Puppy Teeth


julie_icon.gif sasha_icon.gif

Scene Title Puppy Teeth
Synopsis Julie propositions Sasha at a bar.
Date February 24, 2018

New York Safe Zone, Terrace 7

Terrace 7 is an offbeat bar within walking distance of Elmhurst hospital. The establishment carries itself with a mixture of kitschy decor from its ceramic cats on the bar and vintage signage on the walls to nearing classy with booths upholstered with supple leather and lit by candles. A small stage opposite the short bar has a single stool on it and a sign promising Improv Tuesdays, but there's no one up there on a dreary Wednesday night.

Seated at the bar in pink and black hospital scrubs, Julie Fournier-Raith is the only nurse who comes to Terrace 7. Most of the other hospital staff prefers either higher class or dumpster-dives downward in quality. A handful of orderlies and medical billing techs come now and then for trivia night, but they never catch Julie drinking by herself.

Her corner seat is something of a regular, back to the door and head down lost in the lyrics of a song she only partly remembers. Her gin and tonic is swirled by way of straw, lime wedge exiled to her stained napkin, phone nearby with screen dark. Disinterested, she watches a distant couple laughing and talking together. A hand on a hand, a toothy smile with head tipped back. Eventually she looks away, down to her napkin.

There's nothing for her there either.

On the other side of the bar is another couple, engaged in a low and heated conversation that makes the air grow thick with a kind of tension unrelated to either of their abilities — and only one of them has one. It’s an ability Julie knows well; she’s forced to work in close proximity to the man who possesses it every day, even if his regimen of negation drugs keeps it suppressed.

Something shifts. One poorly-chosen word tips the conversation the wrong way, and Sasha ends up with a wet face, a beard dripping whiskey, and an empty glass that, until a few seconds ago, had contained his date’s Old Fashioned. She stalks past Julie on long legs and fishnet stockings, hiking her purse higher up onto her shoulder as she goes. Mutters something that sounds like fucking asshole.

Sasha reaches up and wipes the whiskey off his jaw and chin with the back of his hand, which he sniffs and puts in his mouth.

It takes a minute for Julie to put two and two together. She'd already done that with the number of drinks she's had, and it's slowed down other math. Eyeing Sasha’s response to the situation, Julie closes her eyes and scrubs the heel of her palm against her forehead. She grabs her napkin, its purpose now found, and slides off her stool.

“You missed a spot,” is Julie’s arrival in Sasha’s periphery, napkin proffered and her unfinished drink in the other hand. She doesn't so much as wait to dignify letting Sasha take it in hand, so much as she places it in front of him. Afterward, Julie invites herself into the booth seat across from him, crossing one leg over the other and taking an assessing sip of her drink as she eyes the Russian.

At the hospital, Sasha has a reputation for being territorial when it comes to his nurses, his supplies, his patients, and his space. He pretends not to hear the whispers behind his back about his old Vanguard callsign and how his government handlers haven’t been able to train the wolf out of him yet. It’s easier, he thinks, to be the person that other people expect you to be than it is to be the person you want.

So he shows his wolf teeth in a smile. Does not seem territorial when it comes to the booth, however.

“You want something?” he asks her. How can I help you? might be the better way to phrase this request, but eight years in the United States and he still doesn’t have a perfect grasp on the English language.

“Company?” Julie explains taking another sip of her drink. Sasha doesn't recall seeing her talk with people outside of work. She's in and out on time every day for her shifts. Cardigans and floral prints when not in scrubs. There's always been something very pedestrian about her. No rumors at work, no friends either.

Settling her drink down on Sasha’s former date’s napkin, she looks into the ice and then back up to the Russian. “I've got a question for you, too. Can't ever ask it at work,” blue eyes divert back down to her drink. “If you're feeling chatty.”

Julie takes another sip from her drink, and eyes the bar. “Actually,” she raises a finger. “Hold.” Up and out of her seat, Julie hustles over to the corner of the bar where another woman was taking her former seat. In her somewhat inebriated haze she remembered her phone and purse, and comes hustling back over on sensibly boring sneakers.

“Ok.” Purse and phone are set down beside her drink. Julie returns her right brow to its raises position, expectantly.

Her absentmindness does not go unnoticed, the same way a predatory animal recognizes weakness when it sees it. Julie doesn’t know it yet, but she might has well have wobbled away from the protection of the herd by going to retrieve her belongings. Sasha watches her back as she goes and makes a gesture that the bartender interprets as another round of drinks to be added to his ongoing tab.

When she returns, she finds him exactly where she left him, his hands spread open in invitation. “Ask,” he says. “I’m open book.”

The bartender places a new pair of drinks on the table: two vodka sodas, each with its own twist of emaciated-looking lime.

Julie mouths a thank-you to the server, plucking her lime off and depositing it onto the napkin. Her eyes track from it to one of Sasha’s hands, then to his neck, then finally eye contact. Leaning in, Julie talks in a conspiratorial tone. “Why do you take the negation drugs?”

It's both a more and less personal question than may have been anticipated. After asking, she finishes off her gin and tonic and sets it aside, sliding the vodka and soda in its place. “Because I can feel what you have,” brows pinch together, nose wrinkles. “Under your skin, like… a sleeping nest of snakes. Sedate from the cold.”

Julie picks up the vodka and soda, nurses it in a swaying hand. “It's not like we blood test you.”

Okay. Not as fun a question as Sasha was hoping. The light in his eyes gets a little dimmer as she asks, then takes on a more sinister shade at the phrase sleeping nest of snakes.

Being the person people expect him to be in this case entails a little nastiness. He reaches into his coat pocket and produces his ID card, which doesn’t flatter his vanity any; his picture has him looking bleary and sunken, taken the first week of the regimen when his body was still adapting to the changes inflicted by the medication.

He slaps it down onto the table and slides it across the surface under two fingers so Julie can see what’s printed there.

Aleksandr Kozlow

SLC-E (Class B Biological)


“I do things what told,” he says.

Julie’s eyes flick down to the card, drink tips up to her lips. Cheeks are flushed, movements fluid and a little languid. “Sorry,” she starts, but then looks up to Sasha with a squint. “I forget that English isn't your first language.” She draws her teeth over her bottom lip and cracks a smile at that jab.

“It's not.” Julie over enunciates, but still offers quietly. “Like we.” Her brows raise slowly. “Blood test you.” There's a beat that follows, just enough to let her bluntly obvious point linger. “Sasha, if I could feel like that again for even… a moment?” She wrinkles her nose, sipping at her drink again. “I'd stick whatever needle could give me that back in my arm right at this fucking table.”

Julie purses her lips, looking at the card again and pushing it back across the table to Sasha as she takes another small sip of her drink. “I know who you used to be. Everybody does.” That's delivered more softly. “Do you know who I used to be?”

“Half of two.”

Sasha raises his glass in a toast to the other half. “Za Zdarovje,” he says. To her health. He tips back his drink and takes a full swig, cubes of ice tinkling. You don’t run in Ferrymen circles for as long as he has without encountering the sad fairytale of the Fournier sisters and their mother.

He places his glass back down on the table and rolls it between the large, worn palms of his hands. Calluses cling to his fingers like barnacles on the hull of a boat. Hairs stand out on his knuckles. “You are drink too much, Not-Liette.”

Lips pursed to the side, Julie nods in agreement with a crooked smile. “That's what I come here t’do, Alek.” Blue, half-lidded eyes lift back up to him. She lifts her glass, taps it to his. “To our dead friends and family,” is a little darker than she intended, and Julie tips back another sip of her now halfway finished vodka and soda.

“But you're wrong,” Julie admits quietly, letting her glass sway left and right to the steady rhythm of an old Eagles song playing a touch too loud. “I was an Institute medical trainee. I was a minor, so I got overlooked in the trials. But I was there.” Her blue eyes lower to her drink. “The shit you’n me’be probably seen, right?”

She was going somewhere with this. Somehow. “Nnnn…” Right. “Negation’s a waste’f your talents.” Julie reaches out and taps one of Sasha’s calloused fingers. “Nobody’d know, Sasha. I see you— people throwing drinks in your faces? You… stoopin’ around all day in the job.” Her nose wrinkles again and she flicks his finger. “You can feel shitty about the things you've done an’ still keep your dignity.”

Sasha drags his ID back across the table, spins it once between his fingers, and places it back in his coat. He’s calculating how long he thinks it will take the drink she’s currently holding to snowball into all the drinks she’d held in her hand before he got to the bar. There are other unknown variables, like the last time she ate and how much, but she’s a foot shorter than he is and looks like he could carry her looped over his shoulders like a rancher carries a wrangled calf.

He might need to, at the rate she’s going. “I show you mine,” he says in a quiet, noncommittal tone Logan taught him to use when he wants something without appearing too eager. “You show me yours, now.”

Let the record show he’s referring to her identification card.

Julie cracks a drunken smile and bubbles up with unexpected laughter, one hand over her mouth as she sets down her drink. “Ooh,” she huffs out a steady breath and fans at her face. Still bubbling with a giggle or two, Julie unzips her purse and slides out her ID card, sliding it across the table with her finger beside her address.

Juliette Fournier-Raith

SLC-E (Class A Mental)

“Sasha, you're— adorable, but…” Julie scrapes the cars off the table. “And I mean, I'm flattered, but who d’you think processes the STD panels at our office?” Her nose wrinkles, smile broadens, and in spite of the fact that she's laughing it's not so much at him as it is the situation.

She hasn't moved her hand away from his.

“But you're cute. Like,” Julie rolls blue eyes up to the ceiling and then down to Sasha again. “A stray puppy. Needs shots, a good home, y’know.”

“I have home,” Sasha answers, his voice steady. Julie can’t see the hairs on the back of his neck prickle, but she’ll sense that nest of snakes in his chest shift, turning as one giant knot as his ability rolls over in its sleep. She has Provoked him.

“I have home,” he repeats, “but teeth, yes. Teeth like puppy. You should take care hands or they are bitten.” Her address he files away for later, whether that’s in a few minutes when she loses control of her equilibrium and her legs, or for another time when he catches her in a similar moment of vulnerability.

He should offer to walk her back to her apartment. Waits, instead, to see if she makes the suggestion herself, which will tell him something else.

Julie exhales a slow breath through her nose and drums fingers on the back of Sasha’s hand. “I like that about you. The teeth. People at work’r shitty to you. Make fun of you, y’know, when they think nobody's listening.” Inclining her head to the side, Julie considers Sasha as she tucks her card away and puts her not quite finished drink down.

There's a one fingered tap to her phone, just to check the time, and then off. “You should come by my place sometime,” is offered in a slow nod. “For dinner. I'm a pretty good cook.” She leans to the side, one foot in front of the other and slowly out of the seat. “I think you'd like Emily.” A beat. “Roommate. She's my DD.” Practical shoes. Cardigan and floral print on weekends. Sensibly boring.

“If you do?” Julie lifts a brow. “You'll enjoy yourself.” Blue eyes eye her unfinished drink, then settle on Sasha again. “You need a ride home?”

Sasha leans back in his seat. There’s so much for him to dissect there: her offer of dinner, the roommate named Emily, the casual mention of her designated driver. There’s probably some Russian variation of the saying two’s company, three’s a crowd running through his head right now, which is why he answers, “I walk.”

He lets out a sigh disguised as a slow breath that’s as out of the ordinary as Julie pretends to be, deflating. Logan has taught him other things too in their time together. Things like patience. “Spokoynoy nochi, Nurse Fournier. Good night.”

He idles until he sees her slide into the passenger’s seat of the car waiting for her outside, then scrawls her address on the cocktail napkin she offered him earlier with a pen borrowed from the bartender. This done, he folds it and tucks it into the same pocket as his wallet and ID card for safekeeping.

Hands braced against the surface of the table raise him to his feet. After settling his tab, he turns left at the nearest street corner instead of turning right like the address in his jacket would have him do.

That’s for another time.

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