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Scene Title Indulgence
Synopsis Leonardo takes Eileen shopping for something to wear to the Corthinian's grand opening.
Date February 16, 2010


Having picked Eileen up just a few minutes ago, Leonardo is driving her to a particularly expensive store; a Nordstrom, relocated after the bomb, and extremely expensive. "I do hope you're going to keep what I buy you, I'll insist." he says with a slight grin, having also insisted that she sit in the passenger seat, and not in the back.

Despite what some people, dead or alive, may tell him, Eileen doesn't enjoy being argumentative. She takes the passenger's seat not just to appease Leonardo, but as a gesture of goodwill — whether or not she keeps what he buys her, she appreciates that he's putting the money down to ensure she looks as though she fits in with the other people who will be in attendance at the Corthinian's opening.

She doesn't right now. Although her woolen pea coat accommodates both her sense of fashion and somewhat utilitarian lifestyle, it's also very conventional. So is the cashmere headscarf covering her hair and the dark gray dress beneath her clothes, its collar trimmed with black lace. Matching flats are her shoes of choice rather than the carmine red heels she sometimes brings out for special occasions — she anticipates a lot of walking.

A pink carnation pinned to her coat's lapel is the only thing that might draw attention to her this afternoon, and even then she's hoping that eyes will be drawn to the man she's with instead. "I'll consider it," she concedes.

"It's been so long since I've been able to take a woman shopping. I'm rather boring to shop for, I just wear lots of black suits usually." Leonardo pulls up to their destination, a large Nordstrom store. He stops in the parking lot, and steps out of the car to walk around to her door. Opening her door, he offers a hand to help her out. "You're a very quiet person, you know. What goes on in your head?"

"I imagine the same thing that goes on in most people's," Eileen says, accepting Leonardo's hand. Hers are gloved in leather to protect her fingers from the winter's biting chill and allow very little warmth to escape by seeping through them, but they are at least soft and as feminine as articles made of a dead animal's hide can be. "Thought processes."

"You always appear as if you have a constant worry in the back of your mind, or perhaps you're lost in your own thoughts." Leonardo closes the door and offers his arm so he can lead her to the store. "You should tell me what you're thinking, the first thing that pops into your mind, right now."

Eileen would be more irritated if she hadn't played this exact game with Kazimir and Amato, but she'd been sixteen then and bubbling with curiosity. Although her desire to learn hasn't waned in the years since, she's matured in the quiet way that many young women do and discovered the importance of tact and discretion — asking someone what they might be thinking about isn't something she'd do at twenty-one unless her relationship with them is intimate enough for her to feel comfortable reciprocating.

She does, however, take his arm. Kazimir reinforced courteous behaviour, too. "I was thinking that I'd rather have daffodils and anemones on my vanity than diamonds in my ears or around my neck."

"A woman doesn't need diamonds to make an impact." Leonardo opens the door for her when they get up to the store, gently releasing her arm. "The key here isn't to change you, or make you into a rich woman, it's simply to show you for who you are, but in expensive clothing." he explains, chuckling in amusement.

This earns Leonardo an arch of Eileen's brow as she crosses the threshold and abandons the crisp afternoon air for the department store's climate-controlled interior. "And how do you intend to show me for who I am when you don't know me?" she asks.

"Simple." Leonardo places a gentle hand to her back, and holds a hand up as he calls a worker over. "You'll choose things you like, and I'll help you figure out what's most appropriate." When the worker is over, he offers a well-practiced smile. "Ah, excuse me, but could you take us to one of the more private areas? With the quality clothing." Which is saying a lot, considering there are some four-hundred dollar price tags on some of the things out here.

It's difficult for Eileen not to do the calculations in her head. She's been lucky to make four hundred dollars in a night working at Burlesque before taking the club's fees into account, and all that's leftover goes toward the purchases she doesn't want Epstein tracking. Fancy dresses made from silk and taffeta are harmless. Morphine and the other medical supplies she uses to stock her emergency medical kit at home aren't, especially when she's buying them from unauthorized dealers at an inflated price reflecting the fact that lawful prescriptions would otherwise be required. "Quality clothing?"

"Only the best." Leonardo guides her as they follow the clerk to the back of the store, then another door is open, and they're led into kind of a mini-store, with far more expensive clothing than the first half. "That stuff out there, that's clothing moderately successful business men buy to impress their secretaries. Back here, this is the kind of place a man of true power shops in. Go ahead, find some things you think look nice and I'll tell you what I think."

"And what exactly defines a man of true power?" Eileen wants to know, her tone careful and a little bit contrite. The shape her mouth has taken is too rueful to be a smile but it isn't a frown either — maybe she's looking for the humour in the situation.

There isn't much.

Her flats make little sound on the department store's linoleum floors as she orbits one of the racks in search of something that calls to her like a flower calls to a bee or a butterfly but has little success. Many of the dresses have fabric that resemble brightly-coloured petals, which is part of the problem — Eileen has a bias for neutral shades when it comes to her clothes. Any bold or dramatic choices she might make are normally splashes against taupe and ivory or black and gray.

"I could tell you, Eileen, but I'm afraid our relationship hasn't reached that level yet. Friendship or otherwise." Leonardo continues to sound amused, looking over her clothing choices to find something particularly appropriate for the hotel opening. "I'm afraid my keeping secrets is counterproductive to getting you to open up."

"Moonflowers, Casablanca lilies and gardenias all bloom at night," Eileen says, pausing to remove her gloves and tuck them into her coat pocket so she can feel the texture of a tulle gown with lace rosettes and a taffeta cinched waist in pale rose. It's more abrasive between her fingers than she was expecting but not so abrasive that she's ready to discount it. "Maybe it will happen when you aren't looking."

"Do you realize that you're bait for the curious man?" Leonardo asks, walking over to reach out and touch the fabric himself, nodding in approval. "Sometimes I do wish we were all telepaths. We'd all be honest and have no secrets, and possibly we'd be a lot happier. But instead we're all suspicious of eachother. How about you tell me one secret, and I'll tell you one in exchange?"

"I could be a telepath," Eileen observes mildly with a silent reminder to return to the tulle gown if she's unable to find something more appropriate. A one shoulder evening dress with a beadwork bodice in dark aubergine catches her attention next and would probably go well with her pale skin, dark hair and glassy eyes, but there are sequins on it. "I could be reading your thoughts right now and you would never know."

"You're not a telepath." Leonardo says with absolute confidence, going over to take a look at the new dress. Though he looks over at her, humoring the thought. "If you are a telepath, then you truly are made for me, because you've continued speaking to me all this time, even knowing everything you could know about me, and my thoughts and secrets, that or you're an assassin. But I find it highly unlikely, so I am almost a hundred percent sure you aren't one."

"Is almost worth your life?" This is perhaps not a path that Eileen wants to be going down. She considers a strapless ensemble with a corset and a semi-transparent bodice accented by flower embroidery and still more beads. It comes in both black and charcoal gray, which is to its advantage, and as she turns over the price tag — a stiff slip of ornate paper attached to the dress by a simple string and glittering safety pin — she lifts her eyes to Leonardo and offers him a smile that's a bit more genuine than the one she'd given earlier.

One of her secrets in exchange for his. She can do this. "I started smoking when I was twelve because I wanted my older brother to respect me," she says. "Your turn."

"I say almost with the full knowledge that if you were a telepath sent to kill me, I'd have been dead about ten seconds ago." Leonardo says strange things sometimes, but possibly he's commenting on thoughts she herself can't hear, grinning to himself. He reaches over to take a look at the tag, and nods. "I'm not sure if I told you I took my father's company or not. But that's not the entire story. It's not as if I simply found him in a vulnerable position and took it when I saw an opportunity, I spent years with his associates, plotting the entire downfall of the company so I could slip in and steal the company. And to add insult to injury, when my father walked in and saw me sitting in his chair, in a board meeting, I had guards remove him quite indignantly." He leans on a rack of clothing, watching her with a curious gaze now. "Do you still enjoy being in my presence?"

Eileen has lost interest in the dress, the price tag, its string wound loosely round her finger. She isn't smiling anymore. "Still?" she inquires politely. "Your question assumes that I enjoyed being in your presence before. Have I done anything to indicate I take pleasure in your company apart from accepting your invitation?" That's not to say she doesn't. Or did. Enigmatic, with its romantic connotations, is too flattering a word to describe her. Inscrutable might be more accurate — neither her facial expression nor her tone indicate anything except generalized moroseness.

This is a very dangerous subject they're broaching.

"I like to think that I'm the ball of yarn to your cat. Just interesting enough for you to stick around, but not entertaining enough to crack the default expression of your face." Leonardo reaches over to briefly take her chin inbetween two fingers, and quickly releases it. "But tell me, why do you humor me as much as you do?"

In the instant Leonardo's fingers find her chin, Eileen's jaw tenses, and although her instinct is to wrench away she suppresses it instead. They aren't the only ones here in the store — caution tempers her reactions, allowing him to get away with more than he might under different circumstances. The person Eileen presents herself to be in public is often very different than the one exposed in private.

"You're too valuable of an ally to lose," she says, and it isn't until the words have left her mouth that she realizes it's true. "I don't intentionally toy with people."

"Ah, so that's what it is. You're afraid of offending me." Leonardo grabs a chair, taking a seat in front of her with his arms resting on his thighs. "I'm not a spiteful person, Eileen. I also don't expect you to treat me like royalty because you need me as an asset. I'd help you even if you didn't feign an interest in indulging my need to indulge and get to know you. We're equals, Eileen." The amusement suddenly leaves his face, and he's gazing at her with full seriousness. "We'll always be equals, this is a thing that was decided from birth. No money or power could ever create a gap between the things that bind us all."

"Which is what? The Suresh Linkage Complex?" Eileen drops the tag and moves around the other side of the rack as if to put it between herself and Leonardo, though her motivations aren't quite as clear cut as that. She rattles through another collection of dresses to occupy herself, saying nothing for another protracted moment or two while she quietly struggles to compose her thoughts. "If I was indulging you," she says finally, "you would know it. You're no more a prince to me than the man who showed us in here is a serf. This has nothing to do with bowing down. It's about respect."

"Now, I didn't say that much. I've never been tested." Leonardo doesn't confirm or deny her question, he simply tells the truth… sort of. He has never been tested. "But if I were Evolved, and felt this were an important bond, what would you think of that? And as far as respect goes, I only want you to do what you enjoy, that would be the greatest respect you can give me."

"I don't know what I'd think," Eileen admits, her voice tight and movements somewhat sharp, jerky. "I'm speaking with a self-professed misogynist whose interest in me exceeds what I'm willing to reciprocate and does not accept my decision to return what I wear to an event that I probably shouldn't even be attending." Still, she's made her selection: a slim, flowing thing of white ivory gauze and taffeta with a fitted bodice and embroidered flowers in the same colour. "This one," she says. "And before you ask, I'm not going to try it on. If it doesn't fit, then I'll take it to a tailor before Monday."

At least she's being earnest and decisive about something.

"That misogyny thing was a bit of a joke, you know." Leonardo laughs and nods to her choice, apparently approving again. "Good choice, and very well. And you know, I don't take your lack of interest in me personally, I don't claim to be in love with you, I simply find everything about you attractive. But I've somewhat abandoned that, considering what you told me the other day, about someone close to you." He stands again, moving to take the dress so he can get it paid for. "I do wonder, though, what do you truly and genuinely think of me, as a person?"

"I'll be sure to let you know when I arrive at a definitive conclusion," Eileen promises, exasperated by his laughter, his words, the almost cavalier quality of his voice when he isn't playing at being serious. In small ways, it all reminds her of someone she knows — knew — but rather than be reassuring, it makes her question whether or not he's deserving of her chilly treatment. Gabriel had been this arrogant once, hadn't he?

She hands over the dress without protest, thoroughly disgusted with herself for even considering the comparison and even angrier when she realizes how much it hurts. Her life is going to be so much easier when grief makes her stop seeing him everywhere. "I haven't looked at the price. I don't want to."

"I'd tell you anyway, but I think I'll enjoy this one secret, between me and the dress." Leonardo starts heading off to find a person to help, but he gives her one last look back. "Eileen, you're a very intriguing woman, and the feeling that I'm playing with fire makes it all the more exciting."

"Mind that you don't get burned." It's a ridiculous thing for Eileen to say, but there it is. She opts to remain by the racks until he returns, grateful for the opportunity to seal the cracks in her composure while no one except other women are looking — and they're too immersed in their own worlds to pay her carefully measured breathing much attention.

Exciting, he says.

"Maddening, more like."

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