Hostile Country


aviators_icon.gif eileen_icon.gif gabriel_icon.gif raith_icon.gif

Scene Title Hostile Country
Synopsis A few surviving elements of the Vanguard convene at the nature center the morning after the joint-assault on the Institute only for them to have a disagreement about how to handle one of their associates.
Date August 13, 2010

Staten Island: Nature Center

What was once the Staten Island Nature Center has been converted into a makeshift field hospital with rows of cots separated by white linens to provide patients with the illusion or privacy. Medical supplies, along with extra ammunition, firearms and other provisions, are kept under guard in the basement. There is enough space on the ground floor to (uncomfortably) accommodate up to twenty patients and a small number of rotating volunteers.

Only a few vestiges of the Time Before the Bomb remain, including a taxidermy collection in one unused wing that was too cumbersome to move and colourful murals splashed across the walls that illustrate the diversity of the island's wildlife and include a plethora of birds, animals, plants and even fish.

Odessa's scalpel winks like fish scales in the half-light of the shadowy corridor on the side of the nature center opposite the triage center and the rows of cots that have been set up inside in an attempt to make the wounded more comfortable. Eileen turns it between the fingers of her left hand rather than her right as if studying the reflection her slivered profile in the blade, but in reality she sees nothing at all — not the incisions the other woman made in her face, not her split lip or the splint that contains the two broken fingers on her right hand, courtesy of a man who once called himself Francis Allen, or even the stuffed wolves behind the glass opposite the brick wall she's sitting against, feet flat on the floor in front of her and knees bent.

Now is either the most or the least appropriate time to be craving a cigarette. The Englishwoman isn't sure which, and she's too exhausted to give the question more than a few moments of thought. Although she can't see, she can hear the sound of the rain on the roof and the steady rhythm of her pulse, but this is all. The corridor is quiet, which is probably why she chose it — she's spent the last five or six hours doing the most that she could for the survivors who were brought back to the field hospital, and the smell of gauze, spilled iodine and other chemicals clings to her skin and hair as strongly as the natural oils in them.

It's still dark outside and will be for at least another hour or two. Then she'll go home, with or without the rest of her family. She's not sure where they are — and in Jensen's case, whether or not he's even still alive — but for the first time in a long time, her body is numb to the anxiety it should be feeling.

Haunting the nature centre is a sleepless entity whooo is attempting to go unseen, except for those he'd like to notice him. This includes Eileen, and so it's out the corner of her eye that someone materialises into being, the quick-edit kind of method of teleportation that is Odessa Knutson's power, making it easier to skulk though his night goes on forever. There's a hesitation in his step forward, a glance around as if to make sure that time is moving as it should. To make sure there aren't any people.

Turns out it's almost as quiet as it was before, save for rain, the pressure of ambient sound from beyond the dim corridor. He smells like he got a dunking in Staten Island water, still damp all over, but it's not bad — rich and earthy, an improvement to iodine and sickness, the latter of which clinging to some of the captives like plague.

"Are you done here?" he asks, by way of greeting.

"I sure as fuck am done here," doesn't really need to be projected from the doorway if that's what really was going to happen, "just— you know that you should know in case they find me face down in a river strangled to death by a kashmir scarf. I'm taking off." Mirrored aviator sunglasses hide just how tired Avi Epstein really looks, and for all the dark-haired agent tries to keep boisterous poise, his fatigued slouch is showing.

Boots tread across the floor as he takes a few steps in out from the hall, squinting at the macabre display of long-since untended taxidermied animals that now just look like very dusty roadkill.

"You are some cheery fucking people," Avi amends to his farewell, resting one hand on his hip and the other adjusting the collar of his uniform. Still dressed in the fatigues he was wearing on rescuing Hana and Tien's team from the battlefield, Avi makes a brief saluting motion with one hand at his temple, scratching at a streak of gray in his hair.

"Kershner's probably, you know, going to full-time replace me with Captain Crazy now so— if you know of any good job openings at like a Mr. Cluck's Chicken Shack or something, come by my cardboard box on the corner of Fuck and My Life." And with that cheery note, Avi turns around on his heels back towards the hall.

Backs towards the hall where he comes face-to-face with- "I could give you a one-line comeback, but it would be perverted. Also gross." A battered, bruised, and still-slightly bloodied but darkly-satisfied Jensen Raith. The right side of his jaw has turned the loveliest shade of dark purple. A few small cuts on his face are held shut with dark thread. His lip is split but no longer bleeding. His left wrist is in a brace, tweaked but not broken, and his left arm rests in a sling to take the weight off his shoulder. "Fist fight with Anguirus, washed out to sea, boxed a shark, still alive," the ex-spy concludes to, apparently, the now other ex-spy, his voice carrying a subtle but familiar intonation of pride, "Just like the old days. Except there's no whiskey this time. Where do you think you're going, anyway?" A finger sharply jabbed into Avi's chest. "This party's not over, yet. Imagine me cracking my knuckles in a threatening manner now. It hurts too much to actually do it."

Eileen lifts her eyes toward the sound of Gabriel's voice and fractionally parts her lips on the next exhale, about to formulate a reply, but it's cut short by Epstein's arrival. On the other side of the glass, the pack on display watches the men in her stead with amber glass eyes with drops of black paint for pupils. The truth is that the last wild wolf in New York was killed the Adirondacks in 1897, more than a century ago, but it's possible that the specimens here at the nature center once roamed the temperate forests of the Empire State. Time has not been kind to them, the hunchbacked raven perched in the display's artificial tree or the kill they lord over, muzzles stained red to create the illusion of blood.

Her initial instinct is to brace her good hand against the wall and push herself to her feet, but she has the sense to slip the scalpel back into her interior coat pocket before she does, making a low sound at the back of her throat. A bruised back and the stitches in her shoulder are responsible for the pain and will heal in time. Until then, even the simplest movements involving those muscle groups cause her pain and discomfort.

"Did you have yourself looked at?" she asks in a low voice that makes it clear the question is meant for the man closest to her and not the two who sound, at least to her, like they're either about to embrace or start hitting one another until one of them stops moving.

"I didn't get hurt," is Gabriel's response. "And all the doctors have cold hands." One is more relevant than the other. He watches the path of the silver scalpel before it's out of sight, and he's not unfamiliar with the concept of trophies. A lion's tooth necklace amongst his belongings, the faded discontinued military badge. He's not sure he would classify Odessa with the nameless villains they've normally faced, but he's not going to begrudge Eileen a gesture.

He lifts his head enough to acknowledge the other two men in the room while Eileen gets upright, distrust stiffening his spine in the wake of Epstein's presence, a shimmer of psychic radar confirming there's no one on the way here to catch him among people he was meant to have left, according to his cover.

Walking square on into Raith wasn't really an accident, but Avi plays it off like it was in a way that doesn't fool anyone. "Oh, hey, sorry about that," the exhausted ex-Navy officer notes with a quirk of his head to the side and a corner of his mouth creeping up in a half grin. Staying in the door like a somewhat portly roadblock, Avi looks back over his shoulder to Eileen and Gabriel, then back to Raith with brows pinched together behind the frames of his sun glasses.

"Well I was gonna' leave Bonnie and Clyde back there to have cutting session while I went and found a flop house to crash in for the night…" which earns Raith the permission to enter of Avi sidestepping the door, even if it has him backing up into the room full of creepy stuffed animals. "Because I figure sleeping at a roach motel would probably be more comfortable that being here, surrounded by people who dislike me and sometimes take out my eyes."

So he's a little bitter about that still.

"Give me one good reason that isn't a punch in the face why I should stick around," Avi finally challenges of Raith, kicking up one brow and folding his arms across his chest.

"Well, you married my sister and are therefore family," Raith decides to begin with, "So that's a pretty good start. And if there's one thing my family always does, my brothers, the douche plugs, excepted, it's watching out for family. Stay right there, I'll see what I can do."

Really, who is surprised when Raith does, indeed, step past Epstein and come to a stop right behind the only other tall person in the vicinity. "Gabriel? I need to ask a very small favor of you. Very small-" The King of Swords steps around to his Knight's side and holds up his good hand, index finger and thumb held just a millimeter apart- "Tiny. Soooo small."

A trophy, a reminder not to trust so easily next time, to keep her guard up around everyone except a chosen few, even someone who might have been, in another life had things gone differently for both of them, a friend. Eileen touches Gabriel's forearm to confirm his proximity to her but does not allow her hand to linger there any longer than that, and not only because she can hear Raith's approaching footsteps squeaking across the corridor's linoleum floor.

She lets it drop and curls an arm around her midsection, a slight hitch in her breathing the only indication that it may've been wiser to let it rest at her side instead. Wherever her cane is, it isn't here with her.

Her gaze seems to focus on a point somewhere behind Epstein, and while Raith asks his favour of Gabriel, she takes advantage of the fact that the agent — ex-agent? — hasn't been made aware of her condition. Let him think someone is keeping an eye on him.

Gabriel's mouth had opened, before, an invitation for Avi to take his leave: don't let him stop you or anything. But teeth connect together again at Raith's words, dark eyes rolling ceilingward, although going level again by the time the Remnant leader is, for reasons unknown, steering him into the conversation. Attention has his back going stiff again, still like aggressive dogs will go when people attempt to pet them, and he darts a quizzical glance from Raith's hand, back to his face. One eyebrow rises. Yes?

Avi seems just a touch taken aback by two things: First being that this is the second time in under a month that Raith has actually seemed to be treating him like the old days again. The second being that he's looking to be performing an unsolicited favor. Of course, all of this could easily be ruined by Avi opening his mouth and saying something stupid.

"Not to uh, interrupt or anything…"

That very thing happens.

"But, does anyone care to tell me exactly what the fuck it is I was just a part of? Because, you know, last I checked I wasn't batting for your team, y'know? I get a threatening phone call from that Israeli woman telling me you dipshits are in trouble and where to go and what to do and what truck to steal and… you know? I just would like to be aware of just how screwed I might be."

Avi lifts both of his hands up, making non-threatening gestures in self-deprecating manner. "I mean don't go out of your way or anything, but I could've sworn I just saw two F-22 Raptors get turned into shrapnel and a whole fucking military installation get turned into kibbles and fucking bits."

Dark brows rise slowly and Avi lifts up his sunglasses to afford a brief look of his slightly misaligned eyes (the glass eye doesn't really move much) before lowering the mirrored sunglasses again. "Anyone?"

There must be some method to the Remnant's madness. Raith, if only for the time being, pointedly ignores Avi's questions. Which still isn't that far off from the old days (and was a big reason why Raith was so rarely put in charge of anything). "My brother, he's kind of in a little trouble right now," the Remnant commander states to the owner-apparent of the property they call home, "I don't know who he owes money to or how much, but man, he's my brother. Do you think you can stand being around him for a couple days until he figures out how badly they'll break his kneecaps? I am one hundred percent serious when I say that I would appreciate it. I know you don't like it when people come by, but…." But?… what else is he going to say? What else is there to say? He can't make his case any better even if he needs to. "Just, if you could just think about it, just a little, that'd be fine, too."

The corridor's acoustics do most of Eileen's work for her — she doesn't have to speak very loudly to be heard. "It belonged to Broome," she tells Epstein. "The contents of the thumb drive you gave me— your living biological assets, the files on Project Icarus, everything that had you curling your lip. Your government engineered H5N10 and introduced it to the civilian population as part of the Institute's research.

"You were part of a tactical strike." And if he wants a more elaborate explanation, he can talk to Catherine Chesterfield because there's not enough breath in Eileen's body for it. Tactical strike sounds better than rescue operation, anyway, and if they're being honest with themselves it was more of one thing than the other.

Raith's question produces extra tension in her neck and shoulders that Gabriel will be more aware of than the older man. There's the faintest of psychic pulls. Some resentment. She doesn't like the idea but is willing to tolerate Epstein's presence in the Dispensary the same way she'd tolerated Amato's.

Gabriel's look towards Raith as he explains the favour is mostly neutral — a head tip slightly and a twitch of eyebrows is all it takes to communicate incredulity. "I was hoping you were going to ask me to make you punch him again," he says, voice level, willing to let Eileen handle Avi's existence as he keeps his focus on Raith. He also doesn't bother to keep his voice down. "He hates us, and my Sylar clone uses his identity as a mask. A good one.

"If you want to invite him back like you invited Amato back, then by all means, but I'm finding somewhere else to sleep before we let the wrong personal enemy of mine hand the CIA or Homeland Security an X marks the spot map."

"Don't waste your breath," Avi grouses with both his hands lifted into the air, "I got a joint in the Rookery I can squat at for a couple of days. This ain't the first hostile country I've been all on my own in." Both of Avi's hands fall down to his side with a slap of hands on his pants. "It's one of your boyfriend's," and really Avi doesn't specify who Gabriel is the boyfriend of, "work weeks, so I'm not even supposed to be here on the island. I try and cross a checkpoint and they run my ID I'm gonna raise flags so red that I'd best hoping Kershner strangles me to death before her boyfriend finds out what I did."

Making another feigned salute, Avi treads backwards towards the door. "You're welcome for me pickin' up the hitch-hikers, but really next time? Call fucking Greyhound or something." Turning around and away from the room that someone like Samson would likely find charming, Avi looks to have had his fill with Jensen's good deeds.

Not what Raith was hoping for. "Thanks, Gabe." But Raith doesn't stick around for a retort or even a less-than-polite look. He's already going after Avi, leaving the room and giving pursuit down the corridor with the slightest of limps. "Avi, stop," is only partially an order, mostly a plea, "Seriously, don't make me run. Stop. Forget about the caterpillars for a second."

Eileen would be watching Raith's back if she was watching anything at all. Instead, her eyes have lowered, dark head bowed and brows angled downward. Something hooks the corners of her mouth and pulls it into a worried expression. She does not presume that Gabriel's announcement about his intention to leave is also an invitation for her to come with him — the thought of living under the same roof as both Raith and Epstein without him or Teo already has her coming up with possible alternatives in case it becomes relevant or necessary.

"Fuck you, Jensen," might go ignored, with Raith making quick progression down the corridor, but it's spoken all the same, consonants sharp as if a barb could turn into the physical manifestation of such, directed at the other man's broader back. Gabriel remains oblivious to Eileen's anxiety save for a shivery empathic idea of it, but he's preoccupied with his own flaring indignation. His voice echoes soft and rough off the abandoned nature centre's acoustic. "Take the damn building. It's all yours."

See if I care, doesn't get verbalised, but that's his tone. If he's leaving the premises completely, he'd probably say something to Eileen. Leaving the immediate scene doesn't require it, and so Gabriel vanishes through a wall without a word. Who needs doors?

"No," Avi belatedly but sharply notes as he turns around in the hall, stepping out of the way of a man walking by with a pile of blood soaked sheets and a young woman carrying a heavy, clunking backpack, "forget about me." That's the most derision that Raith has been subject to in a good long while from Avi. "I get that you thought you were going to get killed here and that's why you left me that voicemail, but you can't just fucking disappear one day to join a goddamned armageddon cult and then pretend like you didn't fucking hurt everyone else that cared a fuck about you before you left!"

Shouting in the middle of the foyer of the nature center, Avi flings one hand in the direction of Raith. "Do you have any idea what pack of fucking lies I have to feed to your sister and your niece every goddamned time I see them? Do you know how bad finding out what you became would be for them? Do you even give a shit how lying to them makes me feel?" There's a slap of Avi's hand against his own chest at that.

"Fuck you, Jensen," comes with a thick fingered point towards Raith, "fuck you, fuck your fair-weather family attitude, and fuck this conversation!" Avi goes to turn away, running head-long into a redheaded teenage boy trying to get by in the foyer with a stack of first-aid boxes. One of them topples end over end out of his arms, and Jonas Regan takes a staggering step back.

"Watch where you're fucking going!" Avi bellows at the teen. That shout has Jonas recoiling and hesitantly crouching, picking up the kit he'd dropped, while people passing int he hall slow their progress. Others in the doorway of the makeshift triage center are watching in silence, looking back and forth at one another at Avi's outburst.

Raith's seen this before, this attitude, right when he and Rachel's relationship was disintegrating, right when Avi's structured world was coming apart. Raith's well aware that words, at least right now, are only going to push him further and further away until he has time to cool down and let that temper settle.

Raith knows all too well. The last time this happened, it ended in a fist fight that doesn't have a clear victor to this day. He doesn't need another one. He doesn't want another one. No, what he really wants is a 'Reset' button. 'Reload from last save.' 'Command-Z.' And he's never going to get it. Not now. Not ever. Just one credit to continue, and he's out of change.

The ex-spy slumps against the wall in defeat and sinks down to the floor. Avi's snapped at him before, sure. But this time, he may have snapped for the last time. No going back.

Game Over.

The rusty squeak of the fire exit at the opposite end of the corridor, the soft hiss of pattering rain and the clatter that follows as the door swings shut behind Eileen serves as a final point of punctuation.

Some things hit a little too close to home.

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