Jensen Raith's House of Pain


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Scene Title Jensen Raith's House of Pain
Synopsis Raith commends Eileen for a job well done. Or not.
Date August 10, 2009

Somewhere Near the Ruins of Eagle Electric

It might have been inevitable that somewhere in New York, someone would have decided that the necessary permits for opening a gym aren't really necessary. While that may have happened, Jensen Raith is not that someone, for despite the 'borrowed' training equipment, he is not running a gym. What he is running is, for all appearances, a house of pain, and Eileen Ruskin is his first customer. But all that is in the past.

In the present, both of them are sitting on the floor of a warehouse, empty except for the gym mat that serves as a seating pad, while the young woman has a cut on her cheek and split lip lightly dabbed with a stinging alcohol swab. Raith, who is the one dabbing, looks and is anything but apologetic. After all, this is the School of Face-Rocking, and he's the professor. "And this, Eily, is what happens when you turn your face into it," he says, "Lesson here, don't do that. You got that?"

The look that Eileen is giving Raith could wilt flowers and curdle milk, but it doesn't have much of an effect on the man seated across from her except to remind him that he's the one responsible for the taste of blood in her mouth and the coagulated clot she pinches between her pursed lips. "I didn't turn my face into it," she murmurs in a thick voice, the muscles in her face visibly tightening as she resists the urge to flinch away from the swab's probing tip.

Dark curls of inky black hair lie in coils on her cheeks and at the nape of her neck, plastered to her skin by a sticky combination of sweat and tears, so wet and oily that it's impossible to separate one from the other. If it wasn't for the glassy sheen covering her eyes or the swelling around their pinkened rims, even Raith wouldn't be able to tell that she's been indulging in the release of some pent up frustration. "Maybe you shouldn't hit me so hard."

"Whatever you say, hon." Good old dismissively condescending Raith. "Still, I have to say. Your total fight experience is something like, getting kicked around by everyone and electrocution. You did pretty good for not having any idea what you were doing. Not good enough, but pretty good. Next time, maybe I won't wear the kiddy gloves, and then you can really get a workout.

"Or maybe, just maybe, everyone'll grab a guitar and sing Kumbaya, and we won't need to do this bullshit anymore. I'm not counting on it, but you never know how bright the future is going to be, you follow?" Finishing with the alcohol swab, Raith returns his attention to the kit, looking for something to hold Eileen's wounds shut with. Preferably without a needle. "Superglue alright?"

"I asked if you'd teach me how to defend myself," Eileen points out, reaching up to touch her fingertips to the cut on her cheek. They come away clean. "You never said anything about using me as your personal punching bag." Her eyes dart down to the kit and narrow until only a faint sliver of green can be made out beneath her shimmering lashes. Usually, she's the one in Raith's position — between Deckard and Abigail, it's been a long time since anyone treated her the old-fashioned way with supplies that could be easily purchased from a store specializing in medical overstock.

"Better use the absorbable sutures instead," she suggests with a watery sniff, using her hand to wipe at some of the moisture collected between the bottom of her nose and the crest of her upper lip. "I don't know if the glue'll hold, and I'd rather not get any of it in my mouth. Tastes like shit."

"Suit yourself," Raith replies. If Eileen wants to do things the hard way, so be it. "And you need to face the facts, even if you know how to defend yourself, sooner or later, punching bag. Now, you're starting to figure out this defense thing. Not much longer and you'll be breaking arms with the best of them. Hold still." It's an order of sensibility. With the sutures primed and Raith ready to start the needlework, well, wouldn't want to get this thing in your eye, would you?

"I don't want to break anybody's arm if I can help it," Eileen says, squaring her shoulders and attempting to ignore the twinge of pain in her neck she receives as a reward for her efforts. Although it doesn't quite hurt to breathe, her body is still adjusting to the thorough bruising Raith gave her on the mats — the more time passes, the more intimately aware of the physical damage she becomes. "I didn't sign up for this so I could hurt people."

"Maybe you didn't. Maybe nobody did." At least Raith is honest about this much as he carefully but quickly pushes the needle and thread through Eileen's skin. No need to drag this out any longer than is really necessary. "But you know what? You're going to meet people that want to hurt you. You're going to meet people that want to kill you. You'll try to avoid it, sure. You should. But it's going to happen, and you'll have to make a choice between them and you, because in the end, all that really matters is whether or not you make it home today. You can go out there with whatever ideals you want, but when you get in the shit, it's them or you.

"And you run into the wrong people, well. What I did to you just now will seem like sunshine and rainbows."

Eileen's eyes squeeze out a few more fat tears. They roll down her cheeks, gather at the point of her chin and drip down onto the material top and stain the material the same dark gray as the sweat pants she wears low on her hips, held in place by a knotted drawstring. This isn't exactly sunshine and rainbows, either. "I was with the Vanguard for almost five years," she says, careful not to move any more than is necessary to speak while he sews up the cut across her cheek. When he moves on to her lip, she won't have the opportunity to talk — if there's anything she wants to get out, then needs to be said now. "Most of that time was spent reporting directly to Volken. Don't treat me as though I don't know what people are capable of. Especially men like you."

"Then you should also know that you're in no condition to start defending against men like me." Raith doesn't put too many stitches in before he ties off and cuts the sutures. It's not a terrible cut, after all. Just one they want to heal quickly. "Which is exactly why your new exercise regime starts tomorrow morning. Story time's over, princess. We're at war, now."

"So melodramatic." Eileen runs the tip of her finger along the cut again. With no mirror in which to glimpse at her reflection, she can only guess at the quality of Raith's work. "I hope you don't think that you can get away with treating Sylar and Ethan the same way you've been treating me. Talk down to either of them and they'll show you their backs."

"They're old," Raith replies, as if this were some sort of established fact, "You can't teach them anything. They think they know everything, already. You, though, you know you don't know anything. You can learn. You're happy to learn. Happy to learn how to fight. Happy to learn how to kill. Happy to learn how to show everyone, once and for all, that you're not some little kid anymore. That you're just as bad as they are, and they'd better get used to it."

"Old," Eileen repeats, reaching out to take the needle and thread from Raith's hands. "Lord. If they're old, what does that make you? A fossil?" As she speaks, she pries them gently from his fingers and wraps the surgical suture around the needle's head to avoid tangling it in the other equipment when she places both back into the kit. Her lip needs tending to as well, but it's becoming increasingly apparent to Eileen that she doesn't trust Raith not to sew her mouth shut. "This isn't about showing anyone anything," she adds as she snaps the kit shut, plastic latches snapping primly into place. "I'll always be Ethan's little girl, and Sylar is so arrogant that I sometimes wonder if the word 'equal' even exists in his vocabulary. Do things for the sake of impressing other people and you'll always end up feeling disappointed. No exceptions."

"Probably," is Raith's flat reply as he stands up from the mat. Looks like school's out for the day. "You've got it right. Impressing other people is for suckers. It's much more effective to just take them down a couple pegs. Think you got it in you to do that?" It's not clear who he's talking about. Ethan? Gabriel? Or maybe, in some subtle, tongue-in-cheek way, he's referring to himself being taken down a peg or two. He doesn't elaborate. He just pulls a folded sheet of paper from his back pocket and holds it out for Eileen to take. "This is your new life, starting tomorrow," he says, "You might want to get familiar with it tonight."

Eileen rests the kit in her lap and takes the sheet between the knuckles of her middle and index fingers before she unfolds it. The light in the warehouse isn't the best for reading — it takes her a few stilted moments of squinting before the letters on the page begin to make sense by coming together to form cohesive words. The words then become sentences, and Eileen chances a skeptic glance up at Raith's face from over the top of the sheet. She arches both her dark brows into a mild but inquisitive expression. "You think you have the authority to tell me what I'm allowed to eat?"

"Oh, no, of course not." Practically ignoring her, Raith proceeds to clean up after himself, gathering the practice pads together and beginning to fold the gym mat up. "You can eat whatever you want. You can eat Cool Ranch Doritos three times a day, for all I care. But try that, really, just try eating whatever you want with that exercise schedule, and then try it my way, and see which one leaves you feeling like a pile of shit, and which one leaves you feeling like a Greek goddess chiseled out of marble with lightning from Zeus himself.

"Go on, try it. I dare you."

Bracing her hand against her knee for support, Eileen picks up the kit and pushes to her feet to avoid being folded up with the mat. "Next you'll be telling me to give up smoking again." She runs her fingers through her hair, using the heel of her hand to smooth some of the more stubborn curls away from her face. It will be many months before it has the length that it did before, and that's assuming she doesn't decide to cut it at some point in between. While short hair doesn't flatter or frame her face the same way long hair does, she's quickly discovering that it's a lot easier to maintain and keep untangled.

She removes her jacket from the meat hook hanging from a nearby chain and slings it over her shoulder, still too hot to need the extra layer of clothing on top of her sleeveless shirt. Her hand reaches into the jacket's interior pocket, lined with silk, feeling around for the package of cigarettes she just alluded to. "I'll tell Ethan you want to meet with him and talk business, shall I?"

"Please do," Raith replies. Clean up: done. "We wait too much longer, and someone'll beat us to it. Good luck, good night and, as always, watch out for the Meat Man."

One of these days, Raith is going to tell Eileen who — or what — the Meat Man is. Today is not that day, however. With a farewell mumbled around the filter of her cigarette, procured from the package while Raith was saying his good byes, the young woman turns and heads for the nearest door, drawn toward the promise of cooler weather and the evening breeze wafting off the waterfront.

She has the courtesy not to light up indoors, at least.

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