Loose Leash


aviators2_icon.gif eileen_icon.gif

Scene Title Loose Leash
Synopsis Sometimes it's better when people just forget your birthday.
Date February 16, 2010

Fort Greene: Eileen's Apartment

The act of returning home after a long day of work and errands is supposed to be a relief. For Eileen, it's a constant source of apprehension — every time she turns her keys in the lock and pushes open the door, she expects to find someone sitting at her dining table or lounging in her chaise. Raith has done it, Epstein has done it, and if what Abigail says is true then she should be anticipating a visit from Dr. Kozlow sometime in the near future.

She relaxes when she finds the front of her apartment empty except for her furniture and the vase of lilacs on the table, their stems tied together with a length of seashell white ribbon, and eases the door shut behind her with a small sound like a sigh. Of all things, there's a dress in a plastic cover draped over her arm, all ivory taffeta and flimsy gauze with visible embroidery in the shape of delicate little flowers. It's a gift from Leonardo — one that she intends on returning to him the morning after the gala being held at the Corthinian Hotel. Until then, it's destined to be hung on the silk divider she changes behind every morning and night.

Black flats are abandoned near the front door and her coat and cashmere scarf used to adorn the back of the chaise. Her feet make much less noise than shoes as she crosses the apartment, opens the French doors that separate her bedroom from the rest of the living space and then leaves them yawning behind her when she goes to hook the dress' hanger over the top of the dressing screen. It's much nicer than the dark gray one she's wearing now, the one that she's reaching around to unzip once she's slipped behind the divider, safely out of the windows' sights.

There are not a lot of places someone can hide in an apartment this tiny.

"You are going to look just like a princess in that dress." Agent Epstein's voice is so close she can feel his breath on the back of her neck. Voice nothing more than a deep growl, and the firm press of something about the size of a gun barrel placed at the small of her back gently. "Don't forget your glass slippers…" he adds with a sarcastic turn to his voice, close enough now that his nose brushes the top of her head and she can feel the proximity of his body behind her.

The room was empty. Her mind reflexively races with the possibilities of his presence, where he could have been hiding, behind a door, under the bed, in a closet, but in the end is doesn't matter. No matter how safe she seems to be, no matter how much she keeps her guard up, he has that same inscrutable ability as Jensen Raith to be wherever she does not want him to be, at the exact moment he is least wanted. "Did I forget to say happy birthday?"

Ultimately, there is only so much abuse of this kind that someone can take. Safety needs are just above physiological needs on Maslow's hierarchy — it's difficult for her to function when she doesn't have a place to sleep that isn't constantly being invaded by unwanted individuals who may or may not be brandishing firearms against her.

Nothing snaps inside of her — not exactly — but the combination of Epstein's breath, voice and the pressure exerted by the barrel of his gun causes a chain reaction that happens before conscious thought has the opportunity to catch up to impulse. And when it does, it doesn't necessarily disagree with her present course of action. He wouldn't dare shoot her in her own apartment, would he?

The hand that had been at the back of her neck drops to the one gripping the pistol and seizes its wrist in her fingers. Although slow, her movements are very deliberate and precise as she aims Epstein's arm and weapon away from her body without fully turning around.

"Thank you."


"If you wanted a bite of it, you could've just said so." Comes the smirking remark from Avi as Eileen's fingers maneuver what is clearly a Snickers bar away from the small of her back. He in turn snatches up her shoulder with his free hand and turns her around, forcing her back with a forward step and an exhaled breath to push up against the changing screen just enough to make it tilt back, start to fall over and then just click against the wall, tipped over but not fallen down.

"Hungry, why wait?" He presses the candy bar up beneath her chin like the barrel of a gun would be, then exhales a grimacing laugh and unwinds his fingers from her shoulder and takes a step back, quietly peeling open the top of the candy bar and taking a bite off of the top, a string of caramel stretching from bar to teeth. "You know I was never much of a fan of these until recently. When you don't have something for the longest time you start to just crave it completely, you know?" Aviators angles a look towards Eileen over the tops of his glasses as he eats her birthday present.

"It is check in time though. Have you been a good little girl?"

Whether or not she's been a good little girl since the last time he visited is swiftly becoming irrelevant. Eileen is in no mood to act like one now. Epstein is a little shorter than Raith, but their builds are very similar — although there are no mats on the floor and she's dressed in clothes that aren't designed for extraneous movement, she falls right back into her lessons with the King of Swords and goes for his throat.


A punch to the neck, according to Raith, is an effective way to disable an opponent, and while she's physically incapable of hitting Epstein with as much force as someone as large as Jensen might, she makes up for what she lacks in power with speed and agility. If she's lucky, he won't even see the blow coming until he's choking on that goddamned candy bar.

If Aviators had been planning to get Eileen whatever she wanted for her birthday, the sight of him choking on the tip of a Snickers bar will have to be it. He immediately lurches back from the hit, making a wet choking sound as his eyes go wide behind the lenses of his glasses. One hand goes up to his throat, and he's lurching back against the far wall of the bedroom, squeezing at his throat before collapsing down onto one knee, making breathless retching sounds as he tries to expell the sticky lozenge of chocolate and caramel from his windpipe.

Down on both knees, he hunches forward, pawing at the ground, sunglasses sliding off of the bridge of his nose as they clatter to the floor, and he's trying to slap himself on the back, eyes watering and face bright red, the rest of the candy bar laying discarded by sheer necessity on the floor beside her.

Hey— he actually is choking.

Eileen doesn't know anything about forensics, but she suspects that if Epstein died here on the floor of her apartment from asphyxia via confectionery, then no one — not even Sarisa Kershner — would be looking at her too suspiciously. Fortunately for him, and perhaps unfortunately for the Briton, she also has a conscience. There's also the fact that he may be in possession of important information, and the Remnant's plan to extract the identity of the individual responsible for signing Gabriel's death warrant hinges on him being alive.

As Francois' people say, c'est la vie. It isn't really much of a choice.

Eileen's arms encircle Epstein's waist. She makes a fist with one hand, below his ribcage but above his navel, and grabs that fist with her opposite hand. A quick upward thrust presses into his upper abdomen. She's known how to do the Heimlich maneuver ever since she read about it. Never has she actually had to perform it.

Which largely results in some comical herking and jerking of Aviators throat as he stumbles around in her grip, clawing at his throat and choking on that single piece of candy as her hands push up against his diaphragm. It's one thing to know how to do the Heimlich, it's another to actually perform it and get the timing down, and each compression on Avi's abdomen has him wishing she'd just take a medical course for God's sake I am dying I will haunt you so

The wet choking gag that comes next is followed by the ejection of a saliva and mucus covered piece of wet chocolate that slaps on the floor of her apartment, and Aviators gasping for a wheezing breath as he doubles over and collapses his weight down onto his knees again. In the grand scheme of things there's more humiliating ways to die, but this incident could have been number 2 or 3 on that list.

"You— should start running." Is the first thing that hisses out of Aviators mouth as he hunches forward on his knees, holding his throat and sucking in breaths with the same craving for air that he had for candy a moment prior. "Before— I catch you."

Eileen hasn't moved very far. It's her turn to be at his back, her chin hooked over his shoulder, warmth curling against his ear. "And if you catch me," she asks, her voice thick and low, "what will you do?" This isn't something she'd normally solicit, but Epstein is still recovering and the window in which she has to act has not yet closed. Her arms remain around his waist, hands locked in front of him, her body pressing lightly against his.

John Logan really did let something out of its cage.

"There's nothing you can do to me that won't draw unwanted attention. Even if Kershner cleans up your mess, what do you think Raith and Holden will do if I go missing? Who do you think they're going to suspect?"

A dry and rasping laugh comes from Aviators as he breathes in a deep breath, then closes his eyes and shakes his head, reaching out to take those sunglasses and slide them over the bridge of his nose and up onto his face. "Maybe Danko did it… I hear he's good about killing people when it counts." He turns, looking over his shoulder to Eileen, and Aviators brows are furrowed in a wrinkled crease at the center of his forehead.

"Let go of me." There's an unusual tone of vulnerability when he demands she release him and likely implies her moving away as well. "If I really wanted to kill you I would have a long time ago, I'm not going to do that." A hand rubs at his throat again, voice breathy. "Maybe you're not as inept at saving people's lives when it counts as I'd heard."

It's a little like one of those games given to children on long road trips or plane flights where they have to find shapes hidden in a much larger picture — that cloud is a duck, the knot in that tree is a loaf of bread — only Epstein is a lot less subtle. Eileen loses track of how many barbs he places in his response, and focuses instead on making him uncomfortable. His tone doesn't go unnoticed, and neither does she move away.

She flattens her hands against his abdomen and slides her palms up his chest. "No," she says simply. "But while we're on the subject of Emile Danko, I'm going to give you one last chance to come clean with me, Avi. I don't think you'll like what's going to happen if you keep holding out. I'm not the only one who's interested."

Unfortunately the sharp elbow to Eileen's temple is Avi's first answer to her questions; an unexpected jerk of his upper body and the dizzying smash of blotches of color into her vision as she goes sprawling back onto the hardwood floor. "You don't get to threaten me," he hisses out as he just turns around on his hands and knees, crawling forward to where Eileen has been knocked back, moving up along her form and grabbing at one wrist, then another, forcing them up over her head before he comes to climb up and sit on her chest. He's not seated on her enough to restrict her breathing, but more to make a point about size and strength and the ability to threaten.

"I have a personal score to settle with that little bald shit myself." Avi growls as he leans forward, dark brows furrowed and reflection of Eileen's green-gray eyes in his sunglasses. "You don't get to play this game with me, because I'm the one who's always been in charge, and I'm the one who's going to stay on top." There's one quirk of his brows at that not-so-subtle double entrndre.

When Eileen's vision ceases to resemble an impressionist painting and the darkness around its edges have flooded away, she blinks to clear her eyes of the pinprick-sized motes of light that are dancing in front of her nose. She takes a few short breaths, still dazed, and does not wait for the pounding at her temple to subside before she curls her fingers, straining the tendons in the wrists Epstein has captured in his hands.

"You're not— on top— " Her body is tight beneath his, the muscles in her stomach and thighs contracting in self-defense as she instinctively tries to make herself as hard and compact as possible. Her back arches off the floor as much as her position allows, then edges back down again except for where her spine forms a small, natural curve just above her tailbone. "Autumn's bending you over—"

"Is he?" Aviators breathes out as he leans closer to Eileen, glasses sliding down from his face to reveal his eyes, "Because last I checked, I'm the one doing the bending. But…" he gives a shake of his head, flicking the sunglasses off of it to clatter onto the floor before his eyes settle back on Eileen's. "Why don't you educate me on exactly how I'm the one being screwed…" He leans in just a little closer, running his nose over the corner of her jaw, then up across her cheek, "then maybe I can educate you on how you're getting screwed…"

Judging from the tone in Aviators' voice and the way his grip tightens against her wrists, there's still that lack of subtlety in his voice and the open bluntness Eileen's come to expect from him. He's every part a predatory bastard that seems to be more than enjoying the little power play as he sniffs at the side of her head in her hair. "Is that lilac?"

Lilac, cheap tobacco and some combination of wood and resin that balances out the more floral notes of her perfume, which is something he can only smell up close. It may have been stronger earlier in the day before the icy rain and her body's natural oils diluted it. The lack of subtlety and open bluntness in Epstein's voice don't bother Eileen as much as what he's doing with his face — she turns her head away just enough to provide her with a few extra inches of space without giving him the pleasure of a full recoil.

To say she ignores his last question would be a lie. She can't not take notice of it. More accurately, she chooses not to answer. "People sit up and take notice when one of their associates is murdered by a government-hired assassin," she says on her next exhale, voice breathy but painstakingly even. "It doesn't end with me, or even with Jensen. I'm providing you with an opportunity to throw the hounds off your scent before someone more dangerous than I am starts baying for your blood."

"I've been down that road before…" Aviators whispers against the side of Eileen's cheek as he leans his head away from her, eyes trying to find hers and discern some additional meaning out of her words, or perhaps try and convey more with his— it's an effort in futility. "It never turned out well for the people who thought they could track me down and kill me." He lingers his stare on Eileen for a moment before releasing her wrists, leaning back and sliding off of her, in a crouch as he flexes one hand open and closed, watching the wiry young woman the way one might a wild animal let out from a cage.

"When you work for the CIA as long as I have, you start getting used to having people gunning for you." His eyes drift up and down her slowly, tongue sliding over the front of his teeth. "You know they almost offered Jensen his old job back?" One dark brow kicks up, and Aviators rises up to his feet to stand straight, hands coming to settle on his hips. "I told them they'd be wasting their breath…"

The first thing Eileen does is reach down and adjust her dress with one hand while the other braces against the floorboards as she pushes herself up into a sitting position, one elbow and both knees bent. "Smart decision." Her tone carries a note of resignation that it didn't before, but it isn't of the self-pitying variety — Epstein isn't going to cooperate, and she makes it sound like this is more unfortunate for him than in it is for her in spite of his hissed protests.

Dark hair curls at her throbbing temple and at the nape of her neck, creating patterns on her skin that resemble strokes from a calligraphy brush made by an unpracticed and inexperienced hand. It shines in the apartment's low light and draws the attention of his eyes away from her long, bare arms and run in the black nylon stockings she wears on her legs. "They should enjoy what little of it they have left if they had anything to do with Gray."

"Why're you so obsessed with him?" Aviators asks with a tightness to his voice, offering Eileen a scrutinizing look, "he was a selfish serial killer who's primary concern was his own life and own ass. He never cared for a shit about anyone around him, and if you'd read his psyche evaluations that I did, you'd know he's a class A sociopath that manipulates people into doing what he wants." Avi's eyes narrow slightly, and he moves to crouch down, picking up what is left of his candy bar. Suddenly he doesn't have such a craving for it anymore.

Looking at it with distaste, he exhales a sigh through his nose and turns to leave her bedroom. "So how old are you anyway?" He asks as though suddenly they're just having a friendly conversation and he's not just trying to screw with her for whatever sick sense of amusement he maintains. "I never did check… and I don't think you ever told me either." There's a clunk as he throws the candy bars into the waste basket in the kitchen.

"Gray was family," Eileen says, and does not elaborate any further than that. They're speaking two very different languages — she isn't going to be able to make him comprehend hers by speaking louder, which is what explaining her feelings would only amount to. She disappears behind the screen again, and the sound of her zipper sliding down the back of her dress can faintly be heard under the rain pattering against the apartment's window panes on the other side of their curtains.

When she emerges again, her bottom half is clothed in a pair of dark gray sweat pants, and she's in the process of pulling on a matching hoodie over her head. These aren't the clothes she'd normally sleep in, but there are still a few hours left before she's ready to consider going to bed.

The French doors are pulled shut behind her on her way out. "You knew it was my birthday today, but you didn't bother to look at the last two numbers of the date?"

"Maybe I just want you to tell me." Aviators admits, looking over his shoulder and regarding her change of clothes. "Maybe I just wanted to get off the topic of you dead little incestuous boyfriend." There's some enjoyment in the teasing there as he tucks his hands into the pockets of his jeans, shoulders slouching as brows furrow together and his eyes move past Eileen, the sunglasses left behind in her bedroom. Then, looking back to her, his expression seems to be considering of just how dangerous it might be to try and venture past the wee thing into her room again.

He huffs out a breath, then starts walking with heavy footfalls past her slowly. "You should pick better family, people like Jensen and Sylar are only ever going to let you down. I bet you've felt a lot better about yourself lately, helping those sick people…" There's a hesitant crook of his lips into a smile. "You know, it takes an addict to heal an addict. It's kind of poetic…" Bending down to pick up the sunglasses between two fingers Aviators looks back over at Eileen, sizing her up and down in a way that isn't for her combat prowess.

"You don't know how good you have it. You don't have any idea how loose of a leash I have you on right now, and it's for your own good. I don't give a shit if you play patty-cake with some underground railroad… I care when you start associating with the Vanguard. Then I see you throwing your life away in big heaping spoonfulls."

Twirling the sunglasses by their frame, Aviators considering Eileen for a moment before stilling that spinning motion. "The sooner you get over Sylar and the sooner you start moving on with your life the better off you'll be. Him, the Vanguard— all they've ever done for you is ruin your life."

If it weren't for the Vanguard, and for Sylar, Eileen would not have a life to ruin. Right now, however, she's more concerned about everything else that came right before the words big heaping spoonfuls. Asking how he knows about the Refrain addicts recovering in Grand Central Terminal only confirms her guilt — and, worse, their existence. She fixes Epstein with a sharp look.

"You make it sound as though you care about what happens to me," she observes, taking a seat on the arm of the chaise with her arms folded and small hands resting at either elbow. "You, who shoved me out into the line of fire in Mandritsara. You, who promised to provide me with answers about what your government did to me if I agreed to get friendly with you in the back of your jeep."

She straightens, spine rigid and muscles sore. The bandage that covers the bullet graze on her arm needs to be changed and the wound cleaned, but this is something that will have to wait for later. "You certainly didn't think to warn me that Aleksandr Kozlow was in New York City and targeting people who took part in Apollo."

"Your life changes when a little bald man tries to put a bullet in you…" Aviators admits with a raise of his brows, unfolding the arms of his glasses and sliding them back on. "Your little friend Emile Danko tried to kill me in Antarctica when he was done killing your little boyfriend, so my perspective has changed." Using his thumb to urge the glasses up the last bit of the way, Aviators' posture becomes slacked where he stands in the bedroom.

"Offer still stands," he admits with an arch of his brows, forgoing every single other comment she'd made. "You want to have a little roll in the sack," he nods his head back to the bed, "I'll make good on that old agreement of ours." A Cheshire smile spreads tauntingly from ear to ear, pearly white teeth bared in a disingenuous smile, but at least he is being sincere about one half of his agreement. He'll screw Eileen in one fashion or another, but whether or not he'll hold good to his bargain is about as hard to judge as his motivations for doing anything he has been lately.

He's been even more inscrutable than Raith normally is.

Eileen's gaze drifts past Epstein to the bed and its rumpled goose down comforter, clean sheets and the pillows at its head. It bears no evidence that a man lay bleeding to death on it not too long ago. When her eyes flick back to the one occupying the space, they aren't as hard as they were a few moments ago, but this isn't an indication of any emotional weakness — only physiological. She's very tired.

"You asked how old I was," she says then. "I'm young enough to be your daughter, though I imagine the same can be said about most of the women you meet. You couldn't keep up with me."

"I thought you had a thing for older men?" Avi offers with a quirk of one brow that seems more sarcastic than it really is. His shoulders rise, then slouch back down. "It doesn't matter, I know who you're working for now, and I really don't want to catch anything." It's a defensive barb, more so than anything as he moves towards the kitchen table in the middle of the dining room. One hand comes out to rest on it, staring at the back of his hand through the lenses of his sunglasses.

"I'll get out of your hair…" he offers in a quiet tone of voice, fingers pulling back slowly and curling against his palm when a hidden gaze is offered back to Eileen over his shoulder. "Looks like you're… behaving yourself, lately. If you need to find those drugs, there's a dealer named Ricky out on Staten Island, used to sell morphine to the owner of the Pancratium. Willing to bet he has methadone in supply."

Forefingers and thumb rub together, and Aviators tucks his hands back into the pockets of his unzipped leather jacket, moving towards the front door of the apartment. "I'll see you in a week…" It's almost a threat, more so than a reminder, but why keep playing this game of parole officer and parolee when he knows she's been breaking her terms, and seems to be letting her backslide; save for these fun visits.

If Eileen has her way, they might not be a problem after Monday.

She does not move to interfere when he begins to retreat, all her focus devoted to maintaining the closest expression she has to a neutral mask. She does not thank him, either. Whether the game is parole officer and parolee, cat and mouse or something else entirely, it's one that she doesn't enjoy playing. Slippery and wildly unpredictable, he isn't the same man who called himself a fan of the Remnant's work or even the one she served alongside and tried to protect from her teammates in Madagascar when what was living behind his eye came to light.

Making a mental note to tell Raith that they need to ask him how he survived Emile Danko when Gabriel did not, she simply watches him go. "Sooner," she promises.

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