faulkner_icon.gif pride2_icon.gif

Scene Title Bloodborne
Synopsis While doing his part to find answers, Faulkner has some questions for Dr. Pride as well.
Date November 18, 2020

Raytech NYCSZ Branch Office

It's a cold winter's morning that brings Isaac Faulkner to the Raytech campus in Jackson Heights.

The cold doesn't bother him all that much — the dull gray hoodie he wears serves him well, keeping him warm as he wanders; he's got an appointment that he's early for, and that's left him with some time to kill. He's putting it to use, taking in the sights; after all, the last time Isaac had been here, he hadn't really had the luxury of taking time to take things in when he'd arrived, and when he'd left he'd been in the middle of dealing with… other problems.

This time he's got no such concerns. The migraine that's been haunting him of late has been relegated to a faint ache behind his right eye; it's quite manageable today, which leaves him free to enjoy some sightseeing. The campus isn't quite what he expected. He isn't quite sure what he had expected to see, come to that, but he is certain that this isn't quite it. Maybe he'd been expecting a little less security. Maybe not quite as many cameras, or maybe a little more fanciful architecture (this is where Seren works, after all).

Well. The rooftop gardens are a nice touch. He'll give them that. The park is, too. The cameras everywhere are rather less so.

He wonders, idly, if there are guards sitting in some dark room, frowning and glaring at some tiny CCTV monitor; if his wanderings have kicked up any alerts or concerns or… whatever. If they have, no one's said anything to him about it. Not that he cares all that much. He's here on valid business…

…and the time for that business is finally at hand. He's still early, but at least now he's not early; arriving at a meeting five minutes beforehand is generally more acceptable than lurking for forty-five, after all. It doesn't take him long to find his way to his destination — a lab in the campus's main building. Isaac takes a moment to collect himself… then, five minutes before his appointment, he raises a hand and knocks lightly on Dr. Ourania Pride's door.

Entrez!” comes the pleasant trill from beyond the office door. When he swings it open, it’s not simply an office. The space is arranged in three rows. First, there’s a workstation with a computer and plenty of space to write in the planners, notebooks, binders, and loose leafs of paper strewn over the rest of its surface. Second, a workbench with specimen dishes, a microscope and other instruments that probably have fancy names — or at least are named for the vanity of dead men — that do boring things. Lastly is a set of locked cabinets along the wall to Isaac’s right.

The doctor herself is seated in front of the computer, tapping swiftly away on her keyboard, eyes following along with whatever she’s entering. “Un moment, s’il vous plaît…” While she’s speaking French, at least the words she’s speaking are fairly easily translatable, if one doesn’t have any foundation in the language. “Et fini,” she pronounces before turning in her rolling chair to face her visitor.

“Thank you for waiting!” she chimes in perfect, unaccented English. When she takes a moment to look at him, there’s a moment where she seems to hold just a little too long, like she’s skipped a beat. “Mr. Faulkner.” Grasping a cane left propped up against the desk in her left hand, the blonde pushes to her feet, at least making to meet halfways as she beckons, “Come in, come in! I am Dr. Pride! It’s a pleasure to meet you.”

"A pleasure," Isaac returns dryly, mustering a faintly amused smirk as he steps in, latching the door behind him. "Not a first meeting, but… still a pleasure." And it is; there's a certain species of amusement that comes from meeting someone in a different context, the juxtaposition of the new and the familiar.

"So. I'm told you need some blood samples?"

Dr. Pride freezes again for just a moment, but only in a way visible behind her eyes. Then there’s a quick, sharp gasp and a shake of her head as she puts the pieces of that particular puzzle together. “Oh, right! The gala!” She laughs, embarrassed with herself for the slip of memory. “Sorry, I didn’t recognize you without your purple pants,” she teases. There’s also distinctly fewer masks and less panic.

Except the momentary one she experienced when she was afraid he recognized the old her.

“Yes! Yes, yes, yes…” Ourania trails off and meanders toward the workbench in the center row. There’s a padded seat, as one is accustomed to in the little lab alcoves of clinics, just out from the wall. “I’m comparing samples between you all to look for inconsistencies. Also against control subjects to really get into the nitty gritty and examine the differences.” Her hand hovers over the table, moving left and right as she appears to be looking for something.

Shaking her head, she gestures to the seat. “Sit down, sit down! I’ll get my supplies,” she says almost absently as she wanders toward one of the cabinets on the far wall.

"Yep," Faulkner chuckles… though there's a hint of puzzlement. Of course the Gala. Is there somewhere else he should know her from? Odd.

Well, whatever. Faulkner meanders over towards the indicated seat. "Yeah. Aman's terrified I have brain cancer," he sighs, settling in. "I'm not convinced it's anything so simple, but… he worries."

Then he snorts. "The purple pants weren't my idea, though. They were a gift. Along with the ticket." Much easier to think about that than about the strokes and brain cancer.

“All the science in my head!” Dr. Pride lifts a hand and knocks the knuckles of her loosely curled fist against the side of it gently, but in a motion that looks rougher than it is. “Not always a lot of room for faces.” When concerned someone might find your reaction to a given situation strange, make them believe that’s just who you are as a person.

“You- probably don’t have brain cancer.” There’s just a bit too much time lapsed in that catch for it to have come off as entirely persuasive. “But he’s not wrong to worry, either.” Her voice gets gentler as she goes along. “Aman has a big heart. Anyone he cares about should count themself lucky.”

Finally gathering up everything she needs in her kit, Pride comes back to her workbench. “You aren’t a fainter, are you?” she asks with a narrow of her eyes that says suspicion, but a twinkle to them that says just teasing.

"Mm," Faulkner agrees, that momentary shred of puzzlement already set aside and forgotten; Doctor Pride's not-entirely convincing assurance doesn't really do wonders for him, either.

"Aman is good people," he agrees quietly. "Not just anyone would let someone take over their guest room when they stumble in blind at godforsaken hours of the night," Isaac says; there's some wry humor in his voice, but also a hint of something like humility. He is lucky, and he knows it.

Pride's comment about him being a fainter draws side-eye. "Depends on what you've got in the needle," he says, dryly amused.

That they’re in agreement about the Goodness of Amanvir Binepal seems to mean she feels plenty content to let that subject rest where it is. “Well,” Dr. Pride begins instead, “fortunately this is a draw,” she points to Isaac with a little grin tugging at one corner of her mouth as that pointing hand transitions to a thumbs up, “not an injection.” And a wink for good measure.

She turns to the table to grab a stretchy yellow band, which she wraps around his upper arm, tying it tight. “Just keep your arm turned out for me and make a fist, okay?” Meanwhile, she tugs on a pair of purple nitrile gloves.

"Well, we should be fine then," he says with a lazy grin. His expression grows more studious, though, as he focuses his gaze straight ahead, keeping his arm in position, fingers curling into a fist with catlike languor.

"So. You work part time at a lounge, as well?" he asks, keeping his gaze straight ahead. He focuses on listening — to the sounds around him, to Dr. Pride's voice, to the sound of his breathing. Not on the sights, and not on the low pain rattling around the back of his skull, and not on the needle that she's sure to be prepping; just on the sounds. Isaac has no particular problem with needles, but he's always found that the needle hurts less when he's not actually paying attention to someone else stabbing him with it. Strange, perhaps, but there it is.

“I do,” the doctor answers in a level voice, providing something calming for Faulkner to focus on. She recognizes an anxious patient when she sees one. Although, more accurately, she feels his anxiety, like standing too close to the edge of a rooftop for comfort. Not close enough to teter and fall, but close enough to think about it happening.

Even though he isn’t looking at her, Ourania smiles for his benefit. She knows it carries in her voice. “Thursday through Sunday evenings — generally — I sing at a lounge on Staten Island called Rossignol.” Careful fingers press gently at the inside of Isaac’s arm, looking for a good vein to tap. “I play the piano and sing.”

There’s a quiet tearing noise when she opens the alcohol swab. “I’m sure you know the drill. This is going to feel a little cold.” And it does when she rubs the more delicate skin of his inner forearm firmly back and forth with the pad. “Mostly,” she continues the explanation of her other line of work, “I sing jazz. But I’ll do jazz arrangements of modern selections, too. Or just about anything that’s a woman with a piano. I think I like those best. I get some real looks of delight from the audience when I play something that they’ve heard on the radio in the last ten years.”

She doesn’t warn him of the poke. He seems the type to not want to know. If he’s talked to any of the others, he’s heard Dr. Pride is very good at this, and the rumors are true. Her aim is impeccable. No shifting required, just the slip in and then the wait for the vials she needs to fill. “Who doesn’t love a little Radiohead, right?”

"You sound like quite the multitasker," Faulkner chuckles. "Though I guess that shouldn't be surprising, at this point," he says, with a smile of his own… though he still keeps his focus on the far wall. He hears the tearing of the packet, feels the cold of the alcohol, her hands on his arm as she searches for the vein.

The more he listens to her speak, though, the more he feels an odd feeling of familiarity. Her voice reminds him of… something.

"It's always nice to see something reinterpreted. And, as you say — who doesn't like Radiohead?" Faulkner asks, and now he lets his eyes roam a bit — over to the needle now inserted in his arm. She's good.

He watches the blood run fill the vials for a moment, considering his next question. "How did you and Aman meet, anyway?"

Pride doesn’t look up from her task, but her brows do twitch faintly when he asks the question. “I like to keep busy.” She addresses the other point instead. “It’s something I always wanted to do when I was younger, but I never had the opportunity. I’m grateful for it now. I love getting out on that stage.” She glances up when she smiles, a fleeting thing before she has her eyes down again to swap out a vial. “I used to be nervous, and I still get jitters backstage. But once I climb those steps and stand under those lights… It’s all gone.”

But she can’t avoid the real question forever, can she? She laughs softly, shaking her head. “I wonder,” Ourania begins, tone a little impish, “how does he tell it?”

"I know what you mean," Isaac says quietly, a small smile touching his own lips, and now his gaze drifts somewhere beyond the far wall, off into memory. He still remembers the exhilaration of soaring through the night, of making leaps on shadowed wings. Of being free.

The wave of emotion that comes surging up catches him as offguard as a punch to the stomach; he hadn't felt it coming until it was on him. He clenches his jaw and swallows the surge of feelings. Sorrow — no, grief — for what he's lost, with an undertone of… not disgust, maybe, but certainly disappointment at what he's become. At how much less he is than he once was.

It's gone almost as quickly as it came, though. It's not something he lets himself dwell on, because he understands that if he lets himself dwell on it, it could very easily drag him under and drown him. Self-pity is not a healthy thing to indulge in, and wallowing in it is a bad habit; Isaac knows this well.

Ourania's question makes a good antidote, drawing a sharp exhalation that's halfway between a snort and a chuckle. "With about fifteen false starts and a lot of stammering," Faulkner says, glancing at Ourania with amusement for a moment before turning his gaze back to the wall. "Of all the powers in the world, I think the one Aman wishes he had most is a verbal backspace."

His amusement fades quickly, though, resolving to something more sober. A bit troubled, even. "He's said a few things in his cups," Isaac says. "But the start of the story is one piece that he hasn't really touched on."

There’s a momentary sensation that flutters inside of her own chest, like that bird captive in the cage of her ribs wants to spread her wings and fly. And how glorious it would be to just take that leap and glide on the wind.

Then the gut-churning pain that she knows so well. It feels like strings pulling her in every which direction, pulling her apart, pulling free of her skeleton. Of her soul. Falling, falling, falling, falling too far, too fast. The moment of fracture, but still left somehow whole.

Only physically.

Like it so often is, it’s stuffed deep, deep down. Was it her? Was it him?

If she can’t tell the difference, does it matter?

Another vial swapped. Two more to go. It allows her a moment to look up at him while she holds it steady, knowing that it will fill without coaxing. Ourania can’t help but chuckle at the comment about Aman and his need for a verbal backspace. “Yes, I think he’d like that ability very much. But… I appreciate that about him, I think. The way he’ll just speak his mind. Whatever happens to be on it.”

Which follows with what Isaac has to say next. The smile falls away, trepidation in its place. She’ll let him have that from her, rather than hide it with her focus. But only for a moment, because she does need to keep an eye on the draw’s progress.

Oh.” A few things in his cups. Dr. Pride turns back to the blood she’s collecting, swapping in the next vial and capping the one before it, sticking labels to the first two with a practiced expertise. “The beginning is complicated. The easy version is I had nowhere else to go, and he gave me shelter. Comfort.” Her throat gets tight. Why is it so hard to talk about this? It’s Aman.

Aman who makes her smile. Aman who makes her laugh. Aman who makes her believe that somehow, somehow, she could be a better person. Aman who makes her think she could be loved by someone good.

“I don’t think he wanted to, but he became my friend anyway. Sometimes I feel like I bullied him into it. Or at least guilt tripped.” Ourania smiles wryly.

"It's an endearing quality of his," Isaac agrees quietly with Ourania's assessment of Aman's honesty, a small smile on his face. "Not necessarily a… hm. Trendy? Not necessarily a trendy one, but… there's more to life than being trendy," he admits, letting out a small, self-conscious chuckle.

Ourania's explanation draws a tilt of his head, though, and again Isaac's eyes go to her. He frowns, regarding her with a sense of puzzlement. "Oh? Huh," he says, frowning as he tries to make this piece of the puzzle fit with what Aman's shared.

"Well, I'm pretty sure he doesn't feel that way," he offers after a moment, honestly and off-handedly. The way someone might share the details of the five day weather forecast — they were saying on the news that you might want to bring an umbrella on Tuesday. "Bullied or guilt-tripped or… whatever, I mean."

She wishes she could see it that way. What choice did Aman have, though, tethered to her as he is? Ourania sighs. “Last one,” she assures as she carefully removes the freshly filled vial for one waiting to receive.

“I really don’t know how else to explain it… He’s… He’s just a really good person who was there when I needed him.” Ourania smiles sadly, unable to lift her head to look at Faulkner again, but her expression is still plain to be seen. “I’m not always great at returning that favor.”

There’s a moment where she falls silent, contemplating the words she wants to use next. So that she won’t need a verbal backspace. “I’m surprised you still wanted to volunteer for this with me, instead of seeing Dr. Yeh or Dr. Miller after whatever Aman’s said about me when he’s been drinking. I’m sure it…”

The blonde chuckles in spite of herself, biting down on her lip for a moment. “I’m sure it paints me in exactly the light I deserve, honestly.”

The mention of Dr. Miller provokes the brief emotional equivalent of a record scratch. The momentary vision of him entrusting himself to Miller's medical care makes him feel like things are crawling in his stomach; he still vividly remembers caring for Isis after her little dabble in mad science.

"Mm. Yes. Dr. Miller," Isaac says blandly, letting out a long breath.

But the rest of what she's said… even after the charming vision of Miller Medical, it's enough to provoke a single soft chuckle from him. He considers for a moment. "You know. People tend to naturally talk about things they care about. And Aman… he talks about you a lot," he says quietly.

Then he raises his eyebrows. "Granted, I don't remember all of what he said — I'm blaming the stroke — but the point of all this," Isaac says, turning to look at Ourania now, "is that he talked about you a lot, which is a fairly good indicator that he holds you in high regard and not as some kind of… awful… vampire or… whatever."

It occurs to him then that likening Ourania to a vampire while she takes his blood is maybe a little too on the nose. He snorts and shakes his head slightly, somewhere between amusement and embarrassment at the minor faux pas.

“A vampire, huh?” Indulging in the amusement helps to suppress the shudder that wants to run through her after her patient’s reaction to the mention of her colleague. It’s… not much of a surprise to her, honestly. She’s seen the way Zachery’s beginning to slowly unravel, and he wasn’t the most stable of people to begin with.

Nobody who came out of indentured servitude with the Institute was. Unless they were a fucking psychopath to begin with.

She was a sociopath, thank you very much.

“Does he call me draining?” Ourania asks, as though an affirmative answer to that question wouldn’t hurt her feelings in the slightest. The last vial is popped free, capped, and labeled. Set aside with the others. She grabs a gauze pad and holds it over the place where the needle is in his arm. “This part might actually be worse than the poke, but it’ll be over quickly.”

And it is, and it is. Once the needle’s out, she drops it into the appropriate waste container set out on her workbench, all while holding that gauze in place firmly. “Alright, hold here, please? Press down and don’t peek.” At least that part isn’t so bad, just a little uncomfortable. While he does as she instructs, she grabs for a roll of non-adhesive tape to wrap around his arm. It’s a dark shade of purple.

“I’m glad he has you around,” she admits while she wraps, taking over the holding of the pad in place until the stretchy tape does it for her. “I think he needs a friend to talk to. Especially off work hours.”

"Can you really imagine Aman saying that?" Isaac deadpans, still amused. He grimaces as he realizes that yes, she probably could. "No. No, he does not say that about you," he states. "Honestly, both of you have that in common. Neither one of you speaks very highly of yourselves."

Isaac looks away as she withdraws the needle, lips twinging in a faint grimace. Her admission that she's glad Aman has him around draws a look of surprise, though, followed by a sharp exhalation. "If you say so. I… feel kinda bad, being honest. Like I'm freeloading and he's too nice to say anything about it." Because he kinda is freeloading. Though, to be fair, if he hadn't been at Aman's on the eighth, he… would probably be dead right now.

He can't quite suppress a pulse of mingled fear and dread at that thought. Memento mori. Ugh.

“I can, but… only if he’s really upset, I guess.” And they’ve had some arguments where he’s been (rightfully) upset. Ourania tears off the tape and presses down to make it stick to the rest. “You’ll want to leave that on for at least an hour just to make sure you don’t bleed from the draw. It’ll help keep bruising down, too, which will help you avoid being sore later. But I wouldn’t recommend leaving it on all day. The tape kind of hurts if you leave it too long. Like sitting in one of those old latticed lawn chairs for too long.” Maybe that conveys what she means it to. Maybe the imagery doesn’t work. He’ll live, either way.

“Aman cares about you. I guarantee you’re a better house guest-slash-roommate than I was.” She chuckles and shakes her head. “He let me crash on his couch out of nowhere and drink his beer. He didn’t even throw me out when I cut my hair in his sink and dyed it red in his tub. He’ll put up with a lot, and he won’t hold it against you. If he wanted you out, he’d dump you off on someone else first chance he got.”

Getting up from her seat, she starts to gather up her samples so she can put them in the refrigeration unit on the far side of the room. It’s not a closing off of the conversation. “He’s worried. He’ll feel better knowing you have someone there with you than he would if he told you to get out and didn’t know if the situation you ended up in was a safe one. So… Let him have this.”

Isaac lets out a soft exhalation that might be a chuckle. She's right, of course. "It paid off, too," he admits. "It'd have been a bad time if I'd still been tucked into the Park Slope place on the eighth."

He pauses, then glances to Ourania. "Assuming I didn't get eaten by a feral bear or something before then," he deadpans. Gallows humor is better than no humor.

Then he frowns, suddenly catching something she'd said. Dyed her hair red? He glances over to Ourania…

No. Couldn't be. He shakes his head. He's imagining things. Has to be. Even discounting the fact that they don't really look all that much alike, Ourania is taller than the enigmatic O had been.


Ugh. Might as well ask. "Doctor Pride. This is going to sound silly, but… have we met before?"

The doctor halts, as if someone hit the pause button on her, arresting the motions she was in the midst of. The stutter is momentary however, before she’s sliding her tray of blood samples into the back of the refrigerator and closing the door, waiting until she hears the locking mechanism kick in before she turns around.

Dr. Pride tilts her head to one side, considering Faulkner for a time, eyes narrowing faintly. Hmm… Have they met?

Inside, Odessa’s brain is screaming. In her efforts to assure him that he’s fine, she gave too much away. Didn’t she? She must have done. He knows.

“No,” Ourania says with a smile, a little quizzical as she shakes her head. “No, I don’t think that we have. Not before the gala.” She laughs. “I mean, not unless you happened to be one of the far too many people for my comfort who were outside of the bodega when I tripped and dropped my shopping bag of mascara, nail polish, and condoms like the Whore of Babylon.”

When in doubt, deflect with uncomfortable humor.

Faulkner grimaces a little at that; awkward. "Whoof," he says aloud. "No, I'd probably have remembered that," he says, shaking his head. He regards Doctor Pride for a moment longer, then shakes his head again. "Yeah. I didn't think so," he says. Then Isaac chuckles.

"I… met another friend of Aman's, once, who sounded… a lot like you, actually. A lot. She had red hair, and he called her 'O'; I met her at the Park Slope place," he explains, feeling somewhat embarrassed because now he's got to tell this lame ass story. "You mentioned red hair dye while I was thinking about the old place and… I guess that made me think of her. You two really don't look anything alike. Also she was shorter," he says off-handedly.

"Maybe she was a singer, too." Maybe he'll ask Aman later. Although… hm.

Ourania chuckles nervously at her own expense, eyes wide and slanting her gaze thataway, because, yes, that was an awkward moment. That definitely happened. See how awkward that would be if they had met before? That definitely did not happen.

Shaking off the embarrassment, her brows lift in polite interest. Well… more like genuine interest. “Hah,” Ourania scoffs, as though she’s vaguely hurt to hear this information. “Maybe Amanvir just has a type.” She shrugs her shoulders, feigning the way the wind falls from one’s sails when they realize they perhaps weren’t as dear to someone as they thought.

"Most people do, I'd say," Isaac says, grinning faintly. "Can't fault a man for enjoying a pretty voice." Or other pretty features, come to that, but the voice is the current subject of discussion.

Speaking of which. "Maybe one of these days I'll get down to Rossignol to hear your act. If my brain and my work schedule ever sync up, anyway. The headaches seem to be worse in the evening," he admits, not without some regret.

That catches her off her guard. Color blooms in Ourania’s cheeks as she blinks, stunned by the compliment. “Th- Thank you.” She’s been singing a relatively short period of time — professionally anyway — that she isn’t quite used to the recognition. Or the idea that it’s something that can attract. Even if she does feel as though she bewitches her audiences in some way.

There’s a shy smile when he mentions he’d like to catch one of her sets. “I understand the restrictions. Maybe… I could sneak you in for a rehearsal sometime, if you don’t think you’ll be able to swing an evening. But I promise it’s worth it for the atmosphere. And I’d reserve your table and comp your drinks.” Pride shrugs. What’s not to love about that? “And no hard feelings if you can’t stay through the whole thing.”

"Well. That sounds like an offer I can't in good conscience refuse," Isaac says with a grin. More seriously, he nods. "I'll try to line something up. It'll be something to look forward to."

"Although… for now, I should probably stop wasting your time; you've probably got a lot to do. If you find anything out, though, let me know, okay?" he asks.

“I’m glad you think so.” That he finds catching one of her performances something to look forward to is gratifying in ways she didn’t expect. It’s a warm feeling that blooms in her chest. “Just shoot me a text when you know you’re coming. It can be night-of. An hour before. I don’t care. I’ll make sure you’re taken care of.”

But for now, he’s right. She does have a lot on her schedule today, and most of it not at Raytech. “Thanks for coming in. Really. The more of you willing to give me samples, the more data I’ll have and the closer to answer we can get. I’ll be sure to reach out if I find anything. And you reach out if anything changes.”

Ourania offers one more smile, this one a little stronger than her last. “Until then, be safe.”

If only caution on their part is all it took.

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