No Choice


lancaster_icon.gif vincent_icon.gif

Scene Title No Choice
Synopsis Lancaster's pulled strings and Vincent is on time and it's all smooth sailing from there until it isn't.
Date June 27, 2011

Textile Factory 17

It's summer in New York City. And so naturally, it is raining.

It's a light, clingy kind of water, barely perceptible to the eye until seen against the backdrop of dark buildings and disturbing the shallow puddles on the ground. Warmth and the low cloud cover makes for a muggy day, and life goes on. Lancaster has been in jungles like this. Unnecessary sunglasses have been tucked into the V-neck of her shirt, hay-blonde hair brassier beneath the slight damp and short as a bristle at the nape of her neck. Her eyes on the garages yonder, currently closed, unlike how they had been open and streaming smoke from detonation and destruction, figures in the smoke in masks and running.

And she twitches her attention away from it in a pivot, as if catching herself staring. She is not prone to those kinds of dreams. Her dreams usually involve eating tomato soup which opens the portal to the racetracks wherein she races the President in the sprint event, or some similar configuration of events. Not the ones where she wakes up remembering her own aches and pains, the sharpness of a bullet wound and the reek of smoke. This is about now. And right now, there's paperwork to cover.

Vincent no longer has a car of his own.

He arrives in a yellow cab.

On time, rather than early, the crunch of tires on gravel amplified through the humidity long before it's rolled to a stop and he's let himself out of the back with less hesitation than most let show on their way across a grocery store parking lot. Into the lion's den.

A few paces away, he looks first to the same garages, bleakly, blackly unblinking and effectively providing the illusion to any outside observer that there might something scandalous scratched into one of the closed doors.

Or a ghost.

He's bald. Naturally. Water edges over the stubborn set of his brow and down the sides of his distinctive face in thin, fragile streams, clinging close to his profile to soak warm into the sooty black of his suit. Slower to look away than she was, he sizes her up once he's near enough that it becomes necessary to account for the height difference with a lift at his eyes rather than his chin.


"Glad you could make it," is an entirely neutral configuration of words by means of greeting, and delivered curtly. In some contexts, it might hold the implication that the other person is late. Vincent is not late. It is more likely that Adrianne was wondering whether he would show up at all.

Much like she did upon waking from shared dream, Lancaster doesn't acknowledge his stare for the garage doors, for all that this place doesn't feel as comfortable as it once did. There is even the smell of smoke about her once the damp of the rain becomes normal, and the evidence of the crushed cigarette a pace away from her boot, smeared by heel. "Welcome to the Factory," she says anyway, turning and headed for where the gates are opened to the driveway into the main building, away from the vehicle facility. It's a lengthy walk, one that could well be done silently if Lancaster is left to her own devices, unless it becomes a crushing presence and in need of breaking.

"So am I," says Lazzaro, which might have passive aggressive implications if he didn't sound genuinely, uneasily relieved to have made it as far as he has without the cage coming down. He is clipped without being curt, more expectant of (and resigned to) certain moods than most.

For instance, he recognizes that his stare goes deliberately unacknowledged and says nothing, a distracted glance down after her freshly smeared cigarette when he falls into step half a pace behind indicative of the wrong kind of restless energy.

Vincent is anxious.

And if the walk is long enough for a conversation that they won't be having, it's certainly long enough for him to shuffle out and light up a cigarette for himself as they go.

It's only when they're inside that Lancaster talks.

"I've signed a contract as Director. Temporary position, until I can one day be king."

The inside of the Factory isn't cosy enough to discourage smoking. High ceilings and cement and steel. It is, after all, a factory, with a shooting range this way and offices up here. "Kershner probably spat blood — she was lobbying for one of her's to take it— Dooley, the medic, for Christ's sake— but what can I say, I have a colourful résumé, and I could probably take her in a fight. She's your size." Speaking of size, long legs make for a fast journey, distracted into unnecessary briskness.

"Meaner," Vincent judges around his cigarette without indignation, his stature not as much of a sore point as his legal status lately has a tendency to be. "Both of the, I mean." He keeps pace, despite her, clip paced quick and even. Not quite a military stride; there's a hitch at side that pushes his gate subtly off show-bred precision. "I've heard Dooley's better with dogs."

He's already burned enough off his smoke to flick ash fine across the facility floor for whatever janitor to mop up later. "Congratulations. Also."

She doesn't respond in words — a flash of a sidelong glance, the upturn of a half-smile. It's the ones that go all the way that need suspecting. "Kershner's got business in Washington, or the dentist, otherwise I'm sure she'd be throwin' you a party too." Stepping onto the designated section of ground that isn't ground, turning into black-grey steel with scoring marks in it and yellow paint faded on the edges. The side of Lancaster's fist smacks a red button, and all at once, they're moving up on the elevator better designed for machinery and stock in wooden crates.

It's more populated, up here. A man and a woman, freshly verging into their thirties, pace on by with the exuberant trotting energy of obedient labradors, decked in casual training clothings, issued T-shirts and sweatpants. They glance, shiftily, and Lancaster taking a step as if to knock them off their path doesn't so much as send them cowering as it does make the girl start out of her way, moving faster.

Fun to be found. When they arrive at the door that is still labelled ELISABETH HARRISON under DIRECTOR in disuse, Adrianne is sliding it out of place with a finger as she heads inside.

Inside, there's a view of the docks. Raymond Praeger is observing it out of a lack of anything better to do, sans tie as if judging such attire inappropriate, here, but still decked in a grey suit and formal shirt, his shoes as shiny as his glasses and the top of his head. He turns quickly, but not nervously, at the sound of Lancaster's entrance, expecting who falls in behind.

Vincent is wearing a tie.

He usually is until he's had cause to remove it. Or someone else has.

It's striped dark to match the somber shade of his suit, the ashen, greenish grey of his dress shirt just saturated enough to stave off impressions of funeral formality black on white tends to evoke.

He looks much more like himself in it, at a glance. It's the dryness in his mouth that's wrong, or the way it takes him a second to work his brows into incredulous (silent) question if, What's that supposed to mean? after missing a perfectly good opportunity to peep that one recruit's ass on its bouncy retreat.

Then Lancaster opens the door and he is slow, slow, slow to step in sideways after her. Tireder and greyer himself: flecks of silver stand out in sharp contrast to the darker bristle at his chops for all that his eyes are tarry black as ever in their current state of being caught soundly off guard. He sinks back on his heels, and rather than say hello, looks first to Lancaster.

Director Lancaster.

Who isn't wearing a tie, but she does have some nice boots on.

"Don't look at me," is her first order of the day, delivered wry, and she strolls on into the office which has already been cleaned out and refilled, with a laptop discarded on the desk pinning down The Paperwork that is probably recognisable on account of being concealed inside a Manila Folder. It's stamped and everything. Lancaster picks it up off the desk, flicks through it. "It's not my fault that the only person who had nothing else better to do to oversee this happened to the Secretary of Hugs. Sir," is added, with a tipped head in Praeger's direction, who has a smile that could be wound as tight as clockwork.

Which doesn't mean it's insincere. It's just that the last time he spoke to Vincent, he was asking him to retire, before a window was broken. "I can't stay long," Raymond corrects, his hands knit together. "I just wanted to say hello, and see this for myself. Your sense of adventure, Vincent, has never failed to please me."

In other news. Carol Praeger died. Ramrod stiff from collar to hipbone, Vincent follows directions too well and has taken to eyeing Raymond the same way he eyed the garage. Unsettled. Mind elsewhere, teeth shown at a sliver that doesn't even begin to qualify as a smile in return.

If he wasn't still damp from the weather, they might see him start to sweat.

He can feel it, though. In a cold prickle at the back of his neck and a turn in his gut that doesn't belong there because 'turning' is not a thing his guts tend to do. "I'm not much for 'adventure,'" he tells Praeger at length, slivering past (gentle) reproach by something like.

A hair.

A respectful hair.

Which is followed by an even more conspicuous pause.

"Adrianne, can we — speak outside for a moment?"

There's a moment where Praeger and Lancaster glance at each other, as if trying to silently work out what is better — for Lancaster to fulfill request, or Praeger to maybe— "Allow me. My EA's been trying to get a hold of me for the last hour, God bless her." He even pulls out his phone and everything, and for all that it's probably a true story anyway, a flicks a glance— over the top of his glasses— at Vincent that holds some kind of admonishment in it, even as he states, "I'll be just outside. Excuse me." Brooking no argument, Lancaster remaining impassively mute during this exchange, she only hawkishly watches Praeger leave until he clears the door and shuts it with a clip of movement, almost inaudibly.

"We could have waited 'til after he was gone," she says, file dropped and shouldering her way out of her jacket, flinging it aside in a sweep in elaborate brandish, before her arm drops, and her eyebrows raise at him.

It's a look Vincent's seen before, for all that he's rarely been on the receiving end of it. He sets his jaw and bears the brunt of it, soaking as much as he feels he deserves and allowing the rest to roll off his back in a nod of appreciation for Praeger having excused himself.

Which just leaves Lancaster and her raised eyebrows for Lazzaro to choose his words carefully for. Except that neither is the type to be easily swayed by spin.

Which is why he doesn't wait very long at all after the door's clicked closed to settle on, "I can't do this."

"Can't do what?"

The question is flippant, nothing behind it — Lancaster literally isn't sure what he means and unshy about asking, decidedly picking up the file again as she paces forward a few steps, before planting a sit on the edge of the desk and squinting across the room at him. Whatever it is, he isn't joking, because it is. Vincent Lazzaro.

Something about the sit tenses him up even further — enough that he's incredulous at his own reaction: envy.

Also: bitterness. He scuffs a hand up to scratch at his nose before he can quash restless impulse and even holds his breath for a beat or two before he can nod to the file she has in hand. That. This. Everything.

"I can't come back," elaborated all the same for the sake of sidestepping deliberate misunderstanding, he closes his eyes. "I know you saw what I saw."

Reaction is quick to spark up at initial answer, only to freeze at that assertion of what he knows and what she saw, and it's enough of a hesitation that Vincent can probably cast away any lingering doubts that Lancaster did, in fact, partake in what he saw. Then, the folder is gesticulated with, a broad kind of sweep, as if indicating not only itself but the building they're in, the FRONTLINE Manhattan headquarters themself when Lancaster says, "This isn't the kind of thing you can get cold feet on, Vince. You don't know anything about what I saw, what are you talking about? More importantly— "

And she doesn't even sound angry, despite the fact that she is close to being so, or is, and is demonstrating a rare moment of keeping it in check as she quite reasonably asks, "What choices do you think you have?"

Vincent hears rather than sees the swoop of the file. Feels the wind on his face before he lets his eyes lid back open, harder than before. "I've never been to this facility," he says, pause leaden with skepticism at his own expense. Self-aware. "But I know the layout."

Given the specific nature of her ability, it may be brazen of him to take a step towards her in a room without witnesses, but he's less hesitant about physical advance than he is what he has to say. "You were with me," is almost like an invitation into admission. Even if he already knows, according to his eyebrows. Tired. Unhappy.

"I don't know. But we won't be enough. Here. With them. At some point, everything goes wrong."

Physical advance is met with standing ground in turn and a certain amount of pulling herself out of a natural slouch, file gripped between firm fingers and blue eyes gone narrow. Lancaster's mouth twists at that bid for admission, gaze dropping briefly to her boots, then on towards the files as if considering them. The scent of burning is simultaneous as the thin tongues of smoke coming up, even if flames don't burst — the bleached cardboard blackens like an ink stain, orange embers like the tip of a cigarette, and she pulls back before the fire alarm can be set off, pacing away towards the window which is juddered open.

Contract and manila both get fanned out in singed pieces, to drift out onto the courtyard beneath. Her expression has been reasonably neutral throughout, but hard. "All for a dream," she speculates. "That's awful Disney of you." One final burst of flames out the safety of the window has the rest of it ashing away, and now Lancaster moves back towards him, dusting hands off and the blue of her eyes looking no cooler than before.

It probably takes a lot more fire than that to vent properly. "What're you doing, running away? Got another life plan I didn't know about before— I pulled strings, and I hate that shit. You need to let me in or you need to fuck off, you know that, right?"

Vincent looks evenly to the blackened folder before she paces to the window with it, not wary so much as aware, nostrils pulled briefly thin with tension and the scent of burning. He's still occupying the same span of floor when she returns, grim as a rook, drawn in his suit and tie. Sense of humor worn to the bone, he plays the part of Disney Princess with a hooded look for the jab that's harder than it has a right to be.

Considering that she isn't exactly wrong.

"I know," sounds honest because. He has pulled strings before. And he does know. And he does want to let her in. He also wanted to sign the papers she just set on fire and flugn out the window. Life is hard. "Should I?"

Splayed hands communicates a decent amount of uncertainty about the open-endedness tagged into that. Lancaster has told him a few things. But mostly, it's a gesture of a freedom from responsibility, blown away like the contract and the stamped folder it came in. "Run away? I think better of you for that. Let me in? Probably. Fuck off?" Wee-eell. Lancaster tips her head, as if genuinely considering letting that one sink on home, before she leaves it as it is, leveling him again with a glare that fails to set him ablaze.

"I did this 'cause I wanted to help you."


Could stand to sound more like 'thank you.'

Except that Vincent's never been much for charity, giving or receiving. He believes her, anyway — or wants to enough that apathy can bridge the gap where reason would rather hedge its bets. Being a terrorist against your will is very lonely.

"There are people… here." 'Here.' Which 'here,' he fails to clarify, but the pause surrounding the word seems to indicate a very general kind of 'present.' Not in the room, necessarily. Not even in the facility. "Who have a stake in ensuring that things go better this time than they did before." Vincent hesitates there, feeling around the increasingly tatty edges of his sanity. It's not that weird. He used to be part of the agency that dealt with these things. "In their time."

Eyebrows drawn together hard enough for engraven lines to form, Lancaster— listens. Listening. It's what you have to do to your crazy boyfriend-like figure when demanding he ~let you in~, but her face can at least show equal parts cynicism as it does concentration. Her chin dips a little at this punchline, remaining silent even once it's her turn to contribute to the conversation. "Their time," she repeats, after a while. "Where this place is on fire, and— " Whatever and is doesn't get the light of day before it's hinted at, a canine-ish head twitch as if to physically get away from it. They shared a dream, and Vincent had others without her as well.

It doesn't mean he is unique. "Is it better yet?" she asks, after a few seconds of being unsure what to say to that.

Vincent shakes his head, the gesture rendered slow by his own surreal cynicism. No. It isn't better yet.

The same sentiment lifts his right hand to rub over his face, paired fingers pushed from the bridge of his nose to the bite of a scar at his temple. Last of all, he looks after the door Praeger went through. Not better.

"I can't play both sides," is more or less the crux of it. "The backlash won't be worth it. All or nothing."

"Christ, Vincent."

But she doesn't disagree. Ashes attest to that. She glances back out the open window as Vincent scouts out the door, back to him and anger replaced with a slower burning weariness. "Then you should go. Out of this building. I never wanted to dig you out of burning rubble anyway. I'll deal with dad," and a nod of her head follows his prior glance, casual about it — her stare has more punch to it than even Praeger's skeptical looks up and down.

"It was nice that you did," says Vincent. Dig him out, he means. "Slightly emasculating." Moreso than usual. He means. Or must mean, with a similar look paid back across her new office. Up and around. LIKE ALL THE OFFICES HE WILL NEVER HAVE AGAIN.

Ass thoroughly chafed and with no real excuse to procrastinate any further than that, he limits farewell to a simple and probably(?) literal, "See you around."

Then he does the usual dramatic churn into a snarl of pitchy vapor, magician's trick flushing to the floor before it thins into a haze and vanishes entirely.

"Bring beer," Lancaster says, hopefully quickly enough for it to register before Vincent invisibly goes anywhere. She sticks her hands into jacket pockets, turning her back to the door to instead cast a look around the office with a similar amount of wistful. Less right to it. It is her office. How long it will be her office has been thrown into enough uncertainty, however, for her to want to take in its dimensions before backing off for the door.

Sidling on out of it, where Praeger will no doubt be chatting cheerily to his EA about this year's theories on appropriate jogging footwear attire.

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