Following Orders


eileen_icon.gif f_john_icon.gif julian_icon.gif

Scene Title Following Orders
Synopsis No one's mother ever taught them not to talk to strangers; Eileen and Julian suffer a terrible consequence for their actions.
Date April 18, 2009

Lower East Side

There's a corner store that shines baleful light out into the dark street, but Julian knows better than to take the time now to go shopping, even if he is down to his last three cigarettes. Should've picked some up from Old Lucy's on his way out but he forgot, okay. Despite this, he stops to shield a gloved hand around his lighter, touch the flame to the end of the bone-white cylinder, and drawn in an acrid breath of smoke.

Breathe in, breathe out. The smell of freedom and just as addictive.

He's walking again a moment later, a slight skip in his step. Life is dire, but it could be worse. No longer in bright hunter orange, he's dressed not so unusually for him. Sure, the clothing doesn't quite fit, it's old and more practical than fashionable, but— that was how he dressed anyway. Light rain makes a sheen on the streets, turning pavement into glass that reflects the streetlamps of a rougher corner of New York City. "Just another two blocks over," he tells the woman he walks with. "It'll do us f'the night anyway. Went there whenever I got paranoid 'bout cops pokin' around my apartment. Not as good as the bar but better'n a sewage pipe."

Bundled up in a heavy woolen coat, leather gloves and a black pashmina shawl wrapped loosely around her neck for warmth, Eileen Ruskin moves with languid purpose about half a step behind her companion. The last few days they spent holed up in the apartment above Old Lucy's haven't exactly done wonders for her health, but she's looking a lot less sickly and sallow than she did when they first showed up on Abigail's doorstep.

The raindrops sprinkled throughout her dark hair glint like beads and shimmer iridescent under the streetlamps, and like the slick black pavement beneath their feet, her pale skin has adopted a glassy glow of its own, though there's nothing even remotely fey about the dour expression she wears on her face. Gauze bandages and hastily-sewn medical stitching chafe at the skin beneath her clothes and aggravate her physical condition to the point where movement in general is uncomfortable, which might be why she acknowledges Julian with a low, noncommittal murmur in lieu of a real response. "Mm."

Better than a sewage pipe. The irony of having spent a night curled up in one, bleeding and dying, might have been lost on Julian. Perhaps if he had truly known more about the woman he spent so much time with over the last several days, his choice of wording would have been different. Or, knowing Julian, perhaps more pointed.

Over the din of the rain, neither Julian nor Eileen hear the muffled curse of a man standing under the awning of a closed florist's shop. Only a moment after the pair pass by, his voice raises to more of a bark, a rough a tired cry for help with a pressing matter. "Hey," comes the stiff report of a weary voice, followed by splashing footsteps as the man they passed comes down off of a few stone steps down to a puddle at the base. "Either of you got a light?"

Ragged looking and mostly unshaven, he looks like half of the destitute and homeless in New York, but better fed. Broad shouldered and lantern-jawed, he looks more like a man that spends a little too much time at the gym, despite his raggy clothing. A too-small brown trenchcoat is draped over his muscular frame, tattered at the bottom and marked with dark stains on the sleeves. Beneath that, an ill-fitting green t-shirt with a faded stencil logo for Guinness bear proudly displays that he might also coincidentally be an alcoholic. The jeans with tattered holes in the knees, at least, look like they fit him right, and hopefully the black boots that cap off this good-will chic outfit do as well.

"You know," he offers up an unlit cigarette between two pinched fingers, dark eyes scanning Eileen and Julian, "a light?"

Anyone who asks him for money might as well go fuck themselves as far as Julian is concerned. He's pretty sure he's only a step above the homeless by sheer force of attitude and a tendency to be able to kill with a touch. Not a fact Eileen knows, yet. The hiking skirt story was a pretty good one, if the Irishman would say so himself, and so far he's stuck to it. Besides, it's a chilly night out. Lots of people wear gloves.

Also, he's pretty sure she wouldn't be nearly so obliging if she knew what he could do. Default suspicion that has little to do with Eileen herself. It is what it is. Anyway. A light is different to money, Julian turning his head to look at the man approaches them. In the moonlight and the ambience of streetlamps, the Irishman's pale skin is near identical to that of Eileen's sickly demeanor. They could be siblings. Even under this cover of darkness, the ugly scar on the side of his face smiles at the stranger, even if Julian's mouth twists into a line.

Who's he to deprive someone of a habit he understands well? "Yeah, here," he mutters, gloved hand burying into his coat pocket and withdrawing a cheap neon green lighter, holding it in suggestion of tossing it towards the stranger.

Eileen studies the stranger's face from beneath her dewy lashes but finds nothing familiar in his features except, perhaps, the underlying strength of his jaw — an attribute that most of the men in her life have all worn at one point or another. Beyond this, there is nothing to remind her of any of the people she might wish to bump into on the street corner at such a late hour or under such miserable, drizzling circumstances. And maybe that's a good thing. She's heartsick enough without seeing Ethan and Sylar everywhere she goes.

Her gray-green eyes lift skyward, narrowed against the onslaught of rain, and search out the moon's vague outline behind the clouds. She'd rather they be on their way. She'd also like to avoid raising an argument over Julian's decision to stop, however, and so she offers no verbal protest — only a reproachful glance in his general direction that isn't likely to be caught unless he's looking for it.

Holding up a hand and catching the lighter, the stranger nods in thanks, taking a moment to flick it on as his motions mimic what Julian's must have been not that long ago, one hand shielding the flickering flame from the elements as a cigarette pinched between tightly pressed lips is lowered down into it. After a few moments, he rises back up, drawing in a slow breath before exhaling a heavy cloud of acrid smoke out of his nostrils.

"Man," he looks down at the cigarette, holding the lighter out with his other hand, "You just don't know how good it feels to smoke after being in prison for ten years." There's a crooked cast to his smile, pinching the cigarette between two fingers now, rather than his lips. The stranger's dark eyes move from Julian to Eileen, noticing she's the only one bereft of smokes, head canted to one side and brow raised.

He watches her for a moment, then brings the cigarette back to his lips. "You look familiar," It bobs up and down as it speaks. "You a model or something?" A hand covered by fingerless gloves motions to Eileen, looking her up and down as he takes another puff on the cigarette, causing the ember at the end to glow brightly, "I never forget a face — 'cept my own I guess." It's a horribly awkward thing to say.

Julian's own cigarette is drawn up to his own mouth, dragon smoke curls being let out slowly as the smoke is savoured, watching the man light up boredly, and taking a step forward when he's finished to take back his gesture of good will. And stops, honest and open bewilderment now plain on pale, scarred features, glancing back over his shoulder at Eileen as if maybe she has the answers, which hey, she might, and then back to the stranger.

"That right?" he says, haltingly, stiffly.

Help or run away? If they're of a kind, as fate would have it— "Didn' know the city was tha' small. She ain't a model." He's pretty sure of that much. Either way, Julian'd like his lighter back, so he steps forward to snatch it from the stranger's grasp.

Unless he's a regular at the Interpol's home on the World Wide Web, there aren't a lot of places the stranger could have seen Eileen's face before. It's much more likely he remembers it being plastered to the wall on a wanted poster at whatever prison he was just released from, courtesy of the joint effort between Phoenix and their liaison with the Federal Bureau of Investigations. The possibility that her past with Vanguard might finally be catching up to her makes the young woman visibly nervous, her posture growing rigid and tense, narrow shoulders perfectly squared as she straightens her spine and fixes him with a very pointed look.

When she speaks, the voice that purrs forth is considerably rougher, rawer and raspier than what the stranger might be expecting from someone so petite or fair. "I'm sure you've got me mistaken for somebody else," she says, just as much for Julian's benefit as her own, "Like he says. I don't take good pictures."

"You look pretty like a model, s'a shame, that." he notes, brows raised in a look that makes some attempts at feigning innocence while he sucks away on the cigarette again. But in the moment Julian reaches out for the lighter, the dark-haired man lets it slip out of his hand a beat too early, causing it to fall towards the street. It's not making Julian have to lean over for his lighter, rather than a means to open his hand so that he can grab Julian's. There's an immediate contact and a discharge of static red energy over his hand, followed by a shading of the stranger's irises to a chromatic red shade, "and you look totally worthless."

A pulse of something like being electrocuted rockets through Julian's arm and up into his body, outwardly manifested as a surge of red lightning crackling up one side of him from his arm. At the touch, though, there's an inversion of what is expected to happen. The stranger doesn't awaken to open wounds spilling forth with the same red that snaps and pops over Julian, there's nothing. It's the same sensation Julian had when on the drug that negated his abilities, that feeling of health despite the current of electricity that causes painless muscle spasms in his arms.

"Nice to meet you Eileen, my name's John." Another hand flashes out, followed by a snapping bolt of red lightning towards Eileen, one that wavers and crackles in the air around her. "It's a pleasure to meet you, and I'm really — really sorry about all this. But orders are orders."

A third pulse of electricity surges out from John, quickly shooting into both Julian and Eileen, before quickly arcing between the two. What follows is something awkward, like tipping upside down on a full stomach, a feeling of queasy uneasiness that washes over Eileen in the same moment that the birds go silent before turning into so much static noise inside of Julian's mind. It's like turning on a radio at full volume to a station that no longer exists, nothing but the droning and simple sounds of so many slumbering minds of avians, accompanied by the waking night birds as John amplifies the avian telepathy to cover miles of the city.

"H— !" Indignation and a brief amount of horror crosses Julian's face when the man grabs his hand in a grip too strong to shake before that red lightning is shooting up his body, making his form seize and twitch beneath the assault of— not actual electrical discharge, but something else, something he can't understand at all within the same moment.

More red lightning makes strange shadows on the glass-like road, and Julian gives a raw cry as his head is filled with preternatural static of a radio show he certainly has nothing to do with. Hands clamp over his ears as if that would help, staggering away from them both as if drunk, boots slipping on wet concrete and a hand going out to catch himself before he can fall completely.

It's not just noise. Visions, too. He can see a plane-high view of the city suddenly swing under him, and then the dark shapes of buildings passing him by in the next blink.

It all happens so fast. The moment her name leaves the stranger's mouth, Eileen is going for the pistol she keeps nestled against her breast on the inside of her coat. Unfortunately, no matter how many times she's practiced going through the motions, she doesn't move quickly enough to prevent what happens next. Maybe if she'd left the garment unbuttoned. Maybe if she possessed the same swiftness, dexterity and training as the people who taught her how to use it. Maybe if she'd been given just an extra split second of forewarning. Maybe—

Gloved hands clutching at her midsection, she doubles over as if struck in the belly with a bolt of electricity, and for one moment of complete and abject terror that's what she believes has happened to her. It's the absence of pain that brings the woman back to her senses a few seconds later, followed by the wave of nausea that crashes over her body almost immediately afterwards.

She has so many questions to ask the stranger, so many demands to make, but she lacks the composure to formulate fury into spoken word.

"Hey you know," John states with a casual tone, as if Eileen wasn't writhing on the ground clutching her stomach and Julian wasn't clutching his head trying to drown out the noises, "this isn't anything personal, I promise." He pinches the cigarette between two fingers as it's drawn away from his mouth, motioning with it in the air, "I'm just doing what I'm told. You kids have a nice night, okay?"

As he begins to take a step backwards, John spots the gun hanging out of the front of Eileen's jacket, tensing, a look of mild confusion coming over him, as if unsure how to react. The cool and calm demeanor fades as his dark eyes shoot to Julian, acting in a manner like all of this calmness was some sort of facade or act. "I ah— " he swallows, tensely, "yeah I should probably," John's hands move out, crackling with a warm red light that pulses between Julian and Eileen, and the pain in Eileen's stomach doubles, surging above the notion of nausea and becoming something akin to an ache in her bones coupled with severe motion sickness. To Julian, the rapid-fire sensations in his mind grow worse, more uncontrollable and of a wider area of effect, seeing how birds viewing New York from across the divide between Staten Island and Manhattan. The sounds become a deafening cacophony in his head, and with that amplification John begins to inch back and away from them, tapping some ashes off of his cigarette. "Just— following orders," he murmurs, like a mantra, as if it absolves him of all of their pain and suffering.

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