Like Unicorns


felix_icon.gif maddie_icon.gif

Scene Title Like Unicorns
Synopsis Idealism meets cynicism when the Times' cub reporter meets a veteran of the FBI.
Date April 3, 2010

The Nite Owl

The Nite Owl is a survivor from ages past - one of those ancient diners with huge plate glass windows, checkerboard linoleum floor, and a neon owl over the entrance that blinks at those entering. Inside, there's an L-shaped main counter, complete with vintage soda fountain and worn steel stools. All of the cooking is done on the ranges ranked against the rear wall. The outer wall is lined with booths upholstered in cracked scarlet vinyl, tables trimmed with polished chrome. Despite its age, it's been lovingly maintained. The air is redolent with the scent of fresh coffee, vanilla, and frying food.

He's been coming here for years. Will do so as long as it's open, quite likely. The Fed's at the counter, rather than taking up a booth. He's got his cheek propped on his hand, and is reading, some worn paperback novel. He's thin and tired, occasionally scratching at the grizzled beard on his chin. There's the remains of soup and sandwich in front of him, coffee steaming silently as he ignores it. He's got his overcoat on the stool beside him, fur hat atop it, and is clad in one of those suits of his that doesn't quite fit anymore. A hair too large, as if he'd lost weight since it was cut.

Maddie enters the diner, looking amused that such places do in fact exist in New York City. She's lived in Chicago, so surely she's no stranger to the greasy spoon sort of diner, but this is her first she's found in the Big Apple, and thus, exciting. She glances around, and chooses to sit at the counter, rather than alone at one of the benches. She moves to take a stool, a couple down from Felix, before reaching for a menu, peeling the laminated pages open. As she reads, she casts a sidelong glance at her countermate, before looking back at the menu.

If he notices it, he doesn't appear to. At least, he doesn't look up, not yet. He dumps a packet of sugar into it, drops the empty packet on the countertop. He doesn't look much like the portrait of him in the paper, a year or so ago. No glasses, the goatee, visibly aged.

When the waitress comes by to take her order, Maddie smiles up. "Coffee and a slice of apple pie, thank you," she says brightly in her Australian accent. She glances over at Felix again, tilting her head slightly to try to enter his periphery. "I beg your pardon — are you Agent Ivanov? I've been reading up on local news, to try to get my feel for the important people in the city…" she says softly, apologetic for disturbing the man while he reads and eats — or doesn't eat.

He goes still, for a moment, and it takes perhaps longer than it should for that water pale gaze to swing back over to her, followed by the turn of his head. "I am," he says, deliberately, expression only readable as a little wary, perhaps. "I don't know that I qualify as important, however."

Her white teeth close on her lower lip for a moment, looking more sorry for her interruptions. Her rosy cheeks flush a touch more, and she glances down. "I'm sorry. I shouldn't have said anything — I'm … well. Maybe a little starstruck in a sense?" she asks. "I'm new on the New York Times, Evolved Affairs writer. It sounds silly, but people like you are sort of celebrities to me, and New York is sort of like Hollywood, you know?" She turns to smile up at the waitress as the woman returns with her coffee and pie. "Thank you," she murmurs, a polite reporter at least — if there's such a thing.

The idea is apparently horrifying. In that he gets that dry pokerface people do when you've just asked them one of those terrible, terrible questions they have no idea how to answer. "I….suppose so," he says, tentatively, lips pursed. "It's a strange idea. At least to me."

She turns back, her pale eyes flicking left than right as if reading his face, and she frowns a touch. "I… I'm sorry. You must think I'm strange or naive or something, right?" she glances down, reaching for the creamer and sugar to fix her coffee. One shoulder rises in a shrug. "You're a hero. To me, that's more important than who won the last Oscar or Grammy or what have you. Shouldn't it be more important? People who put their lives on the line for others?"

"I'm a hero to you because you've been told a story that isn't entirely true," Fel explains, putting the heels of his hands to his eyes, and sighing. "That story in the paper…..that was a gloss over a very bad situation, and I didn't deserve that medal. Not naive, necessarily."

Maddie frowns at that news — she is one of the altruistic idealists who want to believe that all the news is real, that no one ever lies in the media. She knows better, but she wishes it weren't true. "That's unfortunate. I actually believe in truth in journalism, but I guess I'm a dying breed," she says, picking up her coffee and leaning on the counter as she watches him. "You seem so sad," she murmurs, her brows knitting as she studies his face.

"I think you were a rare breed to begin with," he replies, quickly. "Like unicorns, maybe." At least his tone is bemused, rather than merely vicious. The comment she tacks on the end has him blinking at her. "It's been a long year and a half," he says, simply.

"We have unicorns in Australia. We just don't tell anyone," she tosses back, looking a bit amused as well, though her eyes still appraise his face in their solemn manner. "I don't know if I should take that as a compliment or an insult, really," Maddie adds, before picking up her fork and taking a bite of her apple pie, chewing slowly and thoughtfully as if to decide which of the two sides to take. She finally looks back at him. "I'm sorry things have been bad for you. I'd ask if there's anything I could do to help, but… that would be just too preposterously Pollyanna of me, wouldn't it?"

Felix eyes her, and his expression is sly. "Having never been, I am inclined to be credulous and just take that at face value." HE finally seems to recall the coffee that's been neglected to room-temperature limbo, and picks it up, drinks from it. "Well, if you are going to be a journalist and cover the Evolved…..tell the truth. That's all. You Evolved yourself?" he asks, bluntly.

"That's my plan, Agent Ivanov," Maddie says softly. "I have no agenda. If anything, I'm inclined to feel the government tells too many lies and hides too many things. That there's good and bad and black and white to everything, and it's best for people to just know the truth and decide for themselves. Sadly, I'm in the minority there, too." She takes a long draught of the coffee before shaking her head. "No. But I have no problems with those who are. I couldn't do my job if I did."

Oh, the idealism. It is charming. He looks at her from under heavy lids, and it's a measuring gaze. AS if trying to weigh the naievete against the commitment, each in each hand. "I hope you're able to do your job as you say," he says, finally, even as he scratches at his chin, stubble rasping.

She smiles slowly, not unaware that he finds her words altruistic or perhaps childish or both. She reaches into her purse, and pulls out a sleek silver business card holder, monogrammed with the initials MH. No doubt a graduation gift or something of the kind. She flicks it open and pulls out her card, reaching it over to him. "It's hardly fair I know your name, but not the other way around," Maddie murmurs. "Madeleine Hart, though you can call me Maddie. Or Ms. Hart as I'm sure you're more likely to do, agent."

"Entirely likely, yes, Miss Hart," the Russian agrees, taking it between his first two fingers. "A pleasure to meet you. How long have you been in New York?" he wonders, even as he reaches over, snags his coffee for another few mouthfuls.

Maddie's eyes almost disappear as she smiles at his formality. "Just a few weeks. I'm finally all settled in and ready to get to work. I'm not a rookie though," she adds with some amusement. She knows she looks like she could be right out of college, but she has a couple of years of professional experience to her name at least.
Still all shiny and new. "You're a rookie to New York. That's what matters," he says, simply. There's no condescension in his voice, at least.

"I was last in Denver. Chicago before that. I'm not from the outback or something, you know," the blond reporter says with some amusement as she takes another bite of her pie. "Any tips for dealing with this city, though?"

"There's nowhere else like it. Especially in the last few years. I was stationed in Seattle, LA, and San Francisco, and I can tell you, nothing compares," His tone is still matter of fact, a little distant. "I don't know. It's that crazy, I'm not sure what I can tell you that might really help you."

"It does seem to be sort of the center of everything. At least for what I cover," Maddie says, elbow on the counter, hand on her cheek as she watches him. "Do you dislike all reporters, Agent Ivanov? Some of us aren't out to make the law enforcement agencies look bad, or anyone else for that matter. We just want to inform the public of what's happening, so they have the news at their disposal. Educated people make informed decisions. Informed decisions can make change in policy, through votes, through many means. Is that such a bad ideal to have?"

Felix just looks at her for a long moment, lips thinned out. "No, I don't. And that's a very noble ideal. I've just never seen it work that way in practice. I hope you find differently." His expression is patient, but it's almost as if he's looking past her, rather than at her.

Maddie smiles, but there's something that looks just a touch hurt in her eyes. "Thank you," she says, and reaches into her purse to pull out a ten — more than enough to pay for coffee, pie, and tip. "I'll let you finish your meal in peace, Agent Ivanov. It was very nice to meet you," she adds softly, before standing and slipping off the barstool to make her way to the exit.

"A pleasure," he repeats. But there's little force behind it. Not insincere, but…."I wish you luck," he settles on, looking back to his own empty plate.

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