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STONE COTTAGE




The Allusive Miss Hellebore runs out of the Jungle, shrieking for her life, covered in mud, panting. If she could see, she'd be glowering behind her. "I told you it wasn't the right way!"

Johnson has both hands clutched across her face. Mud streams from her hair, from her ears, from her boots, leaving sludgy tracks all over the path. Blind, she runs into the wall and oomfs.

Johnson sproings back off the wall and fumbles around for a door, a door, something- from the distant trees of the swamp, an unearthly screech echoes and echoes and echoes, grating through the wood.

The Allusive Miss Hellebore, hearing the screech, immediately plows into Johnson. "Inside! INSIDE!!"

Johnson yelps. "You were the one who tromped ahead, saying 'I don't like petunias'-" another screech. The mud on her body shivers to attention, sloiping gently. Like a quiet, inexorable beacon.

Johnson finds a handle, fumbles and explodes through the door, streaking mud all over the walls and the doorposts. Cozen tumbles in after her and the door slams shut, the tail of a green coat wedged in it.

The Allusive Miss Hellebore fumbles the doorknob. "Who likes petunias?! They're awful!"

The Allusive Miss Hellebore fumbles! And is inside the unknown home.

Johnson's green coat flaps a bit, drips mud, and then the door opens again. The coat is yanked through and the door shut again, and this time locked. From the forest, the dreadful noise seems closer.


STONE COTTAGE: LIVING ROOM




Johnson tumbles in through the door, this time with her coat, and after it slams shut, gropes for a lock of some kind andlatches it. Slumps down, panting.

The Allusive Miss Hellebore blinks blindly, mud in her eyes. "What was that?"

Johnson has enough breath in her left to add, "And I may have said I thought there was a shortcut, but if you hadn't been wearing those skirts we'd have been fine-"

Johnson attempts to scrub her eyes free with her sleeves. Those, alas, are equally muddy. "Um. I don't know?" she ventures. And then- "It didn't seem to like us stepping on its- tail. Bits. Things."

The Allusive Miss Hellebore huffs, trying to blot mud from her eyes with an equally muddy handkerchief. "You always blame the skirts. Get used to the skirts, Johnson. They're not going anywhere."

Johnson manages to squish one eye relatively free of the all-pervasive mud. "Where are we, Cozen?"

Johnson's mouth twists. "You got out of 'em once," she points out. "Besides, just saying they're not very practical for tromping through swamps."

The Allusive Miss Hellebore shudders, "Well, if it didn't like being stepped on perhaps it ought not lay out all stretched in murky water, where good Island-fearing people are likely to step on it."

Johnson blinks again with the clear eye. The eyeball swivels thoughtfully about the room. Takes in the couch, the windows, the bookcase. Hmmm.

The Allusive Miss Hellebore mutters, "I was the one who suggested the train, but 'No' she said. 'Adventure' she said."

Johnson's good humour is returning, finding its owner in safety. Johnson murmurs, "But wasn't it hilarious when it tried to go for your eyes and found the pince-nez in the way?" She picks herself up.

Johnson shrugs. "Saving my cards for a proper hand of train passes, okay." She wanders over to the gramophone and then peers thoughtfully at the vinyls. "These. Are old."

The Allusive Miss Hellebore sputters, wiping off her lenses. "Absolutely not! And what kind of animal goes after a lady's eyes? Really!" She puts her glasses on and looks around.

The Allusive Miss Hellebore peers over her shoulder, "Anything good?"

Johnson's smile is growing, bright and sharp in the mud-streaked mask of the face. "I know, right? It looked like it had claws made for that, though- for eyes alone. And its teeth. And that tongue-"

Johnson allows herself a pleased shiver of excitement. "Was like a spoon for eggs." Gory thrills over, she peers back down. "Oooh, they have Rossini's Petite Messe Solennelle. Never thought I'd see-"

Johnson plucks the appropriate vinyl carefully out, leaving tiny daubs of mud everywhere- "something like this again." She shucks the cover out and lifts the gramophone needle.

Johnson slides the vinyl on and drops the needle. "Now how do I start this thing again."

The Allusive Miss Hellebore looks less than pleased with this apt description. She carefully feels around her eyes, making sure she's still in one piece.

The Allusive Miss Hellebore points, "The crank."

Johnson swipes more mud from her eyes, rather uselessly. "I wonder if they have a bathroom in this house." She takes another quick glance around. "I wonder whose house it is, actually. No name anywhere."

Johnson ohs. "Thanks." She looks at the crank and then more dubiously at her slopping fingers, but shrugs and grips the handle firmly. "Can always clean it up after."

The Allusive Miss Hellebore peers through a doorway. "Here's a kitchen. We could at least use the sink?"

Johnson winds and winds and winds and winds the crank and then lets go. Something rustles and crackles and then, like a sudden soundtrack to life, the mad piano of the Credo thunders in.

Johnson steps back and cackles with glee. "CRE-DO!" she bellows along with the music, and then spins on one heel, nearly falling over as she does. "Balance issues," she mutters, and then follows to Cozen.

The Allusive Miss Hellebore shushes. "Too loud! Too loud! What if they're sleeping?"

Johnson peers around Cozen's muddiness. "Oooh. Hmmm. Can at least clear the face, yes? Before we run about seeing if they own a bathroom."

The Allusive Miss Hellebore hurries over and turns the volume on the gramophone down a little--leaving mud of course-- and heads into the kitchen.

Johnson grins widely as behind her the singers bellow 'CRE-DO!' slightly quieter. "Et unam sanctam catholicam," she murmurs in time, and then, "I don't think so. They'd have heard us." Follows through!


STONE COTTAGE: KITCHEN



The Allusive Miss Hellebore heads immediately to the corner with the sink and begins running the water.

The Allusive Miss Hellebore cleans off her handkerchief and rings it out. "Come here."

Johnson slips in, sniffing thoughtfully. Her face wrinkles with disgust. "Can't smell anything but mud." She patters over to the sink and dips a hand in. "I swear, a home this nice must have a bathroom."

The Allusive Miss Hellebore peers at her. "It's true, but we should hardly impose more than we must." She begins wiping the mud off of Johnson's cheeks.

Johnson grins. "We can always clean up," she says, rather stiffly as her face is pulled this way and that by the handkerchief. "Ehn, you're just getting your handkerchief dirty. This is how you do it."

Johnson sticks her hands under the tap, watching with her one eye as the mud slips free. "That'll work." Quickly, she sticks her whole head underneath, turning it up to full. SPRAYTIME.

Johnson closes her eyes tight in the onrush of water and scrubs at her face. "MmmblururglerrrrBATHdrrrbubrrlrrg," she says, and coming back up, "Especially the hair. I don't even want to touch that."

The Allusive Miss Hellebore jumps back, "Engh! Careful!"

Johnson plunges her head back under and scrubs ferociously until her face goes pink.

Johnson surfaces, laughing, with just enough airspace to bellow, "MUD IN MY EARS." And back under!

The Allusive Miss Hellebore plunges her hands in and begins scrubbing Johnson's hair.

Johnson squirms and yanks back. "S'not going to come free," she snorts splashily. Swipes water from her eyes, blinking and laughing. "You have a turn getting yourself face-free. I'll look for a bathroom."

Johnson turns and patters out the kitchen, dripping muddy water everywhere. "Gonna have to clean up after this," she calls as she disappears through the door.

The Allusive Miss Hellebore eyes the murky water before sighing and plunging her face into it.

The Allusive Miss Hellebore blllblubbllulullbbbbs in the water, making sure to wash behind her ears.

The Allusive Miss Hellebore now clean, empties the sink and cleans the bowl.

The Allusive Miss Hellebore follows after Johnson.


STONE COTTAGE: LIVING ROOM



Johnson patters through, singing "Graaaaatias, aaaaaagimus, tiiii-iiIIIIIIiii-biii... pro...OPTer, ma... AGnam..." vaguely in time with the alto of the piece. She stops at the stairs, thoughtful.

Johnson says, "If I were a bathroom, I would be... upstairs? Maybe." Let's find out! Up we go.

The Allusive Miss Hellebore walks back into the living room, drying her face with a towel and follows the muddy footprints up the stairs.


STONE COTTAGE: UPSTAIRS



Johnson patters up the stairs and smiles at how pretty the light is here. "Don't slip," she bellows down to Cozen, above the plaintive tenor informing everyone about the Lord God. "I dripped all over the-"

Johnson clutches at the banisters as she slides a little backwards- "stairs." Rights herself and patters into the hallway proper. "Goodness." Looks about. "Ooooooobathroom." In she goes!


STONE COTTAGE: BATHROOM



Johnson pokes her head into the bathroom and then the rest of her body follows. "Luvverly," she says, admiring the stone floor and the tub. "Hot shower it is!" She turns the taps onto full.

Johnson frowns as the water sprays out cold. "Must give it time to heat up," she murmurs, and then drops muddy cap and coat into a corner. "Kay, should get Cozen." Out she goes!


STONE COTTAGE: UPSTAIRS



The Allusive Miss Hellebore carefully moves around the the muddy splatters and heads into the bathroom. "Johnson?"

Johnson patters back out of the bathroom and peers down the stairs. "COZEN?" she hollers. "COZEN, I'VE TURNED ON THE SH- oh. There you are."

Johnson hangs onto Cozen's arm as the woman heads into the bathroom.

The Allusive Miss Hellebore isn't the most balanced person in the world. She slips and slides and falls into the bathroom.


STONE COTTAGE: BATHROOM



Johnson patters back in again, this time hanging onto Cozen. The shower's steaming up nicely.

The Allusive Miss Hellebore slips and falls on the floor. "Ooof!"

Johnson begins unknotting her braid and unkinking the tangled mass of it all as steam billows and fills the room with heat and whiteness. Hot water gurgles and gurgles down the drain. "Mmm, good stuff."

Johnson lets go of Cozen just in time to stop her own tumble. That would've been bad, with her hands mostly in her hair. "You okay?"

The Allusive Miss Hellebore looks at Johnson and then the shower and then Johnson again. "Shall I just... step outside?"

Johnson blinks. "Ehn, don't see any point. I always bathe clothed." She indicates her shorts and the tank-top. Shucking her boots, she turns a little cold on and clambers into the tub. "Ow. Ow. Hot."

Johnson whirls the cold tap a little more and then lets the spray unmuddy her, turning and turning again under it like someone trying their hardest to barbecue all sides of a chicken evenly. "lovehotwater."

The Allusive Miss Hellebore sits on the closed toliet seat. "Why on earth do you do that?"

The Allusive Miss Hellebore straightens the soap stand on the sink.

Johnson sticks her head under the hot spray as well, making sure it ploughs most of the mud straight out of her hair. "Right. Your turn." Preliminary wash done, she clambers squelchily back out.

Johnson squelches over to her cap and coat in the corner and, taking it to the sink, turns the taps to hot there too. "Practical," she says, shrugging. "Never know when an emergency might come up."

The Allusive Miss Hellebore shakes her head, "I couldn't possibly shower in someone else's bathroom!"

Johnson snags the soap and scrubs at her sleeves, smiling as the water begins foaming gently about her elbows. "And this is the only set of clothes I have. So I may as well wash'm at the same time, y'know?"

Johnson sighs and lifts her hands from the sink. "Well. Bit of an issue, that." She ambles over to the shower and drops the plug in idly. "Look how warm it is. You see? And the soap smells good, too."

The Allusive Miss Hellebore looks longingly at the shower. "It is very inviting. I only have a bath."

Johnson peers thoughtfully at the bottles on the edge of the tub, which is rapidly filling with hot water. "Hm. 'Shampoo' and 'Conditioner' too. Good stuff." She tips a little bit of 'Bubble Bath' in.

Johnson shrugs. "Bath, shower... bath and shower..." the tub is almost full. Idly, idly, she beckons. "Come take a look at how deep this tub is."

The Allusive Miss Hellebore whimpers a little. She chews on her lip. She deliberates.

Johnson adds, "And don't you feel all muddy and gross? And kind of... scratchy?" A pause. "You don't suppose there were leeches in the swamp, do you?"

The Allusive Miss Hellebore jumps up. "Alright! Fine. I'll shower." She looks at Johnson. "So... if you'll excuse me?"

Johnson picks a handful of bubbles out of the bath and sniffs it. "Mmmm. Much better. Lavender. Cinnamon. And... mmm, apricot. Whoever this is, they have good taste in bubbles."

The Allusive Miss Hellebore makes shooing motions at her.

Johnson grins. "You're excused. Tell me when you're done so I can finish off my hair." She ambles back over to the sink, still filling, and turns off the taps. Plugs that too and fills it with coat and cap.

Johnson ambles out. "I'll be in the kitchen..." and there'll probably be some Serious Eating going on shortly.


STONE COTTAGE: LIVING ROOM

Johnson patters barefoot through the living room and into the kitchen. "Foodfoodfoodfood," she murmurs to the rhythm of the terrifyingly bouncy Kyrie.


STONE COTTAGE: KITCHEN



Johnson patters into the kitchen and frowns at the mud and wet slop splashed over everything. "Must clean," she murmurs. Her face lights up. "But first! Food!" Points dramatically. "To the fridge!"

Johnson patters to the fridge and yanks it open, clearly expecting Glories Untold. She is not disappointed, either. "Ooooooo. And- oooooooooooo. And, and, oooooooooooooooooo!"

Johnson plunges in and piles the counter rather busily with Items For Excellent Food-Making. These may or may not involve the ingredients for pancakes. The kitchen quickly becomes the Place of Bustle as

Johnson slams cupboard doors, opens drawers, scoops cups of flour, stirs, shakes things busily and generally Cooks like Someone Who Likes Cooking in a Kitchen They Are Unfamiliar With. Under

Johnson's hands, the kitchen bench grows with floury piles and blueberries. The smell of frying butter sizzles into the air. Another pan clangs onto the stove and soon the smell of bacon joins in.

Johnson pours batter carefully into a pan and beams at it as bubbles rise to the surface. "One... two... three..." and flip. Up it goes, and- well, onto the table, but no matter. Back into the pan!


STONE COTTAGE: BATHROOM



The Allusive Miss Hellebore quickly gets out of her clothing. (As quickly as a woman in a corset can get out of her own clothing.)

The Allusive Miss Hellebore jumps into the divine shower/bath dream bubble thing. "Ooooooooooooooooooh," she says.

The Allusive Miss Hellebore gets over the bliss and quickly begins scrubbing herself clean. Once she's pink and raw from the scrubbing, she jumps out of the shower and dries herself.

The Allusive Miss Hellebore dresses herself and tries to brush the much out of her clothing with the towel. "It'll do," she mutters and heads back out.


STONE COTTAGE: UPSTAIRS



The Allusive Miss Hellebore calls out, "Johnson! It's all yours again." Squeaky clean--Mostly squeaky clean, at least--and she heads downstairs.


STONE COTTAGE: LIVING ROOM



The Allusive Miss Hellebore hums along with the music and, since she's alone, does a little twirl, before heading into the kitchen.


STONE COTTAGE: KITCHEN



The Allusive Miss Hellebore walks in. "That smells divine! But... it isn't our kitchen, Johnson."

The Allusive Miss Hellebore can't cook, however, so she sets into cleaning up the awful mess they've made.

The Allusive Miss Hellebore finds the mop and bucket and a surfeit of cleaning supplies. "Whoever lives here, they certainly keep it tidy!"

The Allusive Miss Hellebore starts with the sink and then the counters and then moping, all while Johnson cooks pancakes and bacon.

Johnson shrugs. "I have some req on me. We can pay 'em. You know, kind of like how the pioneers did." She smiles. "Neighbours. You stay at an abandoned cabin in the forest during a blizzard, and then-"

Johnson flips another pancake, this time successfully- "when you're done, you leave some money to cover what you took. They won't grudge it to you- they'd do the same thing in your place."

The Allusive Miss Hellebore asks while she scrubs, "Are eye-sucking monsters in swamps like blizzards?"

Johnson stacks one plate high with blueberry pancakes, and another with bacon. She sets out little dishes with pats of cream cheese and butter on 'em, and a big jar of maple syrup. And the teapot.

Johnson grins, licking her fingers clean from where she sneaked a piece of bacon. "I don't see why not." A quick glance out the window. "Is it still there, do you think?"

The Allusive Miss Hellebore can't really argue with pats of cream cheese and butter and teapots.

Johnson slides into a seat at the table. "Come eat while it's smokin'," she says, and finding herself a plate, begins piling pancakes and bacon onto it, heaping it with cream cheese and butter.

Johnson pours herself some tea, carefully. "Want some?" She pours Cozen some anyway, assuming the answer will be yes. Slides the mug over and digs into her second pancake-breakfast of the week.

The Allusive Miss Hellebore immediately drops the mop, which clatters to the ground and hurries over to the table. "Oh, it's almost certainly still out there. And whoever lives here, you're absolutely right, they wouldn't--"

Johnson ladles maple syrup all over her pancakes until they're drowning. "I don't know what it is about fattening food, but it's delicious," she says through a mouthful of cream cheese and blueberries.

Johnson grins stickily at Cozen. "Indeed. So obviously we can't leave until, y'know, the eye-sucking beastie goes."

The Allusive Miss Hellebore| "want us to starve." She plates herself a giant stack of pancakes and at least six pieces of bacon and sips her tea. "Good tea!"

Johnson smiles, and continues to stuff her face. "I've left the owners, whoever they are, a stack of pancakes there and some bacon and stuff too." A quick jerk of the head takes in a counter corner.

The Allusive Miss Hellebore asks, "Pass the butter, please? Honestly, I rarely have had tea this good since coming to the Island."

Johnson adds, thoughtfully, "Wonder who they are?"

Johnson passes the butter, looking slightly sheepish. "Ehn, thanks. But you make excellent tea yourself. And what about Ahab, may I ask?"

Johnson takes a sip of her own tea and smirks over the edge of her cup at the woman. "I'm sure he... makes your tea justthe way you like it."

The Allusive Miss Hellebore says, "Yes, absolutely. I'm near ravenous with curiosity." Or actual hunger. She tucks into the pancakes.

Johnson raises her eyebrows. "All the sugar you need," she adds, before putting the cup down and stuffing her mouth again with pancakes.

The Allusive Miss Hellebore laughs, "Oh! Goodness no, he makes awful tea. Delicious cocoa though."

The Allusive Miss Hellebore doesn't catch the reference, "I don't take sugar in my tea."

Johnson nods. "Saw a bookshelf in there, though. And what looked like a door to a study. Might have a peep later." Nosy. As usual.

The Allusive Miss Hellebore nods, "Yes, it will help us figure out what we might get them for a thank you present. It wouldn't do to get them something they already have."

Johnson laughs. "Ehn, maybe he never had the practice. Once each morning, once night. More if necessary, depending on how long the night is."

Johnson blinks. "Thank you pr- hm." She looks thoughtful. "Why not? Do you think- something for the house?"

The Allusive Miss Hellebore says, "Oh, you've forgotten afternoon tea. I am absolutely destroyed for the day if I don't have my afternoon tea."

Johnson takes another swallow of tea and looks at Cozen over the rim of it again. "And how are things going with Ahab at the moment anyway?"

Johnson nods seriously. "Of course. Once in the afternoon. On the tea-table?"

The Allusive Miss Hellebore gets a dreamy look in her eyes. "Oh, he's... very... erm. Helpful."

Johnson notes the dreamy look. "Helpful. I see." She takes another sip. "What does he do?"

The Allusive Miss Hellebore coughs, looking down at her pancakes. "Of course on the tea table. Unless I'm in town. Sometimes on the lawn."

The Allusive Miss Hellebore blinks, "Why, the majority of the work in the house! And he's helped build the trapcrate for Oswalt and he makes divine cocoa and he saved me from Beulah once."

Johnson blinks. "On the- goodness. That's a bit public, isn't it?" She takes another sip. "S'a good thing your tea table's sturdy. But the lawn?" She muses. "Didn't know you had that streak, Cozen."

Johnson ohs. "I see." She tilts her head. "So- practically, he's helped you around the house. That's good. What about personally?"

The Allusive Miss Hellebore blinks at her. "It's tea, Johnson. It isn't anything clandestine. You'd think all the lax morals about this town, no one would bat an eye to a lady taking her tea out of doors."

The Allusive Miss Hellebore blinks. "Err... what... what about personally?" She picks at a piece of bacon.

The Allusive Miss Hellebore blinks a lot, it would seem.

Johnson looks wide-eyed at Cozen and then splutters into her tea, giggling. She takes another mouthful of bacon to keep her mouth occupied and merely nods.

Johnson thinks blinking is probably necessary for keeping your eyes, y'know, moist. Which is probably how the eye-sucking monster likes 'em, so maybe less blinking could be a good thing.

The Allusive Miss Hellebore asks, "What? What is it? What did I say?"

Johnson shrugs, swallowing. "I don't know. Personally. As a person. Is he good to you as a person? Does he help grow you? Does he make you happy?"

Johnson shakes her head hastily. "Nothing, nothing. Just something reminded me of, of something. Or other. Now. Talk." She points her fork at her, before skewering another piece of bacon.

The Allusive Miss Hellebore stutters, "Oh, well, he's... Well, I mean I..." She sighs, "He makes me very happy."

Johnson tilts her head. "That's good." She smiles, wide-eyed and innocent. "That's very good to know."

The Allusive Miss Hellebore sits back in her chair and pats her her mouth clean with a napkin. "Honestly, Johnson, you're not very subtle."

Johnson's innocence melts back into the wicked grin. "Well, to be honest, nor are you."

The Allusive Miss Hellebore shrugs, "Alright. I am in love with Ahab. There." She tucks back into her pancakes.

Johnson nods. "Why didn't you tell me?" she asks, sipping.

The Allusive Miss Hellebore tilts her head, "I've just told you."

Johnson adds, "Earlier, that is? You two have been going on at this for a while now, by my count." She stirs some more sugar into her tea.

The Allusive Miss Hellebore takes a bite of bacon. "He didn't say anything because I asked him not to. I didn't say anything because I assume people will think I'm absolute tawdry Jezebel."

Johnson raises an eyebrow, rather quizzically. "How does being in love make you an absolute tawdry Jezebel, Cozen?"

The Allusive Miss Hellebore returns, "Definitionally?"

Johnson blinks. "I'm sorry?"

The Allusive Miss Hellebore adjusts her spectacles. "Johnson, I'm a orphaned spinster trapped on a deadly island. Engaging in some... some... love affair? It's the very definition of tawdry."

Johnson raises an eyebrow. "Um." She puts her cup down. "No. Tawdry is what it would be if you slept with Ahab and then slept with Rykar and Bernard and Dave and Whistle and then Whistle and Ahab together-"

Johnson continues, "and then got them all to pay you in bananas. Or yellow req."

Johnson adds, "There are many, many other people on this island who were also spinsters, and not that many who weren't orphan spinsters either. On this, deadly island. Who have engaged in love affairs-"

Johnson picks up a piece of bacon- "without the ire of their neighbours. Or the label 'tawdry'. Or even 'jezebel'."

The Allusive Miss Hellebore gapes at the suggestion. Her cheeks flushing.

Johnson bites a bit off thoughtfully. "You haven't even leaned out a window and called for people to come buy your wares. Or... lessee, broken a man's heart. Or sold yourself to the highest bidder. Tawdry?"

The Allusive Miss Hellebore says, "Well, I'm not exactly worried about what the neighbors will think, madam. And the suggestion! Good god! Mr Bernard? Mr Dave? Whistle?!" She shakes her head, trying to free the image.

Johnson shakes her head, chewing bacon. "Not even slightly. Romantic, maybe. But don't shame what you have with Ahab by labelling it something so- so cheap as 'tawdry'."

Johnson shrugs. "People. Neighbours. Ehn." That grin again. "And I was just picking the first guys I could think of."

The Allusive Miss Hellebore huffs, "Missus Buttonmarch taught us that it all amounted to the same, thankyouverymuch. There's no scale to morality. There's right and improper."

Johnson licks her fingers clean. "Because to call it something less than what it is, is to- be ungrateful for it. To abuse it and to belittle it, when it seems to me to be a beautiful thing."

The Allusive Miss Hellebore continues over her, "And they're watching me! In Pembrokeshire. Noses pressed to tellies, I'm sure. Waiting for me to make an error."

Johnson grins widely. "Missus Buttonmarch was wrong." She waits a moment for the inevitable gasp of outrage. "There's black, and white, and an enormous grey area in between. And different people-"

The Allusive Miss Hellebore frowns, "That has nothing to do with it. I love Ahab and he loves me and it is wonderful. But I don't want my wonderful... whatever it is... the subject of scrutiny across the world."

Johnson laughs a little- "different people see where those lines of black, white and grey fall, differently. Morality is... difficult. Scale? Spiderweb of rainbows, more like." She picks up her tea again.

Johnson shrugs, a bit sadly. "I'm afraid your life is the subject of scrutiny all over the world, no matter what you do. Private rooms? I doubt they're that private. And in the end, what does it-"

The Allusive Miss Hellebore says, "So, you're just saying that my view is valid."

Johnson continues- "matter that the Pembrokeshirites are smudging their telly glass with nose-grease? They don't matter anymore. You're here." A half grin, rueful and sad. "You're not going back."

Johnson grins. "Yes. It is. But views can also change." She adds, sipping tea, "This is another grey area. I think you're silly, thinking you're tawdry for doing this. I don't think you're evil."

The Allusive Miss Hellebore rolls her eyes, "All very easy for you to say. I've lived my entire life taught to consider what people think of me. You expect me to throw it over my shoulder?"

Johnson puts down her tea and stares at her empty plate. "Hm." Looks back up at Cozen. "You can't avoid anything being seen here. I frankly just ignore it. It doesn't matter to me. They can't affect me."

Johnson smiles a bit. "No. I don't. But I ask you to think about it. That maybe you don't have to." She shrugs and slips from the stool, picking up the plates.

Johnson begins washing up in the sink, glancing around to make sure the kitchen is mostly in order.

The Allusive Miss Hellebore says, "And I, very carefully, show impeccable etiquette and manners and do not do anything that could be supposed to be less than entirely reputable. It's all I have."

The Allusive Miss Hellebore looks at her empty hands on the table.

Johnson nods, coming back to the table to take the cups. "I can see that. But why are you admitting this, that this exists, in front of cameras? If this is Improper?"

Johnson takes the cups and washes them too, wiping them carefully dry with a teatowel. She puts things away and comes back out with a couple of rags. These she dampens.

The Allusive Miss Hellebore says, "There aren't any. I've checked." She rubs her face in her hands. "I suppose I'm rather hoping you won't comment upon it publicly any more."

Johnson shrugs. "Hidden cameras, Cozen." She fills a bucket with warm water and soap. "I've been doing it all along, so it'll look odd if I suddenly stop. But the thing is, these things will come out."

Johnson drops both the rags in and puts a hand on her hip, surveying the room. "Truth. Truth will out, eventually. Always." She hrms. "Now where did we leave messes."

The Allusive Miss Hellebore puts her head on the table. "I don't know what to do."

The Allusive Miss Hellebore mumbles, "Everywhere."

Johnson eyes Cozen, not without compassion. She sighs and puts her bucket down and slides into the seat beside her friend. "About?"

Johnson slips an arm around the woman's shoulders and begins on a gentle back-rub. "Whatever it is, keep in mind you don't have to do it alone. In fact, you're probably not supposed to."

The Allusive Miss Hellebore says, "You've been telling me my whole situation is hopeless. I'll never keep a secret and I ought not even try."

The Allusive Miss Hellebore awkwardy fidgets under the back massage.

Johnson notices the fidgeting and stops. "I'm not saying you won't be able to for a while. I'm just saying... how many people have you told? How many people know, or have guessed? A mistake will be made."

Johnson shrugs. "Someone will make some mistake, say something, or. Something will happen. Secrets never stay secrets in a close community, and a close community under scrutiny? The only secrets-"

The Allusive Miss Hellebore chews her lip, thinking.

Johnson continues, "- are the ones you keep in your head. By yourself. Where no-one can touch 'em." She smiles a bit grimly. "But then, you're a bit alone with those, innit."

The Allusive Miss Hellebore says, "Are those the sort of secrets you keep, Johnson?"

Johnson raises an eyebrow. "Aren't those the sorts of secrets everyone keeps on this island?" she asks quietly. "If you have no physical privacy, the only privacy and independence you can ever have-"

Johnson puts her chin in her hands- "the only secrecy you can ever know is, heh, in your head." She shrugs. "I don't know. Different people cope different ways with always being seen, always being watched."

The Allusive Miss Hellebore frowns, "I clearly have no secrets." She stands, brushing out her skirts.

Johnson murmurs, "Some ways are easier to do than others, and some ways-" she nods to Cozen- "are riskier, but we try, right? It's humanity. Humans were never made to never be private creatures."

Johnson grins. "Don't you." She stands as well and picks up the bucket. "Filled another one for you." Nods to the sink. "I'll tackle the stairs and the bathroom, you do the lounge?" She steps out the door.

The Allusive Miss Hellebore waddles out with her full bucket trying not to spill.


STONE COTTAGE: LIVING ROOM



Johnson steps back out, lugging a bucket. She hehs softly. The Agnus Dei is playing, soft and mournful and infinitely sorrowful. Johnson pulls her lips tight and heads for the stairs.


STONE COTTAGE: UPSTAIRS



Johnson heads up the stairs and begins mopping carefully at the mud and the puddles, all the way up. She wipes surfaces down, banisters, walls, skirting-boards and anything that got splattered.

Johnson finishes mopping and heads into the bathroom.


STONE COTTAGE: BATHROOM



Johnson slips into the bathroom with her bucket and locks the door behind her. Then she proceeds to wipe the entire room down, making sure all the mud goes down the drain.

Johnson wrings out her coat and her hat, wrinkling her nose at them. Sighing, she turns on the shower and jumps in hastily for a quick scrub-down, getting rid of the bits that didn't come off earlier.

Johnson's damp hair instantly flattens again into a thick mass of wet, shining black. She sweeps it impatiently out of the way and douses herself with apricot shampoo and soap. Scrubs quickly.

Johnson slops conditioner on, rinses it out and then turns out the water. Clambers out and finds a towel and wrings her hair carefully out into the bath, a veritable flood of suds pouring down the drain.

Johnson dries herself over quickly and then mops the rest of the place down, wipes her boots off and slips into them and her coat and hat. Damp but clean, she hikes up the bucket and leaves the bathroom.


STONE COTTAGE: UPSTAIRS



Johnson slips out of the bathroom, coat and hat on. She's damp again, and steaming, but the cleanest she's been for a bit. She patters down the stairs in her thin-soled boots.


STONE COTTAGE: LIVING ROOM



The Allusive Miss Hellebore walks back in and sets the bucket down. She hums along with the music as she cleans, paying particular attention to the gramophone and all of it's little knobs.

The Allusive Miss Hellebore is eventually distracted by the bookshelf and she walks over to investigate.

The Allusive Miss Hellebore pulls a book off the shelf, "How To Care For Microraptors?" And then another, "Numbers And You: Hidden Joy In Every Day Math? What on earth...?"

Johnson patters in and puts her bucket down. "Upstairs is done. What've you got there?"

The Allusive Miss Hellebore gestures, "Just look at these!"

The Allusive Miss Hellebore blinks, "I've no clue what to put in this library."

Johnson blinks at the books. "In Everyday Math-" she takes the book up and flicks through it. "Good god. Erm." Dropping the book again into Cozen's hands as if the pages were diseased,

Johnson peers at the shelves. "Who do we know who looks after microcraptors and likes maths?"

The Allusive Miss Hellebore laughs, "Does anyone like maths?"

Johnson frowns thoughtfully at the selection. "I wonder..." She peers into the back of the bookcase, taking some books down, and a-HAs as she finds something tucked behind a large encyclopedia volume.

The Allusive Miss Hellebore looks over her shoulder.

Johnson fishes it out. "The Joker's Private Harem," she reads, and then grins at Cozen. "Always going to be a terrible romance novel hidden somewhere on a bookshelf." She hands it over and hrms.

The Allusive Miss Hellebore asks, "What is it?"

The Allusive Miss Hellebore frowns, "Dreadful!"

Johnson says, slowly- "Ebenezer likes maths. Dave, I'm sure, would like maths. Scientists, engineers, y'know, those sorts of people. But microraptors?" She frowns again at the shelves.

Johnson nods vaguely. "I know, right. Bodice-rippers, the lot of 'em. Usually terribly written. Lots of 'Master, you won't ever leave me?' and foot-kissing and that sort of stuff." She slots books back.

The Allusive Miss Hellebore looks around the room with renewed thought. "But... we already know where Dave lives."

Johnson adds, "It's part of a series. I think the restaurant has- had-" she winces- "The Joker's Reluctant Mistress in the Reading Corner." Pulls another book out. "The Teetotaller's Guide."

Johnson nods. "S'true. Hendrix." She looks at Cozen. "G has his Hanger. Ebenezer... we never found out where he lived, did we?"

The Allusive Miss Hellebore scratches her head, "He has offices in 404. I thought he lived there."

Johnson frowns. "But he's married to Esc, ain't he. I can't quite see Esc living in an office..." she hrms. "Oh! Soup and Pants belongs to Esc!"

The Allusive Miss Hellebore says, "Do you think he lives at the Warehouse and she live at Soup and Pants? That hardly makes sense."

Johnson hrms. "No, you're right." She slots the rest of the books back. "To the Study, Cozen Hellebore! I think we really must discover who it is who resides here." She takes Cozen's arm.

Johnson tiptoes over to the door and pushes it carefully open, poking her head inside.

The Allusive Miss Hellebore tiptoes with her. Not that there's much of a point. They've been blaring music this whole time.


STONE COTTAGE: EBENEZER'S STUDY



Johnson looks thoughtfully around the study. She notes with approval the craft basket and sewing kit before her eyes fall upon the pencils.

Johnson looks at the pens. And the pencils. The enormous array of them. She turns wide eyes to Cozen. "You don't think..."

The Allusive Miss Hellebore touches a pencil. It moves a fraction of an inch. "Oh, most certainly."

Johnson grins. "Oh dear. Well." She sits down at the desk and begins to stack the pencils up. With some string, she begins to construct a fairly decent log-cabin out of pens.

The Allusive Miss Hellebore laughs and immediately feels guilty for it. "Johnson! He'll be cross."

Johnson smiles. "Ah, but will he know who to be cross at?" She rolls half the pens towards Cozen. "Come on, help out, will you. Barn-raisin' ain't an easy business on yer own."

The Allusive Miss Hellebore against her better judgement, begins adding pens to the pen-log cabin. "We'll have to tell them, won't we? So they'll know who's been in their house? Using their shower and eating their food--"

The Allusive Miss Hellebore suddenly chokes with the realization, "I used Ebenezer's shower."

Johnson smiles. "What of it? It's part Esc's. I'm sure she wouldn't mind." She adds a little pencil pathway, lining it with string for shape. "We can leave a present, and food, and req. But our names?"

Johnson grins. "We don't have to. We can, but..." she shrugs. "Or, we could leave Clues."

The Allusive Miss Hellebore uses two tax forms to make the roof. "Maybe you're right. It's probably for the best."

The Allusive Miss Hellebore asks, "What sort of clues?"

Johnson shrugs. "Hm. Clues... to our identity? Or to a present? Ooooo." She grins. "Well, for one thing, we can hide the present somewhere in the house and then they can have a Treasure Hunt. Leave notes."

The Allusive Miss Hellebore says, "But we haven't got a present yet."

Johnson frowns. "Erm. This is true." She looks thoughtful. "What do you think they'd want, anyway?"

Johnson makes little windows out of string and ties the pens carefully together. And then slides in another tax form for the floor.

The Allusive Miss Hellebore shrugs, "Missus Escemfer likes pretty things? And ... Ebenezer like to scowl?"

Johnson laughs. "So... something pretty that Ebenezer can scowl at." She brightens. "Lacy lingerie?" 1)

The Allusive Miss Hellebore stutters, "I-I would hardly think that... that would be appropriate, Johnson!"

Johnson drums her fingers on the table, causing the pencabin to rock slightly. "Hrm. Pretty shower curtains? Or. Hm. A beautiful, brightly coloured tie Esc will make Eben wear."

Johnson grins at Cozen. "Well then, what do you suggest."

The Allusive Miss Hellebore tugs on Johnson's elbow. "Well, we will think on it. But in the meantime, it's probably rather safe to go home."

The Allusive Miss Hellebore shrugs, "A tambourine? I've no idea. Honestly."

Johnson nods and then raises an eyebrow. "A- actually, that would make Eben frown. And Esc would probably like it."

Johnson gets back up, pen cabin completed. "Ain't it pretty." She patters over to the door. "So, eye-monster gone?"

The Allusive Miss Hellebore peeks through the window. "I don't see it... but that might be the way it wants it."

Johnson makes a face. "Well... is there something we could wear so we'd look like we didn't have eyes?"

Johnson peers through the window as well. The swamp seems... quiet.

The Allusive Miss Hellebore says, "Maybe if we walked with canes it would think we were blind?"

Johnson hrms. "Maybe if we bandaged our heads up really tight and then stained the socket-areas with juice it'd look like we'd already lost our eyes?"

The Allusive Miss Hellebore frowns, "I'm not very interested in doin that? Maybe we should just avoid the swamp?"

Johnson nods. "Probably a good idea." She stands and yawns. "Come on, we should get out of here before we fall asleep in Ebenezer's study and he finds us. Now that would be bad."

The Allusive Miss Hellebore nods, following after her. "The absolute worst."

Johnson adds, "Let's head through the forest this time." She patters out the room. "Maybe you can take the train... lend me a train pass?"


STONE COTTAGE: LIVING ROOM



Johnson heads back out with Cozen, turning off the music as she goes. She glances one last time around. Everything's clean, and there's a stack of pancakes and bacon in the oven of the kitchen. Yep. Good.

Johnson heads out with Cozen, bickering amiably.

1) A little later, Johnson does give Escemfer some lacy lingerie.
 
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