sheen. You eejit. She called for your sister.

“Do you want me to hang up?” he asked quietly.

“No,” she said from thousands of miles away. She felt connected from the telephone wires across the ocean to wherever they met Ireland…and to the sound of his voice; when she thought back of before, she mostly remembered Isaac, not her friends…

“…Can you make sure no-one is looking for me?” she asked, before beginning to explain, calmer than she had been…

He left the chair carefully, so as not to tip Ruth over with his sudden absence, and went upstairs, hunting through various odds and ends scattered on the floor. Ruth came and stood in the doorway.

“Still haven’t found what you’re looking for?” she asked with a small smile. Unintentional song reference. She'd heard the song from backstage when U2 had played in the café...it was a new one, they said...

“Nope,” he shook his head, and ended up going all the way up and down the stairs again in his search. He paused at the foot of the stairs, looking down in disbelief. He held up the remote; Ruth leaned down from up above.

“It was upstairs in the bedroom just the day before!” he said in surprise.

“I think we upsetted the resting place of pretty much everything in there,” she commented.

“Ah…you’re right,” he grinned. He held out a hand. “C’mere, love.” She came downstairs and followed him into the living room, watching out of the corner of her eye as he switched the TV on.

…the fire on State Street on Thursday,” the TV said. Ruth froze and came closer.

…which may have started at the Blue Café. Investigators say there were no casualties, but the numbers of burn victims is uncertain, as is the number of people inside before the fire started. Many are at the police station, asking the cause. Rumors are that the fire may have been intentional, but with the police still looking into it, the only thing that is certain is it was completely unexpected.

The news switched to the weather, and Oisín switched it off again. “I guess that answers our question,” he said quietly, and ran a hand through his hair, his face somewhere between tense and shocked.

“We must have left before it happened. I didn’t see anything,” Ruth said, before she realized.

“’Sheen.” She turned to him. “Phoenix. Mark. This was at the place we played at.”

He stared, realizing too. “And Bono and the rest, and Ciarán was there…” He winced.

They were out the door about a minute later, Oisín with a coat though he’d been prepared to just leave half-naked, in his worry. He and Ruth ran to the police office.

The burns felt like nothing at all in the strangely chill air, which numbed his skin quickly enough through his coat. The hospital had pronounced Bono fit to leave the day before, actually, but he had still assumed they might have Ciarán somewhere he hadn’t looked.

From the street, you couldn’t tell there had been a fire. The houses nearby the no-longer-standing Blue Café obscured it from view, standing against the cold white sky. The wind rustled through a few trees and somewhere distant, whipped the ocean into a frenzy. He would come upon the bare skeleton of the building later; the area nearby was his destination for the moment. He started a block away, to the right, and pulling his coat tighter against the cold, knocked on that house’s door. It was about a minute before the door creaked open and an old woman blinked at him.

“Yes, young man? What are you doing about this early?”

“It’s midafternoon. Sorry. I was wondering if you heard anything the night of the fire, maybe seen—“

“Fire?” She squinted at him again. “Oh, dear me. I didn’t know there was a fire.”

“Did you come across a boy, by any chance?” he asked, heart sinking. She probably had not. The faint hope stayed, though. Perhaps she’d leaned outside and seen Ciarán?

“He’s seven, about this tall—“—he put a hand about a head above his waist—“—brown hair and eyes, way too many freckles…” The woman was shaking her head already. “I haven’t seen him. I hope you find him, young man.” She closed the door.

He stood outside the doorway for a moment, thinking, I hope I do too. It was an inexplicable physical ache, the not knowing. It tugged just behind his ribs and stole his breath and remained knitted into his bones and his movements. He was beginning to think the darker thoughts, the ones he hoped weren’t true, remembering what he’d seen at the hospital. Ciarán could be dying, trapped under rubble, unable to make himself seen.

He dragged himself to the next door and knocked on the door, beginning a long weary process. Somewhere far down the block, the bare bones and foundation of the building that had been whole lay in bleak charred remains.

“They’re all in the hospital,” Oisín said in relief, about half an hour later. Ruth didn’t feel any less worried. It wasn’t impossible that this might have been the same as before. That her troubles hadn’t died in Ireland. She always thought that the pains she’d taken to be safe here would come to nothing, irrational as it had seemed.

She did brighten a little when she saw someone familiar come through the doorway of the police station. It was getting crowded, was her first thought, and she and Oisín should probably leave; they’d asked what they’d meant to ask and found out. She didn’t recognize the face until he was quite literally a couple inches away.

“Oh my god,” Ruth said in surprise at the unexpectedness. His hair was longer, his face changed over eight years, but she was pretty sure she knew him. He turned at that, muttering “not another one,” before his eyes widened.

“Ruth!” He bit his lip. He looked tired, she noticed.

“What was that you were saying a second ago?” she asked.

“Ah, well, I’ve been asking the people who lived nearby the Blue Café if they knew where my son was, and my search came up with,” he counted on his fingers wearily, “one old lady who hadn’t even heard the fire happened, a woman who shut the door in my face, a man leaving for work, and two teenaged girls who wanted me to write them a song.” He shuddered. They didn’t know how close he had come to cheating on Ali, but assumed he’d stick around for the sake of sex, drugs, and rock ‘n’ roll. He’d explained one last time, standing outside with a purposeful wide gap between him and the girls, he was looking for his son who was missing, and he didn’t do that sort of thing.

“Thought you were another of those sort, or one of them coming back to trail after me again. Ugh.” He rubbed his face. “I didn’t know you were in America, Ruth…”

Their conversation was halted by a shout from the other side of the police office. Too many people blocked what was happening; Bono frowned. “Can’t see over them. What the hell is going on?”

Ruth stared and abruptly moved forward. “’Sheen!” she yelled, pushing back the other people and helping him up from the floor. He stared wide-eyed at a woman with long, blonde hair who gripped his arm and glared at him.

“I hope you’re not who I think you are,” that woman said to him.

“I have no idea what you’re talking about!” he said wildly, breaking free and rubbing his arm where she’d gripped it.

“Really? Where were you when the fire happened? Not in the hospital, were you? I bet you left before it happened. Of course you did. You kne—“ She broke off, looking past him. Ruth, seeing her face in better light now that she turned, stared.

“I…” Oisín said, about to answer then frowned. What was she implying? That he’d known about the fire?

Eve,” Ruth said in soft surprise, knowing as she’d guessed internally the owner of that face, that voice. She was still riled up from the unnecessary accusations…no…that was Eve’s fear pushing into Ruth’s awareness.

“What the hell are you saying he did?”

This was no time for casual reunion. Neither quite understood what the other was trying to say.

“Ruth,” Eve said, forgetting her purpose for a moment, still staring at her sister. It had been so long since she’d seen her, and she didn’t understand what Ruth felt, had no idea how to make sense of the confusing array of emotions she’d felt of Ruth’s over eight years.

She came back to herself, explaining, “He was outside just before the fire started, heading inside. There was no-one else around.”

“He was with me, Eve,” Ruth said, mouth falling open. “I can’t believe you…you…” She remembered Eve had never known Oisín.

“Are you sure? Was he with you the entire time? Did he go back inside when the band was playing? Backstage perhaps?”

“No, he—“

Oisín wrapped an arm around her to calm her down, looking at Eve with just as much surprise as Ruth had; he hadn’t recognized her, or expected to see her again in a situation like this.

“Oisín!” Bono confirmed happily. He’d heard right. “Eve, I don’t know what you saw, but I have no idea why this man would start a fire.” He gave Oisín a one-armed hug that also managed to crush the breath out of Ruth, who was trying to understand all of this. Oisín smiled at him in relief.

“You may have seen someone else,” he said to Eve with a hint of question in his voice. She shook her head, unsure. He then looked back at Bono. “How’s Ali? And Ciarán?,” Oisín asked fondly. “It’s been years since I’ve seen the fellow.”

Bono’s face fell. “You haven’t seen him then,” he stated. Oisín shook his head. “Why?”

“I can’t find him,” Bono said. “He went missing the night of the fire. I was going to ask the police if they knew anything, but I saw Ruth here…”

“You should ask,” Oisín said, a faint pain in his voice. He couldn’t help reacting like Ciarán was his, at this news…he’d been the one who raised the baby, when Cath died. Ciarán had been his son, briefly. He tried not to let the sadness through. Bono caught the sympathy in his voice, though, and remembered suddenly that Oisín had been through worse, many times…

“Ruth,” Oisín said, letting her choose to accompany him or not, and then turning and speaking to the other man, “I’ll look where you haven’t.” He tilted his head in the direction of the rubble. Bono inhaled sharply. He hadn’t been able to bring himself to look through the ruins…he hadn’t known what he would do if he found Ciarán there, because if he did, that meant his child was dead, so he had avoided the area entirely, seeing in his mind bones, hands, or just ash…he thanked Oisín almost inaudibly, and went to speak to the police officers.

“I’ll stay,” Ruth said, looking up at Oisín. He nodded, rubbing her fingers with his thumb, and left.

She looked at Eve, and there was much unspoken in the air between them. Ruth would wait until Eve had less going through her mind; she seemed unsettled and bothered by something still. She decided to leave, so the roaring cascade of fire in her mind wouldn’t be picked up by Eve’s perception. Bono said he’d tell Oisín where she was.

She was about to walk out the door, feeling the strange déjà vu of being on her own again in a world of danger—still not knowing what had happened to Phoenix or Mark—when the ghost of memories and déjà vu burned stronger, with a hand on her shoulder. Ruth turned around, startled, to meet the gaze of blue eyes in a familiar face.

“Lar,” she exclaimed in a paused moment. It seemed like yesterday that she had found him so intoxicating. She wasn’t entirely sure of her thoughts just now, as she stared at him.

He smiled. Her heart cracked. “I didn’t know you were in America, Ruth,” he said quietly. Quiet Larry. So different than what she remembered. “What made you leave?” he asked.

She bit her lip. She felt so exposed already…if she said everything, left nothing between them, she would be…what? Understood? No, if she said anything, she’d probably be able to stay around and hear about his girlfriend or wife…he probably had one…

That same confused, aching sadness in Oisín’s eyes moments before was in Larry’s briefly. She just saw his eyes. He was far too close. She shook her head, muttering, “It’s a long story.” He just looked at her, like he already knew. That scared her. So did her automatic response to him.

“I have to go, Lar,” she said, turning already. She felt his lips brush her cheek, before she turned, so light she wasn’t sure it actually happened except for her crazy heart.

Fecking shite. If she hadn’t turned just then…no…she shouldn’t think that. He hadn’t meant it that way.

Feck, again. If Oisín was helping Bono look for Ciarán, she’d probably inevitably meet up with Larry again. She desperately didn’t want to. As she walked back to his house, her mind still fuzzy, she realized about halfway, when she could see the sidewalk again, that she didn’t have keys.

Oisín didn’t ask if she was alright, didn’t suspect much of anything, when she found him. Rust and ash and a bit of dried blood marked his hands. She didn’t ask what the blood had been from. His face was heavy as the sky. He remained utterly silent as he gently tugged aside bits of metal, rubble, piles of ash, looked and saw nothing underneath, moving on with the terrible thought that he might find what he was looking for, here. He didn’t want Ciarán to be in this bleak place, dead somewhere between the spires of the framework of the building. But he might be. He continued searching, letting out a shuddering sigh at last when the sun went down and burying his head in Ruth’s lap.

“I never want to have to do that again,” he said in a small voice. She held him before they returned home.

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Old 03-23-2011, 06:00 PM   #2
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Door to door? What were you thinking, Bono...
Ack! I guessed that someone would think Oisin started the fire, thankfully Ruth had proof...
Ooh. Awkward meeting Larry.

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Old 03-23-2011, 06:01 PM   #3
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What can I say, he's a traveling salesman! What else could he do? XD go ask the police? hmm.

I know. Ggghhhh. It was not fun to write Eve for that scene. Good guessing, too!

VERY. AWKWARD. It might get worse, in fact. D: Ruth...
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Old 03-23-2011, 06:03 PM   #4
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Oh Eve. Oh Ruth. This sounds very problematic. Maybe I don't want them all together after all.
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Old 03-23-2011, 06:05 PM   #5
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What was happening between Bono and Eve? I thought you had eluded at the beginning that she had something to do with his dreams. Was it because of the cousin, Phoenix?
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Old 03-23-2011, 06:09 PM   #6
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Blue— It kind of is. I like how you're not focusing on the main problem at all XD

and...they have to be all together! Just wait till Phoenix and Mark show up...especially if I take Grace's idea into consideration and add Ali (too many characters! I nearly called Isaac Oisín when writing...aaa!)...that would be a mess...

Grace— Bono's trying to remember something. He still hasn't quite yet. Actually, maybe I do need Ali to come up to Santa Barbara. She and Eve (and Ruth, almost) know something important.
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Old 03-23-2011, 06:40 PM   #7
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Well, the main problem is too obvious to focus on right now. So... EveRuthLarryPROBLEMS
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Old 03-23-2011, 08:57 PM   #8
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Oh you.

It'll be a while till the next chapter, guys, unless I somehow manage to write tonight...I've got college visits, essays, 'n' stuff.

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1986, bono, joshua tree era, larry, out of control

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