Hello Darkness My Old Friend


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Scene Title Hello Darkness My Old Friend
Synopsis Coercion to one end diverts into coercion to another with a side of That Which Has Not Yet Come To Pass.
Date April 18, 2011

Lancaster's Pad

There's a rap at the door. Not a knock.

A rap.

The kind that is familiar more in affect than rhythm or precise mechanical application of knuckle to wood, if only because the gentleman caller to blame rarely has cause to bother.

With doors.

Adrianne Lancaster has barely had time to kick off her boots, grab a beer can and switch on Discovery Channel by the time someone is using the door. To knock on it. When it opens, she has a gun in her hand and an immediately suspicious glint in steel blue eyes — one that transform into visible surprise and shifts over the top of the gentleman caller's head to see if he has anyone with him.

Like terrorists or police. "You knock gay," she says, by way of greeting, and opens the door wider. It's a New York apartment, seen passed her, with haphazard clutteredness that isn't really lived in properly either. A TV is going, but muted now, and the most distinctive thing would probably be the grizzly bear rug.

Which is moderately distinct. Indistinct is grey sweater and jeans, and even the standard sidearm safetied and pointed for the carpet beneath her bare feet.

There are no others. Just the one. Tall, at least by Starbucks' standards. And bald. Lazzaro, Vincent.

He's in a jacket over a hoodie, jeans and running shoes, looking more uncomfortably suspicious on her stoop than his situation even requires. Or exactly the right amount of suspicious, depending upon who you ask. Like if you were to ask him, for example.

In any case, he has his right hand back around under the rear of his belt when she opens the door, dark eyes pitted all the darker by the circles bruised in unhealthy grey around them. He looks like shit, actually, and he steps in past her too quickly, without pausing to look her over lest he acccidentally make eye contact before he's tucked the butt of his gun the rest of the way in under his shirt tail and cleared his throat of some lingering clag.

"You look gay."


Lancaster swiftly shuts the door behind him, moving to set down her pistol and following in a more or less indirect path, with her focus on him for all that he isn't feeling any warm tingles of impending combustion. She has good control, and also medication. Eye contact is more or less sought for with the haphazard directness of wild stabs, its absence more notable than its presence. She is a lot more alarmed by his being here, all of a sudden, in her apartment, than she allows to bring to surface.

"I won't go into how you look. I assume you have access to a mirror. It's good to see you." Genuine relief made into words, on the tail of mocking appraisal — it doesn't make either one less sincere, either.

"Terrorists don't believe in mirrors. They're afraid of having their souls," Vincent pauses long enough to scan the next room over at an uneasy lean and pale, prying, paranoid peer that terminates in a gesture that turns his wrist over near his throat. Illustrative. Also distracted. "…Sucked out."

You're alone here, right? seems kind of forward and uncool, so. He doesn't say it, apparently content to vibrate with ill-suppressed — something — instead. Not fear, really. Cornered, maybe. Restless unease. Cockroach in the sink, moth in a jar. He scuffs a hand nervously across the coarse bristle of his beard growth and adjusts the sit of the gun at the small of his back again, craning a boot-black look back at the door and then finally — finally — at Lancaster, so that he can say, "It's good to see you too."

As people do.

There's thunder, and smoke. And also pain.

It's that latter one that calls to him the most, rousing him to life — a dull, throbbing ache in his legs, knifing up his nerves that spark at any minor shift or spasm of muscles. And then, sharper, a little more invasive just because of where it's located — as his legs sort of feel all the way down there — his head turns beneath the swift, open handed slap that drags hard and fast across his face, turning his head. "Vincent! Vincent! Wake the fuck up!" It's a familiar voice, yes, but Vincent has never heard Lancaster lose her shit unless it's in the throes of an argument, and so there's an oddly alien ragged edge to it.

If there's an argument going on, it's not within his immediate recollection.

Flames are licking over wooden structures within the building, blackening stone, and up above, he sees his own reflection — or at least, smoke winds up around the ceiling in roiling plumes of sootiness that resembles how he sometimes looks to a very close degree, if dryer where he is wetter. The concrete is cool beneath him and gritty with debris, and something has fallen on his legs, something of concrete and metal and possibly formerly critical to the structural integrity of Textile Factory 17, too heavy for Lancaster to move.

More thunder, an explosion that doesn't plume fire towards them, coming from somewhere else, but it does rumble the building enough that Lancaster winds up splaying herself over him as ceiling crap comes littering down upon their heads, tiles and plaster both, bleary vision clouded by the flap of her coat as she covers his face for the seconds it takes.

Vertebrae bunched stiff against mounting discomfort, Vincent is still trying to muddle his way to the source when the flat of Lancaster's man hand catches him flush across the face. Grey stubble and darker debris. Calluses. He can't see, but he knows them. She should really file them down. Or have someone else do it.


A sharp intake of breath is immediately fed back out into a cough, ash and smoke spun rough through his teeth about the time that reality starts to circulate less literal heat through his nervous system and he twists slow on his back, like a snake with its tail stuck in a slammed door.

Which. You know. He more or less is.

But movement only makes it worse and his awareness of Lancaster is blending into his awareness of what a terrible place this is to wake up in, so he does the chivalrous thing and tells her, "Everything is on fire," once he's confirmed with a drowsy roll of his eyes in his skull. "Shit," comes a beat later, at more of a pant through the grit of his jaw. She is on top of him. And she's heavy. And his legs hurt a lot and he is going to die in a warehouse wearing a uniform like a flatfoot faggot fresh out of the academy.

Drawing back, Lancaster clasps a man over over his jaw enough to steer his face so she can look into it. The more she gets older, the more she kind of pares back into exactly who she is, all severity and madness, lean, with more lines at her eyes and bracketing her mouth than she had ten years ago, hair grey — but only with debris, still the tone of straw beneath the dust that's been kicked up in the wake of explosions. "Yep. It wasn't me," she says, all sneer in her tone. As someone who can create fire but cannot control it, resentment brims hot in her tone and stare. Her face is already dirtying with smoke.

"Can you change, Vince?"

Legs trapped and unmoving, blunt trauma reverberating pain as high as his hips — but if anything was crushed, broken, even dislocated, it would probably be spiking harder through his focus. Her hands are locked knots on his shirt, prepared to drag and leave pieces behind if she must do so in favour of digging him out later.

Vincent's stubborn mug is more or less the same. More crow's feet. More grey than black in the fussily maintained prickle of his stubble collection. More dignity. Or at least an easier kind of confidence when his skull rolls with the grip she has on his jaw and he chuckles his way coarse into a hoarser cough. "Little late now," he says. Not loud enough for her to hear.

It's funny because — it's a homophone. Or something. A fresh rush of pain splinters up his right side then, probably sourced somewhere in the hold she has on him (deservedly), and humor falls flat out of his face.

He'll explain it to her later.

Right hand clutched up into her sleeve, he holds his breath, hoods his brow and vanishes. Black on black, he's impossible to tell apart from the roil of fast-moving smoke and shimmering heat, but there's a voice hollow at her ear in less time than it should take to worry. "Is it just us?"

Trapped inside, he means. Probably.

Lancaster's head bows a second in relief, before she's levering herself up to stand, though her back is bent beneath the thick smog of smoke. He's speaking before she can get anxious again. "Anyone in the op centre'll be dead," she says. "But the rec and the dorms are evacuated." In that, if any FRONTLINE soldier is worth putting into a multi-million dollar suit, they'll have want to be smart enough to get out of here when things start exploding, barring being near crushed by concrete or worried about someone in the same state.

"It's just us in this wing— fuck," would be when she realises something critical. That she's wrong. "Ah, goddamn. The kids." She twists a look around for the nearest exit, and when the fire safety door some twenty feet away abruptly shatters and explodes into flames, it's probably not the result of a terrorist attack — only her, that time. Melting glass, burning flipping splinters of wood. "They were on maintenance at the g— "

The distant sound of gunfire cuts her off.

"So. Didja miss me?"

Lancaster gives Vincent a head tip that prompts a response, but could also be designed to indicate that yes, she's alone. Suspicion is what really keeps her attention fixed on the former agent — he's sick, and he knocked. These are two things that equal a conclusion with reasonable mathematical simplicity that even Adrianne can muster. But she doesn't say anything, not yet — not because it's not polite to, but because there's plausibly a better time at which to do so.

She pads for the kitchen, picking up the beer can she'd set down, to retrieve another one. It's the most she's probably going to do when it comes to putting him at ease — Vincent is likely to feel cornered all on his own, and without her help.

"I did," says Vincent, "and do."

If the past tense isn't convincing enough in itself.

Boot black eyes and characteristically cocksure posture careworn beneath jacket, sweater and jeans, Vincent watches Lancaster's bare feet segue into the kitchen without moving to fall in after her. A wan whorl of vapor turns slow off his shoulder instead, ill-suppressed frustration folded carefully away into a dark little cupboard in the back of his mind somewhere while he stares hard at the empty doorway.

Ultimately, his voice lifts to follow in his place, too long into a distracted pause and devoid of enthusiasm. "But that isn't why I'm here." He touches restlessly at the back of her couch, then curls his fingers back, self-admonishing. Feeling invasive. Like an infection.

There's work stuff around. Memos, even photographs, and the word FRONTLINE remains a consistent thread. A photocopied article surrounding the fall of the Manhattan Director, passive observation and information for all that Lancaster is not a very passive person, or one that brokers intel, but it makes for interesting reading material and, depending on whom you are, a conversation piece. Like, how did you get this out of the building. But it's not really on the agenda, for all that she is more keen to extend him a can of beer than she is to try and cover up such tracks.

"Course not," Lancaster says breezily, and without particular accusation or resentment, her smile ever crooked although this time a little— set in place. "Here, it's the strongest medication I got, besides the horse tranquilisers. What'd you come here for, Vince?"

Horse tranquilizers don't sound half bad, if the tip of his brows when she offers is any indication. He takes the beer, though, tab pulled with a stolid snkt in the critical span his eyes spend tabbing from exposed research to the exposed researcher.

He is relaxing.

Gradually and with tension like a thunderhead stirring just under the loose cut of his collar; tendons in the back of his hand stand out bloodless against aluminum print work. "Someone," he says finally, not yet having taken a sip — he has to swallow just right to muffle a cough out of existence, "has manipulated me into confronting you about your intentions in regard to your niece."

When he does lift his can to sip an off beat later, it's to distance himself from already non-existent eye contact all the further when his brows twitch after an open article.

Lancaster's brows draw together at the news of some mysterious one being the cause of Vincent's arrival — either because it's why he's here or it's how he's here. Her head tilted and own half-finished beer held absent in her claw, she squints (down) at Vincent for the time it takes for a truck to rumble down the road, a brief and passing audio backdrop on top of the thrum of the fridge several feet behind her. When she snaps out of it, it's with a casual kind of abruptness: "I dunno yet."

The last gulps of beer are downed, empty can tossed into partially empty sink over a shoulder, before she's drifting off towards her research — maybe putting it away from prying terrorist eyes, although long fingers sort through it. "She's not really my neice, you know. Leaps a little more sideways on the family tree, but, close enough.

"You know her?" She isn't looking at Vincent either, as she flips through pages.


He doesn't.

"I don't get out much."

Feeling her eyes on him at one point, Vincent rubs under his nose and clenches through a mute shiver. Being sick is at least ten times as irritating as it is miserable. At least. He takes steps away from her when she steps away from him, maximizing distance to minimize the exposure of his weakness. If he'd rather be lying down his posture isn't telling, but the lines around his eyes have less of a choice.

That the protection of his pride trumps his curiosity is more an indication of enduring personality than anything. He hasn't gone insane.


"I was told you might be following her."

"I was."

Papers are tossed haphazard back onto the coffee table, and Lancaster plants a sheet of paper into Vincent's chest with the intent to let it fall should he not take it — but he has time to, for as long as she's stepping passed him to find her own space in territory. "I am," she adds, eyebrows up, as she wanders off to leave Vincent with a grainy copy of eight frames snapped of a girl he might have at least seen in passing, all hair and gangly limbs and pixie face. It's black and white, so the distinctive swath of red hair isn't detectable.

Fwumf. Lancaster fall-sits into an armchair that's seen much use, slinging a leg up over an arm. "They haven't identified her," Lancaster says. "At least, not that I know of. But she's been seen running with your new crowd, over on Staten Island, maybe a few months ago — after the riots. Supplies or trafficking or whatever it is they do for fun."

Paper clapped over chest, left hand clapped automatically over paper, Vincent catches on in more than enough time to keep it from falling. In fact, he has enough time to pan an unconscious, groggy look down and sideways after Lancaster's ass before he straightens the sheet out to peer down at it. The sheet. With the photos.

Recognition is present but dim. There are only so many people on the island. They all eat around the same time by necessity. Paths cross, faces are seen and eventually grow familiar. "Animal sacrifice, mainly," he supplies after another good, long look. Disheartened. Who else do they have blurry photographs of? "And incest, where it's available."

Squinting after recognition, vaguely feline for all that the rest of Lancaster definitely isn't, she dismisses him and dry comments with a tip of her head and a glance out the window, fingers curling beneath her chin. "So far, I figure I can hold her upside down by the ankles like when she was five until she starts crying," she says, without real qualifier regarding whether Rue Lancaster cried during these moments when she was five too as opposed to a hypothetical future. "Or ask her what the hell she's doing and figure if she needs a way out or if it's just cool now.

"Like Twitter." Back to Vincent, there's a chilly quality in her regard for him, but it doesn't last long, mouth twitching as she looks him up and down. Fingers splay, eyes roll, and she says: "I could help you too. Devil's fond of second chances."

The look Lazzaro gives her once he's lifted the eyes from her paper after a pause is more telling than any change in tone or even posture could be: uneasily attentive. Preemptively guilty, even.

He's listening.

Displaced embers churn bright through an explosion of black steam and ash that renders itself into Vincent ahead. Too much information to navigate easily without eyes: surface temperatures no longer make sense, and neither does the structure itself. Stilted off balance by the stiffness bit deep into his right leg, he cranes a look back over his shoulder to measure Adrianne's progress and adjusts his sidearm before vanishing again.

Seconds later, he shoulders through a peeling door nearly at her side, smog twisting thick over itself in an aborted attempt to organize that has to collapse entirely before he can compose himself. Getting worse. He's panting for this latest, "Clear," teeth grit white against a wince when he thumps his forearm back hard against the frame he just spilled through to stifle a spit of flame flickering up the side of his sleeve. "It has to have been outside."

The other stuff that will be outside includes time to think and process and wonder how a terrorist attack can get explosives this deep into the weak spots of FRONTLINE Unit Manhattan's home base. Unlike now, where Lancaster is set to push out through the door on Vincent's heels and set to running down the corridor, run off smog stinging eyes and blurring the details of concrete floor and brick washed white in skinny lights, blurry smoke. She has a gun in her hand as well, which is on less of a trigger than her own ability, kept locked down for the time it takes to—

Get there. And not set the building on further fire.

A metal staircase clatters underfoot, and when they're outside, it comes with a shock of fresh sundown air, the scent of the river that the factory half rests upon. The brick courtyard they stumble out into, blooded and soot-smeared, is almost impassive to the drama and the breakdown of the interior, the sea blue, and Lancaster's hand locks on Vincent's arm in case he has anything thought on headed near the edge of the overlook, veering close to the structures of buildings. She might speak but instead, she coughs hoarsely, lungs besieged.

Not these days. Inwards, there's an entire block of building on fire, the brain of the headquarters up in smoke and cinder, rolling thick columns of black into a sky that's rosy in the later hour, redder for the fire.

Sixty, seventy feet of open space between the squatting buildings of the HQ lay bare and open for where the garage is located — the former factory has an open bay through which the sight is mostly smoke, movement. The sounds of a battle if not in any more gunfire— for the meantime— but a sharp and unfamiliar echo of a masculine voice, a call for help or instruction impossible to make out from this distance. Leaning against the brown brick wall, Lancaster releases Vincent's sleeve as she struggles to breathe with the lockjaw intensity of someone determined not to fall behind, shooting a look for the distance between themselves and the garage bay.

She releases him and he snatches hold at her shoulder before contact is broken, knuckles anchored like cast iron into the stiff of cloth there. Not yet. Periphery dizzy with static, lungs blackened and feet scorched through the soles of his boots, Vincent slants his weight back and away rather than in against her side, holding her fast. He saw the look. And they're already behind.

Wheezing, in through the nose out through the mouth, barely on their feet, ears pricked silent to the sound of that unfamiliar voice through the smoke. He gives it a full minute. A methodical sixty seconds with a veneer of black ice veined hissing across the back of his hand at her ear, blistering away at split scar tissue while they wait. Enough that he can see straight through creeping fuzz and some of the redness has blanched out of her face by the time he turns her loose.

Then he moves. First or at the same time, accumulated damage hitching at the metered glide of his step. "Point or in together?" is either a request for orders or for clarification on ones he takes to be mutually understood, obscuring backdrop of burning wreckage kept close at his side. A test at the switch of his radio yields no results.

Vincent winds up first for virtue of Lancaster buying herself a second and a half they don't necessarily have, but predictably, she isn't one to let someone rush in on their own. Unless it's herself. Not without strategy, in any event. Catches up with long legged strides, knuckles making knots of the grip she has on her gun, the black jacket with grey emblem flared open to cotton gone filthy grey. Eyes dart for where radio is being tested so that she knows not to bother trying herself, teeth showing briefly in a scowl, startling white where the corners of her mouth have collected black.

"Take point, but I'll be on your heels. See if we're pulling people out or driving 'em back," she says, voice at a low rumble of dry throated mutter. Her shoulder connects up against brown brick where they've taken position at the last obscuring corner before the dash for the mouth of the garage, her chin tucking in some as she listens. A fresh clatter of gunfire, but no accompanying, animal yells of human pain, or sparks of damage where they can see.

Inside, the place has been thrown into darkness.

Well. Not exactly.

The lamps strung electrical down from the tall, tall grey ceiling flicker in storm-like interruptions to throw both light and sparks as rising smoke twists like snakes in a hazy fog above standing height, but thickening. Fire light licks up brick and blackens it from where some incendiary has taken down a tank set to blaze some hundred feet down from the mouth of the garage, where the door from the other side is retracted wide and open. Metal staircases snake up to a platform, veering off to a second level where the door that leads to such is swung open, and bullet holes have already peppered the cement along the side of that escape route.

The figure of an moving body crumpled rag-doll like on the metal stairs symbolises attempt rather than success, but only for themselves. And no one seems to be shoot at them anymore.

More immediately, Vincent in his roiling, smokey form that almost seems to be in its natural habitat spies a woman crouched up against a vehicle that hasn't been exploded so much as it's been shot to hell and used for cover. She's young, maybe even still a teenager, dark hair and olive skin, uniform pants and loose, white cotton T-shirt with FRONTLINE printed front and back. The black pistol looks too big in her hands, and she's shakily trained it upon a plainclothes man, his face obscured in wool mask, who's been driven to his knees not by injury, but something else. Something inflicted upon him trained with as much aim with her eyes as she points the gun that probably didn't belong to her.

The terrorist looks as frozen in tharn as she does. Probably because he is.

She cries out when fresh fire from farther inwards throws sparks off the vehicle she hides behind, huddling up against giant wheel, and the man she has captive— "captive"— echoes her yell.

It's difficult to withdraw without reaching in. But a moment spent in sudden tangibility might be enough to break her concentration or draw the attention of as of yet unseen unfriendlies.

And he said he'd report back.

So he does. Emotion stripped away and discarded like packaging tape. Unnecessary and even a hindrance to making things happen the way they need to happen. In an orderly fashion. If that's even possible, at this point.

He returns at Lancaster's side as he vanished, in a turn of tainted vapor, eyes blank and breathing controlled in a way she may recognize as something that requires deliberate concentration. That is to say: he is angry.

"One of ours pinned down behind a vehicle with one of theirs under telepathic restraint. Enemy appears to be," he hesitates, stubbornly aware of just how much the everything in the everywhere is on fire at the moment, "civilian. One more on on the stairs appears to be injured. No other movement."

Another pause is either for effect or calculation. Or both. For all intensive purposes, they appear to be alone.

"I can retrieve her if you'd like to get answers out of him."

It's difficult to withdraw without reaching in. But a moment spent in sudden tangibility might be enough to break her concentration or draw the attention of as of yet unseen unfriendlies.

And he said he'd report back.

So he does. Emotion stripped away and discarded like packaging tape. Unnecessary and even a hindrance to making things happen the way they need to happen. In an orderly fashion. If that's even possible, at this point.

He returns at Lancaster's side as he vanished, in a turn of tainted vapor, eyes blank and breathing controlled in a way she may recognize as something that requires deliberate concentration. That is to say: he is angry.

"One of ours pinned down behind a vehicle with one of theirs under telepathic restraint. Enemy appears to be," he hesitates, stubbornly aware of just how much the everything in the everywhere is on fire at the moment, "civilian. One more on on the stairs appears to be injured. No other movement."

Another pause is either for effect or calculation. Or both. For all intents and purposes, they appear to be alone.

"I can retrieve her if you'd like to get answers out of him."

For the time it takes for Vincent to solidify and fall back, she'll see the girl's briefly wide-eyed stare, mouth opening to call out. But he's already gone before she canh summon her voice, the dusky outsider spilling back into his view.

While debriefed to, Lancaster is keeping the open space at their backs, if figuratively, under her attention, gaze flicking over the stretch of brick ground, the edges of buildings and ready to shoot or otherwise if anything unfriendly appears, but it seems that isn't their concern. As she looks to him, Vincent will feel an uncomfortable prickle of heat lance over his skin, less severe than the way the air seemed to be burn in temporary entrapment, but perhaps more unsettling in that the source of the fire would otherwise be himself. But it reels back a second later.

She nods, only once, mouth twisting in speculative grimace at the sound of further pinning fire. "I can probably keep them busy," she adds, then pushes her lanky weight off the wall. She squints, then, passed Vincent's head and towards where backup via air paints a dot of a helicopter in the sky, swooping in from Staten Island-wards with still a ways to go. Optionally, they could wait for it.

And Lancaster gives a near equine toss of her head in discomfort, for all that terrorists are not better than Frontline-OS.

Maybe. "Let's go," she prompts, in case Vincent was in two minds of the subject, and with long strides, she's peeling around the garage mouth and bolting for the staircase, seeking cover first and for most in amongst the metal frame, the obscure angle. Gunfire repeats itself in earnest, echoing thunderous.

Vincent knows the feeling well enough to dip into hazy translucence by force of habit, nostrils flared and breathing stalled into a half-speed shadow of the process that blurs sluggish drifts of distortion around his outline. He doesn't wait for her to rein it in.

Not because he doesn't trust her. Just because. You know. He has a very natural human aversion to being toasted like a fluffy marshmallow.

Alert enough to follow her squint skywards, he twists in a silky stir of vapor to measure the chopper's approach only to follow her call without question when she makes it. She's off and so is he in an ophidian plunge of grey over black that diverts from her heels at the last second to ink girlwards instead. Bullets pit harmlessly through the pitch of him, and when he reappears in earnest it's only long enough for him to snarl himself blackly around FRONTLINE t-shirt and pistol from behind.

Both of them vanish in the same beat, leaving half a gun and a veneer of sticky boot rubber steaming in their wake.

Her shriek echoes off the wide walls of the garage, twisting like a cat in unwanted grip before she's drawn into vapourous transformation and her yell echoes hollow before dwindling. It's about then that her terrorist snaps out of his reverie, a gasp of shock as whatever it is she held over him lifts like a fog, and he snaps his attention for his getaway. Scrabbling to his feet, unarmed but determined, he makes the long run for the otherside of the garage.

And tumbles when the backside of his pants promptly bursts into flames, a howl of agony ripping through the space when one steel blue stare piercing over cover. Flames lick up his back, crackle and melt cheap fabric, and he's reduced to rolling to smother it away. No one is coming back for him.

Despite yawning exit and entrance, the garage has by now gone hazy, blurring the edges of the shape of Lancaster's gangly but ever ox-strong frame coming charging for out, the rookie's body slack over her shoulders like a prize deer fresh from the kill and certainly leaking red, but apparently too alive to leave in place. A slack leg bounces and head swings on his neck, arms draped, but otherwise in safe enough hands as she runs.

A stray shot fires off, and they're in the open when Lancaster crumbles like a building coming down, the kid near flung off her shoulders with the momentum of it, sent rolling. She's still moving after the initial smack of landing hard, an injured kind of twitch of moving all her limbs in coordination to roll for cover, around the edge of the door, gun lying abandoned.


Vincent waits to spill back into existence until they're all the way back behind the cover of that last corner, right hand snapped to clutch a bony wrist before it can swing back to strike him with the bisected semiautomatic. The left claps automatically over her mouth, stifling her next scream before she has time to draw in the breath for it. Any further wrestling is kept short-lived by pressure applied gently at the ball and socket of her shoulder. Shhh.

"Lazzaro," he says, quiet once she's settled. The half-gun she's holding is pried out of her fingers, dropped, and replaced with his own. "Vincent. I need you to stay here," he switches the safety off, "and be very quiet. Don't point this at anyone unless you intend to kill them. That includes me, when I reappear. Okay?"


He doesn't linger long enough to hear out any questions, comments, or concerns.

He's off again instead, marathon ability abuse raking hide off the backs of his arms and neck when he sizzles into solidity across the other felled trainee. In and out again, ricochets hissing off bricking at a distance. Kids first.

When unconscious kid is spilled onto pavement where he left the other, the other teen doesn't even seem to notice, bleeding from the head, the thigh, not great places to be leaking from overall. The one still awake, true to her word— or Vincent's word— does not point the gun at him, although it's still gripped one handedly even as she reaches for the boy's T-shirt, tugging him an inch closer before she's stripping him of the sweatshirt wrapped around his waist and pressing it hard on wounded leg.

She flickers a glance to Vincent, and he's promptly filled gratitude that doesn't belong to him, warm and fuzzy and somewhat frazzled.

Fresh leaks at this point are as likely to be Vincent's fault as anything, but whatever guilt he allows himself in a quick search over his battered corpus is waylaid by alien gratitude. Which — is pretty creepy, he decides, expression bleakly, bloodlessly unsettled for the couple of seconds he wastes staring after her. He doesn't look so good.

But she doesn't have long enough to really look. He pitches himself back into the void one last time and lands, appropriately, on his side behind the same bit of scrubby, burning wall and doorway that Lancaster's holed up under. A whining grunt emasculates the effort he makes to push up onto one knee, but it gets the job done and quick enough he's dragged himself over the rest of the way to figure out if she has blood spraying from anywhere and how much.

"So," he says, hands rough in seeking to apply pressure whether she likes it or not, "I've been thinking about asking for a raise."

Owww. Ow. A hiss grates out of Lancaster's throat by the time hands are clamping down on where a bullet entered and left somewhere beneath ribcage, her teeth bloodied but less from internal bleeding, more where she caught her chin against the ground. She twists enough not to disrupt him but to latch hands onto his jacket, reversal of rictus grip from before. "I'm thinkin' of an early retirement," she says, with the kind of deep edged sarcasm that either means she's joking about retiring, or joking about it being early. Vincent can comment at his own peril.

The distant crackle of flames and the incoming helicopter do something to underscore what could be ringing silence in the absence of gunfire. "C'mon, I set someone's ass on fire. I'm done." But then she actually looks at him, and though her ability isn't the kind that really spends her, more the kind of getting too volatile when mistreated, she probably knows him well enough to say; "I can walk." Or she can try.

"Early? What are you now, eighty?" There's a lot of blood. More than he expected, even with his own mingling in dirty runs from beneath the roll of his sleeves. Good thing they both have all their shots. "Eighty-one?"

A look craned back at their other hidey hole is nearly enough to make the decision of whether or not to move for him: he doesn't move to stand immediately, and he doesn't move to help her up, either. She should probably stay lying down. Him too. But with a pause in gunfire and the distraction of incoming support, it might be better to follow directions.

So he does. Stiffly and reluctantly, he hefts himself to his feet first and then her after him, pressure reapplied with the heel of his hand once they're unevenly vertical. He pauses a moment, head tipped to hers. Close. Exhausted. Then back to work, as much as 'walking' has become work.

"Have you gained weight?"

Lots of blood, leaking greasily between fingers and ruining her uniform in more interesting ways than dust and soot already has. Her arm locks around his shoulders, and Lancaster keeps her feet under her, one step at a time. A hoarse laugh rattles in her lungs, which means she's distracted, because she doesn't usually laugh. She squints ahead of them, hedging for out, more in pain than he is exhausted, which is likely— substantial. "You mean Thursday's waterobics with the gals in my bridge club isn't paying off?"

The tail end cussword on the end of this observation is drowned out by the roar of helicopter, and at the mouth of the garage, Lancaster tips her head back to observe its shadowed underside coming down, clearing the immediate air of smoke and kicking up whatever loose small particles are dirt are available to stick in eyes.

Even before it completely touches down, the black visors of faceless FRONTLINE come levering out the hatch like spiders from a hole.

Moonlight shards through the curtains of a bedroom window, less confrontation than helicopter floodlights. Or maybe not moonlight — the mingling of city lamps, light pollution, and the slowly cresting dawn make for a vague kind of illumination, highlighting the strip of space between curtains. Wakefulness will rouse Vincent — as will the wobble and dip of the mattress when someone somewhat bigger than he is shifts in place, a leg slung out to get up.

Her back is to him, a hand dragging through blonde hair gone pale in the interstitial light.

A deliberate intake of breath marks Vincent for awake in the stead of sudden movement, one arm crooked drowsily into an indolent stretch over his head only once she's stirred to stand. He's shirtless, slow, comfortable, muscled frame more solid than it is compact under coarse hair and a grid of old scars corded thick across his chest. Arm. Around the side of his neck.

He's also watching her, dark eyes roving up the curve of her spine in search of acknowledgment. A glance.


Instead her back stays to him and eventually he shows his to her, sheets gathered into a roll over onto his side, where he can stare unblinking at the far wall.

She does glance, but only by the time he is rolling over again, a hand resting on the space between them too light and soundless to warrant notice. Fingers instead move for where a bullet had been felt to pass through her, not a first but not recent either, and Lancaster ponders over all these feelings she happens to have, before her mouth pulls and a beer before breakfast sounds like a great idea.

And peeing. She'll do that one first, as she gets up, hoofs it out the bedroom.

What she won't do is talk about it.

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