Collecting Debts


nick_icon.gif odessa4_icon.gif

Scene Title Collecting Debts
Synopsis Knowing he doesn't like owing them, Odessa asks for repayment on the debt he owes her — and finds it's not an easy task for reasons she didn't expect.
Date November 30, 2010

The Octagon Odessa's Apartment

Though he left Pollepel Island to get back to his work, making his way to Staten Island and the Irishman are not something Nick is so eager to do that he’s going to ignore a text from Odessa to stop by her place. Walsh can wait — another few hours certainly isn’t going to hurt anything, and Nick isn’t as sure as his Interpol colleagues that the relationship is salvageable anyway.

And a cold warehouse counting bullets just can’t compare to a warm luxury apartment with the company of a woman who doesn’t know and doesn’t care about his past.

So cheeks rosy from the chilly dawn air, Nick knocks on Odessa’s door, hands shoved in the pocket of his black peacoat, his black tuque pulled down low on his face, blue eyes weary beneath the dark rim.

Odessa looks up to the door from her seat at the kitchen island, where she’s taking a scissors to festive ribbon that’s a green, red, and gold plaid, curling it to make a neat bow for a present. She hurries to the door with all the enthusiasm of a woman expecting her lover, arts and crafts abandoned.

Central heating has its perks. For Odessa, it means not shivering from the chill outside. For Nick, it means he’s greeted by the sight of the young doctor in a soft green sweater and what might be a pair of shorts - more accurately hot pants - beneath. If they aren’t just boyshorts. She presses a lingering kiss to his mouth, guiding him into the apartment by grabbing hold of his jacket and tugging him along without breaking contact.

Only once she’s shoved the door closed with her aubergine high-heeled foot does she come up for air. “Glad you could make it,” Odessa murmurs with a grin. “Go have a seat.” She gestures for the kitchen rather than the living room, however. Not nearly as comfy. “Can I get you a drink? I’ve got hot chocolate, or coffee… Well, and I’ve got beer and vodka, too. But I don’t think you want anything cold, huh?”

Nick sighs into the kiss, chuckling a little as fingers grasp around his coat and tug him in. Once she’s let go of him, he’s unbuttoning his coat, tossing it on the arm of the sofa, then pulling off the cap and running a hand over his sparse hair.

“Coffee’d be great. Didn’t get any sleep, but don’t think I’m planning on it at this rate,” he says quietly. “So you usually up this early, this cheery? It’s barely sunrise and you look all bright eyed and bushy tailed. What time you go to work, anyway?”

He sits down, crossing one booted foot over the other knee as he leans back, eyes closing for a moment despite the fact that he said he’s not planning on sleeping.

“I’m not going in for a while. I don’t have any appointments today. And I haven’t gotten any calls about being needed in surgery or anything.” Odessa shrugs and makes her way to the coffee maker. “I wake up easily,” is a lie. But she can steal extra time to let herself wake up before actually attempting to start her day. It may mean she’s ready for a nap at mid-day, but that’s what coffee is meant for.

“Cream or sugar?” Speaking of coffee. Odessa empties a packet of Swiss Miss into one mug before she pours the hot coffee over it, stirring it with a spoon. It’s kind of like a poor woman’s mocha. Lips slant in a grin that she tosses over her shoulder to Nick, “Though you strike me as the black as pitch type.”

“Neither, right,” Nick says with a nod at the black as pitch comment. “Tea with sugar and cream, coffee with nothin’ but caffeine’s how I like it.” His eyes remain closed as she stirs her own coffee and pours his.

“I’ll probably be ‘round more, this side of town, these days,” he offers, for whatever that’s worth. It’s a strange statement coming from someone who’s not looking for anything permanent, to let her know his status is more available than it has been. “I mean, I donno for how long, but I’ll be staying in Brooklyn or Staten, rather than making runs down south.”

“Am I allowed to say that I’m pleased, or does that break the we’re not serious rules? Serious or not, you make a wonderful bed warmer,” Odessa assures, setting a mug of dark coffee in front of the man. Her own lighter blend is set down and she pulls herself up to sit on the seat next to him. “You’re looking better.” Her smile is gentle, but there’s no pity for him.

“I’m planning on getting you more supplies today. Was there anything specific you needed?” Brows furrow as something comes to mind, “Oh. And I’m not sure I’ll be able to secure you flu vaccines. I mean, I’m assuming you - or whoever you’re funneling to - is going to want them. I won’t know if it’s possible until after I see how we’re working the inventory. Government rations that stuff. But I’ll see what I can manage.” Odessa puffs out her cheeks, as she exhales a breath. “Will you be needing the five-ten, too?”

Nick shakes his head. “Nothing rationed. I don’t wanna get you in trouble. Just stuff for basic first aid’s all I need. I don’t want you in any trouble on my account, and I don’t even know if my buyer’d be buying for that.” The words are neutral, and he reaches for his coffee, taking a fairly big gulp as if he doesn’t care about scalding his tongue or throat.

Setting the cup back down, he reaches for her face, gently cupping it with rough palms, kissing her softly. The need that he’d shown in the past for human touch, for companionship is a little more sated; this is a softer need but somehow more sincere at the same time. “It’s good to see you,” he says, leaning his forehead against her white hair and then sighing tiredly.

The sudden tenderness catches Odessa a little off her guard. Her nails click against the ceramic of her mug, her aim off as she’s interrupted in reaching for it. She sags in tandem with a contented sigh, reaching up to brush one thumb over his cheek in return. “You too,” she murmurs with a breathless giggle. “I like having you around. I… wish you would stay over more often.” She pulls away only enough to lightly tap her forehead back against his. “In so far as it’s nice to…”

Even if he can’t see her wince from their proximity, Nick can hear it in Odessa’s voice. “I’m over-thinking this serious thing. Or not serious thing. Or whatever. The point is, you’re good company, serious or otherwise. And God it’s nice to not have to answer stupid questions.” She tilts her head to one side, nudging in for another kiss.

But then she leans back with a quiet, and somewhat forlorn sigh. “I did ask you here for a reason other than…” A vague gesture is made toward her bedroom door. That.

“It is,” he agrees about not having to answer stupid questions, though he seems to blurt out the answers to the questions that don’t go asked anyway these days. His lips quirk a little at her discomfiture of having something to ask for other than company.

“Look. We met on Staten Island. That means both of us have dealings that are probably more business than pleasure and more illegal than legal, and in that kinda world it’s quid pro quo and all that, right, Gale? You’re not gonna offend me if you asked me over to ask me for something business related, and it doesn’t got to have anything to do with what we do in there.” He echoes her gesture toward the door with a smirk.

A blush touches Odessa’s cheeks. She wonders if she’ll ever decide to stop lying to him, and tell him her real name. But when they’re a tangle of limbs and sheets, and it’s Gale that her murmurs breathlessly into her hair… It just sounds right. The thought leaves her quiet longer than she intended, and her cheeks redder yet. “Right. Uhm.” She winces at her hesitation, one hand coming up and dipping under the black patch with its red cross over her eye to rub at it for a moment.

“God. Fuck me. I’m not a school girl,” she mutters. The patch snaps neatly back into place as Odessa points an accusatory finger at Nick and then pokes him in the chest. “See? This is your fault.” A deep breath, followed by a heavy sigh. “I need to cash in that favour, Nicky.”

Nicky makes him arch a brow but he chuckles at the rest of it, fingers caressing lightly over the rosy hue that infuses her cheeks when she blushes.

“All right,” he says, reaching for his coffee cup again to take another long swallow. “What do you need?” He assumes it’s something he can get smuggling — weapons, drugs, really authentic-looking knock-off purses from China.

“I need you to find someone for me. All I need you to do is figure out where I can find him. I don’t need you to approach him or anything like that, because the guy… Well, I’m sure you know how to handle yourself, but I don’t…” Odessa frowns, “I don’t want to put you into harm’s way if I can help it. I just have to figure out where to pin him down so I can deliver a message.”

Her hand comes up to scratch at the back of her neck, then rake bony fingers through shaggy white hair. “I… think I might be in over my head. Not the first time. Not the last time, I’m sure. But the sooner I can deliver a message to this guy, the sooner I can try to get out of this mess.” Odessa brings her mug of coffee and cocoa to her lips, sipping at it more gingerly than Nick does his coffee. “I thought I was going to have to do a lot of my own leg work and search forever, but… You’re a smuggler. You’ve got to know this guy. Knowing him, he’s needed something smuggled. And if you don’t know him, you probably know where to find someone who does.

Odessa braces herself against the bottom rung of her stool and boosts up against the counter to reeeeach for her cell phone. And possibly give Nick a good view of her posterior in the process. Elbows propped on the granite surface of the kitchen island, she clicks through menus on the phone, finding what she’s looking for before she drops back into her seat and turns the screen to face Nick.

It’s a photo of a photo. That is, a camera phone photo of one printed on glossy Kodak photograph stock. “His name’s Jensen Raith,” Odessa offers. “Seen ‘im?”

“I’m not like, Mr. Popularity with all the smugglers, you know,” Nick murmurs, while she begins looking for the photograph on the phone. He’s dreading going back to work later in the day to find Walsh, as it is, unsure what story he’ll be feeding the man to make his third disappearance seem forgivable.

When Odessa shows the picture of Raith, Nick’s brows furrow, but he follows with a hmm and reaches for the phone to peer at it closer, as if in concentration.

“I mighta seen him around,” he says in a noncommittal tone, probably too casual an attempt at nonchalance to be sincere. “But if you’re worried about putting me in danger, how do you plan on getting him a message without putting yourself in danger?” he asks, reaching for her hand and intertwining his fingers with hers, bringing it to his lips to graze against lightly. “I could give him the message for you, if I find him.”

Nick,” Odessa tries to keep her tone serious, warning even. She can tell that he’s not sharing something with her. But his lips against her fingers softens her gaze on him. “My ass is on the line here. And you like my ass. And if you want to keep tapping it, you have got to help me out here. Because otherwise I’m gonna be dead. It’s going to be worse if I don’t try to track Raith down to talk to him.” Her lips purse even as her fingers tighten around his. “I’ve dealt with him in the past. He doesn’t have an ability.”

And I do, is left unspoken. “He might want to put a bullet between his eyes because I maybe have tried to kill a friend of his once, but this is not about that.” Mostly. “The point is that he can’t — He isn’t more dangerous than the man who’s going to collect my fuckin’ head if I don’t find Raith.” Odessa bounces in her seat once, trying to look cute and pleading. “Please? Could you please do this for me?” It might work better if her face wasn’t all scarred up. It spoils some of the innocence. “If you can find out where he spends his time, I think I can get away with leaving a note and not having to confront him at all. That would be ideal. But I’m not about to ask you to try and leave this guy a note.”

“Please, Nick? I’m serious, here. I’m in a lot of fuckin’ trouble.” With the blush out of her cheeks, and her singular gaze wide, Odessa actually looks the part. Serious, that is.

“Fuck, Gale,” Nick says, standing suddenly and striding away, his hands on the back of his head as he stares up at the ceiling. “What kinda trouble are you in that someone’s gonna kill you if you don’t get this guy’s help? I know I said I owe you but — “

He swallows, audibly, his jaw muscles twitching as he shakes his head. “I kinda owe this guy my life, you know? Like, I might not fucking be here if it weren’t for him, and I don’t particularly like the guy, but I owe him that. If he don’t wanna be found — I’m not gonna be the one to tell someone where he is. And no, I don’t know where he is, but if you’re saying he’s not around, then your guess is as good as mine.”

Half truths — half of it’s true, and half of it’s a lie. He does owe Raith his life — and perhaps vice versa. And he knows exactly where Raith is; the one place that he’s sworn not to reveal.

“Gimme the message and I’ll pass it on. Or I’ll tell him you’re looking for him. He’s not gonna shoot me for that,” Nick says finally, turning back toward Odessa.

Belatedly, he thinks to ask, “Who did you try to kill?”

Jesus Christ!” Odessa is pushing off of her own seat much in the same manner as Nick, pacing in the opposite direction and clutching at fistfuls of her hair. It would be comical if they weren’t both so damned serious. “You fucking know him? Christ. Christ! That just fuckin’ figures. Listen, he’s an asshole. And I’m not out to fucking kill him.”

Hands drop to her sides, a slap of palms on thighs. “Fuck, fuck, fuck! Fine. Fine. You fuckin’ tell him that the fuckin’ Nightingale is looking for him, or I’m going to have to go find fuckin’ Sylar. Do you hear me? Sylar. And that— That won’t be good.” Odessa’s throat tightens, makes it difficult to swallow.

“I tried to kill the bitch who did this to my face.” Though the detail that what happened to her face was a consequence of said murder attempt, rather than the instigator, is conveniently left out.

Nick’s eyes narrow and he turns to regard her skeptically. “Sylar?”

He hasn’t seen Gabriel. He only knows the name that everyone else in the world knows.

“What the fuck, Gale — you’re threatening Raith with Sylar? You know Sylar?” he says, warily. “I’ll give him the message if I can find him, but I ain’t making you any promises.”

“No! Fuck, no! Jesus— Fuck! No! You don’t get it.” Well, how could he? Odessa clenches her teeth and sucks in a deep breath. “No. Listen. It’s… I’m not threatening Raith with Sylar. Sylar is on his fucking side. That’s why he’s so fucking dangerous. “I can’t face Sylar. The message I have is really meant for him, but… Sylar will fuckin’ kill me for what I tried to do to that whore he’s sleeping with.” The very idea churns her guts.

“And the guy who wants me to talk to Sylar? He’s even worse. Do you understand? There is someone out there worse than Sylar.” The woman looks down at her hands, almost surprised to discover them shaking. In fact, she’s trembling all over. Odessa draws in a shaky breath, trying to steady herself again. “Just… Just forget it. All you need to tell Raith if you find him is that Sylar’s wanted at the fuckin’ Queens Borough Library. Just do that.”

Odessa presses her lips together and then covers the lower portion of her face with her hand. “Jesus. I am actually scared of this —” Her tongue darts between her lips and she tries to work out more words. More articulate words. “Can this not be a… A thing that we…” When she looks up at Nick again, it’s with a helpless expression.

“Okay,” Nick says, moving to take her hands, and holding them tight to stop the shaking. His brow is knit as he works over the information he’s been given, trying to make sense of it. Raith, he knows, is Eileen’s right hand man for all intents and purposes; it might mean that whoever the woman was who injured Odessa or “Gale” is also a Ferryman.

It doesn’t occur to him it might be Eileen, of course.

“I’ll see what I can do. I don’t want you to be in any danger, Gale, but I can’t tell you where he is, even if I knew it. I’ll give him the message — Queens Borough Library? Any particular time?” he asks, bringing a hand up to her hair, tucking it behind her ear.

Odessa shakes her head no. “He’s — Sylar’s just supposed to be there,” she whispers. Her mouth has gone dry, and her eyes wet. She draws in closer and rests her forehead against his chest. “I’m sorry. I’m sorry. I’m just… more freaked out than I thought I was. I’m used to being at the top of the food chain,” she explains quietly. “But I keep managing to find the people higher up.” Her head tips up again so she can look him in the eye, because Nick deserves that much from her. “You do this for me and we are more than even. You do this for me and I owe you.

“If you’re in danger, I’ll do what I can to help,” Nick says, bringing his hand up to stroke through her hair, bending to brush lips against white strands. “But you know how I feel about debts — and I owe both you and Raith.”

He frowns as something registers late. “What am I supposed to say to him to get him to care, though, if he wants you dead anyway? And if he’s in league with Sylar, why’s he gonna tell him to go to what could be some sort of trap? No offense, Gale, but I wouldn’t RSVP to this li’l shindig if I were Sylar. Giving the message I can do, but I wouldn’t count on anything.”

Odessa swallows back what feels like it should be the herald to a fresh wave of tears. “If he doesn’t show up, this guy knows where to find Sylar’s charming girlfriend. He chose me because we had a connection, Sylar and I. If rattling my cage doesn’t produce the desired result, she may be next. And if Sylar cares anything for her at all, he won’t give any excuse to have his little bird’s feather’s ruffled.”

Her tone is dark, just shy of a mutter. The topic leaves a sour taste in the woman’s mouth, but Nick is right. Odessa has to give the recipients of her message a reason to care. Her life being spared or otherwise is no incentive. But Eileen’s life… Odessa’s willing to gamble on them caring a bit more about that.

The man scowls darkly, not liking this little game of messenger at all. “So lemme make sure I got this straight. I’m supposed to find Raith, who knows Sylar and this girl, so that Raith can tell Sylar he’s wanted at the library, or else the girl might be in trouble?”

This all sounds like primary school hearsay to Nick and he shakes his head. “Why don’t I just go drop off the message to Sylar himself?” he asks. The answer should be obvious. “I mean, if you know where he is. I donno know him, but if you have an address, I can run it to him.” The obvious answer — aside from the fact that Sylar’s a serial killer — is that he might know where Raith is, but he’s not about to admit as much.

“I don’t know where Sylar is. I could probably make it obvious that I’m looking for him, but that would just be a painting a target on my back.” Odessa frowns faintly. Does he think she hasn’t thought of any of this yet? “And if you found him, he might kill you. I tried to kill his woman, so he might kill you if he thinks you mean anything to me. Raith is more likely to see you just as a messenger.” She hopes.

A quiet huff. “I told you, the debt will be mine here. And you tell Raith that it isn’t you who owes him for doing this, but me. I am willing to give him a favour in return for this. If I have to.” Odessa really hopes she doesn’t have to. “The threat against the girl isn’t mine. I know better than to touch a single hair on her pretty little head.” Again. “If you don’t want to do this, then fine. I’ll find someone else who can find him. I know I’m asking a lot of you, but… I need this. If you can’t help me, then just tell me so I can try and find someone else who can.

“All right,” Nick murmurs — not looking forward to this courier job at all. He just left the island — he’d thought for good, after the discussion he’d had with Eileen. He’s pretty sure that even if she needed his help, she wouldn’t bend to ask him after last night’s farewell. And now he has to turn around and go back.

“I better go, then. I gotta get some other work done today and it’s been a while — work’s probably backed up, and now with this to do, too — well, I should get moving,” he says, standing up and reaching for his coat and jacket.

Nothing puts a damper on the mood like talking about serial killers and life or death errands.

He reaches for her, knocking his head into hers and kissing her cheek softly. “It’ll be okay,” he breathes, though he doesn’t believe it.

Odessa presses a kiss against Nick’s cheek in return. “Hey… I just… I want you to know. If this doesn’t… work out in my favour and I wind up dead anyway? It’s not your fault. I’ve done a lot of bad shit in my life, and… I more than deserve it.” She offers a shaky smile and retreats to the living room to retrieve Nick’s coat, holding it out to him. “Be careful. I’d miss you something fierce if you got yourself killed on my account.”

She tries to make it sound flippant, like a joke.

If only.

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