An Informal Request


sabra_icon.gif richard2_icon.gif

Scene Title An Informal Request
Synopsis This isn't an appointment, and Richard isn't given an assignment.
Date October 18, 2008

Falai Restaurant, Lower East Side

After sunset, but not late, it's just about prime time for restaurants. Falai, an upscale Italian restaurant in Lower East Side, actually opened only a short while ago, as it caters strictly to the dinner crowd. That poses no difficulty for Sabra, as she made a reservation some time in advance. Dressed in a midnight-blue blouse whose color gives the illusion of velvet under all but close inspection and elegantly comfortable black pants, the elderly lady has already claimed her seat at the two-person table reserved for her party. Anyone who knows Sabra would be flat-out astonished at the absence of her usual shadow — yet Ashton is nowhere in sight. That's not the same as saying the interim director is alone… but anyone who came with her is at a discreet distance and not readily spotted.

Richard arrives not too long after the time he said he'd be there. Predictably, he's dressed in black - but chicly so, a dinner jacket over a nice shirt and matching slacks. His hands are free aside from the ever-present cane, allowing him to walk with only the slightest of limps. He's lead by an employee of the restaurant, pointing him in the right direction, whom Richard dismisses once it's clear as to where he's to go. Coming to a halt at the table, he gives the older woman a benign smile. "Sabra Dalton? It's nice to mee you."

The smile is returned with some warmth, and Sabra gestures towards the empty chair. "Richard Kenneth. Please forgive me for not rising; my knees aren't what they used to be." A waiter arrives promptly to take beverage orders, to which Sabra asks for just a glass of wine. "Do call me Sabra — " That smile again, good humor and laughter lines. " — this isn't exactly a formal meeting." Even if dinner 'dates' are traditional for settling business matters — the way she says the words suggests Sabra tells everyone to call her by first name. Which she does.

Richard glances up at the waiter once he's seated himself, and seems to hesitate before adding, "I'll have that wine too, thanks." The cane is leant against the table, hands clasping together - perhaps to keep himself from gesticulating - and around them, the sound of the restaurant seems to dim, as if the volume dial was taken down a notch or two. This doesn't seem to go noticed by anyone, an effect kept to the two-person dinner table. "Sabra it is," he says. "If it's not exactly a formal meeting, what sort of meeting is it? If you don't mind my asking." He'd known about agents being booked in with their new supervisor, and had expected to go exempt, it seems. Let alone treated to dinner.

"Call it an introduction," Sabra replies with a small smile. "I like to know the people I'm working with — even those beyond the pale, as it were." She shakes out her napkin and settles it neatly in her lap. "And it provided a marvelous excuse to get out for a bit." The change in ambient noise is noticed — it has to have been, right? But Sabra doesn't give any indication. Then again, she's Company. One white brow arches. "Do you disagree?" The implication being that, if he doesn't care for the meeting — they can go their separate ways for the evening, and no hard feelings.

"Absolutely not," Richard says, amicably, smile returning briefly as he looks across at the elderly woman. "This is a very nice restaurant, after all. Water?" He reaches for the icy jug of water set down at all tables, pouring himself a glass, even as he continues speaking. "I'm just not particularly used to, ah, higher up individuals within the Company, such as yourself, making time to talk to me especially. I'm not fired, am I?" It's a joke. Mostly. And the way his voice glances over the word 'Company' makes it sound as though it only goes by a small 'c', as is appropriate for public locations, control over the audio or not.

"Please," Sabra affirms. The response is followed by a soft chuckle. "Most definitely not. But I have spent the past few years — " More than a few, to be perfectly honest. " — in France, and I'm out of touch with matters on this side of the pond." The waiter returns with the glasses of wine, remarkably promptly — but with as much as this restaurant costs, they'd better be quick. Sabra waves him off, however, when he asks if they're ready to order. "A little longer, please," she replies with a smile, and the waiter nods before ducking away. "It seemed appropriate to arrange a meeting," the old lady concludes, returning her attention to Richard.

The second glass of water poured, and from his own, this is what Richard drinks before he can acknowledge the wine, leaning back into his chair and long legs only folded a little awkwardly beneath the table. "Well, welcome back to New York," he says, with a slight wave about the place. "It must— look a little different from when you were last here." Now, he sips from his wine, hands clasping once more with a slight shrug of broad shoulders. "I'm at your service. What can I do you for, Sabra?"

The elderly face crinkles in a smile. "Thank you, Richard," she replies, taking a sip of her own wine. "It most certainly does." Sabra tilts her head slightly as Richard continues, one brow arching at his choice of phrase. "Perhaps you could tell me a bit about yourself?" the old woman prompts. She waves her free hand more or less at the table, though of course it isn't the actual object of attention. Just a stand-in. "There are files upon files to be had, of course. But files are horribly dry. Not to mention hard on the eyes," Sabra points out, with another sip of wine.

Richard glances away and to the side, as if debating how to introduce himself to the supervisor, fingertips tapping against the glass he holds. "Fair enough," he says, looking back towards her through the black-framed glasses. "I spend my time with the NYPD as their on-call psychology expert," this word is said with only a little bit of irony, "and counselor, as per my orders. Then I look after whoever Dr. Salonga isn't looking after, because we can't all be telepaths, can we."

Patience is a virtue Sabra has in abundance, so she waits for as long as Richard needs to put his thoughts in order. "If we were, the world would be a rather… different place, I expect," she observes, swirling the wine in her glass just slightly. "Are you ready to order?" she asks, catching sight of the waiter headed their way a bit before he actually arrives. The prior conversation is put on hold for the moment.

"I suspect I'd be out of the job," Richard replies, quickly and with a slightly more genuine half-smile, then glances at the menu he hadn't really paid attention to as the waiter approaches. Once the man is back within range, the background ambience of the restaurant is lifted to its normal level. "Certainly. Ladies first," he says, quickly scanning the menu before picking out something simple when it's his turn.

Sabra smiles at Richard, then places her own order for a rather simple dish, eschewing the many complex ones on the menu. And a salad to go before it, of course. Once Richard's placed his order and the waiter has gone about his business, the elderly lady folds her hands on the edge of the table and gives Richard her full regard. "You might just be. Fortunately, that isn't the case." One brow lifts. "I presume that's a fortunate thing?" In other words — you like your job, yes?

The menu is closed, set aside. "My wonderful apartment and pay check say yes," Richard says, then decides to maybe let up on the flippant remarks, considering the company (no pun intended) he's currently keeping. More politely, he follows this up with, "It's very fortunate. I enjoy my position with the Company and even the work they've set for me as a cover. I couldn't ask for a better arrangement."" Well maybe he could, in some ways, but couldn't everyone? This is just the kind of thing you tell your sort-of employer.

Sabra laughs softly at Richard's reply, apparently not minding the flippancy. She takes another sip of wine, before returning her hands to their folded state. The blue eyes that remain focused upon her companion remain amiable, even kind. "Maybe not better," the elderly woman allows, "but I'm certain you could ask for something." She seems honestly curious. "I know I could."

More wine is sipped, and Richard shrugs in a very nonchalant sort of way. "Yes… I could, ah, if I thought about it," he allows. "No job's perfect. But besides, the agents have a lot more to worry about than I do." And because this isn't the most formal of meetings, after all, he smiles across at the older woman. "Why, what would you ask for?"

"Ah, well. If you have to think about it…" Sabra smiles again, this time taking a sip of her water to offset the wine. "Mm. Weekends would be a nice start," the interim director remarks, a wry undercurrent to her tone. Her working hours, after all, aren't limited to normal business days. Not in current circumstances.

Richard gives a low chuckle. "If we had weekends, we— wouldn't know what to do with 'em," he says. For a man who works two full-time jobs, it seems like, he's lucky if he catches a night's sleep. "The Company does well by employing insomniac workaholics. I like the work I do, Sabra, which is why I can't say I have a complaint. Besides, I know exactly what happens to people who don't appreciate their jobs, anymore."

"Too true," Sabra agrees, lifting her wineglass slightly as if to indicate a point scored. She takes a sip from it, then tilts her head and studies Richard over the top of the half-full glass, considering him for a brief time. "Which note brings something else to mind," she observes. "I may have an… endeavor… that would pique your interest." The elderly face crinkles in a broad smile. "And no, it wasn't anywhere in my original intentions," she adds, perfectly honest in the admission.

Much like his companion, Richard alternates sips between water and wine, now picking up the icy glass, although its journey to his mouth hesitates when she changes the conversation. As if to accommodate, the noise around them lessens even more, which implies that their conversation, also, is lessened to people around them should they bother to notice. "By all means," he says, before executing that sip of water, setting the glass back down. "Do tell."

The elderly woman sits back in her chair, holding the glass of wine before her and turning it slowly between her fingers. Marshaling her exposition of this little story. "There are a few who have been raised… within the Company," Sabra begins, cutting almost straight to the point. "I never approved of the practice — but some parents really do know best," she remarks with dry irony, "and some children don't have parents to steer them otherwise." Her free hand gestures, palm-uppermost — what can you do? — and Sabra pauses for a sip of wine.

Richard is a good listener, and so he settles back and does so, patiently, watching Sabra now over the top of his glasses and holding his wine, now, in both hands. "I can't say it's a healthy practice either," he adds. "Not if we want to bring them up to be functioning human beings within society but then again, that's not always the desired outcome, is it?"

"Even so," Sabra agrees. "And therein, my dear Richard, lies the rub," she admits with a small sigh. She sets the wineglass back on the table, and folds her hands once more. "Someone forgot that when you take the sheltered out from that shelter, 'home' starts to look a little small." A beat of silence, and while her gaze remains as gentle as it usually is, those blue eyes are also quite intently focused upon Richard. "I have a fledgling who thinks she can fly. I cannot deny her those wings without stirring up a great many problems, but neither can I allow her to leap straight from the cliff."

For the first time since meeting with the older lady, Richard seems a little uncertain, as if unsure he'll enjoy where this conversation is leading. Still, he's not about to draw away from it now. "I see your dilemma," he says, fingers absently fidgeting now with the button of his jacket's cuff, slipping it free, then back again. "I assume this is leading towards you asking me to— put to use my skill set. Which of course I'll happily oblige with. But reintegrating someone into the world is a little— it's a process."

"Yes," Sabra agrees, dipping her head. "And she… knows nothing, Richard. Truly." Picking the water up again, the elderly woman takes another sip. "It is not," she makes this point quite clear, "an assignment. This is a request, and you are free to refuse it without consequence. Neither do I expect an immediate answer," Sabra adds with a rueful smile. "But — she has agreed to start small, and you would set the pace." She lifts her glass slightly, the gesture standing in for a full shrug. "Most agents are not… what I would consider ideal for this purpose. I would far rather have an… independent associate as her guide."

Considering the amount of agents, of all kinds, Richard had talked to throughout his years with the Company, he can't help but smile a little in agreement. There's a silence between them, tainted only by the muffled sound of the restaurant around them, a hand up to scratch his jaw as he thinks. "Ideally," he says, "I'd like to meet her a few times within the facilities, to begin with. Then, during that time, the opportunity to get back to you with my answer. How does that sound?"

In response, Sabra merely spreads her hands and smiles. "I certainly couldn't argue," she replies. "It seems a sensible course." On which remarkably fitting cue, the waiter appears again, this time laden with dishes and dinner. Sabra lets that be the signal to cease serious conversation — though of course, details such as when the first meeting should happen will be arranged before the meal is entirely over. But the interim is left to other, lighter conversation.

October 18th: Cruelty In Kindness
October 18th: Fiat Lux
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