Artistry and Trust


jaiden_icon.gif ygraine2_icon.gif

Scene Title Artistry and Trust
Synopsis Help is given, tattoos discussed, information swapped, and a pact made to protect a third party.
Date March 17 2011

Jaiden's Basement Apartment — Red Hook

The weather in New York on Thursday is pleasant - a little cool, as far as things go, but not mind-numbingly cold as it was in January and February. This means that work can be done in shirt sleeves or, in the event of a breeze, a light jacket.

The text from Ygraine was suitably cryptic, simply asking if Jaiden was at the shop and could she please come by for a quick visit. This seemed odd considering Ygraine was welcome to stop by at any time for any reason, but more than likely this was just to ensure that he was there and not delivering a car or parts or anything like that. A quick reply via text Sure, come on by. I'll have the kettle on. is sent back, and Jaiden closes everything but the door that he knows Ygraine will come down before heading down the stairs to do as he says.

The apartment is warm and quiet, with a small pile of dirty laundry leading to the bedroom - apparently the previous evening Jaiden got so sleepy that he got up from where he was sitting and, judging from the trail, just stripped off as he went to bed. The kettle has been put on the stove, the water heating gently, and Jaiden? He's in the process of picking those clothes up.

It's probably no surprise when the first parts of Ygraine to come into view are clad in high leather boots and skin-tight breeches… but the frock coat, waistcoat, cravat and fancy shirt are absent today. Instead, draped across her available arm is a heavy, old-fashioned military-style overcoat - leaving her upper half in an off-the-shoulder halter top, along with the ever-present bandages and leather sling on her wounded arm.

Calling out a greeting, she moves to neatly fold her coat onto a chair, turning her back to the room… and offering a clear view of the lack of a rear to her top. Wholly exposed to view, a pair of sinous Celtic and Anglo-Saxon dragons are intertwined, in a fabulously-detailed and impossible bright masterpiece of art. Covering the whole of her back, the piece looks almost as if it must have been freshly painted on rather than being tattooed.

Jaiden had managed to throw the rest of the clothes into his bedroom and shut the door just as the rattling of the door opening upstairs (and the helpful pinging from the alarms) indicated that Ygraine was on her way down. Turning on the ball of his foot, Jaiden jogs his way to the door just in time for Ygraine to step through.

"Good afternoon, Love…er, Ygraine." Jaiden chuckles and flushes slightly, using a term of endearment common to his part of the world and Ygraine's, unable to stop himself. "You're looking well." He lets out a low whistle at the body art on her back, almost expecting one of the dragons to leap off of the woman's skin and challenge him to a riddle contest they look so vivid. "I've been considering a tattoo to commemorate the things that have happened to me over the past year….who in the world is your artist?"

Toned muscles shift beneath the smooth skin, rippling the dragons as Ygraine finishes folding her coat into place, then straightens up and flashes a smile over one bare shoulder. "A reclusive, brilliant Evolved artist. Chromatokinetic. With a real artistic flair. And a willingness to work with other people's designs and ideas. These pair, for example, are y Ddraig Goch - the red dragon of the Britons, as seen on the flag of Wales - and the white dragon of the English, from a set of ancient legends about Merlin and the fate of Britain…."

Even with her lack of regular exercise, Ygraine has obviously kept herself up, be it with an exercise bike or some other form of physical activity. Her back doesn't show any signs of being any less toned or weaker, but then, it's the first time that Jaiden's even seen it and it's painted accompaniment. "It's beautiful." He sounds quite sincere, too, when he says that, bending to actually look at the tattoo closely - or as closely as Ygraine will allow. He doesn't touch, though - she hasn't given permission, and with the way it looks, he halfway believes that it might rub off on his fingers, leaving smudges of red and white. "I….it's odd, but I'm kind of feeling the need to …." He gestures to her back. "I mean heaven above, Ygraine, that's a beautiful accent. It really, really fits you like a glove." Straightening, Jaiden grins. "Perhaps you can help me come up with something sometime, and put me in contact with this artist?"

Ygraine blushes a little, ducking her head and laughing softly, though she doesn't pull away. "Find something that truly matters to you, and it will help. I know of one other person who has Xiulan's ink on her skin, and… it's gorgeous. And means a great deal to her. Whatever you get, the odds are that no other tattoo will ever match up to it - unless Xiulan also does that one. So make sure that it's something you want to live with for life, that has real meaning."

"That, my dear Ygraine, is why I don't have a tattoo at this point. I considered getting one after my time in Korea, but that was a little too…difficult…to have inscribed in a way that didn't look….ghoulish. This though…." Jaiden actually dares to touch the red dragon on the head - yep, just coloured skin there. "Lizzie has a pretty nice tattoo on her back of an angel…almost looks like this, but the colors are mostly black….If I got something, it'd be like this…blues, I think, with a wave or water motif…"

That earns Jaiden a surprised look, then a broad grin. "And that tells me more about your relationship with her than perhaps you meant to. That's Xiulan's work. A wounded - but not quite broken - guardian angel. To remind her of… past, and future, and what she can do. And…"

One of those gentle, one-sided shrugs ripples the red dragon's sinuous neck. "I'm thinking of going back to her to get work done with the scars on my arm, once it's healed enough. Work them into a tattoo clean around the whole arm."

"If she doesn't mind observers, I'd love to come along with to meet her." Jaiden chuckles slightly and blushes, running a hand through his short hair. Revealing the fact that he saw Elisabeth's tattoo did reveal a bit more about the audiokinetic and the hydrokinetic's relationship - "We're close, Lizzie and I, no doubt about it. Best of mates, I'll reckon." Just with a few fringe benefits, now and again.

Ygraine snorts softly. "I was apparently the first person to be deliberately shown that tattoo, who hadn't seen it in a very intimate situation", she says dryly, turning to shoot the big Aussie a grin. "I also know that she's… open in her relationship with Richard, so…. Oddly enough, having been in a poly relationship for the better part of a year myself, I'm not going to throw any stones of judgement."

Jaiden is blushing faintly - not as red as Ygraine's tattoo, but still, in the cool light of the apartment, it definitely is there. The kettle starts whistling, demanding attention, and Jaiden turns to take it off the fire, turning the gas stove off with a muffled click. "Lizzie and I…" He chuckles. "I'm not going to really explain it, because we're all adults and can make our own decisions. Suffice to say it was a very healing experience for both of us and gave me a fairly pleasant outlook on things." There are volumes that can be read into that, even with that brief glimpse Jaiden gave Ygraine, but that's the kind of friend Ygraine is - one that can be trusted with private details of a life and be sure to not share them.

"Milk and sugar with your tea, Ygraine, or do you take it plain? I've got earl grey - a fairly decent brand, and some herbal teas too. And coffee, if you want something stronger." Jaiden goes for the earl grey himself, adding a bit of cream and honey before taking a sip to test the strength and the amount of honey. "So, tattoos and love life aside, what can I do for you?"

Chuckling, Ygraine moves to perch on one of her favoured stools. "Coffee might be an idea. We're set for a long night tonight, I believe", she says with playful look. "I believe that we're both due to turn up at a certain party. And I wondered if you'd care to help me get ready."

There's always a pot of the black stuff on hand at Jaiden's place, brewed fresh in the morning. Enough for his morning get out of bed jolt plus another pair later in the day - he rarely has to pour any out or make a secondary pot. Reaching over for a mug - a heavy, wide-bottomed one - he fills it to about 4/5ths full, pushing it within easy grabbing range of Ygraine's uninjured arm. "You mean the ballet thing?" He seems a shade confused. "I didn't know you were a consumer of the arts…I'd only heard about it from Remi last night, when she invited me to come along as her date. I've got my suit at the cleaners right now…" He shakes his head slightly, having avoided the question. "Of course I'll help you get ready."

"Apparently you're going as her date…?", Ygraine asks with a smile. "I met her in Paris… about five years ago now. Before the world went crazy for either of us, back when each of us was pursuing our dream career…. She got back in touch with me the day before I went into the Dome. Invited me out for a birthday dinner. An apology for her butler handling my attempts at contact for some time…"

"Well isn't that a small world?" Jaiden laughs. "That's where I met her too, in Paris, right before she manifested. She kind of disappeared off the map right after and only just reappeared, wanting to spark things up again apparently…." He chuckles. "She's a promiscuous one, that. I'd be wary of your virtue. Mine too."

Ygraine coughs sheepishly. "I have… dim memories of making out with a pretty girl that could be her. We were at a party - a race had finished; a successful run of performances had finished for her. In France, cycling is… revered in a way it isn't in most of the rest of the world. So there, us sweaty athletes could merge with the graceful artistes of the ballet…."

"I woke up in bed at her apartment the following morning, with a beautiful Frenchwoman serving me breakfast and sympathy. I assumed we'd pulled a couple of hunky dancers - or cyclists - and had wound up continuing the party at a convenient flat, but… she tells me it was just the two of us."

Jaiden chuckles softly and takes a sip of his tea. "Don't be too sheepish about that. I do recall hearing about a race a few weeks before I got to Paris to take pictures for a travel book. They wanted to see the sights of paris, so I was hired and went over there. One of my stops was the ballet and…." Jaiden chuckles sheepishly too. "Some of those snaps, I think, will never be for public consumption."

Chuckling again, Ygraine shakes her head, raising a brow. "Perhaps I should have a look. See if they jog any memories", she teases. "But… if you don't object, I might apparently be joining you as her date tonight. I have a new job. 'Personal assistant' to Miss Davignon. In reality, largely investigating the Evolved underground for her, since… it seems that her family might be very well known to certain players in the game. And she's been kept in the dark till now, though she's personally of interest to at least some of those out there."

"With her permission, of course. Without….I'm afraid I'll need to keep them locked away where I have them." There's a sly smile that to that too. "No, no, I don't object in the least. You said 'personal assistant,' so that means you'll be getting a paycheck for this evening, or at least a nice meal and a boatload of flirting from all the parties involved." There's teasing, but there's a kernel of truth in that, too. The mention of investigating the Evolved underground for Remi, though, gives Jaiden a bit of a pause. "So she's trying to find out more about what her family has done, or names and places and people involved in the Ferry and other groups? That could be….problematic."

"Quite", Ygraine agrees. "But… I can't say that I don't think she has a right to know. I've got no proof, but there are very strong hints that her father, at least, is well-known to the Company. That the Davignon family are well-known. That they are respected to the point where at least one of the present 'players' in the underground struggles is concerned "not to make the wrong impression" on them. That Remi herself is known as a "promising young telepath". That she's been deliberately kept in the dark. That the reason her father has avoided her for some time is that he fears what she'd read in his thoughts. That…."

The Briton shrugs ruefully. "I'm hoping that I can… control what she learns, and how rapidly, until she has enough of an appreciation for what's going on to make informed judgements. I'm scared that if I gave her everything I could - even without breaking other people's trust - it'd just lead to her charging off to confront people. And get herself turned into the latest weapon of war."

"No, no, I'm not saying she doesn't have a right to know, it's just…she's young. She's just come into her power and basically spent the last five years cloistered in her family's estate to try and come to grips with everything that's happened to her. In the few meetings we've had since, we've had conversations in our heads, and with a little practice or, god forbid Amp, she might be able to suggest things to people on a massive scale." Jaiden takes a sip of his tea. "She's a wonderful girl. She needs to know things, but like you said, not everything all at once."

Jaiden sighs softly, reaching over to pat Ygraine's hand. "If you need help, she trusts me. She doesn't know about this place yet - we've only ever met at her dance studio or at the park - things like that. But you can use me as an information source or a sounding board most certainly."

Ygraine nods quickly. "She knows we know each other. But I was thinking of using you to help me. Control her. Protect her. Which sounds terrible, in some ways, because she's hired me because she's had enough of other people sheltering and protecting her. But I'm… so scared of what various groups would do with her. And how it could backfire. Precisely because she knows so little yet has that potential, she'd be such a wonderful tool for them, wouldn't she? And by telling her about it, I might be removing the protection she's thus far had."

Jaiden doesn't like to think of people as tools, but having a telepath on the Ferry's side would be of immense value. Communication that can't be tapped, reading of surface thoughts of an enemy commander, even early-warning systems that can detect when someone gets to close to a place that needs to be protected. Remi could do that and more. And with practice or amplification? She could be a force to be reckoned with.

"We should start simply, then….She's smart, so she knows things but not reasons. It might be good to pull out a primer on the Ferrymen, where we came from, and all that rot, and start from there. A simple history lesson."

"I don't want to reveal the network to her", Ygraine says unhappily. "I've given her a summary of what it was set up to do and how the government has treated it - nothing about people, just the outlines. Stuff she could pick up reading between the lines of news reports - or from the heads of some of the people she knows. Same for what I know of the Company. The Vanguard. Phoenix. PARIAH…. Nothing, I hope, that intimately ties me or anyone else to much, though she's got to know I'm neck-deep in at least some elements of it to be as sure as I am about some of it. But to reveal the Ferry to her straight up - that might be hugely risky. Until she knows more, she might… go to confront the wrong people about just what her family's history is, or why they've been keeping tabs on her, and… then whatever's in her head could wind up in their knowledge."

"It's a Gordian knot, for certain. But solving this puzzle has to be in a way that doesn't involve slicing her in half with a sword." Jaiden sighs softly, his life getting a bit more complicated now, thanks to Remi's re-emergence into the world. "We have to treat her like a girl lost in a forest full of wolves. We have to give her clues and let her form her own opinions, and then, if it's something we can work with, give her a few more. The ultimate goal, of course, is to have an ally."

"I've already given her a few blunt assessments. Varlane has apparently been working as a pianist at American Ballet Theatre", Ygraine mutters darkly, clearly thoroughly exasperated. "A violent narcissist who treats women's sexual favours as a currency, and who has a proven interest in leggy teenagers? Just the person to have around ballet students. Though I'm not sure if sacking him would help the world or not. I have no idea how he'll respond to any stimulus at all. He makes me in mid-breakdown look stable and rational…."

"So… yeah. I'm already guilty about dumping some of my firmer notions on Remi, but… some of those I think are necessary. Like 'dear God, please don't let anyone know what you can do. No one else. Nor that you know about the Company, nor your family's possible ties'. I'm hoping that we can keep her alive long enough to have her figure out where she stands herself."

Jaiden has not had much contact with Magnes, but recognizes the guy's last name when it's mentioned, the boy shaking his head sadly. "One thing that can be said about the boy is that he knows where to go when he sees something he wants. That's like putting a fox in charge of a henhouse - nothing but trouble for all involved and you end up losing a lot of birds, and reputation, to one bad fox. I hope she'll talk with the directors and see about moving him elsewhere….or off the premises entirely."

"Keep her alive or, at least, out of the line of fire long enough to form her own opinions. It's going to be a lot of work, Ygraine….I'll be there to help you when, not if, you need it."

Ygraine nods ruefully. "Of course, Remi's not exactly disinterested in females - leggy teens or otherwise - so making a fuss on those grounds could certainly backfire. But… Varlane is insane. And the only reason I can conceive of for him not being locked up is that he's government-protected - which fits with him apparently now working with the bloody Institute. Yes, the guys who tortured Liz. Among others."

That information comes as a shock. "Why would the government be protecting Magnus? And the bleedin' Institute to boot? This evening just got a lot more complicated…."

"He's one of the most powerful Evolved I've encountered", Ygraine murmurs. "With one accomplice - or opponent - the guy managed to stage the Shibuya Incident. He changed a major power's laws on the Evolved, and the attitude towards them, in a way that's still in evidence now. And when there was a guy who looked and sounded just like the Shibuya Incident guy, flying around the city in which Varlane lived (and through which he himself frequently flew - including flying in and out of a Ferry safehouse while shouting about Evolved abilities)…." She sighs wearily, shaking her head.

"The 'white knight' character was shouting about protecting a woman, just as Varlane did in the Shibuya Footage. He flew, just like Varlane did. He picked public fights and got himself caught on camera… He… blatantly had to be Varlane or one or two other people in the whole world. But somehow… Varlane got away with it. He was even leaving calling cards as challenges to the police. No matter what he does, he gets away with it…."

"He's apparently a former NYPD trainee. A former Company agent. Now affiliated to the Institute. Yet, somehow, some people in the Ferry trust him. Even after he was banned from the Island he apparently turned up there for a birthday party!"

"Don't forget devious enough to get to be a concert pianist at a major city's ballet premiere in, oh, seven or eight hours." Jaiden grumbles darkly, running a hand through his hair, frustrated at this font of information that just showed up in front of him. Even he knows about the Shibuya incident - saw the videos, cringed at what that fight did to evolved relations in the world. "You've just given me someone to worry about, Ygraine, and someone not to trust, ever."

"Worse than that", Ygraine says, pursing her lips. "I'm honestly not sure if it's Ockham's Razor, or my paranoia… but you have an ex-Company agent - someone on whom files will exist, in the possession of the various Company-successor groups and individuals. He is now affiliated with the Institute - which appears to serve as the adminstration's own direct successor agency, for monitoring and manipulating the Evolved. And he just happens to wind up working where a figure of confirmed interest to Company-successor groups is most often to be found…."

Jaiden nods slightly and drains his cup of tea. "It's perfect….I'm expecting something tonight, and I bet you will be too." He chuckles. "Looks like Remi has got herself a pair of bodyguards as well as a date from both sexes tonight."

"It's even worse than that, with regard to tonight. Alice Shaw specifically told me to 'support' Remi's venture tonight", Ygraine murmurs. "She seemed to want me there, tonight in particular. I'm worried that there really is going to be 'something happening'. Or at least the potential for it. So… that's part of the reason why I wanted to talk to you, because my new Mistress wishes me to wear my nicest gown if I'm to appear on her arm at such a grand event. Which leaves me rather limited in ass-kicking opportunities, quite apart from my current… debilities. And the other part is to ask you to braid my hair."

"Alice Shaw? The name's not familiar, but the way you're putting it, it sounds like it's someone of note." Jaiden strokes his chin thoughtfully. "If all goes well, we'll have a nice evening at the ballet and come home after it's all over for drinks and a good night of sleep. If not….we'll deal with it when it happens and try and keep the damage to a minimum while protecting everyone we can."

Jaiden chuckles softly, nodding. "Of course. We'll give your hair a proper wash and condition, then get it braided up. Do you just want a single braid, or something more fancy?"

Ygraine pauses, blinking slowly. "Crap. Sorry. I thought I'd told you. Single braid given the length of it is quite a lot to ask. But… crumbs. Well, it gives me something to fill you in on while you work. Remember the Deveaux Group…?"

Jaiden shakes his head in the negative, putting his cup and the kettle into the sink, walking around to inspect Ygraine's hair for a moment. It'll certainly need to be brushed out before braiding, and the open-backed shirt makes washing a little easier than it could be - not even requiring her to disrobe. "Jaiden's salon is now open." he says with a grin. "Let me vanish to grab a few things and when i get back, you can tell your story."

Slipping away to the bathroom, Jaiden returns with several towels, shampoo, conditioner, brush, comb, and a basin. A quick re-arranging of a few chairs ends up with a stool behind a recliner, allowing Ygraine to sit and lean her chair over the back where the basin sits.

"Okay, Ygraine, sit down and tell Jaiden all about your problems."

Sleeveless and backless, Ygraine's top was indeed chosen for ease of both dressing and efforts to deal with her hair, and she seems to be quite willing to cooperate - if somewhat amused about the big Aussie ex-SAS man turning hair-stylist.

"You know, one of the very few episodes of the A-Team that I can remember anything about features BA and Hannibal going undercover in a jail. Supposedly as hairdressers. And someone saying 'that animal's a hairdresser?!?' after he beats someone up…."

"Hh-hrrrm. Anyway. Ahh… right. A summary would be that the Deveaux Group are nominally a philanthropic organisation set up in memory of a young woman who died in the Bomb - the heiress to a wealthy, already-deceased father. In fact, he seems to have been a significant figure in the Company… yet a moral one. Actively interested in planning to avoid the darkness that the Company as a whole was plunging into. The Group appears to exist now as a 'player' in the underground wars - in the words of Alice Shaw, whom I spoke to there, they forge 'connections' between people. They have acquired much of the data and some of the personnel of the Company, as well as apparently having some independent resources of their own, and they seek to create ties and opportunities that will… shape the world. Guide it away from the darker outcomes."

"They've appeared as a name in the news a few times, but I first had direct contact when someone slipped a man called Graeme Cormac a business card for the group, with my name, "Liberty", and my home address written on it. I was in the Dome at the time, so he actually found Robyn there… but he called me up, we spoke a few times, and he turned out to be a near-perfect recruit. He's studied the sociology of media manipulation and methods of getting messages out into the general consciousness, for example. And he's Evolved, moral, intelligent, kind…. But unfortunately has a sister in Humanis First, so he's keeping a low profile and can't do what I'd hoped he could. He's as behind-the-scenes as us foreigners have to be. But the way they got him to me - that let me know, without revealing to him or anyone else not already in the know, that they'd found out that I was the real power behind Liberty. That they could find my unlisted home address. That they could direct strangers to me. But also that they didn't have perfect information - they didn't realise I was in the Dome…."

Jaiden, growing up in Australia, never watched the A-team. He had only heard about it and caught one episode where they were doing something, got trapped, and then built a tank out of an old van and some parts, using the tools at hand. Quite interesting in that regard, but most assuredly a lot of hollywood magic.

When Ygraine sits down in the chair, Jaiden sits right behind her, looking down, almost like a dentist would a patient. The light above is bright, but not blindingly so, making it easy to see but not needing to squint to make it stop. With a wave of his hand, water from the air coalesces and turns the hot water faucet in the sink on. Once it's nice and hot, the water from there combines with the water he's holding into a nice lukewarm temperature that is eased into Ygraine's hair. "I don't just work on cars, you know." he teases.

"They're sort of a deus ex machina, it seems….just coming into play when things need to happen. Interesting. I thought they were part of Remi's family…"

Ygraine shakes her head - though carefully, trying not to move her hair too much. "Davignon and Deveaux are different. But it was Alice Shaw who spoke of Remi as a "promising young telepath", and the like. She's the one who indicated that she didnt want to "make the wrong impression" on the Davignons. That the Group had picked up Company operatives and intelligence. That they have an old copy of the intelligence assembled by Phoenix's leadership, for example - from which they lifted my name. But Remi wouldn't, I think, have been on that, and the awareness of her as a 'promising young telepath' seemed to be current. I suspect, strongly, that Remi is or was Company-monitored…."

She can move her hair as much as she'd like; Jaiden's water sticks there, almost like it were a glue, soaking into her hair and getting it nice and wet before draining into the basin below to be used in a moment again. Jaiden takes a big handful of shampoo and starts at the crown of Ygraine's head, scrubbing with insistent and talented fingers, massaging her scalp as he scrubs her hair. "with one arm, this must be torture to do." he comments after a moment.

"Probably still is. She's not a shirking violet, and her disappearance in Europe was pretty sudden and noticed by those in the art world. How often does a prima ballerina run off stage screaming at people to shut up?" It was a shock when it happened, most definitely. "We'll have to be careful…." A pause. "You remember those negation grenades we found in the med kit in the dome? I've still got those."

"My cheating with gravity helps. I can… treat the mass of foam as a single entity, and lock it to my hair. Lets me take my time over it without dripping everywhere", Ygraine murmurs. "But yeah. It's still, quite literally, a real pain to tackle…."

A chuckle, and she darts a glance back and up towards him. "Hey. No stealing my credit. I cluelessly blundered across those all on my own. If anyone deserves the 'blind luck' kudos, it's me! But… yeah. I'm wary of being caught with those anywhere. I somehow doubt they're at all legal for us to have. And the odds are that anyone 'hitting' a gathering like this will be using negation cannisters rather than fearing them. But they're definitely a resource to bear in mind…"

"Any idea how the negation gas works, anyway? Is it inhaled or can it be defeated by a rebreather or a filter mask of some kind? If it's that, I can make face masks out of water to filter the air through it - won't last long, but should keep us from getting knocked out too quickly. Or bring a particulate filter mask that I use to paint cars, though getting into a ballet with one of those on would be a bit tricky." Jaiden chuckles and starts working from the tips of her hair up to her scalp now, rubbing the hair between his palms to get the soap impregnated, to clean off every bit of it. "Think I can get away with a briefcase or a backpack? No…it'll probably be searched…hrm." Jaiden gnaws on his lower lip as he washes Ygraine's hair, thinking. "Water masks'll have to do, I guess."

"Inhalation accelerates it, but skin contact will take out your abilities in a matter of seconds", Ygraine murmurs. "It's… part of the reason for my periodically wandering around in leathers over a thermal skinsuit, with a helmet over a breathing mask. And a scarf to seal the gap. It's not air-tight, but it might buy me the few seconds needed to get the heck out of Dodge before anything takes hold. However, it's also not exactly an outfit I can get into currently… and by the time I can do so again, I'd melt if I tried, since it'll be mid-Summer."

"Great…" Jaiden continues to work on Ygraine's hair, giving it a proper wash, one that it probably hasn't had since her escape from the dome. "here's hoping that's not involved, then. And if it is, here's hoping the air conditioning or fans aren't blowing at the time."

"Oh, there're worse things out there. You know that the Midtown Ruins are… considered highly inadvisable to go into?" Ygraine sighs. "There's a route through to Grand Central, that I helped set up. Things like abseiling and ceiling traverses on ropes. Because above-ground, there are… hunter-drones being tested. Not just UAVs, but things out of science fiction. That can track Evolved - directly. See person, identify as Evolved or not, chase down and… we're not sure what."

"I know…I ran a load of H5N10 vaccine through the ruins, and I've even heard a few things about them. And with the dreams that have been going around lately…not mine, other people's….it's probably going to get worse before it gets better." Somber conversation for a hair salon that's usually filled with gossip about who's sleeping with who and the latest issue of Heat that's hit the shelves. You know it's bad when the gossip pages can't break the despair that's going around society. "You and I, we need to order a few things for us…leathers for me specifically, that can stand up to abuse. It'll, god help me….be a uniform when I'm skulking about. Armoured without being armoured."

"I can help with that. And some covert stuff. As we… unfortunately proved in the Dome", Ygraine grimaces sourly, "if anything it's a bad idea to be wearing reinforced leathers when bastards shoot you at close range with a rifle. If it did anything, it just slowed down and deformed the bullet. But… I can take you to the place I took Robyn. You can buy dully unfashionable, utterly ordinary-looking jeans that can take sliding along tarmac at fifty miles an hour. Never mind the full hardcore biker's gear with armour plates, spine protectors and the like."

"I'll check to see if Cardinal has some links for something that can be worn beneath regular clothes - protect the body, but the limbs…that will kind of just require not getting shot in the arms or legs." Jaiden's water moves up to start swirling around her hair, pulling the shampoo from it.

"Kevlar t-shirts exist, but… I'm dubious about the protection they offer against anything serious", Ygraine muses. "Like the old Cold War Polish 'bullet-proof vests'… that could stop a fair portion of ricochets, spent rounds at extreme range, and some .22 fire. My leathers, I mostly count on to protect me against fragments, and to provide a lot of help against impacts and slashes."

"It's not the penetration I worry about, it's the trauma from 1500 foot-pounds of force being thrust into my tender person." Jaiden winces, reaching up to rub his shoulder lightly where he was shot before going back to washing Ygraine's hair. "I think we shouldn't get shot anymore. It sucks."

"That's one of the things that the expensive leathers, or the advanced composite weaves, are supposed to be superb at dealing with - spreading impact, and avoiding the… tearing starting in the flesh beneath", Ygraine says quietly, eyes closing. "Not that it helps much when you're close enough to just have the bullet blast clean through. But yes - I've been shot at by the bloody army, using automatic weapons. By the Vanguard, letting rip on full auto. Come out with nothing but a few new nightmares to rejoice in. And some git hits me in the dark with a single-shot, as I'm hitting cover."

"Hell of a spot of bad luck, that." Jaiden's fingers scrub lightly, making sure all the shampoo is out of her hair before wringing it out with a simple twist, adding a squirt of conditioner to his hands, rubbing it together to warm, and then running it through her hair.

"Bastard", Ygraine grumbles, though without a great deal of rancour. "Poor, stupid bastard. He had the power until he began shooting. People never get that it's the phase changes in conflict that matter. Change the situation, you change the power balance."

A weary sigh, and she purses her lips. "Sorry. So… Deveaux Group. Yeah. They appear to take the whole concept of 'connections' very seriously indeed. The person I cornered was apparently 'not the right one' to speak to me. And she had certainly treated Graeme - when he spoke to her - very differently. Lots of questions about his emotions and how he felt, apparently…. There appear to be at least two senior figures in it, running things… at least partly separately. They don't seem to work directly together, but to pursue their own targets. Which would fit again with the 'connections' and 'right person to speak to you' ideas."

"Shhh…" Jaiden says softly when Ygraine starts on the event, re-hashing over and over again what happened. "It's over and done with. Choices were made, consequences meted out, to people who didn't deserve them. Improvise. Adapt. Overcome."

"I guess I'm lucky to have not been put on any of these lists just yet. People randomly showing up at my door not invited, telling me about someone who wants me to do something…." He sighs softly. "If you need to drop my name for anything, you're welcome to do so."

"I'm trying not to, given how much I'm volunteering you for. Sensei work. Training me. The Survivors group. The photographic exhibition. Watching over Remi…." Ygraine chuckles softly. "Not to mention little personal favours like putting my arm back together every now and then. Or this."

"I'm nothing without my friends, Ygraine. The people I choose to ally myself with can be counted on one hand. I trust a grand total of three people in this city - Elisabeth, Cardinal, and you." Jaiden taps Ygraine's head lightly, giving her a smile, rinsing the conditioner out of the woman's hair, leaving it damp but not soaking. A towel is brought over to rub through her hair, drying it slightly. "Okay then, Ygraine…sit up so we can start combing."

Ygraine yelps slightly in response to the unexpected tap, before chuckling. "It shouldn't be too bad, I hope. I've spent a certain amount of time sitting at home, hugging a penguin and staring at a TV screen while running a brush through it. Not exactly thrilling times that I'll treasure forever, but… it should be fairly easy to cope with now. I hope."

"And…." She takes a deep breath. "Thank you. For me, in this city - on this continent… I'm trying hard to still implicitly trust Robyn. I don't want to lose her just because she believed someone she loved and wound up in an impossible situation. Coming after the woman I want to have in my life forever, and still miss every day? The in-laws. Jen's parents have been wonderful to me, but I can't exactly involve them in any of this. You. And perhaps Elisabeth. She… has been putting a lot of trust in me. And that… that counts for a huge amount, with me. MacKenzie, too, wherever she is. Though she got safely out of the city years back, thank goodness. But that's it. And of those who're actively involved in the whole underground? Just you, and increasingly Liz."

While combing hair isn't that glamourous, it is comforting, both to the person doing the coming and the one being combed out. Jaiden grabs the comb and begins to comb, being careful, starting with the crown of her head and going down, not tugging or pulling thanks to the conditioner soaking in. "It's not too bad…a couple of snags on your non-injured side, but nothing I can't work through."

"Thank you, Ygraine." Jaiden says quietly, his hands stilling for a moment. "It's wonderful to know someone trusts me just as much as I trust them."

Ygraine laughs softly, brow wrinkling as she peers upwards. "Well, it's not unquestioningly implicit yet, but… potentially saving my life counts for a certain amount you know", she informs the man, tone teasing. "But… you are someone that a partly-recovered, partly-relapsed paranoiac feels she can tell just about anything, and whom she'd get shot again to protect."

Jaiden smiles and pats her head again, affectionately, before finishing the combing out, helping her sit up without pressure on her arm. "I know, I know. Implicit trust takes time. Give it a few more death-defying stunts and I'll be implicitly trusted, I guarantee that. No taking of bullets required, okay? If anything, I get to take a bullet for you next time." Assuming there will be a next time, of course.

Jaiden takes Ygraine's hair and carefully divides it out into three equal-sized bunches. "French braid, or something fancy?"

"I… if you want to do something fancy, make sure you have enough time to undo it and do something simple afterwards, and still have room for us to get ready", Ygraine cautions. "But if you want to give it a go, feel free."

"And… I fear there all too probably will be a next time", she murmurs. "Things are getting worse, over time. The… stuff I'm finding myself doing. In the past… five months, I've been fired on by the army, seen a ship packed with refugees sunk by tank fire, disabled that tank myself, seen Sylar ripping people in half, been within feet of a firebomb, dived in and out of a blazing building until I couldn't breathe, seen the aftermath of massacres, been shot…. I'm really worried that things'll keep getting worse. And for the next few months… I'm out of the picture, in many ways. So who rescues the people from the fire, or takes out the tank next time?"

"Yours truly." Jaiden's voice is clear and calm, working carefully with Ygraine's hair. It's kind of like re-stringing a guitar - you need to have more than one hand to do it properly, but Jaiden works quickly and quietly. There's a little tugging, and a few clips do come into play, but when Jaiden is finished, Ygraine's hair is braided, one could say, elegantly. A tightly-worked ring of curls give support to several long, thick braids that hang down her back.

Jaiden gets a mirror and holds it up. "What do you think?"

"I've seen the Incredibles", Ygraine chuckles. "Water-dependent heroes don't work so well when forced to work inside a fire. And you can't cheat with physical geography in the way I can. But yes, you're one of the few people who could do more than me in some situations like that…."

"Mmmmmm. I had been thinking of just having a simple braid, brought forward over one shoulder to leave the back wholly clear. Show off Xiulan's work." And stand out in a crowd, of course. "But… that's really pretty."

That's the advantage of having a hairdresser - or, at least, someone who can braid at your beck and call. "We'll chalk that up to a maybe, then." he says with a smile, reaching up and undoing it all, letting those silken ebony tresses fall back to normal, giving it a quick brush through, and then dividing it into three equal-sized bunches. Working slowly to ensure the braid is tight, Jaiden brings one braid over the other until a french braid, almost to Ygraine's waist and as thick as a wrist at the thickest part, with enough play to be hung straight down her back or over one shoulder. The end is tied with a small bit of dark string that hides remarkably well in her hair. "You'll stop the show with that tattoo, and I don't blame you." Up comes the mirror again to show.

The braid - with the lowest portion dyed that rich, warm blue - is not exactly subtle in its own right. Indeed, Ygraine chuckles, smiling warmly as it's draped forward over her shoulder and down her arm. "I hoped that I could turn a few heads. And not just because I'll be turning up bandaged and in a sling…."

"We'll get that hidden as best we can. Accessorize it or something, with a handbag or, at least, get it covered in the same material as the dress you'll be wearing so at least it'll match instead of sticking out like a sore thumb. We want your back to be the star of the show, not your arm." Jaiden pats her shoulder lightly - the non-injured one. "Will I need to act as fairy godmother as well and make sure you're dressed and to the ball on time?"

"Actually, I was thinking of just being unsubtle about it", Ygraine chuckles. "I'd rather have people see it's damaged than walk into it or try to grab me by it. Around a crowd, it'll probably get jostled more than enough as it is…."

"But yes - I was thinking that we should get ready, and then perhaps take the cripple-wagon to the ball. I'm going to be teetotal thanks to the painkillers anyway, so… I'm a ready-made designated driver. Though I'd ask that you stay painfully sober as well, given our worries about tonight…"

"With Remi around, getting any sort of inebriated is carte blanche for her to try and beckon one of us into her bedchambers for an evening of adventures. Not that it's such a bad thing, mind you, but tonight it may not be the best thing." Jaiden nods and scoots back, starting to gather his hair brushing things, the water going merrily to the drain and out into the sewers while he cleans up. "Let me grab my shaving kit, pop by the cleaners to get my suit which they said is ready, and back to your place to get ready for the show. I'll even drive. Sound good?"

Ygraine cracks a swift grin. "C'mon. How disorganised do you think I am? I've got my stuff in the car. I figured you'd have yours all ready to go by now", she teases, carefully rising to her feet, still peering at her braid. "Thank you for this, by the way. It… it's very much appreciated."

Jaiden laughs and grabs his cell phone. Hitting a few numbers he calls someone. "Yes, hallo, could you have the suit delivered to my home address? I need it as soon as possible, and I will tip. Yes…Yes…the address on the slip. Okay, I'll see you in twenty, then." hanging up, he smiles. "I love having a good cleaner that will deliver"

"You're welcome, Ygraine." He smiles, reaching out to rest a hand on her shoulder, fingering that long, silky braid for a moment. "I'll run up and get your things from the cripplemobile after I get the shower going. Then we'll get your shoulder worked out, you into your gown, and me showered and into my suit." Quite intimate, these two are getting.

Ygraine quirks an eyebrow, then chuckles. "I can grab it easily enough, you know. I don't want to hold you up any further", she protests gently. "And I can promise I'll be quick in the shower. I've no intention of aggravating the arm before we even start the night. And I should be able to manage the dress, I hope. Being one-armed gives me an active exucse to wear something bacless and halter-necked. But I might still borrow you for some help, I admit."

"Go shower, go shower." Jaiden urges with a chuckle. "It'll keep me from trying to sneak a peek at you if I'm busy doing something else with my hands." And with that, upstairs he goes…

Laughing softly, Ygraine shakes her head and rolls her eyes in amusment… disappearing off to the bathroom to set the water running, and start struggling out of her boots. Locking the door follows once the householder has returned and handed over her belongings…

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