Not a Big Miracles Kind of Guy


astor_icon.gif eileen_icon.gif ethan_icon.gif gabriel_icon.gif raith_icon.gif

Scene Title Not a Big Miracles Kind of Guy
Synopsis Astor awakens to find himself on the receiving end of some hostility.
Date January 23, 2011

Staten Island: River House

Morning transforms Staten Island's greenbelt into a pastel landscape with only faint hints of colour stirred into it. On the barbed-wire fence surrounding the river house, a female cardinal molts brown and gray, and the lichen attached to the post curls silver at the edges. Hoarfrost covers everything, including the warped glass panes and their wooden sills, the windshield and hood of the rusty blue pickup parked outside and the front steps leading up to the building, iced over and treacherously slick.

Inside, it's only a few degrees warmer in the rooms that don't have space heaters in them, like the kitchen and the communal living area which, unlike the Dispensary, does not have a roaring hearth to provide them with additional warmth. This is not a long-term solution for winter. Feng Daiyu will have to die so the Vanguard remnant can return to its natural habitat. Until then, they must make do with what little they have.

This morning, it's a meal of hot rice porridge, hard-boiled eggs and sardines packed in oil and salt to round out their breakfast in place of fresh fruit and wild game plucked from wire snares, which is unfortunate because for the first time in longer than she can remember, Eileen is preparing food for five mouths instead of four or less. She's halfway up the stairs with a shallow but wide bowl of porridge placed on a plate with the eggs and fish on the side.

She hopes Astor can keep it down. In her experience, starvation is not the most effective interrogation method. Down in the kitchen, there's coffee for the other men but only a glass of water for their guest so he has something to wash his medication down with. She has that, too.

The relationship that exists between morning and Jensen Raith is, for lack of a single word to describe it, a very, very complex thing. He doesn't enjoy waking up in the morning, especially not before sunrise, and yet he does it constantly, even when he does have to. He doesn't see the magic in the sunrise that other people seem to, and yet he watches it from time to time. And most of all, he despises rising early in New England winters, crawling of a warm bed into the cold air, and facing the day when he would rather just sleep until everything stops sucking. But here he is, cold, generally unhappy (through no fault of morning's), and silently smoldering, but awake. And not happy about it.

The circumstances about which they've acquired a fifth mouth that Eileen must feed are at least suspect. But then, based on what Raith has heard, that same mouth is largely responsible for Eileen being present at all, so that's a point in favor of it. Who knows, maybe Astor won't turn out to be as useless as he's expecting him to be. Time will tell that much. For now, Raith sips his coffee, cheap and instant as it may be, while he wrestles with the idea of moving upstairs after Eileen. If he did follow her up, would it be warmer? Most likely. Would he be any happier? In fact, he actually might. In a few more, it will be him going up the stairs instead of Eileen. In a few moments: There's still a little bit of the morning left for him to rage at before he does that.

The heap on the bed is identifiably Astor. His eyes are closed up, his lids seeming as thin as a grease layer over the turning of the restless organs underneath.

He's still pale, but not nearly as bad as he had been a few months ago, his head a prone shape lodged in the pillow, creases radiating from his rumpled hair. A blanket drawn up to his chest, neck bent, his belly rising and falling shallowly underneath the layered covers, wrinkled cotton, wool. He stirs a little; in fractions. His knees make brief peaks that fall again like landscape eaten up by a quake, and finally he cracks a hazel eye open. In time to see the narrow blur of a silhouette in the doorway, and not enough noise to flatter him with the notion that he had been jolted awake by the noise of the woman coming up.

Anesthesia clots his head like cotton wool, and pain a tangible pressure through it. The next breath he expels come out formatted somewhat in a groan, and he dwindles himself to stillness, willing himself to sleep. He doesn't want to talk anybody at the best of times. These people, when he has a small door nailed open in his shoulder by a rifle round, ranks on his list of things he wants to do somewhere between braiding Walter's hair and making out with a hot coal. He pretends to sleep.

Ethan has also been preparing food. But it's for a much smaller mouth. Holden is huddled up in the corner. Several off his coats piled on top of each other tugged over him. The baby raccoon is tucked into the crook of his arm. A few used syringes lay by Ethan's feet as the Wolf holds the poor malnourished creature. Holden has been giving the baby the nourishment it needs. He might have stolen from an animal hospital, but it is more likely now that the creature is going to live. Having done his google research, te Wolf is doing his damndest to ensure Thomas' survival.

Glancing up at Raith, Holden's lips quirk back lightly. "Cofffee shit?" He rumbles, back pressing against the wall. Holden raises to his feet. Careful to keep the raccoon swaddled in the crook of his arm, taking a few steps to the other man. He glances up the stairs. "Fucker awake yet?"

Eileen is patient, and not the kind of patient that's learned — the kind of patient that had her sitting in the window of her mother's London flat at six years old and watching individual droplets of rain form much larger beads like miniature magnifying glasses through which the world outside could be observed. Most children want the storm to pass so they can go back to playing outside. She waits for the sun to suffuse the water with iridescent rainbows of light.

In other words, she does not mind that Astor is still asleep. If he, like the raccoon Thomas— Tiger Roche, she reminds herself— survives, they will have all the time in the world to ask him questions because he, also like the raccoon, isn't going anywhere.

She sets the bowl and plate on the nightstand beside Astor's cot and leans over him to check his temperature with the back of a smooth, cold hand. She'd tell Ethan no, except then she thinks he would be. Awake.

"Better than mud." That would be about the coffee, according to Raith. And in all honestly, given his past, he might have actually tried to substitute mud for coffee at some point. No one would be surprised by it, at least. "As for him-" A gesture that points only halfway upstairs, and the rest of the way to, some place- "Fuck if I know. Raccoon dick not quite so satisfying?" The fact is that there really aren't any jokes between Ethan and Raith. There's a lot of mean-spirited banter, for certain, but no jokes. Unless mean-spirited banter is the same thing as jokes to them, which it might be.

"I guess he did save her bacon, though." Turning his attention away from his coffee and momentarily to Ethan, Raith does then ask, "Think we at least ought to tell him 'thanks' for that? Before we get out the blowtorch and bamboo slivers?"

The boy on the bed pretends sleep so well that it's like playing dead for a moment. Or two. It turns out to be an act of some restraint, surprisingly, but he manages to do it until her hand has moved away from his face. Then he cracks an eye open, just a sliver, black pupil dilated idiotically by the flow of pharmeceutical chemistry through his blood in the off-green of the iris, peering at the woman with her stringy black hair and her narrow white face, tiny hands and plate of food. Hunger hits him very suddenly, and that's his downfall. Distraction stays his eyelids open, long enough for her to see—

—and he sees she sees. Tries, ridiculously and too late, to feign unconsciousness again; a jerk of his head against the pillowcase, eyes shut, breathing steady and hands loose and heavy underneath the covers, hair still in coal-colored disarray…

—and his mouth in a line that is supposed to look slack, but doesn't. He isn't a bad liar, Astor Loukas, not usually, but his pathological frowny-face betrays him.

The cot's mattress creaks under the addition of Eileen's weight, slight though it is, and she occupies herself with stirring Astor's rice porridge to cool it off. They have no spices here to flavour it, but while it might be bland it's filling too, and flavour is what the oily wedges of preserved fish flesh with the skin still attached are for anyway. For a moment, it looks like she might pretend not to have seen, her lashes lowered over glassy eyes and chin tucked into her collarbone while her head is bowed. The sparrow, though, with its little feet tangled in the weave of her sweater — which might belong to Gabriel, come to think of it, if the way it hangs off her frame is any indication — fixes its beetle black gaze on the man— boy in the bed whose name the Englishwoman does not even know.

"Don't worry," she tells him, "if this is poisoned then it wasn't on purpose. I'm a halfway decent cook, I think, but it will be easier on your stomach if you take your medicine first."

"I don't like that phrase." Ethan grunts in response to Raith. "Who's bacon originally needed saving, 'onestly. It's a stupid phrase. Bacon is way too over rated in America, and it certainly doesn't warrant a rescue attempt by a little bleeding boy." Holden grumps, glancing down at Thomas. But if Astor is still sleeping…

"Do we 'ave any shaving cream?" The Wolf asks. He's been using soap to shave, and is unaware of any shaving cream being present in the riverhouse. "We could put some on 'is 'and.. Thenput Thomas on his face." Ethan says somewhat excitedly, looking up at Raith as if waiting for the man to share his enthusiasm for the prank.

Really, Raith was about to agree with Ethan about the bacon. The abrupt topic change to shaving cream, he didn't mind, either. He was right behind Ethan, even, greatest plan ever. And then, somehow, Thomas entered the equation, and the ex-spy's brain pulled the emergency brake. A sip of coffee immediately finds itself scattered through the air, and Raith whirls his head around to look at the Wolf with a single exclamation that adequately sums up his total feelings about the plan. "What?"

"Ungh," Astor says, although he'd been aiming for slightly better decorum than that. He tries to peel his head off the pillow but agony shoots through his shoulder, making a line from his bicep to the middle of his back between his shoulderblades and he finds himself blinking rapidly to disperse a reaction that didn't just happen so don't even fucking think about it. "Okay," he agrees. As long as I don't have to get up, but that's probably rather heavily implied by the cold, anemic white of his face, and the robotic quality to his voice.

Not that he would like to rely on heavy implications, of course. Maybe she won't notice. Some part of him doubts it, that clarity of recognition despite wave upon wave of staticky disorientation. "Thank you," he adds, rather stiffly, orienting his head and his voice carefully at the woman instead of the bird hidden in the crook of her neck.

"You have a lung injury," says Eileen, and she lets the spoon tinkle against the side of the bowl so she can unscrew the cap on the plastic bottle that she's assigned to Astor. There's another one sitting on the window sill for when his current dose of painkillers wears off — these are antibiotics, and she shakes out one pill into the palm of her hand, which she then presses into Astor's instead of using her fingers to force it into his mouth.

She offers him the water. "You were right to tell me to hold you up." This is how Eileen interrogates people who have saved her life. Gently, and without making any direct accusations. "Doctors tend not to practice on Staten Island unless their licenses were revoked on the mainland. Ex-military?" Maybe she's hoping they can get some of this out of the way before Ethan starts threatening him with rabies.

"I'm holding it. It's on my brain." Ethan explains to Raith impatiently as if this much is obvious. His head fflicks up to the thin walls, listening the groanings of the man above. "Awake." Holden grunts, waggling his head in the direction of Astor and Eileen. "Go shove some bamboo in his ass." He grunts, cupping Thomas protectively to his chest. "'m going to take 'im outside ffor a minute. I'll be back in a bit." The Wolf informs before going to step outside.

Without fanfare, Gabriel is just suddenly within the room. He only appears by the time his shape is noticeable in someone's perpheral view, or when Eileen moves her head aside and Astor can blearily spy him in the corner, or Ethan passes by on his way out and Raith sees him in the next moment; a lanky man dressed in black with shadows in his eye sockets and a couple days worth of growing beard on his face. He sits on the ground, back pressed into the walls, arms looped around knees — loosely, not tensely.

He's taken back some tokens from the Old Dispensary, at some unknown time that only takes as long as no one is looking. The evidence of this is in the lion's tooth he wears on a chain, glittering ivory and silver on his chest. A watch on his wrist tells the time to painstaking accuracy. Right now, he is listening.

Ethan states his intentions, and then leaves. Raith hears Ethan's intentions and watches him leave. He watches Gabriel come in. And what he first thinks to say in this situation is, perhaps expectedly, "What?" But then he throws his hands up and decides, wisely, to just let it go. Making sense of Ethan Holden is like making sense of a cat: Difficult, and ultimately confusing. Better to let the issue alone.

What, perhaps, is not better left alone is the mysterious man-boy laying infirm upstairs, and rather than puzzling things out in the cold, Raith rises up from his seat and follows up the stairs a short time after Gabriel makes his own way up. He does not bother to make his presence known to the injured Astor, hovering just out of view. Like Gabriel, he is listening. Unlike Gabriel, his interest in any conversation only goes so far as it involves any of the Remnant. Beyond that is not his concern.

At least, not yet.

Suddenly, Astor's room is filling. He probably should have known better than to think the absence of any outward cry from the blind woman meant he was to be left alone; this group is too well-oiled as a unit for that. He stares at the middle distance to her pale, elfin head with vague consternation. Gabriel seems overly tall with him at his current vantage point. Sluggishly, he swallows his pill down with the water, and wills the pain in his shoulder to stay submerged in a background thunder of swollen soreness. He doesn't need two unexpected ambushes in a week. "My mother was," he answers, instead. "Sort of. Her friends taught me a few things.

"How bad is my lung?" Groggily, his eyes grease a course past Gabriel to settle on Raith instead, blinking to refine the blur of the other big man's outline into something that's more shape than impression. A shudder goes through his chest and his throat convulses once around a second, unnecessary swallow.

"Well," says Eileen, "you wouldn't be alive if it weren't for the man in the corner there," whose name she does not provide, though the secret fondness she has for him is visible in the mirthful smile that barely touches her face and fades just as soon as the muscles around her mouth register it as being there. "He's the one you should be thanking."

She takes the glass back from Astor and sets it aside, along with the bottle of pills with the cap replaced. The eggs on the plate have already been peeled and halved, exposing the slippery whites and dull yellow yolk at their centers, but the fish were forked straight from the tin and are still slick with oil. She has, at least, taken a butcher knife to their heads to make them look a little more appealing. "Eat," she implores him, and places bowl and plate in the young man's lap. If the porcelain is still hot, then he doesn't feel it through the material of his blankets. "I don't know how long it's going to take you to recover. The most we can do for you now is watch for signs of infection and then combat them if one rears its ugly head.

"My friends have a few questions for you."

"How'd you know to be where you were?"

This is near barked in its suddenness after Eileen's lovely introduction, and delivered with a migraine-inducing amount of joviality. Gabriel pushes himself to his feet, arms a swing at his sides and smiling broadly at Astor, the same kind of smile that hunts drowning men in the sea. And has a fin on top. His hands smack together, in a motion like he were warming up his shoulders, casual, loose. Lion's tooth swings on its chain, turns over.

"I'm not a big 'miracles' kind of guy," Gabriel explains, gentler, if not actually softer, all gravel and scalpel-edged interest. "Especially when the miracles know names. She says you called her Spurling."

Surprisingly, perhaps, Raith does not interject to add to Gabriel's question. Or perhaps it's not surprising at all when he does little more than make himself a known quantity at this point. When it comes to 20 questions, he's always been big on organization. Gabriel asked a question. Raith won't confuse the issue by asking another one until the first is answered.

Hooray barrage of questions. Astor closes his eyes and decides he isn't going to be sick. He'd had too much water, he thinks; or else not enough. "Thank you," is the first thing he says.

Nastily. Just a little.

Wasted bravado, he knows, but then everything feels like a waste right now. Including his continuous: being alive. "I didn't know she'd be there. I wasn't sure, anyway. I heard gunshots and I went to see what was happening. I know a few people from the Ferry even if I'm not a part of it. Mage and I had the same taste in teas, and I assumed she disappeared because she was killed doing something like this." He tries to gesture at his shoulder injury, but it winds up being no more impressive than a twitch of fingers under his blanket. "Reynard's a friend." He cracks his eyelids open again before realizing they'd lapsed shut, and immediately resents the foibles of his own physiology. "Do any of you know Reynard?"

"Yes," answers Eileen, but only after a pause and with soft hesitation in her voice like she isn't sure whether or not she accepts this explanation. It would be easier for all of them if she did. "He's run a few errands for me. Reliable, generally, when he isn't goading people into hitting each other for fun and profit." Apparently she heard about that. "Mage died a few years ago," she adds, because Astor deserves the truth and maybe the truth makes them even if bringing him to Gabriel hasn't already. "Humanis First. We caught one of the men responsible, but the network voted to turn him over to the authorities.

"Now he works for them." It's an extremely condensed version of a story almost two years in the making, and it takes effort for Eileen to keep bitterness from poisoning her tone. "You must be good with faces to have recognized mine. Are they circulating wanted posters that I don't know about?"

"Better question-" Finally, Raith does interject- "If they are circulating posters, who's handing them out, and how many dollars are at stake? Enough to catch your attention, maybe?" It's not the first time Raith has jumped right into accusations, but the fact remains that the former G-man can't really be faulted for it. He learned a hard lesson courtesy of Sarisa Kershner: Everyone sells out. It's just a matter of how much they'll sell out for.

"No." Astor's eyes close then open thinly, his pupil constricting and expanding with viscous slowness, trying to decide how much light is available and how much of it they're going to absorb. He drags a breath inward, shuddery and shallow, then lets it out again. Maybe his chest hurts is why. Maybe he's scared. There are no bamboo splinters, though, and wonderfully, not much in the way of hesitation either. "Birds dying left and right. Loud." His throat moves, a grk of saliva down the inside of his throat. "You're known to some." The observation lacks rebuke or particular edge, but then again, he does apparently know Reynard. If he meant to insinuate snidely about the Ferry's security, he probably would have done so aloud.

"This doesn't feel like a miracle," he adds, rather coldly.

Eileen turns the gold band around her ring finger between two on the opposite hand in a gesture of quiet anxiety. Instinctively, she wants to rise from the bed, but Astor is her patient, and she's reluctant to leave him in Gabriel and Raith's care when she knows how far they're willing to go to get the answers they want. Knows, too, that Astor's might be too straightforward and succinct for somebody else's liking, even though she appears satisfied enough with what he's said not to ask him anything else for the time being.

A flick of the sparrow's wings swings the little bird off her shoulder and the short distance across to the windowsill where it perches, its dusty feathers rumpled, and twitches a glance between the other two men in the room, expectant.

Gabriel tips his head in some concession that yes, as far as miracles go, this is a particularly gruesome one. "No? Then maybe you don't know Feng Daiyu after all," he says, wryly, in the tone of voice that isn't convinced of this truth in particular, despite denial over escaping alive to be miraculous. "What you're trying to say is, that name doesn't mean anything to you?" His head tilts, bird-like — a massive bird, maybe, and too heavy boned for that analogy to work with as much precision as the woman who holds the original avian telepath power, but his intent and stare match that of a bird of prey all the same.

Astor not being much prey, but roadkill, maybe. "I could take every answer you have out of your head, and there are men in this building that can do interesting thing with battery clamps." Is what Gabriel chooses to point out, a loose shrug, hand coming up to clasp lion tooth pedant, grinding thumbnail down the ridge where silver sets bone in absent fidget.

It could be that the brief, side-long glance that Raith gives to Gabriel at the mention of 'battery clamps' is meant to tell him, 'too far.' But if that's the case, Raith himself doesn't seem terribly convince that it is, in fact, too far, because brief is all that glance is. "Known to some," the ex-spy repeats when his attention falls back to the wounded Astor, "Is helpful, and all that, but you know what would be even more helpful? If you let us in on the answer to, 'Known to whom?' Remember, you're under oath."

Of course, Astor isn't under anything other than the implied threat of violence upon his person. But given who might be delivering that implied violence, that might be compelling enough motivation. Especially if Astor knows as much as Gabriel and Raith as he seems to know or not know about Eileen.

"Maybe you should just throw me out and leave me to die," Astor suggests, fuzzily. He sinks slightly in the bed, which is mostly impressive because he's been lying in it awhile and you'd think there wasn't much 'give' left in the mattress underneath him. "That name sounds Chinese. Which I don't speak. And not famous." He cracks an eye a fraction of an inch wider open, sweeping the room in a haphazard attempt to locate Eileen again. A vague furrow in his brow and he maps the distance to the sparrow instead with effort, though the light from the window seems to hurt; in an instant, his eye is darting away, back at Raith and Gabriel.

In the interim, he didn't forget they were there, evidently. "I di'nt get involved because I have some elaborate. …I don't know." Imagination fails him, obviously, though he tries with effort to focus on the tangible threat of battery clamps; a belated squint at Gabriel, something flattening dazedly behind his eyes. Thank God for painkillers, even if they might not be proof much against said. Battery clamps, or the other methods of answer extrication. "Is this place supposed to be a secret? I don't know where we are. I didn't learn anything."

"We won't be doing that," Eileen says, and she leaves this purposefully vague. Won't be throwing him out and leaving him to die. Won't experiment with battery clamps. Her statement isn't directed at any one person in particular, though there's no reproach in her tone either. What she sounds is tired; exhaustion has dug out dark circles under her eyes, one of them bruised purple, with the rims more pronounced and pink than what Gabriel and Raith recognize as normal. She hasn't been sleeping very well, or even very much.

The sparrow's attention diverts, steers out the window and searches for Ethan's shape moving between the trees outside with baby raccoon cradled in his large arms, but either Eileen finds what it is she's looking for or gives up in the time it takes her to stop fussing with her ring and place one hand on top of the other in her lap, because the sparrow is focusing on Astor again, glittering and intent. "What's your name?"

Astor can see the way Gabriel's stare relents off him and settles on the back of Eileen's head, but there isn't much to read, there. Acknowledgment and silence, and it's not like her question isn't a good one. Names are like seasoning for threats. But Gabriel doesn't hiss out any more of those, floorboards creaking under foot as a few paces carrying him restlessly leftwards.

It actually strikes Raith as odd when Eileen's question comes up. Not that she thought to ask the boy what his name is, but that, until that very moment in time, nobody thought to ask him what his name was. Names are power, if not in the olde time-y magical sense, then in the sense that knowing a name allows you to find out more about someone. And for someone who used to be in the business of gathering information professionally, having forgotten to do it at all is actually kind of embarrassing.

It's only fair. After all, he obviously knows Eileen's name. "Astor," Astor answers. "Loukas. First name and surname.

"It's Greek," is meant to be a helpful explanation. Or defensive. Lucas seems like the likelier first name, after all. The young man shifts his hazel eyes blearily again and finally moves his feet underneath the covers. There is an experimental quality to it. Whatever Eileen gave him worked well. The food plated beside his pillow remains motionless and untouched, however, either because the presence of psychopaths diminishes his appetite or because, as with most wild animals, he would rather not distract himself in the presence of strange creatures.

Any number of questions he is entitled to ask. Most of them, Astor knows better than to try. "When can I leave?" he croaks out. It's a relatively neutral question. You don't need to have much medical expertise to guess that it would be bad for him to go.

"Never." The voice comes from the shadows. A gravelly and permanent tone permeating from its hostile nature. The growl quiets for a half a beat before a knife comes into the light. Followed by the wielding hand, and then the Wolf himself. Stony features regarding Astor with disdain, the man takes a solid step toward the bedridden boy, knife gleaming in hand.

Oh by the way he's holding a baby raccoon in his other hand.

A light chuckle breaks out from his lips as he drops the facade. Shaking his head a little bit. But the knife remains. "Do we 'ave any plastic baggies?" Holden asks, arching a brow at his fellows. "Or some kind of container, water bottle maybe? Anyone?" He takes a step closer to Astor. "Don't move, alright? Don't want ya to get cut." Or maybe he kinda does.

"That depends on what you intend to use it for." Verbal posturing, physical posturing — Eileen's no stranger to either. That she chooses the former over the latter mostly has to do with the fact that presenting a united front is one of her priorities, but also because it's Ethan, and Ethan does not deserve prickling hackles, curled lips or flashing teeth.

He takes one step close to Astor and he takes one step closer to her. She does not move from the bed or even stand, apparently satisfied with her decision to present a straight-backed obstacle with a demure posture instead. Her head turns enough to regard Ethan in her peripheral vision, or would — if she had any peripheral vision to speak of, not counting her sparrow.

"I'm not putting more blood in him if you leak it out again and get it everywhere," is Gabriel being mildly piqued — because maybe Ethan encroaching on someone else's kill, like Eileen's, unbalances some bizarre hierarchy. It is the most support he offers her, however. That and not deigning to run the errand that Ethan sets out, instead absently checking his nails in the kind of bored, twitchy way that waiting brings out in restless people.

"Der Wolf, we are not cutting off his testicles." Raith is careful to keep any aggression in check: He doesn't want to start a fist-fight Ethan. Or any man that uses a baby raccoon as a melee weapon. At the same time, he doesn't move to stand in Ethan's way either, preferring to keep his stance in regards to what, exactly, they will do to their guest ambiguous.

The boy in the bed looks about as nervous as is appropriate, considering the involvement of other factors such as: he must be very hungry, very tired, disoriented from drugs' side-effects and nevertheless in pain, the predictable emotions all present but distinctly muted. Some fear. Some indignation. Substantial unhappiness. Nothing about the present situation is good, except perhaps for the food, and he hasn't even gotten a chance to put his teeth in it yet. Why does the dude have a knife? He's three times bigger than any surgeon Astor's ever met.

The next instant, his back arches.

Eyes roll back in their pits, leaving nothing but the thinnest sliver of hazel iris visible under the poisoned-moth flutter of his eyelids. In defiance to Ethan's carefully-phrased instruction, he's suddenly kicking, jerking, bedsheets in a stir and his hands crazed, drool in a sudden spurt out of the corner of his mouth. Sweat fills his pores in drops as fat as the viscosity of pus.

The shadow he throws on the far wall looks like something out of the horror genre, except that there's no music, no clangor or drone; only Astor lets out a sound that seems to come out of somewhere so deep it might be the whining protest of his skeleton hinge joints, except that it has voice to it. One that isn't quite human.

Whatever that means to the people in here.

"Oh calm down everyone. What th'fuck am I going to do with a little plastic baggie or an empty water bottle. Really. D'you really think I'm that imaginative. I ain't gonna 'urt 'im. I'm just gonna find out about 'im. The old school way." Ethan frowns at everyone else in the room. "Why does everyone assume I'm going to cut 'im." Ethan sounds a little indignant before glancing to Astor. Hey. He's starting to act weird.

And then it's confirmed. He is acting weird.

"I didn't do it." Ethan immediately claims as Astor begins to perform his reenactment of the Last Exorcism of Emily Rose. Or whatever her name was. Peering at him, and that noise Ethan frowns a bit. "Ah.." He glances to his compatriots. "Hm."

Eileen recoils as if struck. As if being an important qualifier. Astor is more of a danger to himself than anyone else, but the abruptness of the attack — if that's what it even is — has the Englishwoman darting to her feet and gracelessly knocking the dishware to the floor, and although it doesn't break and scatter chunks of porcelain across the hardwood, it spatters porridge across the boards, Eileen's feet and the hem of the blanket dangling over the edge of the bed. Her sparrow leaps into flight with a sharp squeal of alarm and zips up into the exposed rafters in the ceiling.

The bird's reaction is probably appropriate for its size. Eileen is more reluctant to hide or place herself any further out of harm's way than she already has, which is backed against the same wall the bed is. From the sparrow's lofty vantage point, peeking out between two intersecting beams, she watches Astor's hips raised off the bed, the spasmodic thrust of his legs and arrives at the conclusion a trained medical professional would have beaten her to.

"For God's sake, roll him onto his side!"

"No." This from Gabriel, barked out in sharp demand, and then he moves. Not much. His hand comes up and hovers out as straight as a ruler, hands splayed before his fingers curl strongly inwards. There is only a shift to Astor's spasms, cot squeaking in protest, but otherwise, the jerky movements continue. Involuntarily. Gabriel's eyes narrow to show only slivers of brown iris through the dense slits of gathered eyelashes, having been so sure—

His hand relaxes, arm drops to his side. "Okay." Hokay. And then he steps forward, making room for Raith to help, his hand roughly gripping onto Astor's shoulder and shoving him over as directed. Up closer, the grey hairs threaded through black hair are more evident, gunmetal dark, peppered in the beard growing grainy at his jaw. He doesn't look that old, though.

The suddenness of Astor's fit does, without any doubt, catch Raith off-guard. Of all the things he would have expected, this was near the bottom of the list. 'Elephant penis attack' ranked higher than this, although the ex-spy will one day look back and be wholly unable to account for why. But much like Gabriel, he moves when he is ordered to, and like Ethan, he brings out the knife he has kept himself armed with. He does not use it for surgery, however. Rather, it is to shove the hilt across and in the youth's mouth- carefully- not only to keep him from swallowing his tongue, but also to keep him from biting it off while he and Gabriel hold him down.

There's shocking strength in the rangy boy who hurdles up against the two men's hands. Spasms. Fortunately (or unfortunately) for the world, the upward loop of his spine gives way quickly once he's on his side, his feet reduced to a helpless, stupidly futile looking kick and twitch. There's a knife in his mouth— which is an unusual life decision for most people who like having their mouths attached, and that does help. His tongue goes out in a slimy curl of muscle underneath the hilt's width and his teeth lock brightly around it, twitch, not enough that there's sufficient give for the thing to slide.

Seconds pass. Long ones. He slams into Gabriel's arm hard enough that it probably hurts his elbow where the bones meet, and a flailing foot nearly strikes Eileen's chair hard enough to overturn it to joining the spilled food. Something stinks, suddenly— the covers, a telltale yellowing pooling the creases and undulating linens, probably less alarming than the red soaking darkly into his shoulder again. It's exhausting to watch, and for a bed-ridden man who's doing it, it's probably more tiring still.

But it does end, as even shitty things can do in New York. Leaves Astor in a crumpled heap of foul fluids and breaths like whimpers, his shoulder lolling weakly against Gabriel's hand.

Ethan watches Gabriel and Raith quietly. A slight wince as Raith uses a knife to stop Astor from biting his tongue. And then an arch of his brow when Astor pisses himself. Holden purses his lips for a moment as the action starts to wind on down. A 'whew' breath is let out as if Ethan had been rapidly moving as everyone else.

He hadn't been.

Having stayed mostly indifferent slash still to the whole seizure, Ethan finally starts to move once it's safe to move around without fear of pee. Going to crouch, Thomas is carefully tucked close to the wall. "One minute m'son." Holden coos before standing up and turning to face Astor. The knife is still out, as Holden approaches the young man once again. This time Astor can't have a seizure to try and scare him off! Reaching into his pocket, a wallet is pulled out. A few bills and cards moved around so that one pouch is completely empty. On the other side of Raith, Ethan reaches over the sleeping beauty's head and.. Snip snip A small lock of hair is sliced off and tucked into the wallet pocket.

"There's pee." He says sternly, to Eileen.

"Jensen, I need a basin of warm water and a clean cloth. Towels." There's a tense quality to Eileen's voice, though she doesn't bark her orders with the same urgency Gabriel did. The effort of keeping both it and her hands steady manifests as tautness bleeding out of her expression so her body can allocate it elsewhere. "Ethan: some fucking sympathy and fresh bedding from one of the closets. He's just had a seizure."

She takes a step around the overturned bowl and flicks away, with the point of her foot, a glistening piece of fish coated in dust from the floor. "Gabriel," she starts, then stalls, juddering out into uncertain silence. Stay here with me, is ridiculous in her head but might sound less so if she actually verbalized it. Instead, she substitutes a terse, "Help me look at him," that lifts just enough at the end for him to consider it the request that it is.

Blood is halted, greasing back where it belongs with a psychic nudge from Gabriel Gray as he tilts his head, already doing as Eileen says as he regards the younger man's profile. I think we're low on sympathy, chuckle, is not what he says and does, glancing from Raith to Eileen before he goes and eases his hands off Astor's shoulder, his fingers coming away bloodied where errant droplets still smeared despite his better efforts. It stinks in here, now, but Staten Island tends to anyway. Even these days. Or especially.

A knife and finger come up to point accusingly at Eileen together as a team."Listen Eileen." Not Princess. "I think it's about damn time you started calling me pop pop. Also, okay darling. I'll just step down into the maid's closet. Oh, fuck me. We're not in the fucking double tree now are we? We don't even 'ave a Tree." Ethan mutters as his knife gradually and gently glides against Astor's palm. Ethan's wallet below it. The motion is quick. Scraping skin flakes into the wallet before Astor can jerk and pee more. Or bleed more. Tucking the knife and wallet away. Ethan goes to stand.

"It'll take me a fucking bit. I'll go see if Wal Mart has fresh bedding and a discount on sympathy." Ethan grumbles as he goes to retrieve Thomas. Standing up fully the wallet with Ethan's stalker prizes is tucked away before he goes to trudge off with Thomas in tow like an angry little boy.

"Water and cloth." With more care and less urgency than before, Raith removes the hilt of his knife from Astor's mouth and moves aside to allow Eileen easier access. He makes a point of ignoring Ethan's rebuttal altogether. "Back in a flash," is the only other statement the ex-spy has to add, although he does make a mental note to rummage through the mishmash of medicines they have (what medicines they do have) to see if among them are muscle relaxers. That's as close to an anti-convulsant as any of them can hope to get right now.

There's a stickiness to Astor's breath after his exertions. His eyes are closed while he listens to the blade snicking through his hair and the big older man floating away with a wake of stinging insults.

Astor should be pale after all that, you'd think, underneath the olive skintone, but instead his cheeks are flaming darkly with some kind of humiliation. Weak as a kitten. His fingers curl nervelessly on the blankets, barely enough strength in them to disturb the fabric. He'd started to roll onto his back, but perhaps suspecting Gabriel hadn't moved that far away, stiffens out of some haphazard correlation of sense, instinct, and bruised pride. Too tired to be angry. He can barely feel the steel-burn on his palm.

He will be passing out shortly, just so you know. In his own blood and pee. It's preferable to being scraped and prodded by an amateur CSI team with a TERRIBLE ACCENT exploiting the foibles of his own medical conditions.

Gabriel is close enough that he'll hear the haggard edge to Eileen's breathing and the hiss she presses out through her teeth after Ethan and Raith are gone and she moves to tend to Astor. She and Ethan clashed less when her age still ended in -teen, and in a little more than a fortnight, she'll be twenty-two. Awareness of that she can count the number of fights they've had on her fingers only because he hasn't been as present in her life as Gabriel and Raith disturbs the pale smoothness of her brow and makes her mouth small and tight, her lips pinched.

She's angry. Embarrassed. But at the same time realizing that the man they're crowding around has it much worse than she does, and she makes an effort not to touch him more than assessing him for further injury requires.

She can wait until he loses consciousness to clean him up. "You've torn out your stitches," she tells him, gentling, and she imagines, optimistically, that this is kinder than reminding him of the full extent of what they'll need to do in a few minutes. "Try not to move."

Rolling his eyes now. This is what Gabriel does at Ethan's exeunt, in clear view of Raith by the time the older man is back; an expressive kind of gesture beneath the stoic stillness of his brow, and something a little more like thunder beneath both of these things. He isn't a fan of absent fathers making claims, over topics that really—

Really have nothing to do with that. But it's only a glimmer of projected aggravation, Gabriel letting it go by the time Eileen is announcing the obvious things, like stitches, talking around the other obvious things, like clean up. As if sensing discomfort, he moves away, steps quiet and blurry presence dark like a shadow. He'll be hands and eyes and upper body strength as Eileen directs, and then he's going to go for a walk.

There's no more power to Astor's frame. He lets the strange people undress him, helpless as a doll, exhaustion parodying trust and safety. Already the sheets are beginning to stink. There's bad shit in his blood that needs filtering, the consequence of having inchoate infections adrift in his blood stream and not having gone to the loo in awhile. At least Eileen hadn't left him dehydrated.

The bruises are easier to see by daylight, if not for the sparrow— for whom subtleties of color don't really stand out, not yellow-on-olive anyway. Eileen didn't see when she changed him before. Nor Raith, going for the supplies, or Ethan, fucked off with insults and filial piety curdling his breath. Gabriel does, though. The scudded haemorrhages healing on the flesh inside Astor's arms.

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