A Daisy Chain of Emotional Investment


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Scene Title A Daisy Chain of Emotional Investment
Synopsis As the raid on Pinehearst's Jersey facility creeps closer, Ghost asks Eileen for an important favour.
Date July 18, 2009

Abandoned Psychiatric Facility

He'd wanted to see her. By her choice of rendezvous point, Ghost had rather gotten the idea that she hadn't wanted to see him.

It's where they first met. Well— it's where he'd taken her after their initial meeting at Central Park, twitching and concussed, blood clotting the back of her hair as thickly as it ribboned down from Alexander's savaged eyeball. Good times. That would be his sarcasm voice thinking.

The derelict psychiatric ward had been chosen on the same principles under which the Company's facility and Level 5 cells were designed. Furniture, layout, observation windows and sterile, flat surfaces, everything easily supervised and minimally hospitable for long-term imprisonment. Smells like madness in here, still. Hers, or those of inmates longer gone. No one's manning it now. Haven't been for months, though there are a few surprises staying in storage on basement-level.

That would be where Ghost is waiting for the Englishwoman, leaning on the one-way glass of the window that had once overlooked the skeletal curl of Eileen's back inside her T-shirt, and a few quarts of his spilled blood. His face is blank. He can't hear Gabriel. Teodoro has been murmuring Bibleverse on and off for hours, and he's sleepily grinding out the syllables in Proverbs 27:17, now.

Either he's misremembering the intent of the line or reinterpreting it. Either way, Ghost doesn't bother to correct the younger man. Merely looks out, further afield. Waiting.

The psychiatric ward makes Eileen's Top Ten List of places she's sworn never to set foot in again, right behind Moab Federal Penitentiary and her mother's flat back in London — for those of you out there keeping track, they rank second and first respectively. Her reasons for choosing to meet Ghost here are as obscure as washed out graffiti plastered across the building's exterior, pale and discolored, serpentine letters and symbols that loop back around on themselves like a cheerful ouroboros, each word and slogan a tail-devouring snake.

It may be that she wants to make a point. More likely, her pool of locations that hold significance for both of them is shallow enough for her to risk wading waist-deep through memories she'd probably rather forget.

When she rounds the corner, there's no doubt as to her identity; as usual, her small size and bird-boned build make it difficult for her facial expression to carry the gravitas she desires to convey. Minus the wrist brace he saw her in last, she comes into view with her jacket worn open and her shoulder holster plainly visible should there be any question of whether or not she came armed. Just because she's forgiven him for what he did to the woman she might have one day become doesn't mean she's willing to let her guard down any more than the occasion deems necessary.

"Have we hit a snag?"

The occasion doesn't seem to deem open threats of assault necessary, as far as Ghost's armaments, outfit, and carriage hold. He's dressed in black and gray, as he is so often wont to do these days: in dignified adult street-wear, longer coat and slacks, rather than the shabby college era calvacade of sweaters and beaten jeans that Teo used to favor so much.

He had put his gun away, assuming he has a gun. Of course he has a gun. His eyes are pale as death under the fluorescence of the ceiling light, even despite the accumulated patina of dust that dims the white light down to something reasonably bearable. "No. I have an invitation. Favor to ask, sort of.

"I'd like you to follow me up to see the Arthur clone. I might need backup." Deadpan. Ghost tends to keep his face schooled into stonily unironic discipline whenever it seems he should be pulling out an ill-conceived but perfectly humorous punchline. He tends to laugh and Cheshire at all the wrong things, too. In case you hadn't noticed. His eyes thin a minute or two belated, the nearest facsimile to a smile that he can be fucked to produce right now.

Teo's psychic mumbling screeches to a halt.

He has a reason for asking. On some level, even Eileen — for as willfully oblivious as she can sometimes be — must realize this. She inclines her chin in a catlike manner, bottleglass eyes adopting a curious sheen as she watches him for several long moments of silence, somber and studious. "At the risk of sounding more self-depreciative than usual," she says finally, "what did you do to piss off your first choice?"

There are too many mutual acquaintances between them for her to be anything except suspicious. That is to say— "In case you've forgotten, amico," and the word drips off her tongue like a tiny drop of mercury, "I rode in a carseat for as long as Volken was at the wheel. I'm probably one of the worst people you can ask for backup against old Artie. Unless you're looking for someone to draw fire?"

It isn't an accusation. Not really. Eileen raises both her eyebrows at Ghost, their shape resembling something inquisitive.

The ghost's mouth flattens. Goes white instead of its default sanguine, ruddy shade, an expression halfway between a grin and a grimace, a mask if not a proper disguise for his pondering how much of the truth to tell.

He doesn't really have any particularly marketable lies here, of course, and one would suppose there's the principle of trying for honesty with someone you've already done the grave disservice of summarily murdering, once upon a time. He debates with himself. Listens to Teo's silence, which implies, perhaps disturbingly, that the Sicilian has already guessed to his motives.

"If anyone's going to be drawing fire, it'll be me. I think I can get stun Arthur long enough to get a dart into his jugular, but if I can't, I'll try to get his Hunger going. Puts me, Teo and Gabriel in a pretty shitty situation. You could come up afterward.

"It's a daisy chain of emotional investment I've exploited before," he adds, before stopping short, that final consonant caught in the curl of his tongue and the clinch of even white teeth. Ghost shuts and opens his eyes, once, studying the cast and shape of her face, even as the expression drains out of his own like water swirls out of the bottom of an uncorked bathtub, leaving him impassive if not cold, empty rather than malicious. "You wouldn't let yourself fail Gabriel. Gabriel wouldn't fail you. Didn't. Even if we all go down, Ethan isn't going to let Arthur Petrelli get away with that.

"Logic, si? Passion is power." Were it not for the obvious factors, Teo is saying, I'd wish you would die. "But I honestly don't think it'll come to that."

Ghost calls it a daisy chain of emotional investment. To Eileen, it's more of a circlejerk of vengeance that shows no sign of ending soon. That his Gabriel died so that she might live isn't a piece of information she holds in her possession, but this doesn't stop her from experiencing the niggling feeling that even his present day incarnation wouldn't approve of what the man standing across from her has proposed.

Of course, in the grand scheme of things, what does approval really matter? "Passion is power," she agrees. "It's also incredibly selfish to expect other people to keep avenging me. Do you think I'm proud of what he did, Teodoro? That I enjoyed watching him split you open like a fucking clam?" Eileen's voice rises in pitch, growing taut, though it does not yet break. She's moving forward now, closing the distance between them at a deceptively languorous pace that belies the tension in her body language.

If Ghost was trying to make her angry, then he's succeeded in spades. Passion comes in many forms. "I failed Gabriel by dying once. You're more of a fool than he was for abandoning his body if you think I'm going to let you orchestrate it twice."

Daisies are prettier than circle-jerks, generally speaking. He was just trying to be delicate about it. For her female sensibilities— you know. Token kindness. Being polite, discreet, courteous, and no Ghost doesn't honestly think that the audience is going to believe him on that one.

He'd probably agree on the circle-jerk. "Don't waste your temper, please? That's only the worst case scenario."

You're going to get slapped, Teo is seething in disgust. This is ridiculous— you should just ask Ethan himself, he is 'invested' enough— and you— you're just out of your fucking mind. Taking a cudgel to slice bread. The speed of thought is quicker than words could ever be. The ripping discharge of Teo's resentment scorches like lightning sooner and quicker than it takes Ghost's words aloud to dissipate in the shrinking margin of air between himself and the angry Englishwoman.

That is, he asks, "That mean you'll help us then?"

It takes a concentrated effort for Eileen to continue staying her hand. Teo might not be so far off the mark. Or at all. It's Ghost's final question that does it — six innocuous words strung together into a query so offensive that she doesn't even realize she's thinking of hitting him until her open palm cracks against his mouth. More surprisingly, it isn't followed by the sting of regret or the overwhelming sense of remorse that has consumed her in the past when she's lashed out at someone she cares about in a temporary lapse of faith and good judgment.

"Us." Not yet to the point of spitting venom, her tone is at least seeping it when she speaks. She isn't immune to its effects, either. All of a sudden her tongue is feeling very thick in her mouth, lips numb as they move to form words, though there isn't anything even remotely clumsy about the way they sound upon coming out. "What do you need me to do?"

That's probably a yes.

Somewhere, in the back of Ghost's mind, there's a mild observation, or perhaps a shared reaction: Ow.

They can all concur, then, even if the ghost's amalgamate psychic energy provides a barrier between his accompanying souls and the actual sensation of pain. From his perspective, that barrier feels like 'my face,' right now.

It reverberates. Not the worst he's felt, arguably, not after he gave his arm to heal her through Kazimir's gift or torture on a Palestinian surgical table, but there's weight to this that neither the pernicious needling teeth of lifeforce manipulation nor the interrogators' flaying knives had carried behind them. This weight somehow changes direction, velocity, somewhere between the recoil of his head and the automatic hairtrigger jerk of his fist at his side.

In short, he doesn't punch Eileen.

Though there's instinct there, training, preconditioning, a flare of toxic temper. He breathes in. Out again. Adrenaline thickening one vein in his neck and five vined across his metacarpals.

Instead, he licks slime off and onto his teeth, smears them pink in the thin sliver that he shows her, inadvertently: not a smile. "I'll g—ive you something to shoot the neurotoxin with," he grinds out, "explain the floorplans. If, where and when you come in gets decided there on the night. Spontaneity. I know you have it." He can taste it in his mouth.

Maybe it's something about this place that brings out the worst in this pair. The last time they were here, Ghost was nursing a gaping wound in his belly and Eileen a broken nose. She lowers her hand, the tips of her fingers curling inward on themselves, and takes a step back to reinflate some of that lost space into an invisible safety cushion. What she'd told Lucrezia was true — she is getting impatient, not just with the situation but the other people involved as well. The fact that he's effectively holding two of her closest friends hostage only exacerbates her temper further.

There is no apology forthcoming. "You'll be sorry you asked me if I miss," is what she eventually settles on, though what she really means to say goes something along the lines of: I really wish you'd rethink this.

If she misses, Ethan won't— but this is a point that the ghost knows better than to push, now, with copper viscous in his mouth and something breaking into little tinkling pieces in his heart. The silence Ghost invokes now bears resemblence to injury, as if something had forced apart the segments of conversation with force of induced trauma, as a blade separates skin, bleeding rather than empty.

"I'm already sorry," he manages, eventually. Which isn't consent to her unasked wish, but a concession all the time. Ghost loosens his fist. It leaves marks sore in the palm of his hand, embedded under brunt of pragmatically short-shorn fingernails. "Sometimes…" His lips seal. Twist briefly, as if twitching away from a biting fly though there's nothing nettling him but his irritation.

And, maybe, hers. "I know I should've stayed in 2019. Would've gotten over this, eventually. Heal, move on— in another ten years. I didn't want to. I know— that— inculpates me, rather than exculpates me, but—"

She doesn't want to hear this. The lies Ghost spins tend toward horrific, he knows; it's hideous irony, that the truths are often that much worse. He looks at the wall past her head. He'd spent hours staring at it, before, waiting for her to awaken between rounds of interrogation with the so-labelled good cop. "I do know."

Whether she wants to hear it or not, Eileen is listening. Her eyes remain on his face, watching, studying in an attempt to visually dissect the thin veneer of— whatever-the-fuck, really. If she had to choose one glaring difference between this Teo and the one she's come to know, it would be that this one is infinitely more difficult to read, and not just because he wears a different face. The eyes are the same, she thinks. Eyebrows too, to a certain degree. It isn't what he does with them, either — it's what he doesn't do.

"I'm not sure that you are," she says. Then, as if to clarify her statement: "Sorry." It occurs to her, somewhat belatedly, that she should have struck him with her left hand rather than her right. While she might not need her wrist brace anymore, the injury isn't immune to aggravation. Fingers flex, tendons bulging as she works some of the lingering pain from her fingers. She would be lying as well if she tried to cash in on an old cliche and convince someone that hitting Ghost hurt her more than it hurt him, however. Any discomfort she might be experiencing will fade soon enough.

"You never would have left him alone."

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