I don't like having to reevaluate my opinion of people. I really don't. Not when I'm dead set on disliking them.
It has been a month... more than a month, now, I guess... since I last laid eyes on the Dauphine. And when I did, it was a fleeting glimpse over my shoulder as I was being led away by Imperium soldiers, off to an uncertain fate. Not cool. At the time it was wrecked, partially flooded, and seemingly immobile. I didn't think it would be difficult to find again, especially with Libby not on hand to repair the brute.
Unfortunately, all we found of the Dauphine upon returning to its former resting place was a huge set of tracks dug into the dirt. At some point it has been repaired, obviously, and after being repaired it was moved. But to where? And by whom? These are important questions.
As a group we're not terribly covert, so the majority of us took shelter in another farmhouse while Grylock, Logan, and Antonio scoured the outskirts of Rodentia for signs of the Dauphine. I can't imagine it would go terribly far, under the circumstances - just far enough that it wouldn't get caught by Imperium soldiers. (Or, uh, if it was commandered by soldiers, just far enough to stay away from the fucking sloth.)
We'd heard no news from the scouts by supper, and I was both restless and bored. So bored, in fact, that I decided to go for a little walk - and to my everlasting irritation, Traveller demanded that he be allowed to join me. Kept claiming that "Libby's boyfriend and Libby's husband" should know each other better. Bond, even. Libby suggested this was a fantastic idea, as she wasn't invited on the walk, and thus would be spared Traveller's attention for an hour or two. Traitor.
So we walked. And talked. Mostly he talked. I gritted my teeth at every moment, attempting to make sense of Traveller's endless drivel and not getting very far. Conversations with the guy seem to run as such:
1.) He makes a comment. It is stupid.
2.) He offers observations on the comment. They are stupider.
3.) He gets distracted by something nearby. He runs off to see what it is, and usually gets in trouble.
4.) Eventually he returns, and will invariably ask who you are. His memory is awful. (Though he always seems to remember Libby.)
5.) New conversation. New observations. New distractions. Repeat, repeat, repeat.
I don't know how to relate with such a man. I really don't. It's obvious he has some issues with his brain, some twitch of biology that doesn't allow him to operate on an adult level, but I can't figure out exactly what's wrong. I suppose the bandages on his face are a telltale sign of past trauma - his eyesight kinda sucks, so he must only be able to see out of one eye - but I can't figure out what, exactly, happened. Nor do I necessarily want to know.
Traveller was meditating on the medicinal benefits of pine cones when my view of him was forced, forced, to change. Just a little bit.
"And this one time I ate a pine cone, and my stomach was better! So much better!" He raised his hands above his head, forming a triangle out of his fingers. "But later that night I had the worst case of gas, which I'm pretty certain is why I woke up with no boots - "
I grimaced. He mentions boots constantly. Obsessed with fucking boots.
" - but I shrugged and decided it wasn't so bad, but man, pooping hurt a lot after that pine cone, which I figured was a sign of health. I'm not sure, but I think. And hey, what's that noise? Hello!"
He paused his diatribe, raising an ear to the air. We were walking through a small copse, lined with quiet spruce trees, and the only sounds I caught were chittering birds and mewling monkeys. I pointed this out, but Traveller shook his head, insisting it was something 'smaller' and 'cuter'. Before I could stop him he latched onto my hand and pulled me through the copse, complaining loudly.
"You always sound so mad!" Traveller commented, grinning stupidly as he dragged me along. "I think it's you. Could be my brother. Have you met my brother? I'm not sure he exists! I only just remembered him!"
"He probably... ow, watch where you're walking... he probably abandoned... you... FUCK, OW! NOT THROUGH THORN BUSHES, YOU BASTARD!"
"I'm not a bastard!" he insisted. "My parents are married! I think? They might be dead. That would be sad, you know? My dad was a yeti!"
At length he released me, stopping in front of a spruce that looked the same as the rest. I angrily questioned why we'd bother coming this way, rubbing away the wrenching pain in my wrist; he put a finger to my lips and shushed me. His ear tested the air again, his smile growing, and abruptly he dropped to one knee.
"The hell are you on about?" I crossed my arms and tried to get my bearings, not sure which direction we had to go to return to the farmhouse. "C'mon. It's getting dark. We might get rain. S'kinda cloudy. I don't want rain."
"Rain is the gods' piss, my dad used to say." Traveller's hand snaked under the tree. "So it's kinda lucky if you get caught in it. I think he said that. Maybe it was grandpa? I dunno. One of them is pretty original."
"No, they aren't. My dad used to say that all the time." Curious despite myself, I hunkered down to get a look beneath the spruce's low-hanging branches. "What are you doing?"
Traveller shook his head, freeing his long hair from the bite of the tree's needles, and said nothing. His face did enough talking on its own, though, his smile growing with each needle that pricked his skin, and abruptly the quiet of the early evening was filled with a cacophony of hisses and yowls and spitting. Laughing over the din, Traveller pulled his arm back -
- and when he did, there was a kitten attached to his hand. It was a small, feisty thing, its tiny claws and sharp teeth dug into Traveller's skin, yet I could tell at a glance that it was not doing so well. Its tawny coat looked matted with dirt in places, and its eyes held a glazed, shocked look.
"You can be my new voice in my head!" Traveller proclaimed. He passed the kitten from one hand to the other, cradling it against his chest, not minding its assault on his clothing one bit. "The last one was a rat. It had a cage. I think the duck has it. Or was that a marmoset...?"
I grimaced, watching as the kitten latched its teeth onto Traveller's thumb. "Cripes. Uh. Shouldn't you maybe... leave that here...? It doesn't look so happy..."
"Oh, it just wanted rescuing. Everybody wants to be rescued when they're in trouble." Traveller stroked the back of the kitten's neck, as gentle as an old woman with a lifelong pet. "Shhhh. Ow! Shhhhh. Ha ha, I think he likes me."
I thought otherwise, but my view gradually changed as we headed back towards the farmhouse. The kitten's death grappling turned to a small fight... and then to the occasional hiss... and then, by the time the farmhouse was in view, it was purring uncertainly in Traveller's palm. It looked utterly exhausted.
"I will name him Laura," Traveller decided. "I had a girlfriend named Laura. She stole my boots."
I opened the door for him, ushering Traveller inside. "Laura's a girl's name."
"Well, I don't know he's a boy, do I?" Traveller wandered inside, nearly tripping over a pair of shoes inside the door. "I just don't. So I call him Laura, but also a he, and then I don't have to worry about being wrong. Right? That makes sense, right?"
"... yeah. Sure."
Traveller spent the rest of the evening cleaning up 'Laura', with some help from Antonio. They clipped the grime out of the kitten's tangled fur, gave it a bath with some water from the farm's well, and fed it a few pieces of dried meat from the house's remaining stores. By the time the moon was in the sky the kitten had moved into Traveller's hair, and was looking significantly healthier. Blind as a molebat, to be certain, but healthier.
"Laura musta gotten lost," Traveller told me shortly before bed. "He musta lost his family. That's pretty awful. You shouldn't lose your family. Family's important."
I did my best to repress a flicker of warmth. "Yeah. Yeah, it is."
"Yeah." Traveller scratched Laura's belly. The kitten purred contentment. "You've got a new family now, Laura. I'll take care of you."
We had a moment. I wasn't really part of it, but I absorbed a fraction of the camaraderie between Traveller and his new pet.
"Can I have sex with Libby?"
Fuck that guy,
Dragomir the Wanderer