In Step


logan_icon.gif mu-qian_icon.gif

Scene Title In Step
Synopsis Logan gives Mu-Qian a photograph, and also shoes.
Date November 4, 2009

A Clinic in Chinatown

Bai-Chan is at school. Which is a tremendously odd thing to think about, and in a manner completely irrelevant to the fact that he joined so late in the semester. The fact that exceptions are made for organized criminals is not exceptional. The fact that Zhang Mu-Qian has a child she's purchased stationery and lunch coupons and a backpack for is, however, exceptional. It doesn't bother her excessively that the boy probably slipped out of a high window and went for a rooftop romp insted of attending mathematics class. They'll see if mathematics class can keep up with him.

She's at the clinic instead. Listening to the traffic throb against her window pane and the violinned shriek and fall of a whore discussing her options with Dr. Zhu in the examination room. Dr. Cong comes up often.

Lunch is dim sum out of a carton. A shrimp dumpling, now, its plump orange curl locked between wooden chopsticks and soy sauce blotted translucently onto the membraneous white of its sac. Her ankles crossed underneath the desk and hair pinned back in a white clip that looks like coral but is actually plastic, blouse secretarially simple and slacks cream, her only real conceit her shoes, tall-heeled though close-toed, a thin band of rhinestones noosed around the round bone of her ankle. She is, she thinks, happy.

There are places Logan knows not to go. Some include, a) various Rookery haunts of men who no longer owe him anything but small fits of violence, b) likely the stoop of his old home back in London, c) certain spots within Chinatown. Arguably, this would be one, thanks to stolen business pursuits, elbowing in on illicit drug trade, recentish bloodshed, and everything. But it's also during the day, and the mainland often has the decorum to keep certain things after hours. Logan doesn't really think he's risking anything, by coming here.

Daylight beats across his shoulders, spills over as he enters the clinic, pushing the door open and filling the room with a louder edge of traffic. It's sunny, but that does nothing for the cold, the warmth of the noon day anemic in contrast to the chill. It would be warmer if there was a pressurecooker lid of overcast smog to trap in what sticky heat there is, but the air is clear and icy instead. His coat is too well made for that to be a problem, impossible money in its make and label and tied in place. Lined fabric swishes against— jeans, because he does own some, navy to the point of being black with the hems caught up with the side-zipper boots he wears. Sunglasses perched on the bridge of his nose, practically dark and tinted purple for no reason, and these he slides off once he enters the dim of the clinic.

He's also carrying a pristinely white boxy paper bag, the kind from the stores where they make their own and don't care how many forests it might take, dangling from his uninjured hand by twin black cords, and no label printed anywhere in particular. The other hand is back to being trapped by the silver splint, more to hide swollen knuckles and ugly bandages than actual support. Silvery green eyes slice on over towards Mu-Qian directly, then a last darting glance around the space itself, from the curtains lining windows to the magazines on the desk and the emptiness in general, before he's moving on over.

Lowai framed in the reception window, distinct from the Asian peers that constitute the majority demographic even only in the periphery of Mu-Qian's vision. She looks up. Recognition registers in a pull of pupil in the dark of her irises, and she elevates her head another few inches, brows on a skeptical incline that looks haughtier than she's technically dressed well enough for. Minor sacrifices in vanity are supposed to contribute to her overall aesthetic of maternity, you see. It allows her the additional thrill of amusement, claws only half-unsheathed, at the ungainly combination of Logan's more fabulous fashion decisions with the fact he's still half beat to Hell.

She, on the other hand, appears to have recovered in full. There's healthy color to the yellow-toned fairness of her cheeks, clarity in the beady black eyes that peer at him between planes of plaster. "Nihao, xiansen," she greets him, banally pleasant, jogging her shrimp dumpling up and down in the air two or three times, shedding steam and superfluous soy sauce. "You aren't here to schedule an examination, are you?" In her background, the twitter of dispute boils high again, breaks into talk of what sounds like Mexico.

Half beat to Hell, and yet. Everything is at an uneasy kind of equilibrium, which doesn't equate to sleeping well at night, but it equates to not fearing for one's life and not going without sex for an undesirable length of time, and in this world, that's as much Logan can ask for. And money. He has that too. So the twist of a greeting smile sent Mu-Qian's way isn't forced as he comes to stand before her desk, settling the bag unobstrusively out of the way. "No," Logan denies, a glance beyond Mu-Qian to the muffled screeches of Spanish he can pick one or two words from if he were trying hard.

"I'm fine, thank you." The poison wasn't caustic enough to cause ulcerations at his mouth, at least no where visible, and as for what damage it did within - either he hides pain well, or he has friends in high places who like him. Either way, he's not dying, just as he promised.

His gaze roves over Mu-Qian's face and then what he can see of the rest of her, sunglasses slipping into a pocket, and a slender wallet pulled out in place. "I don't suppose you care how he's doing, or perhaps you already know," is innocently spoken, as the leather is creaked open with a snap of a wee silvery button popping loose.

Despite decades spent learning and osmotically absorbing humanizing behaviors like eye-contact, expressions, speed of speech, Mu-Qian's eyes flick almost instantly down at the metallic one-note of wallet unfastening. She recognizes the function of this scrap of leather. It doesn't stop her from seating her next chopsticks-full of takeout in her mouth, chewing it thoroughly, reducing her curious speculation to cordial silence, temporarily omittting response to his friendly jab at her empathic prowess too. The phone rings at her elbow. Brrrp. Brrrp. She ignores that, too, allowing the device to bleat straight to voicemail.

The chopsticks shutter back together, and she wedges them horizontally in the carton flaps. Stabbing them straight into the food is bad luck, you know. That's how you leave out ceremonial offerings to the spirits of the dead, and if you don't care to join them, you'd best re-cog-nize. The smile she gives him is as delicately pale and warm as a winter window frost pattern. "His physical health seems very good. You are healed?" His words, last conversation, not hers. It is nothing but a coincidence of vocabulary that it coincides with the fact his hand's still a wreck and he's still in a physiological stutter from his pick of poison.

"Healed enough." Because, God forbid the Santa Clause healer on the top of the criminal hierarchy of New York City leave no traces and reminders of what they came to him for in the first place. For Mu-Qian's sake, however, that damaged tissue is all but gone, if aggravated, if drinking would still be unwise. Not that his hand isn't still fucked up, silver splint flashing beneath the lights as he dips working fingers into the folds of the leather.

The photograph is curled a little at the corners, but for something that survived a fire, it's more or less spotless. Likely it would either be gone or intact. Its glossy face is flipped up to regard the ceiling as Logan, with just enough flourish, sets it down in front of her. It carries with it the scent of the hide of the wallet as well as the pressed bills it cuddled up against, but it's certainly not money. Not in the strictest sense.

Payment, nonetheless. Likely he should have given it back to her before it was, and perhaps not ever needed to poison himself, but even now, it's just not how he thinks.

Quid-pro-quo has made America the great nation that it is. Mu-Qian's eyes slit feline above her smile. She dabs her fingertips clean on a napkin before reaching over to peel the photograph loose between thumb and curled forefinger, pulling it up to herself to study under the slightly improved light on the counter proper. She looks at her dead husband for a longer moment than she'd spent staring at the picture for the later months before Logan had stolen him away. Absence makes the heart grow fonder, after all. A little curled at the corners, but unmarked by flame, dubious organic blotching, or the wear of abuse. Kept like it was precious, whether a commodity of trade— forethought, or because John Logan recognized the sancti…

…well, wherever he is, hovering ephemerally above his own meal and a perpendicular pair of chopsticks, Wu-Long must be flattered. "Thank you," she says, in English, momentarily sacrificing the ethnic conceit of language that she so often prefers to her taste. "Satoru, na? How does he feel? Is it how you thought it would be?" The query leaves little room for criticism on her work, just in case you were wondering. She stoops past the desk to find her purse on the floor.

It was in the same box as a necklace, earrings, rings, a bracelet all set with precious gems into precious metal. Jewelry he'd swiped with quick fingers off his mother's dressing table what feels like a lifetime ago, filched for the purpose of afterthought which may or may not have been why he'd taken the photograph of Wu-Long too. At least it's why he ended up keeping it. Likely the jewelry won't be used in any similar fashion. If he ever gives it back, it will be for other reasons entirely.

He watches her watch the photograph, and eventually pale eyes turn boredly towards the window until she speaks to him again, though doesn't immediately look back. "Not at first," he says, voice casual, ponderous. "But he looks the same. He thinks and feels the same. Is it— "

Consternation makes his brow tense, glancing for the floor before steering a quizzical look in her direction. "Is it the same, for them? Addictions, behaviours, habits. Do they— reset, or do they stay? Like they were before."

"The chemicals are probably different. I rebuild everything else," Mu-Qian answers, in the fashion of one underplaying the fact that she understands, perfectly well, that that isn't really what the man is asking. The photograph is pressed away into the narrow pocket of her wallet, the purse fastened with an efficient tug and squeeze of long hands. Metal cinches and buttons click home, punctuative, and then she's straightened again, roving through bite-sized morsels with the slender spears of her eating implements. "I think that knowing you were dead changes things. It seems you are given a fresh start. Endings make people remember beginnings. Why?

"He doesn't like you to touch him anymore?" She has the grace to look concerned about that, nothing immoderate but sincere enough. How Logan feels about Satoru was and still is of consequence to her, and reciprocation is necessarily intrinsic to those consequences. "You left the mansion together." Granted, the halfbreed Japanese boy in his skimpy smock and Eau d'Morte still clinging to him like spidersilk and sand didn't have a lot of visible options in terms of transportation, but she thinks she would have noticed, if Satoru had merely departed with him. Together is a whole other bag of connotations.

It's warmer in here than it is out there, and Logan absently loosens the strap of cloth that cinches the coat around his narrow waist as he listens to her and even watches her as she speaks. The thought that puts crinkles in his brow smooths out after a moment, hands settling on his hips in their asymmetry of injured and uninjured. A white shirt, underneath, pristine and plain with the wings of the collars open and somehow uncrushed by his coat.

"He does like it," he states, with just a trace of defensiveness, although this only briefly flares before sputtering to nothing. One shoulder goes up in a shrug. "I suppose that's why I wanted to know. What do you mean, 'probably different'?"

A minute shrug of her own lifts through Mu-Qian's shoulders; there might have been a more visible net effect if she'd just taken a really deep breath, really, but the underexaggeration is supposed to fit in with her overall motives. Conveying comfort. Nothing to worry Logan's pretty gilt-fluffed head with; nothing at all. "Braincells that rotted too far won't return in the exact same structure, so the neurotransmitters and amou— quantities going through may be different.

"If he was drunk when he died for you, or taking medicine, that probably decayed a little but stayed inside him for even longer. So that might change things. Small changes," she emphasizes, thick with certainty. Oddly enough, if she were more fluent, she'd be better at explaining in laymen's terms.

As it is, she nudges the diminutive cogs of cross-sectioned spring onions aside and makes her best guess after the state of Felix Ivanov's psychology and progression of madness, before and after death. His infamous icecream spelunking expedition certainly took place after. A slight wrinkle takes up residence on the pixie bump of her nose. "Nothing you can't put back the way it was. Will you two have dinner with Bai-Chan and I?"

He knows some words. Caliban had shoved homework at him a few months ago and Logan had even read it. He knows what neurotransmitters are. He knows they have pathways. Mu-Qian's careful English conveys enough for Logan to tilt his head in agreement. Nothing he can't fix, if he so desired to. Or needed to. The short burst of endorphins in an effort to rub away Toru's angst was hardly enough to restructure anything, as much as small changes are the only changes that truly matter when it comes to this power.

The strip club manager is snapped from thought at that last question, arching eyebrows raising a little at the inquiry, amusement managing to make the lines at his eyes less sleepy, but warmer for a moment. "I'll ask him," is an easy response, and then long fingers are moving towards the bag of stiff white card he'd brought in with him.

A proper box just like it is withdrawn, the crinkle of perfumed tissue paper making a subtle rustle beneath outdoor traffic and rapidfire Spanish beyond these walls. "I saw these, and thought you might appreciate them." The lid flipped back displays the ankle high boots, lined in preparation for winter without doing anything like compromising fashion. Glistening white, naturally, with a subtle trace of zipper and elegant swoops and lines from the heel to the dainty toe.

This is a familiar touch, and though Muldoon would have been the one to afford such gestures, Logan didn't slack on bringing the white-dressed woman gifts either. This time, there are more zeroes in the pricetag, though the pricetag itself can't be seen in anything other than the make of the shoes themselves.

And she was trying so hard to leave out the vanity today, too. Mu-Qian's eyes light up like a child at Christmas— or the closest that Mu-Qian's eyes ever get, holiday greed and simple material pleasure not so much breaking her typical aloofness as adding a sprinkling of staid smugness to it. Her approval is not indiscriminate. She leans forward a few inches on her seat, flicks a study of the wares from ankle to cuff, curls her toes below the table where he can't see them and turns up the most symmetrically flawless smile. "I do appreciate them," she answers, quieter now, as if from over a great distance, her pedestal elevated back to its proper place.

"But I should not take them. They look so expensive!" He remembers this dance; Confucianist humility and its ridiculous catalogue of coded and policied behavior had apparently surrogately replaced her husband. It is her part to thank and to refuse, his to insist, a brief and aesthetic exchange. Whereas the bloodless and dehumanizing programming of rote civilized conduct and gentleman's sensibilities tends to make normal people into more monstrous versions of themselves, Mu-Qian thinks they have always done it rather prettily. "This is unnecessary." She wafts a small hand through the air. "We are such old friends!"

It's the right amount of flattery for them both, always a pleasant exchange. Logan smiles at the sound of her cooing elegantly over the sacrifice brought to her altar, the flutter of hands and indirect compliments, and he replaces his wallet back into his pocket as he puts up a hand, fingers splayed. "All the more reason. They'll look divine on you - it wasn't trouble at all." The lid is flipped around once, before coming to rest upon the box lightly. It's pushed aside just enough so that Logan might lean over and kiss her cheek, as polite as such a gesture can be with his hand touching her arm as he does.

Reward, behaviour, these things are automatically nudged. Mu-Qian's body is made to tell her that such advances of closeness are welcome, that he is welcome. Pleasant, well-liked people do exactly this without superpowers, incidentally, though their eyes don't glow warning green when they push it any further.

"And of course, if you need anything," and he says this as if it were his offer in the first place, his idea, "you know how to contact me, I'm sure."

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