Friendly Reassurance



Scene Title Friendly Reassurance
Synopsis Emile Danko emerges from his fitful, ketamine-induced slumber.
Date May 10, 2018

Staten Island, Safehouse

It’s cold.

Emile Danko can feel the chill in the air against his skin. The rough texture of wool blankets, too, tugged up to but not past his waist, leaving his chest and shoulders bare. An old mattress strung across an iron bed frame sags under his weight.

The rest of the world is slower to come into focus. Peeling floral wallpaper curls at the edges where it meets crumbled crown moulding and a window frame that looks out over the water.

He’s in a safehouse. He also is not alone.

The small, angular shape of a woman sits at a table adjacent to the bed, wringing out a soiled rag into a porcelain basin. She washes her hands with the same measured deliberation and care that she’d shown Danko’s body while he was unconscious, although her thoughts are clearly somewhere other than the dried blood under her fingernails.

It doesn't belong to him. Or to her, either.

A clean pair of trousers and crisp white wife beater await Danko at the end of the bed when he finally claws himself out of the ketamine pit Keira Fionn sunk him in.

At some point stone cold coma transversed into fitful sleep — twitches at his fingers, cold sweat, shallow, panting breath. He flinches like a dog in his dreams.

A protracted quiet is the giveaway, then, when he finally surfaces.

His eyes slit open with a crocodilian placidity, pale in his skull, drawn to the sound of water in a basin, and Ruskin beside it. From there, the ceiling — peeling paper, rough blankets. The building around them is still, the stink of water still heavy in the air.

He pushes sluggish up into a sit, claws quietly out of his blankets and onto his feet to pull his pants on. No more privacy to lose.

Hard to say if there’s gratitude in his rustling.

He’s built like a conibear trap, all raw springwire sinew and bone up his back, hide ghostly pale under old USMC ink and a corporate logo stamped in like a barcode at the blade of his shoulder. Head bowed, he pulls the wifebeater on before he hitches up the zipper, transformation into shitty old dishrag Freddie Mercury complete.

“Careful you don’t stand up too quickly,” Eileen Ruskin suggests, “or you’ll float away like a balloon.”


This is, of course, assuming that Emile Danko is susceptible to lightheadedness in the first place. They’ve been fortunate enough so far that she hasn’t needed to yet find out.

She folds the rag in half, then into quarters, and hefts a small knife that had been shining unobtrusively on the table beside the basin. It’s clean, too — so clean that the Englishwoman can pause and assess the state of her reflection in it before her eyes move from the blade to the bedside where Danko is navigating his feet into his trouser legs.

There’s no point in studying his back for additional signs of injury; she’s already had ample opportunity to while he was unconscious, and even if she hadn’t—


Her spool of surgical thread and scissors sits unused for a reason.

“How much do you remember?” she asks.

No immediate response, but he’s stable on bare feet, examining his hands palm to back like they belong to somebody else. Clean, whole. But no belt, no boots, no knives and no gun. A sniff finds his sinuses clear; there’s no grime for his fingers to find when he pushes them up over his forehead.

“Not much.”

His voice feathers dry in his throat, shot through with chaff.

“Just a mask.” Standing idle, he hikes his brows over at her basin, humor twisting black as the stuff Keira had pumping out of him before the sunrise. “…And a knife.”


“I don’t remember the details,” is offered like an added assurance on a short delay, unprompted.

Eileen flips the knife between her fingers similar to the way that Keira had done, perhaps to see if this will jog Danko’s memory, or maybe because it’s been awhile and she wants to see if she can still do it.

It turns out she can, albeit very s l o w l y.

She rises from the table, all limbs and the wash of dark clothes that she wears: black denim and cotton, layered to protect her own skin from the plummeting temperatures.

Now that he’s up and about, he can see why. There’s rain beading on the cracked window pane, and the promise of thunder and lighting makes the clouds outside grow heavy and fat. The safehouse’s floorboards bow under her feet and expel motes of dust as she crosses the room to offer him the weapon, handle first.

“Her name is Keira Fionn.” Is, not was. “She used to run with Detective Daniel Walsh, also known as the Irishman. Humanis First. Both of them.”

He watches the knife flip, tongue wetted past his teeth, and looks down to the floor. It’s dusty — stirred up in tracks where he was carried in. One set of footsteps through the doorway. Just like Jesus.

Light from the outside fades as the cloud cover mounts up behind the rain, pulling shadows in deep and leeching detail from the floral wallpaper around them. He reaches to take the knife when she offers it, balance tested over his knuckle, thumb scuffed over the blade, both sides checked for any crust of blood. The subtlety of Keira Fionn still existing in the present tense hasn’t escaped him.

“You think there’s anyone here I haven’t pissed off?”

This is his, now; he folds it over and tucks it away. It’d be overly generous to call an anemic crook at the corner of his mouth a smile.

“Huruma,” he supposes, dry. Maybe.

Eileen reaches up and places her hand on Danko's chest, above the heart that beats there. Because he has one. Because there are people out there who would argue otherwise. Because maybe she needs the reassurance that he’s still whole and standing in front of her.

Because she’s missed having real physical contact with another human being.

“You share his name and his face,” she says, “but his actions are not your actions, his crimes are not your crimes. You didn’t do the things Finn accused you of any more than I died on a shitty little island for shitty little people.”

Neither of them are really tall enough for her to be using this sort of language unironically. It makes her voice sound harder than it needs to, even when her eyes and mouth are soft.

Next question: “How well can you see?”

Danko has only ever tolerated touch, so far as most people’ve seen, and the rest of Eileen’s hand over his breastbone is no different. There’s a heart under there — muscle and connective tissue thumping blood through the closed loop of his circulatory system.

“Yeah,” he says. “Well.” It’s not disbelief (or even skepticism) that keeps his answer for that ambiguous, or the creases around his eyes cinched tight It’s an absolute, bone deep indifference to the inevitability of his own nature — the kind to be expected of a reef shark absolved of eating one baitfish among a thousand.

This close, his aversion to eye contact begs the question of who it is she’s really reassuring, here, bloodless grey borderline sympathetic when he finally weathers the look on her face. No amount of healing has been enough to soften the shadows around his eyes.

“Thanks for the rescue.”

He grasps her elbow. Friendly reassurance. Also a friendly request to be released from this Moment they’re having.

It’s cold. There are scratchy wool blankets behind him for him to make use of.

“I can see just fine.”

Eileen withdraws, recreating the space that previously existed between them.


She drifts toward the window instead and grasps at the sill. It hasn’t been touched in a long time, either — a thin, silty layer of dirt and grime comes away on her newly-washed fingertips.

Her forehead rests against the glass. It takes some concentration and effort to direct her focus past the rain carving its branch-like paths down and across the pane, past the birds sheltering in the leafy green trees that grow tall and dense around the property, past the drooping chain-link fence and gnarled road.

With her ability, she’s aware of what’s happening a very long way away, and in every direction. Even so, she seems not to be satisfied that they’re protected here; there’s tension in her neck and shoulders, arms stiff, knuckles rigid.

“You can go back to Sedro-Woolley if that’s what you want,” she says. “Better to live in the West than to haunt in the East. I’m having second thoughts, too.”

After you’ve been laid out half naked with a knife in your eye socket, there isn’t much sense in pretending the cold doesn’t bother you. Emile drags the topmost blanket up around his shoulders, burr drying uneven out of whatever nightmare’s cold sweat, mustache the right amount of ridiculous for Staten.

“I’m a liability.” Matter-of-fact, his voice cool and rough as the wood under his bare feet, he sets himself back down onto the bedside. “But we can take this island.”

Rusty bedspring shriek under his weight, slight as it is.

“Or at least establish enough of a foothold to section off the east side.”

Eileen feels like maybe she should avoid anything to do with islands.

And yet she does not disagree. She absorbs Danko’s suggestion, letting it really settle in, which takes less time from his perspective than hers. “All right,” she says.

Just like that. All right.

“We need more people,” sounds like it should be an order, except Eileen doesn’t give orders. She’s read in books why that’s a bad idea. “Two options: Rally here, or ask Joshua and Iago to send some of ours. The first takes more time, more money, more effort. The second leaves the colony less defended.

What do you think?”

“Depends on what you’re trying to accomplish here. And how quickly.”

Danko shifts just enough to watch her at the window, chin scuffed over wool, makeshift cape drawn up close around the bare bite of muscle into the back of his skull. Why not both?

“I’d only need a few trained soldiers to start burning gangs out of standing structures. Absorb the survivors, press inland. Trouble’ll be holding it once we have it.” Turning back to the basin, and the door, he masks a hard blink in the movement. “The established order is going to want us out.

“And they know a hell of a lot more about these people than we do.”

“All right,” Eileen says again, slow, measured, decidedly cautious. “So some of Iago’s contingent, the ones he’s able to spare. Connelly. The girl, Ball. She’s still owed blood.”

She pushes away from the window and drags her fingers through her hair, twisting it back into a loose but at the nap of her neck, which she fastens in place with a bobby pin produced from behind her left ear. Her reflection appears passable, she decides, if a little disheveled.

Nothing that can’t be explained by the weather.

As she leaves the room, her path winds her around the side of the table furthest from Danko, continuing to maintain the distance requested by his earlier touch to her arm. It occurs to her that they probably don’t need to be having this conversation. There’s so much that goes unspoken, so much contained in a hand on a chest, a hand on an arm — or in this instance, the fleeting glance she directs at him on the way out.

And a rueful smile.

“Do what you think you need to. I trust your judgement, Emile. I trust you.”

Unless otherwise stated, the content of this page is licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 License