des2_icon.gif margaux_icon.gif squeaks_icon.gif

Scene Title Layover
Synopsis Squeaks is finally given the opportunity to catch her breath.
Date August 19, 2018

Staten Island Trade Commission, Sibyl's Room

Of all the things Des brought with her when she fled her old life and came to settle at the Staten Island Trade Commission - and they weren’t many - one of them was a black leather bag. The kind doctors are seen carrying in old films and television when they make house calls. It sits open on a table that’s been pulled over to the foot of the bed, where Des’ patient sits. This was Sibyl Black’s room once. It seems fitting it should house another wayward teenager.

“I’m glad Etienne brought you to us,” the dark haired doctor murmurs as she sets out the tools she’ll need to clean the girl’s wound and stitch it up. “This is Margaux,” she introduces the blonde hovering not far away. “I’m called Des.” She keeps her voice quiet, calm. “Can you tell me what we should call you?”

“Whatever her name is,” Margaux is saying as she peeks out into the hallway through the gap in the door, “Leo cannot know she’s here.”

Satisfied that the coast is indeed clear, she pulls the door shut behind her and turns the lock just in case the man to who which she refers decides to swing by Sibyl’s old bedroom. It doesn’t seem likely, but neither does the sequence of events that brought Squeaks to the Trade Commission in the first place.

“If he catches another little orphan Annie poking her nose around his business after what happened with the last one, he’s gonna make Etienne dump her right back into the harbour.”

The strange new place and the events over the last few hours have left Squeaks both tight-lipped and wide eyed. She hasn’t asked anything since her depositing into Des and Margaux’s hands. But she’s been watching, blue eyes darting after every movement and studying surroundings like there might be some kind of sense to everything in the walls or bedding or people.

There isn’t that she can find, but she looks anyway.

“Jac.” The answer is quiet, and the same one she’d given Etienne. A safer name that a very few number of people might be able to recognize as her’s. She finds herself eyeballing the door when it’s locked, jaw tightening against a sudden pang of fear, then she turns nervous side-eyes toward Margaux and Des.

“It’s nice to meet you, Jac. I know the circumstances aren’t the best, but… I’m glad you’re here.” Des casts a glance over to Margaux, nodding her head to the warning. She has to agree that Alister’s reaction may not be the most favorable. She’ll have to be prepared to defend tooth and nail if they should be discovered. She shouldn’t need to.

There’s apology in her expression when she turns her attention back to Jac. “I’m going to have to stitch you up. But I have an ability that will allow me to do it without you having to be aware. You won’t have to worry about sitting still, but you’ll still feel it afterward.” There’s only so much Des can do about that. “With your permission, I’d like to do that. But if you’d rather not, we can do it the old fashioned way.” It’s clear her preference is against that.

As Des speaks, Margaux crosses to the open wardrobe and picks through the clothes hanging there with the tips of her perfectly-manicured nails. She imagines that Jac and Sibyl are roughly the same height and build, but errs on the side of caution when she selects an oversized sweater made of cashmere and floral-patterned leggings in shades of dark blue and dusty pink.

Flats, too. The kind that don’t need to be paired with socks.

She sets the outfit aside, draping it over the back of the nearest chair.

The idea of stitches — something she knows involves needles — leads to a sudden scoot backward. Jac can’t go far, though, there’s too much in the way to properly escape. The door is locked, and under the bed won’t solve much. So she just scoots the few inches she can.

Her eyes dart over to Margaux when she moves, and she watches until she sure there’s nothing scary coming out of the wardrobe.

As clothes come out, the girl’s attention swings back to Des, watching and wondering about something that makes her not aware. Her arms wrap tightly around her middle. It’s scary, but if it means she doesn’t feel the needles… “Yes,” she answers quietly, head even rocking in a small nod.

“Okay.” Des nods her head and takes a deep breath. “So I’m going to cut away the fabric on your pants so I can do what I need to do without irritating things more. When it’s all done, and you’re ready, you can change into the clothes Margaux has laid out for you.”

Des sighs softly. It’s hard to see Jac looking so scared, but she has every right to be. “We’re going to protect you,” she promises. “I know it’s hard, but… Try to relax. The more you can relax, the more readily the pain will ease.” The doctor’s movements are slow, making sure she doesn’t inadvertently startle her patient. “Deep breaths now. Close your eyes if it helps. This will be over before you know it’s begun.”

It’s way easier said than done, relaxing when everything else says to panic. Jac takes some short breaths, then manages a deeper but unsteady one. She looks from Des to doctor bag to clothes and Margaux, then all the way back to Des again. And as she looks at the doctor person, her head bobbles stiffly with a quick nod.

“Okay.” The girl might be agreeing, but she sounds reluctant to be doing so. Her eyes squeeze shut and her arms clutch at herself in a hold that would strangle any teddy bear, if she had one. A quick breath is followed by a longer one, and even though it’s unsteady she manages to keep to that deeper breathing.

There’s no sound or movement to indicate that Des has begun her work, only a dull stinging in the girl’s leg. The doctor heaves a heavy sigh, not standing where she was just a scant second ago, but crouched on the floor and holding on to the bedside table for stability. True to her word, the fabric of Jac’s pants has been cut away, the bloodied scrap tossed in a trash bin along with a similarly blood-stained cloth, but the wound is freshly stitched and a large bandage hides the whole thing from sight.

“It’s done,” Des announces to the room. Her tools have all been tucked away into the bag so as to be out of sight and out of mind. Sweat has formed beads on the dark haired woman’s forehead, causing her bangs to stick to her skin in places. She catches her breath, quick to wave off any concern.

Margaux flattens her palms and claps them together like a trained seal on command. She bounces up and down on her heels, for as many times as she’s seen Desdemona perform this trick, it never loses its flash.

“You really should reconsider a career in beauty, honey,” she says. “Those women on the mainland with money, the ones on those big old Yamagato arms— I bet they’d pay out their bleached little assholes for a mani-pedi quick as that.”

She beckons to Squeaks, bent slightly at the middle with her shoulders drawn in, the same way she might try to coax a stray dog out from under a porch. “Gosh, are you skittish. We don’t bite.” She lifts her chin in the direction of another door that doesn’t lead out into the adjacent hallway. “There’s a bathroom over there if you want some privacy.”

The girl’s eyes stay squeezed shut until Margaux’s clapping hands warrant apprehensive investigation. She’d heard Des’ announcement, and definitely she didn’t feel much even though she’d entirely expected to, but her reluctance to see kept her eyes closed until applause. First one eye, then the other opens to where she’s squinting at the bandage.

A side-eyed look is given to Margaux when she moves into Jac’s field of vision. She follows the nod to the other door and, after a second of searching to gather up those new clothes, eases her way off the bed and into the bathroom to change.

It takes probably a few minutes longer than it should, after the door has closed with Jac on the other side. But it’s been a terrifying roller coaster of things happening. She presses her back to the door and presses a hand to her mouth. It sort of keeps the panicky whimper inside. A shaking breath follows, then the change of clothes with hands that would tremble if they weren’t being used.

The old things are gathered and balled up all together, which Jac hugs against her middle as she re-emerges.

When she returns, Des is seated on the edge of the bed, the color gradually returning to her face. She smiles genuinely at the girl. “Are you feeling a little better at least? It’s still going to hurt for a while, and you’ll want to rest as much as you can, but getting up and walking around is good for you. It promotes blood flow, which promotes healing.”

Des glances up to the blonde woman and offers her a smile. Margaux’s enthusiasm for the tricks she can accomplish is gratifying when very little else makes her want to smile. She lifts one hand, a pantomime of finger and thumb around the rim of a small glass which she raises to her lips and “knocks back.” Her brows lift in question and her head tilts slightly in Jac’s direction.

She catches herself. “How old are you?” Maybe a shot to take the edge off is not the best idea.

“Don’t pry, Des,” Margaux chides her friend without actually chiding at all. “Or, if you’re going to pry, pry about something interesting.”

As Squeaks emerges from the bathroom, she reaches out to tuck an errand, flyaway strand of reddish-gold hair away from the teen’s face and behind her elfish ear. Her hand cradles her jaw, angling Squeaks’ face up toward the light. The solar panels affixed to the Trade Commission’s flat roof provide plenty of it.

“I want to hear all about how Mr. Saint James pulled you out of the water,” she says, inviting Squeaks to sit in a nearby wingback chair flanked by silk cushions.

Jac flinches as Margaux reaches toward her face, much like a creature who has been struck before from such actions. And when her face is taken, her eyes roll to keep a nervous watch of the woman. There's no fight against the inspection, just a deep uneasiness about it, until the girl has had enough and slowly pulls her head away.

The question of her age is wondered over. She isn't sure, so a small shrug, really just a quick bounce of her shoulders, will have to suffice. She takes the offered seat, old clothes still hugged against her middle.

“He pulled me out, because I jumped off a boat.” The answer sounds reasonable enough. Jac had maybe not considered the strength of the water when she jumped in, but, “I had to jump off the boat. Or… or I would be sold.”

Des grins at Margaux’s chiding. The two do love their gossip, or what passes for it on Staten Island. That Jac shrugs her shoulders when asked about her age doesn’t surprise her in the least. It wasn’t that long ago when she would have shrugged when asked how old she was. Old enough would have been answer enough at the time.

The doctor’s expression softens as Jac sits and explains how she came to be pulled from the depths by their favorite pirate and now in their company. Concern flashes in her eyes. “Sold?” That doesn’t need much parsing. It’s not like the notion of trafficking is a new one. Des takes steps to avoid looking like an easy target when she goes out. “So you escaped from them. Other than your leg, are you hurt anywhere else?” There’s an uneasiness in the pit of her stomach, concerned about what else the young girl may have had to endure.

Des,” Margaux says again, and this time there’s an urgency beneath her tone that’s difficult to ignore. She looks over the top of Squeaks’ head and seeks out the other woman’s gaze. “She’ll tell us about that part when she’s ready.”

Her tone implies that what she really means is if she’s ever ready. She rests the hand that had been touching Squeaks’ face on the teen’s shoulder and gives it what she hopes is a reassuring squeeze. In reality, her acrylics are a little too long and a little too pointed.

“We’ll get some food in you and run you a nice hot bath,” she promises. “You can sleep here tonight, sweetheart. The door locks. First thing in the morning, we’ll take you back to— mmm.

Her false lashes flutter. The grip on Squeaks’ shoulder loosens. “Gillian, right?”

Hurt anywhere else? She remembers being shot — or she remembers the shotgun that was pointed at her, that fired at her. Jac puts a hand to her chest, very lightly touching the large, angry bruise just below her collar bone. No bullet holes, just that very achy welt. Most else between that and finding herself on the first boat is lost to her.

“I don’t think so,” she answers Des first, and as she does she shifts under Margaux’s grip, almost like she’s trying to not be touched — like a cat slinking beneath some uninvited scritching — and seems unaware of her own actions.

Her head nods to Margaux, even though she’s looking everywhere else. She spends a couple of seconds side-eying Des, more curious than suspicious, and eyeballs the line of the door. But when she feels the hand relax on her shoulder and hears the questioning tone, that’s when Margaux gets her own curious look. And it might even be a little bit hopeful. “She works at the library.”

“Sorry,” Des demures. “I’m used to asking questions. It’s part of the profession.” She offers Jac another small smile. “If you want me to take a look at anything else, let me know. But you don’t have to.”

There’s a lift of her brows to Margaux as she does her own parlour trick. That doesn’t get old to her, either. Disconcerting and discomforting at times, yes, but never old. “We want to make sure we get you back to your family,” Des assures Jac, knowing full well that family isn’t always blood.

“Tell her I have a copy of A Memory of Tomorrow I’d just love for her to autograph,” says Margaux, and maybe she’s teasing— but that doesn’t seem likely. “Do you know how much those go for on the internet?”

She lets her hand drop from Squeaks’ shoulder at the same time there’s a brusque knock at the door. Because it isn’t accompanied by a demand, she assumes that the person on the other side isn’t her brother, so she moves to open it. When she does, Desdemona and Squeaks are greeted by the sight of a younger man balancing a silver tray.

As Margaux ushers him inside, the smell of garlic and sweet basil fills the room. She directs him to leave both the tray and the plate of spaghetti smothered in meat sauce on the end table beside the armchair Squeaks’ small shape still occupies.

“Eat something, darling,” she urges. “I’ll have the kitchen fix something else up if you’re trying to watch your figure.”

A touch of confusion enters Jac’s expression, but the question, or questions, are put aside when there’s the knock at the door. Her eyes angle away from either women to stare at the door, wide eyed and nervous. When Margaux lets the young man in, she goes very still until the sight and smell of food are found.

Since there’s no danger, she leans over to examine the plate of food. “I ask lots of questions too.” The girl’s tone marks the comment as an aside. She touches the edge of the plate and tugs it a couple inches closer while casting a look in the grown-ups’ directions.

“Thank you.” It’s offered quietly, and with a shy sort of quality. The plate is pulled closer, then drawn into her lap. In spite of everything, the roller coaster of a day, she doesn’t need to be urged too much to eat. One thing she’s learned after years on the streets is to eat whenever there’s food, because the next meal may not come for a while.

Des chuckles quietly as she watches Margaux

tease. She’s better with the girl than Des is, but maybe that’s just to be expected. When the food arrives, she watches Jac’s reaction. She knows it well from her own time spent without a home. If she’s one of Gillian Childs’ wards, she likely hasn’t been for long.

“If you have any questions, please go ahead and ask us.” Des exchanges another glance with Margaux, then settles back on Jac. “We may not have all the answers, but we’ll do our best. I’m sure you’re disoriented and all that. Let us know if you need anything at all.”

“Speak for yourself.”

Margaux blows the young man a kiss on his way out the door, which he purposefully angles his face away from. It clicks shut behind him with a muted snap.

Alister’s sister leans her hip into the wardrobe and reaches up to twirl her string of pearls around the knuckle of her index finger. “I know everything about everybody.”

“How.” The question interrupts a forkful of noodles and sauce but left unfinished since there’s food involved. Jac doesn’t pick at her food but digs right in, manners falling into a more child-like habit of large bites and chewing only because it makes food go down easier. She keeps part of her attention on the pair, eyes flitting from one to the other.

“How do you know?” The question comes again after a couple of hasty mouthfuls. It’s probably not the most important question the girl could ask, but it’s the first that she latched onto as something to ask. There’s more stewing as she chews on some supper. Then, remembering, she hesitantly adds, “Who’s Leo?”

How Margaux knows everything about everybody is something Des will let the woman in question answer or evade as she sees fit. It’s her ability, after all. “Leo is Margaux’s brother. He owns this place. He also goes by the name Alister, which is what I call him.” She doesn’t have the familial privilege to fly in the face of Black’s preferences.

“Nobody used to believe me when I told them I was psychic,” Margaux says. “I got laughed out of Daddy’s board meetings and my first husband used to call me a kook.” Her painted lips split into a wide grin. “Then Sylar blew up New York and the joke was on them.”

She tightens her grip on the pearls. “Suddenly my healing crystals and seances aren’t so woo-woo. I’ve got people knocking down my door asking me for their help, including the NYPD. Missing girls. Unsolved murders. Tax evasion. There wasn’t any kinda mess I couldn’t clean up.”

An edge enters her voice, low and malign, and completely at odds with her smile, which extends all the way to her cheerfully blue eyes. “Those detectives sure didn’t like it when little old Margaux Maxwell stole all their thunder, though,” she adds. “They said they didn’t want to hire me as a consultant anymore because I was difficult to work with, but I know the real reason.”

The girl’s head tilts in a slight nod as she takes Des’ answer for what it is. She doesn’t get a chance to ask more about him, not right away, because Margaux’s explanation is way more than she wondered over. That story she listens to attentively, only slightly distracted by the food she’s working on finishing quickly. Near the end, she’s darting glances between Des and her plate, deciding against more of those questions.

“When can I go home?” The change in subject follows a mouthful of food. And Jac hopes it sounds casual and not worried. But she’s definitely seeking confirmation. “You said tomorrow? Will it be safe?” She doesn’t want to end up in the river again, or worse.

One hand comes up and rests over Des’ mouth as Margaux spins her tale. Whether she’s hiding a grin or a frown, her eyes don’t give it away. “You’re truly amazing, darling,” Des pronounces of her friend, sentiment more or less genuine. Whether she thinks Margaux would be difficult to work with or not is irrelevant to the fact that she thinks her ability is a marvel. Not one she would want, but that’s down to personal preference. “You inspire jealousy. It just can’t be helped.”

She’s hoping that settles the matter when she turns her attention back to Jac with a small smile. “If it’s safe for us to take you back home tomorrow, we will. If it’s not safe, we’ll keep you safe here until it is. Does that sound okay?”

“Might want to take Etienne with us,” Margaux suggests, “if it’s safety you’re worried about, but— and this is just between you ladies and me, I’m not so sure keeping him around is one of Leo’s best or brightest ideas.”

Her grip on the pearls goes slack and she pushes away from the wardrobe. Heels click like metronomes on the hardwood as she crosses the room to the window overlooking Arthur Kill. It’s late enough in the day that the sun is on the verge of setting and lights up the water, giving it the appearance and texture of molten gold.

“That’s the thing about dogs,” she says, “especially the mean-looking ones. Doesn’t matter how good they are with kids, either. They’re dangerous. Unpredictable. One of these days, and you mark me on this Des, that one’s gonna bite.”

The girl looks down at her plate as Des talks, scraping up the last of her supper with the intention to hide the bit of disappointment that touches her expression. She understands, of course. If it isn’t safe then it’s better to stay where it is safe. Logic that probably would have kept her from finding herself in the company of strangers.

With the plate cleaned, little enough left to even be licked clean, Jac very carefully returns it to the end table. “He doesn’t like questions,” she voices her observation with a look at Margaux and Des. “And he has a really big knife. Like the one…” She doesn’t say it, but her eyes flick to her leg to indicate what she means. “But he didn’t act mean.” At least, she didn’t think he was.

“I hope he bites,” Des murmurs under her breath then clears her throat and examines the ceiling a moment. She might disagree with Margaux about Etienne’s character, but she also expects her friend knows the man better than she does. She’s more willing to defer to her judgement.

“I don’t think he’s mean without good reason,” Des assures Jac, whether she believes it or not. “Don’t worry. We’re going to do everything we can to get you back to Miss Childs.” Even if she has concerns about what Jac might say about her saviors from Staten Island and what Gillian might put together. It’s a risk she’ll take, because sending the poor girl home is the right thing to do, no matter what it means for her own cover.

“It’s not the really big knife either of you should be worried about,” Margaux says, and leaves it at that. She draws the curtains, cinching them shut. “Now, I don’t know about you, kiddo, but I’m going to get some beauty sleep if we’re going into the Safe Zone tomorrow. I want to look my best for all the eligible bachelors cruising those glitzy new streets.”

That’s a joke. There’s nothing neither glitzy nor new about the roads, many of which are still in the process of being repaved or repaired.

And Gillian Childs doesn’t live inside the walls that separate the residents of Yamagato Park from the Safe Zone’s refugees or its working class.

“Sleep tight,” she says, moving toward the door, “don’t let the bedbugs or Etienne bite. Unless you’re into that, I guess.”

Taking a carefully slow breath, Jac angles a look at Des and nods, accepting the answer. There isn’t much else she can do but trust the two women, even if it isn’t easy going against a life of learned suspicion toward grown-ups. She nods again, just to be sure of her own answer.

“But those roads aren’t new.” Squeaks points out the obvious, completely missing the joke. In fact, she looks confused that a thing would even be claimed. Anyone who’s been to the safe zone even six months ago would know that.

That’s as far as any protests go. Even though it isn’t exactly a protest, there’s some finality in the curtains being closed that Jac decides to bottle up any other questions or comments. She lets her eyes follow Margaux to the door, then looks at Des who gets the smallest of shrugs.

“She’s kidding,” Des stage whispers with a small shake of her head. Don’t worry about it. “My room is just down the hall,” she tells Jac, pointing in the direction she should turn once she goes out the door. “I’m going to leave the door open a crack tonight. If you need anything, don’t hesitate to come knocking.”

Des rises from her perch at the end of the bed and offers one more reassuring smile. “Sleep well, Jac. We’ll see you for breakfast, okay?”

Margaux pumps her fingers in a little wave at Squeaks and is the first out the door. For once, she doesn’t linger to wait for Desdemona to emerge after her into the hallway. Something compels her to hook a hard left and wander toward the old-fashioned elevator, the tips of her fingers trailing along the wall beside her as she goes.

That something is probably the vodka Desdemona and Squeaks might have detected on her breath, but it’s difficult to know for sure— and by the time it might occur the brunette to ask, she’s already gone.

“Okay.” The reply is small, but not weighted with the fright from when she first arrived. It's still touched with a nervous quality, probably just an inherent piece of her personality. Jac watches Margaux leave then Des stand to go also before moving herself to investigate the bed.

It's unfamiliar to her, fingers poke and press at the mattress like someone might kick a car tire. It doesn't tell her much, but the girl decides to climb onto it again. She scootches until she's sitting near the headboard then let's herself curl around the pillow.

Tears find her eyes again, but Jac takes a deep breath to try to still the fear and hurt that's been brewing. It's just one night.

Morning can't come soon enough.

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