Never Just a Cigar


brennan_icon.gif dante_icon.gif odessa4_icon.gif

Scene Title Never Just a Cigar
Synopsis Free Chinese food in the medical staff room brings together Doctors Brennan and Price, and Agent Lupinetti.
Date October 4, 2010

Suresh Center - Second Floor

The second floor is an idiosyncratic combination of small medical center and psychiatric hospital. In the back of the building are several lab rooms, equipped with everything from blood-test equipment to an MRI; despite its size, the facility is competitive in a features sense with many larger and more mainstream hospitals. The core is dominated by a multipurpose room, usually serving as a cafeteria but sometimes transformed into a game hall or ad-hoc movie theater; on either side of it are the two permanently-staffed nurse stations, the balcony at the front offering a view of Roosevelt Island and the opportunity for plenty of sunlight.

One wing of this floor has been given over to a medium-term ward, intended to house medical or psychiatric patients for only a few days, perhaps a couple of weeks at most. Most rooms are double-occupancy, particularly for medical patients, but in some cases they may be allocated as singles; all have large exterior windows and are surprisingly not painted in generic institutional shades. Rather, they each have their own personal theme, from ascetic to modern, oceanic blues to autumn reds and browns. Rooms are allocated primarily by what environment a patient feels comfortable in. The opposite wing is the Suresh Center's juvenile ward, designated for the care of Evolved children and teenagers coming to terms with their abilities. It has its own rec room, several single-occupancy rooms, and at the end of the hall a larger shared room for siblings, friends, and children who do better in company. As for the adult ward, the decor is engaging and inviting rather than blandly uniform.

Visitors are required to check in at one of the stations before going anywhere else on this floor, and in some cases may be provided with an escort for the duration of their visit.

Away from the nursing area goes a pregnant woman, brown hair up with wisps floating away, thumbing through a cellphone. Brennan stands at one of the nursing stations that she's moving away from, watching Michelle waddle with appreciation that only a husband can for the weighed sway of her form as she heads for the elevators. She brought lunch for her husband and for others on the floor, who dare to ask to partake of whatever is in the two big bags of take-out with the menu stapled to the tops.

Once she disappears into the double doors and is safely on her way down to waddle towards their vehicle - and with her the temperature shifts to the comfortable cool of the suresh center and not Michelle's personal climate - does he dare to look and see what was brought. With the promotion, is new responsibilities and part of that was the new… eccentric medical staff. Short of Luis and Julie, he had yet to see anyone eccentric. "Grab what you ladies want, I'm going to take the rest to the staff room, see if anyone else wants any" He had an hour before he needed to start looking in on people and see if there was anything that anyone needed.

Doctor Price has had just about enough interpreting of test results for one morning, and it's time for a break. Considering it's what most people traditionally cordon off as the lunch hour, her break if well-timed. When Brennan heads into the staff room with the remainder of his wife's delivery, Odessa's standing in front of the vending machine, feeding it enough quarters to buy herself a bottle of root beer.

Once successful, Odessa turns back with the intention of heading back out of the staff room and back to find some more hand-on patient work to do, but she stops short. The smell of food makes her realise how hungry she actually is. She shoves the sleeves of the white coat she wears over her grey wool skirt and yellow sweater up to her elbows and twists the cap off her drink carefully. Just enough to let some of the pressure out after its tumble to the bottom of the machine. "Someone must love you," she murmurs with a tip of her head toward the bags of fast food. The ponytail her white hair is tied back in wags with the movement. A white eye patch sits over her left eye, a red cross one might normally find on a vintage nurse's hat adorns the middle.

"You can be loved too if you want to grab a plate and dig in. Mish brought enough to feed an army and then some" Brennan offers the one eye'd physician he's seen around. Can't miss her with that eyepatch which he's sure if she goes near the adolescent wing, they love her for it. "It's chinese, and it's all fair game Doctor Price" He knows her name at least, he makes that effort to know as many as he can. "No one to bring you lunch?"

"Don't have anybody to bring me lunch," Odessa confirms easily, with a smile brought on by Doctor Brennan's generous offer to share. She's wasting no time in grabbing a Chinet plate and plastic fork from the room's supplies. Setting it and her soda aside, she peeks into the bags, looking through the offerings. "Oooh. Chicken fried rice. My favourite." A take-out box is drawn out and she dishes herself up a generous helping. "You'll have to thank your wife for me, Doctor Brennan. That's very nice of her to do this."

"I'll let Michelle know, I'm sure it will bring her delight. I think she was craving Chinese and decided to bring some by to share. In three hours it will be chocolate cupcakes with maple bacon crumbled on top. She wanted those just before curfew and I thank god there's a baker nearby or I'm sure that I would have been slaving over an oven and trying to save the life of a deflated cupcake"

Brennan dishes himself up some black bean chicken and offers to spoon some out for the time warper. "Is there even a way to save a deflated cupcake?"

"I have no idea," Odessa admits with a chuckle, holding her plate over to accept a scoop - but just one - of the black bean chicken. Obviously uncertain as to whether it's something she'll like. "I don't do much in the way of cooking. I can microwave, and boil water, and that's about the end of my cooking skill." She settles into a chair and digs in, an appreciative hum after the first bite. "Isn't it amazing how you don't realise how hungry you really are until you start eating? I should set a timer to remind me to eat or something." Judging by her skinny figure, the way her limbs are just a little too bony, Doctor Price must forget to eat on a fairly regular basis.

"Buy a watch, with an alarm on it, set it to go off every 6 or so hours and there you go" Brennan offers. "Or if you're here, have a buddy, someone who will call you up and say "Doctor Price, it's time for you to put your pippette's down and get thee to the snack machine!" He offers. It looks like chicken with a brown sauce and black flecks in it. Brennan seems to enjoy it. Some spring rolls are dumped out next, two for him, two for her. "I can make sure someone calls"

Odessa smiles and shrugs a shoulder upward. "Well, maybe that wouldn't be such a bad idea. I just… tend to get wrapped up into my work, you know?" Not to mention six hours for someone else might be closer to eight or ten for her if she's really wrapped up in something. She murmurs a thank-you for the spring rolls and tears open a packet of duck sauce, pouring it onto the plate for dipping. "What's new and exciting, Boss? Any interesting cases?"

Boss. It's still a little strange to hear it. "Nothing really. There's some Evolved Anonymous meetings going on tonight, I'm contemplating sitting on on one. There's the town hall conference tomorrow. Should be interesting. Will you be attending?" Duck sauce! He'll take some too, thank you very much. For now, the staff room seems empty, all the amenities to themselves. "I know I will. SUpport our colleagues. The negation drug is interesting, I'm eager to see the research on it"

"Oh yeah!" Odessa nods her enthusiastic agreement, passing a packet of the golden-orange sauce Brennan's way. At first, she quite line up with his open hand, but she corrects quickly. Depth perception is a funny thing sometimes. "I wouldn't miss it for the world. I'm very eager to see Doctor Luis in action. I haven't had much chance to pick his brain, so I'm really looking forward to hearing about his findings and conclusions from him first-hand."

"What do you think the adynotyline will mean for the evolved as a whole? It won't be approved till march at the earliest, and that's I'm sure, if it's fast tracked. I'm surprised that it's even been so fast, since it's only been five or so years since the evolved were ripped out of the closet. usually takes another five on top of that to approve a drug" But then again, it sounds like they're existing drugs and their use off label has just been discovered.

"I'm really not entirely sure what to make of it," the prematurely white-haired doctor confesses with a brief lift of her shoulders. Odessa takes a moment to chew a bite of food. "I think it's a great discovery. But I think it has the potential to be exploited and misused. That said, that doesn't mean it should be avoided, you know?"

Odessa's lips pull to the sides in an uncertain sort of expression, contorting a deep scar across her mouth with the pull of muscles. "I've done work with negation drugs before in the past. So it's not a wholly new revelation to me, but it's a big deal, having this stuff go through the FDA and possibly be approved for mass sale." She's been prescribing Haitian Pills for years. This feels more ominous, somehow.

"It'll be pills. That will be a relief for all I'm sure, as opposed to it being injectibles" Brennan shovels a mouthful of fried rice into his mouth. "It's like me, in a pill. I wonder how the rest of society will take it. Meta or non meta humans" Somewhere there's a rumor circulating, chinese food, in the second floor staff room. Free for the pouncing upon should someone desire such. "SHeets on that will surely be pulled like crazy. Can you already see all the pharmaceutical reps slavering? Adynotyline, written in small script on bags and shirts and pamphlets, the trade name in dig with bright cheery colors"

Rumors travel fast, as does the smell of a hot lunch down the hallway. The doorhandle leading to the main hallway clicks and Dante Lupinetti slips in, apparently being careful to not disturb any conversations. But seeing only two people in here gets an eyebrow raise of interest. Huh. 'Free food' should be translating to 'feeding frenzy'. That's weird… Ah, the boss is here. Maybe that's why. Even though he's not Dante's boss, the man gives the pair a curt nod. "Miss Price. Dr. Brennan." And zoom! He takes long, sedate strides right to the table of free food.

As he goes, though, his eyes are turned sideways and landed curiously on Odessa, a small, thoughful frown curling his lips. Is he staring at the eyepatch? Or something else?

"They'll come up with a cute name for it. Something small, simple. Easy to say." Odessa's nose wrinkles in faint distaste. "Probably something like Nobilify. Give it the connotation that it's better to be without an ability." And from her tone of voice, it's clear she doesn't agree with that at all.

When Dante comes to join them, the ire that was beginning to form metaphorical clouds over Odessa's head dissipates and she offers a bright smile. "It's been a long time since someone's called me Miss," she says good-naturedly. "I'm just impressed you recall my name at all, Agent Lupinetti." The smile falters a bit when she realises he's staring at her. "Is it the scars?" she asks, an attempt to keep her tone light, despite how she looks like she might want to hide her face from his scrutiny.

"I think it's the cross on the eyepatch" Brennan smiles at the snow haired doctor. "I'm thinking, that we should probably get a bunch of them, and switch em out. I know one of the teenagers on the ward was talking about how cool it is" He points out, "Nobilify though" He nods. "I could see that. You should propose that to Luis. If they haven't already chosen a trade name. Or go copyright it right now. If they want to use it, you could score millions off of it, making them buy the name from you" He points out with his plastic fork, gesturing to the food. "Eat up. The wife was good today. The wife was righteous and in her pregnant cravings brought chinese food for all. Pull up a seat agent Lupinet?" No, that's wrong, but he can't figure out what about it is wrong.

Dante's frown pulls downwards a little more when Odessa smiles at him, deepening those lines around his mouth. Does he ever smile? Maybe frowning is his version of smiling. "I'm good with names." He does file away the note that she prefers "Miss" to "Doctor", though. Getting to the food, he puts the table between him and the group, so he can serve up a plate without breaking line of sight with the pair of them. Her question gets a small shake of his head, and his eyes refocus on her, as if he'd just noticed her scars. "Not the scars, no."

When Brennan speaks up, Dante averts his gaze just briefly, pouring soy sauce over his fried rice. "Normalize," he offers, in a deadpan, "Though that sounds like something out of 1984. So perhaps not." Coming out from behind the table, he seems to scrutinize Brennan, then the seat…and with a final shake of his head, he comes over and silently sits at the table with the group. One more glance over to Odessa. "The cross-eyepatch suits you," he says curtly before diving into a spoonful of fried rice.

It's somewhat obvious that Odessa isn't quite sure how to take the backhanded compliments, but she doesn't say anything about it. She just dips her head down to focus on eating for a few moments. "I doubt Doctor Luis would be interested in my input for a trade name," she says softly between bites. "He's a very brilliant man." A fact that perhaps is something that intimidates her. "I'm sure he'll come up with something himself, if he hasn't already."

Odessa's head lifts again, her curious, if not puzzled smile fixed in place again. "Do you ever show any signs of cheer, Agent Lupinetti? It's free food. You don't have to look so dour."

"I found that most people who work for the institute have their smiling centers of their brains removed. Must be some sort of operation that they do immediately upon signing. Like a bonus. Harper must be immune" Brennan smiles to Dante, hoping it might put the man at ease. And thank you Odessa with the save. Lupinetti. Lupin, and confetti, he'll remember that. "They'd be crazy to call it normalize. Nobilify though" He really does seem partial to the name. "It'll put me out of business, so, Lupinetti, besides free food, what brings you to this floor?"

"Do I look dour?" Dante asks, and his more-or-less neutral expression changes to that ponderous frown again. A few specks of rice stick to the corner of his mouth, and he bats at them with the tip of his tongue. Brennan's summary of Institute personnel gets another sideways look from Dante, and he taps his fork against his plate for a few moments before scooping up another bite, deciding not to comment on that in particular. If Brennan has put Dante at ease at all, it isn't showing. "Mostly the free food, however…" He lowers his bite of fried rice, sitting up and turning his eyes to the ceiling. "I'd heard that someone else recently was strong-armed onto the Registry. I was hoping to maybe run into them, and sympathize."

"Ooohhhh. Yeah, that makes total sense!" Odessa taps a finger against her chin and lower lip as Brennan explains the smilecentrectomy Institute agents receive upon enlisting. She laughs softly and then turns her attention back to Dante. "You do a bit." Look dour, that is. "I smiled at you, and you frowned. I mean, I'm not going to say that I haven't had that affect on a person before, but usually they have to get to know me better first." She teases. Mostly.

To his question about registration, Odessa turns to her boss. "Did you register willingly? Agent Harper handed me a card and gave me a pat on the head and sent me on my way. I didn't even have to fill out any paperwork." She makes it sound so simple, and like it was a favour done for her… Except for the bitter undercurrent to her tone. Sounds like Dante found someone to sympathise with.

"I think I'm going to call the third floor the smilectomy ward." Another joke, hoping that it might bring something other than a frown or neutral on Dante's face. "Though, I think they either mis-scheduled mine or… don't feel I need one." But involuntary registration. Odessa being handed her card with no action on her part doesn't really surprise Brennan. Harper seems the kind of guy who can get that sort of stuff done.

"It's the law. I sympathize but… It's the law. At least it's not just people who are meta anymore. So it's across the board discrimination. Maybe some day, eventually, it will be voluntary, for now though, we're stuck with… carrying around an extra piece of ID." Brennan offers some duck sauce to Dante. "Duck sauce? I promise it won't squwak at you and ask you if you have Afflack."

Dante just eyes Odessa for a moment…and the corners of his lips start to curl up. You can almost hear the creaking of ungreased hinges. "I'm good at getting a good feel for people very quickly. Maybe I picked up on your true nature?" he deadpans. Ah, so he can crack a joke!

When Odessa discusses her procedure for being Registered, Dante just snorts, wiping at the corner of his mouth with the back of his hand, finally dislodging those rice grains. "Harper introduced me at a meeting as Registered. It was the first I'd heard of it. When I returned to my desk, my Registration card was there." He remarks in an aside to Brennan, that smile of his gone again, "Maybe our capacity for compassion and civility are removed once we start making six figures?" However, he taps out his spoon and turns a somewhat angry look to Brennan. "Does anyone really think that? That it's "just a card"? Because I feel like I now have a scarlet letter sewn into my arm, and I'm sure I'm not the only one." Still no smile for the duck sauce offer.

"Touche, Agent Lupinetti." Odessa dips her head in acknowledgement of the point scored when he manages that small smirk and hit to her character. "Who's making six figures?" she asks with a quirk to her own lips. "I'm certainly not. I wish." Though truth be told, she wouldn't know what to do with that kind of money. Besides incredibly frivilous things.

When the conversation turns back to the serious matter of registration again, Odessa starts to frown. "It is in no way just a card. I'd say it's more like a gold scar than a scarlet letter, though." A glance is afforded to Brennan, but then shifted back to Dante. "I don't think he," and her head is tipped to the side to indicate her boss, "has the experiences with the Company that you and I do." She spares a quick glance up to the doorway, content to continue their conversation when she sees no one's loitering around.

"It's never just a card, the same as a cigar is never just a cigar when wielded by a beautiful woman. That and I sure hope that my compassion and civility didn't fly out the window at my first six figures. If so, I wasn't born with either. I must be faking it pretty good." A grim line to his mouth, he scrapes around his plate. "You can not like it, like the rest of us, but it's the law. Same as I tell everyone else. We have to obey the law. But we can work to change it too and now, I haven't had the experience with the Company. So I guess I can't very well commiserate. I've been registered since it was first put into play." Brennan tips his head a fraction the side, a subtle lift of his shoulders. He settles plastic fork and spent sauce packets on his plate. "Lemme get out of your way, so you can both discuss how life has changed for you. I should get back to rounds and seeing if I can't find the rest of my medical staff and patients."

"You make six figures? I wouldn't have guessed. You're so polite." There's the smallest of smirks twitching up the corner of Dante's mouth, just briefly. "It wasn't the law up until recently. In the Company, we enjoyed amnesty from the Registry." Dante idlely stabs at an eggroll on his plate. "This let us do our work, focusing our energies on doing our jobs well, without worrying about angry mobs looming over our shoulders. Or being judged as "cheaters" because we have Abilities to help us." His jaw snaps closed and he frowns, clearing his throat. Getting a bit TMI there, Dante. As Brennan stands, he makes no move to stop him, eyes on the table and nodding slowly. "Have a good one, Doctor Brennan. Best of luck."

Odessa winces and eyes Brennan's movements apologetically. "I'll check in with you later, Boss. Thanks again for lunch." Even if it is Michelle's doing. "I'll be back out on the floor shortly." No rest around here. She doesn't pursue Dante's line of conversation any further, lapsing into a bit of uncomfortable silence as she eyes him across the table.

"When you have three kids and another on the way and live in a brownstone in New York? You bet your ass I better make six figures. But I don't make it on account of the institute" Brennan quips as he folds his plate in half, placing it in the trash. "Don't let your bitterness become a seed in your soul Lupinetti. It's not good. It never turns out good when you do. Take your time Doctor Price. Free chinese should be savoured." He flashes her a thin smile and is soon, heading out the door.

Dante taps his fork irritably against his plate, watching Brennan leave, and leaving that bit of advice uncommented on. His mouth twists to the side, like it's trying to hide from comments bubbling up inside him.

When the door closes, his gaze slides back to Odessa, and he shares a gaze with her for a long while, in that silence. Seems like he lives in uncomfortable silences, as the man actually seems to relax a bit. "…that eyepatch does look good on you," he offers, after a few long moments.

Odessa lets out a heavy sigh once the door closes again and Brennan's departed. It's been a while since she's had to worry about sucking up to a boss. And this one can negate her ability, which makes it extra worrisome for her. "Thanks," she offers quietly in response to Dante's compliment. "I just wish I didn't need it at all." Suggesting, perhaps, that it's a new thing. None of the scars on Odessa's face look fresh, however. No recent injuries, as far as the agent can tell.

"You're not the first person to wish they could change something about themselves. Don't let it get to you," Dante says simply, like it were the easiest thing in the world to do. Speak for yourself, chiseled-features and body-like-an-Olympic-athlete. His eyes slide over her face, slowly tracing each of those scars. The only change in his expression is his jaw as he chews, taking another bite as he goes over them, as if he were exploring a road map. "How did you get the scars?"

Odessa's gaze lowers to the table and to her dwindling mound of fried rice when Dante studies her face. A blush creeps into her face, self-conscious at the attention. "I tried to kill someone and she killed me right back," she responds, as if her answer makes any sense in that form. "My target got the better of me. The Company trained me to be a doctor. I had to learn to be a killer on my own." She can only hope the man across the table understands the necessity of murder in their lines of work. All Company agents get that, right?

Some people understand the necessity of murder. Some people just don't understand what the big deal is in the first place. It's up to her to guess which Dante is, as he just seems to frown even more deeply at her explanation. "It's good that you survived. The doctor training paid off, I assume?" He works on cutting his eggroll in half with a flimsy plastic fork. "They gave you no training in taking out a criminal? So this wasn't an official mission?"

"Oh no." Odessa shakes her head, her ponytail bobbing and brushing against her neck in a way that irritates her enough to bring her hand up to rub at the side of it. "I did this long after my tenure with the Company. This was something I… did for the betterment of others. I only wish I'd succeeded." She smiles, but it's especially rueful. "The Institute found me nearly dead," or all dead - she isn't quite sure on that, "and in exchange for my life, well… Here I am."

"Hmmm…That's unfortunate." The mission? Her failure? That the Institute found her? Dante's not saying as he spears that half of eggroll, yet doesn't raise it up to his mouth. He seems to be completely entranced by Odessa at the moment, or at the very least, by the stories her scars are telling him. His jaw slowly works side to side, and he's leaning forward just slightly. "What brought you to risk your life for others?" he asks, seeming genuinely curious all of a sudden. It's that detective mindset: You just have to have answers.

"Yeah," Odessa agrees. Possibly with any of it. All of it. When he asks his next question, however, she lifts her gaze to him again, sitting back in her seat. "Did Agent Harper put you up to this?" she asks suspiciously. Her brows knit in confusion, and wariness. "Did Doctor Broome?" Someone isn't used to people taking such a keen interest in her motivations.

The look of intense concentration falters, and 'Dessa gets a brief glimpse of Dante being caught by surprise. Despite his usually stoic expression, that emotion flashes on his face like a neon light. "What? No!" he says, disgust turning his lips, "Why? Haven't you been asked about your past before? Being a hero isn't something that comes naturally to most people."

Odessa still appears distrusting of Dante, though there's a flicker at his surprise. Like she believes it could be genuine. "People don't usually ask about me like that." Like how? Like with any sort of real interest, and without any sort of threat behind it, perhaps. "I'm no hero, Agent Lupinetti. I save lives as a doctor, but that doesn't make me a hero. My target…" She presses her lips together, thinking about what she wants to say before she says it. "My target's motives were… Dangerous. And the people that surround her don't realise what a danger she is to them. To the very people she says she protects."

A pause. Odessa slides her food away, no longer hungry. "She's a poison. Slow acting. The kind you don't know is in your blood until it's too late." Perhaps a poetic analogy, all things considered. "I also hated her." She lifts her chin a little. "It wasn't meant to be quick. She wasn't meant to die well. I am no hero."

The fork hangs loose in Dante's hand, his brows furrowed into deep, familiar crags as Odessa pours this out to him. He looks vaguely uncomfortable throughout, though it's hard to tell with that stoic frown on his face. As she nears the end of her tale, though, he lets the fork drop from his hand and he raises his elbows to the table. Fingers lace over his lips and he leans in. All he needs now is a beard and round, opaque white glasses to complete the Gendo look.

Casually, Odessa crosses one leg over the other, smoothing out a wrinkle in her grey wool skirt before settling with her hands clasped over her knee. She looks across the table to the man with a half-lidded gaze. Almost a challenging one. Making him uncomfortable - the way she had previously felt uncomfortable - seems to restore some of her confidence. "Satisfied, Agent Lupinetti?"

Dante's eyes narrow at Odessa's return challenge, the lower half of his face still shielded by his hands. He's leaning forward heavily on the table, his cool gaze boring into her like drills. "Never. It's part of my job description. I can't be fully satisfied until I have all the answers. But…if you don't want to talk anymore…" And suddenly, the spell is broken as Dante sits up, eyes dropping to his plate as he spears the second half of the eggroll, and pops it in his mouth. Chew chew chew chew… Mmmm, sweet and sour!

Doctor Price seems content to watch the man eat for a few lingering moments. No, she isn't even close to finished with this one yet. He's got her interest. "Why are you here, then? Just because the Institute absorbed the Company and you have nowhere else to go if you want to retain your amnesty?"

Dante shrugs briefly at Odessa's guess. "Is that so strange?" he asks, eyes still not rising to meet hers as he seems focused mostly on eating his food. Though he spills a little of the fried rice, cursing as it tumbles down his silk tie, leaving a goopy trail of soy sauce leading to his lap. Muttering, he looks up and around for a napkin, holding his tie away from his light blue work shirt.

It's funny how a person's mind will play something out how they expect to see it. Like the expected trajectory of falling rice laden heavily with soy sauce onto an expensive tie. And the instinctive need to reach out and keep further damage from occurring to the rest of one's suit.

When Odessa Price's hand snaps out in front of her, however, none of that happens. "You'll lean into it. Hold still," she instructs. She checks the edge of the table to ensure there's no food particles or sauce spills to transfer to her yellow scoop-neck sweater as she leans out across the table with a napkin to pluck the gob of rice up from where it's suspended in mid-air.

Dante is already moving to lift his tie up, to inspect the damage, to brush away the dirty bits. He sees it all clearer than most, a perfectly formed storyboard in his mind that is never inaccurate. So when it doesn't come to pass, he jerks in surprise, kicking his chair back like he were trying to catch himself from falling. "Holy hell…" he mutters, trying to blink away that feeling of mental vertigo as he just stares at the suspended clump of soggy rice. Glancing up at Odessa, there's a mixture of relief and gratitude in his face…which transforms to a straight-faced stare as he doubletakes to the sight of her sweater neck hanging low, giving him a perfect view of…well, she has nothing to be ashamed of, in his book. Clearing his throat loudly, Dante searches for that napkin again, carefully avoiding his gaze as he holds it up under the floating rice, in case she misses any. "Thank you. That's a quite incredible talent you have."

"You're welcome," Odessa offers with a smile. One that turns into a smirk when she catches where he's staring. A brow hikes up, and she flicks her gaze down briefly, then back up to him as if to ask you like what you see? When she settles back into her seat, she makes a point of tugging the hem of her sweater down just a little bit more than she needs to just to smooth it out. "No point in keeping my ability secret amongst us," meaning the Institute and its agents, "if it's just going to be in some file we all have access to anyway, non?"

That tugging pulls Dante's eyes back up to the exposed skin just below her collarbone, like his pupils were attached to her fingertip by a string. "Uh, yeah…" he says, vocabulary leaving him suddenly as his eyes just don't want to pull away from her just yet. He's in danger of spilling that fried rice again, with the way he's scooting it around on his plate with his fork. Yeah, he likes what he sees.

Odessa's smile widens. Maybe Doctor Sheridan was right after all. Maybe she does still have it. "Are you quite all right, Agent Lupinetti?" Oh yes, she's enjoying this. Immensely. "Careful, there. You'll spill again. The first save is free, but the rest is on you." Perhaps literally.

Dante blinks once. Twice. And the third time, he gives his head a small shake, finally managing to pull his gaze off the flirtatiously exposed skin before him. His ears have turned a dull pink, now, even as he forces his eyes up to Odessa's, jaw set firmly and determinedly. "Fine. Just fine. You? You look a bit hot…" And he winces. Dammit, it just slipped out. Sighing, he drops his fork on his plate. "I should…probably be getting back to work."

That's what she said, Dante.

"Do I?" Odessa will be taking that as a compliment, thank you. "I feel fine. You should maybe consider making an appointment with me, however, if your symptoms persist." She adopts a posture more casual than coy now, as if she's truly only talking about the agent's health. "My hours are very flexible."

Dante brows furrow, and he looks up at Odessa, eyes narrowing at her suspiciously. Damn lax women's dress code in this place. It should be tightened up…too many distractions! "An appointment?" he asks, incredulously, starting to gather his garbage onto his half-finished plate. "For what? A physical? You don't need to put your hands on me to…er…" His ears darken a little as he turns towards the trashcan, dumping away the rest of his lunch.

The woman wears her best innocent expression, the effect of which is somewhat ruined by the scars and the patch over her eye, but the intent is still there. "To do what?" Odessa asks with a bat of her lashes. As if she really did have no idea what he's inferring from her suggestions. "I'm responsible for the health and the well-being of the agents of the Institute. Distraction such as you are exhibiting is undesirable in an agent of your status." She shrugs her shoulders and pulls her plate back toward her, suddenly having rediscovered her appetite, it seems.

Dante wipes his hands off over the trash can, looking over at Odessa with that same, suspicious frown from before. Though there's something in his eyes, a little incongruity that leaves him watching her a bit longer before he speaks up. "I'm pretty sure the distraction isn't medical. So I really should get back to work. Goodbye, Miss Price. Maybe I'll see you again soon." Perfect! Short, curt, to the point, and perfectly confident. Only, that speech is ruined as, before he turns away to head towards the door, Dante's eyes flick down to linger on Odessa's cleavage once more, seeing that excellent view he had in his mind's eye. Dammit! So close!

When that frown touches his lips again, it seems it's all it takes for Odessa to give up. Her head dips down again and she starts to stir up what's left of her fried rice. She even looks a little dejected, her shoulders slumping, and she exhales a deep breath almost as an audible sigh. She doesn't catch the way he looks back at her again. Or where his gaze is drawn. Her hand comes up in a half-wave without lifting her gaze. Her farewell is spoken with none of her previous good cheer or enthusiasm. "Good day, Agent Lupinetti."

That dejected tone to her voice makes Dante stop in the doorway and glance back, a conflicted look on his face to match that frown. Still, he doesn't let himself linger for long, and the door bumps shut behind him.

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