between prologues @hoverbun
between prologues inherently bachelor route because they’re utopians. this is p1 continuity cross posted from ao3!

The theatre doors always fall open when you push them free from their half-lock, never leading the hand that opens them in but instead swinging away with such an urgency to be forgotten. It would seem that the wall they are built within leans on an uneven angle; an angle that pulls both patrons and loose hinged doors inside all together.

Following entry, there is a large step down, and wooden beams for flooring that is quite evidently laid over cold stone. It is a very old building, and not a very pretty one. Peter can feel the autumnal chill follow him inside, blowing in rounded curves and scattering across the wood and stone. He walks inside and in the corners of his eyes he wonders about the glimpses into a different structure. Nothing physical — it refuses to manifest — but separate division, something otherworldly, something in another manner of recounting.

The director is in spotlight, as he is expected to be, and he is holding some papers with writing on them that Peter is certain is but a prop. He has been told by the Bachelor Dankovsky of the new purpose he has given the Town's theatre, as a new hospital. The first of its kind, for this Town. Peter takes a breath in as his greeting to the shrewd director, and he deducts that the so-called hospital is a couple days from being more of a morgue.

"I hardly believe my eyes," the director muses, looking from his papers (perhaps reports? not like him to bookkeep? must have been given to him) to his guest. His cane is tucked up under his arm, pinned against his torso, and it provides him a peculiar gait. "A derelict architect has wandered into my workshop."

"Yet not by any mistake," Peter assures, with a heavy voice and equally as heavy shoulders sagging his frame. "I'm here for my uniform."

Mark Immortell looks at him with a shrewd smile and his fingers hooked by his chin, as if he were holding a writing pen. The surprise that dawns upon him is enough to crack his face, and amusement glows through the surface. "The Town's new cremator? I was told I would expect company, but not that it would be one of the few dead men still walking."

"You weren't expecting me?" Peter asks.

"I heard a rumour that the reason Peter Stamatin cannot cross the western river is because our Governor would see him cross the bridges and chase him with cuffs." The dusty light does little to hide the humour of Immortell's catchlight. Peter looks on without fondness. Mark's smile seems to relax with the pause. "It's just a rumour, after all, since you're here."

"The leaders of our Town would make it more complicated of a tasks for the old man," Peter replies, and finds himself shifting the weight of his body from one foot to another. Anticipatory. Maybe even anxiety. He realizes his body's reactions before their emotional intent a lot more these days, even if he struggles to parse them. 

Mark seems to hold back a laugh. Peter wonders what's so funny. "Are the costumes that protective of the disease?" he asks.

"I haven't much of an idea. I'm not too familiar with diseases or what suits best as preventative measures. Our esteemed friend found the costumes suitable, and ordered that I donate them to our Orderlies. Are you to become one?"

"No," Peter replies, "I am only to burn what remains. So says Governor Saburov, to whatever power his leadership has now become. Just yesterday I was told of my new appointment, and I am hardly sure that Bachelor Dankovsky even is aware."

Mark Immortell holds his papers close to his chest and drums his fingers across their bare back sides, once for each row of fingers. "I believe anyone could have predicted that kind of move. Sometimes, the death wishes others have in this Town become far too obvious for my liking."

"What, are you truly clairvoyant?" Peter cants his head and finds a frown has begun to settle on his sallow skin.

"Am I?" Mark mirrors.

"Some claim you are. My brother claims that you disrespect our former Mistress with your powers."

"The future is told only through the eyes we already have, my friend," Mark says, "what more clarity could I possibly possess?"

Peter's expression doesn't crack. There is no epiphany to betray himself with; it is, at its core, the testimony of one man, against the judgement of his brother. He's yet to have reason to question it, regarding Immortell. He folds his hands together and keeps them hanging in front of him, as some immovable intruder of a building of dreams.

Mark reaches to his cane and brings it back to the ground, leaning his weight against it just so that the wooden stage creaks beneath. He waves the papers at Peter, and he can hear it crinkle together. "While I am the type to question the nature of our beliefs, I have found most of my company to act contrarian in our discussions. It is almost as if they don't wish to concede to my positions!"

"Maybe they don't like you," Peter replies, earnest.

Remarkably, Mark doesn't appear offended. "If that is the case, they should put an end to their curiosities about my theatre."

Peter takes a moment to consider. "I guess that's fair. Where are the costumes?"

"There are dressing racks to my right. Are you leaving already?" Mark gestures his papers in the direction prompted. Why, he almost seems disappointed his company is leaving so soon. "There's plenty of talk about your muted ambition, you know. I have no opinion on rude gossip, but if you're excited to begin a graveyard shift..."

"I'm not excited," Peter replies over his shoulder, gathering up the heavy cloak. The bone charms and mask rattle together. "Plenty wish to talk about the state of artists when they fail to deliver. Nothing said could burden me more. I have already accepted my fate."

He turns, and through observed silence, Mark Immortell has led himself to the edge of the stage, perched and watching, cane laid across his lap and chin perched on folded hands. He looks quite pleased with himself, all wide eyes and curved slit smiles. 

"A theatre isn't the same as glass and paper," Mark says, "but you're welcome to find inspiration among my plays. They're nothing like the rumours."

Peter can feel his whole body heave under the heavy cloak, but even more under Mark's enthusiasm. It isn't hateful, with an underhanded excitement to see him fail. It almost feels like a genuine invitation. Peter squares his shoulders to better support his new uniform, and exhales, like a last rattle of life.

"Maybe," he says, "When I'm less of a risk to bring plague back here."

"My health is limitless," Mark assured, "You needn't concern yourself."

Peter stalls for a moment before he begins to shuffle away. The bones make the Orderly costume so much more heavier than it needs to be. There's a dusty smell to it that reminds him of the tanneries of Town. "Goodbye, director."

Mark remains perched on the edge of the stage. "I'll be seeing you in time," he says, as means of goodbye.

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