I've Got You Under My Skin


des2_icon.gif frank_icon.gif

Scene Title I've Got You Under My Skin
Synopsis Des re-establishes contact with Frank. They both walk away disappointed.
Date June 4, 2018

The Crooked Point

The designated drop has been quiet for months now. No one’s been searching for Alice Ayers. No one seems to remember.

Until suddenly, they do.

The message asks if Alice remembers the bar she used to drink at with her friends before Staten Island went to hell. Those were the days, weren’t they? If only they could all get together there again.

The Crooked Point may not have been a fashionable bar before everything, but it’s a bar on Staten Island and Des trusts that Frank will find her eventually. She’s on her second beer and first cigarette, seated at her lonely table for two. A raincoat is hung over the back of her chair. The weather is warmer than their last meeting, but everything seems to be a bit shit in the ruins of Staten.

There’s no brightly colored sun dress like she might have worn in the Safe Zone. No bright yellow roses. There are black skinny jeans and a navy tank top. The worst of the woman’s scars are covered by a sheer crimson scarf knotted at her throat. The wide glasses don’t seem to fit with the rest of her. She isn’t dressed like a scientist anymore - not that there’s a dress code - but they matched much better with the sweaters and wool skirts.

Frank suddenly walks in, having made the trek to Staten Island again, wearing a dark grey suit that seems a touch too large for him as he takes a seat across from her.

His heart is already pounding, mind beginning to race a mile a minute. He repeatedly taps his finger against the table, staring, not saying anything. "Oh, hello." he says, as if he just remembered that he's supposed to say words.

His Porta Pros are around his neck, though there's no music currently on them. They shut off the moment he spot her from the door. "You've been gone." he notes with a touch of distress.

There’s no surprise when he sits down across from her, even though she didn’t seem to notice his approach at first. There is, however, an expectant look after he sits, waiting for him to speak. When he finally does, Des relaxes. “Hello,” she greets in return.

“The Times printed an article about me, and now people know who I am,” she offers in a soft voice, an explanation for her scarcity. “I’ve had to be smart so I could keep us both safe. I hope you understand.”

"You could have stayed with me." Frank suggests, as if that was the more obvious decision. "I don't care about the article. I don't care what people do." He looks around at the people around them, then reaches into his blazer and pulls out a sharp scalpel, holding it up in between his fingers. "The war, the ideologies and philosophies, right and wrong. We're all flesh, we all bleed. All I care about is you, surgery, Erica, and Tiffany songs."

“I couldn’t put you at risk. I had no way of knowing if I was already being followed.” So far, she’s still free. Des will count this as a sign that she’s still eluding the authorities. She eyes the scalpel not with the wariness he might have expected, but with a sort of respect. After all, that used to be her weapon of choice.

“That’s all well and good,” she says, motioning toward him in invitation to put the surgical knife away, “but it doesn’t keep us safe. I don’t want to hurt anybody anymore, Frank. Hiding is what I have to do. Hiding with people I can’t hurt.” Alister Black has no earthly idea who she really is, and no one would believe Margaux was aware.

That she hasn’t been sold out yet is a minor miracle and she’ll thank her lucky stars for it.

“Speaking of music… I actually have something for you I thought you might like.” She reaches into the coat hanging off her chair and produces a thin jewel case with a CD inside. “This is some of the music I like to listen to. I thought it might interest you.”

Frank puts his scalpel away, and then reaches into his larger inner pocket for his CD player, since for whatever reason he isn't just listening to MP3s on a phone.

"I can't really hurt anyone, I'm weak." he says as a matter of fact, rather than some poor opinion of himself. "I hate the feeling of being away from you."

He reaches for the CD, staring down at her, then at her, then down at the CD again. "I haven't had new music in a long time." he admits, while running his fingers over the case, feeling its smooth texture. "Should I listen to it now?"

Des shrugs her shoulders, then reaches up to rub at one where an old wound peeks out from behind the strap of her top. “It’s up to you. I didn’t really expect a listening party. I figured it could be a nice surprise later. Since I can’t come with you this time.” The last sentence she says with a touch of regret.

“I’m sorry it pains you to be apart from me, but I promise it’s safer for us both this way. I can move easier when it’s just me. And they haven’t found you yet. You’re better off staying put.” That’s her rationale, at any rate. Reality doesn’t always agree with her.

"They don't really know about me, Erica kept me safe, I was always just an intern. The secret things I did were never in books. I was young." Frank slides the CD and the player into the same large pocket, then reaches out, before pulling his hands back, second guessing what he was about to do. "But if they did figure it out, I guess it wouldn't matter that much. I haven't gotten to do real work in a long time, life is very boring. I don't have any plans, and you have to run forever." He doesn't sound sad so much as stating facts, the facts of his indifference, or perhaps pure melancholy.

You have to run forever.

That strikes Des right in the chest, because it is a matter of fact. From now on, unless something drastically changes - which she has no reasonable expectation of - she will always have to run. The comfort of friendship will only ever be fleeting before she’s forced to move on again.

She smiles. “Hey, don’t look so glum. It’s good Erica’s protected you. You’re very lucky. You don’t want to put into jeopardy the work she’s done to keep you safe by hanging around me.” While she may not actually care for the effort of Erica Kravid, she does worry about ruining this man’s life. “If they find us together, they will investigate you. Any connection to me is considered suspect. Intern or not, they’ll assume you’ve aided me.” The only people who might testify to the fact that she was working to actively undermine the efforts of the Institute are dead.

“Did you tell her about me?”

"Erica doesn't need me to say anything, she always knows everything." Frank states in the ominous tone that only he say pretty much use in a completely deadpan manner. "She wants me to watch you, so she must think it's safe."

"I'm not afraid. What do you think I want from life?" he asks, staring down at his hands. "I want to do experiments, I can't do that as a regular doctor, not the kind that matter. I want to be with you, but the world complicates it. I want to be free, but I can never be free, because the world doesn't work the way that I want it to."

He slowly runs a finger in circles on the table. "I'm dead and empty, but it's okay. The world wasn't made for people like me to thrive."

“You’ll never be free as long as you try to tether yourself to me,” Des says solemnly, with a touch of sorrow. “I’m not free and I never will be again. You said so yourself.” Sighing quietly, she continues, “I used to want those same things. I just wanted to practice surgery, explore the very fringes of science… Now? I just want to walk around with my own face and hear my own name on the lips of the person I love. And I’ll never have those things.”

Des sniffles just once and ignores it, hoping he’ll give her that dignity as well. “You are better off forgetting about me, Frank. Tell Kravid if she wants to keep tabs on me, she should reach out to me herself. Right now I only have your word that she’s actually involved.” She doesn’t doubt him, and her tone doesn’t suggest she does. “I’d like very much to know what she’s thinking about.”

"You don't understand." Frank holds up a hand, to correct her. "I'm not free and I've never been free, not since I was born. I don't think in a normal way, I've always gotten into trouble for being the way that I am. I would have gotten locked up eventually, even without the Institute."

"This isn't a world for people like me, like I said. I don't care if I get in trouble for being with you." he firmly declares, as firmly as he can manage at least. He never takes a tone that's too aggressive, pretty much ever. "I can probably set up a meeting. She'll probably use her phone girl. She's a girl who's a phone."

“I understand better than you think I do,” Des insists sympathetically. But she doesn’t argue. It’s a waste of breath to try to play one-upmanship over who’s the worse fit for society. Nobody wins this game.

A girl who’s a phone. Des can piece together a couple explanations for that description, but she doesn’t pursue clarity on the matter, nodding instead. “That should be fine. Where do you stay anyway, Frank?”

"I rent a room. It's very cheap, old, kind of dirty. I don't need much space, and they leave me alone." Frank of course isn't the type to live a lavish lifestyle, but soon he reaches over again, this time bridging the gap between them, leaving his hand there, on her side. He doesn't actually make the move to take her's, he simply expresses some latent desire.

It's one of those strange, somewhat alien things that he does. It really makes Magnes Varlane look somewhat like a human being. "I don't mind tethering myself to you." he says, as if suddenly going back to an old thought that he was trying to figure out how to respond to.

She knows the type of place. She’s squatted in worse. At least he has something resembling stability, maybe. Running water at the very least.

Des rests a hand over Frank’s on the table. “I can’t.” Her voice is quiet, but firm. “I can’t live with the fear of putting others in danger anymore. It doesn’t matter how much you absolve me of it. How much you tell me it’s okay with you and that you don’t mind. The problem is that I mind.” Dark curls sway against pale shoulders as she shakes her head. “No one deserves to get hurt because of me.”

"Life doesn't have a taste. I think that's a kind of pain, I'm not sure." Frank reaches out with his other hand, stroking the back of her's, staring at her skin. "Most people just seem like walking, talking flesh, like nothing they say matters, nothing they do matters. It's just like stray cats, dogs, chickens."

"But I can't see you as flesh. I feel how warm your hand is and it means something… It gives life a flavor." He leans in, gently pulling her hand forward, then lays his face against her hand. He doesn't particularly care about their surroundings.

His head rests against her hand and she leans back a bit, slightly startled, but not repulsed. “Hands are warm. I’ve held a few.” Des swallows back a lump of nervousness that’s formed in her throat. Frank is an unpredictable element.

“You’ve really got me under your skin, haven’t you?” Again, she shakes her head, dumbfounded this time. “How? I was practically persona non grata around that place. How could you possibly have come to…” Her free hand waves in the air between them in a nebulous gesture. “People don’t care for me, Frank. I’m a monster.”

Frank sits up, hunched slightly, but staring at her while he holds her hand. "People talk about you in the same way that people have talked about me for my entire life." he answers without hesitation or even a moment to consider his words, running a finger over the back of her hand, admiring it.

"I was almost expelled from schools, but my parents stopped it with their money, got me transferred to different places. Erica fixed it by putting me on secret projects, but making the rest of the Institute believe that I was just an ignorant intern." He doesn't talk about his past often, but he opens up to offer her more context. Then, going silent for a moment, he actually does consider something.

"Monsters are defined by society and their fear, by villagers who light torches when anyone is too far on the fringes of civilization." Becoming bolder, he pulls away from her hand, then reaches out to take her face in between his palms. "You are the only person I've never wanted to put on an operating table. I'm not afraid of you, we're both monsters to everyone else. Maybe I can see who I really am if you look at me." He says all of this in his very plain, dry tone, but something in his cold, often dead eyes is entirely captured by hers.

Schools. What must those have been like? Des’ stare remains placid as she listens. That changes when he places his hands on her face. Mascara-laden lashes flutter as eyes grow wide, but she doesn’t attempt to disengage.

“I am looking at you,” she states calmly, holding very still. “And you’re right. But I define myself too. I know what I am.”

"Then be a monster." Frank states, matter-of-factly, his hands shifting back down to her hand. "I don't care what you are. How does it affect me?" he wonders, searching her eyes as if the answer is somehow there. "I'm Frank. I enjoy human anatomy. That makes me a monster to most people. I don't care, really. I can't be friends with the entire world."

There's a bizarre zenness in his apparent apathy for other people, or the world itself.

Carefully, Des draws back and away from that grasp he has on her. “Accept me or not. It doesn’t change things, Frank. I won’t run away with you. I won’t put you in danger.”

Breathe in, two, three, four… Out, two, three, four. Focusing on her breathing helps to keep the tension from mounting worse than it already is. The knot between her shoulders, at the base of her neck, winds tight.

"I'll always be in danger, because of how I am. I'll never have a normal life, because there's nothing for me in a normal life." Frank stands up then, straightening his blazer. "But, who said the world needed a flavor, anyway." he says in a tone without bitterness, or sadness, but a matter-of-fact acceptance of a world with no color.

He slides his hands into his pockets, far too used to wearing a larger coat, and then turns around, starting to head for the door.

“For what it’s worth, I’m sorry I can’t do more. Please give Erica my regards.” Des gets to her feet, grasping the neck of her raincoat in one hand and pulling it up and off the chair as she does. “I hope you enjoy the music.”

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