Nothin' for Me


eileen_icon.gif nick_icon.gif

Scene Title Nothin' for Me
Synopsis Sometimes, the hardest thing to do is ask for a favor — sometimes, the hardest thing to do is grant one. Nick asks permission to move Delia; Eileen relents.
Date November 15, 2010

Pollepel Island

Description of location, if any.

He'd hoped to find her somewhere in the open — somewhere she wouldn't feel cornered — but such places are few in this castle. A few queries here and there finally brought him to this doorway, before which and at which he stands and stares — the wood grain etching itself in his mind's eye permanently, he stares at it so long.

A woman, someone whose name he hasn't caught yet, wanders down the hall, glancing at him curiously, but giving him a nod, which he returns as he nervously runs a hand over the back of his head, calloused palm against the knitted cap that serves to keep his near-bald head warm on the chilly island.

Once the woman turns the corner, Nick shakes his head, irritated at his fear. He raises a fist to the wood for the fifth time — but this time it actually makes contact, three sharp and quick raps, and then he takes a wide step back, clasping both hands in front of him so she can see them, and dropping his blue gaze to the floor.

Nick does not hear the bare feet whispering across the stone floors on the other side of the door, but the sound of the lock turning and creaking hinges are difficult to miss at this time of night when the halls are quiet and most of the island's residents settling down for the evening, Eileen included.

The first thing he sees is the lantern and the pale fingers clutching it by its brass handle. When she lifts it, candlelight washes over his sister's features and exaggerates her Ruskin bone structure, creating deep shadows under her eyes and along her cheekbones. At a distance, it had been difficult to see how much she's physically matured since they lived under the same roof, and while her face has come to resemble their mother's in ways she probably does not care for, there's absolutely no mistaking her for Sophia.

She coaxes the door open enough to fill the narrow space between its edge and frame but does not yet step out into the hall. This may be because she's dressed in her nightgown — a flimsy cotton thing — with a wool coat draped over her shoulders for additional warmth, and although the room is dark inside, if Nick looks over the top of her head he might be able to make out a masculine shape beneath the blankets on the bed.

"Yes?" she asks, not seeming to recognize him in the absence of proper light.

His eyes only flicker up for a moment to see her face and then jump back down to the floor and he clears his throat. "Lee." It's a terse whisper, trying to be neutral.

"I wouldn't bother you if t'weren't important," he follows, the tone more raw and more apologetic — and forgetting to stick to his American. Good thing Avi isn't nearby to yell at him. "An' I won't stay long. I was plannin' on gettin' out of 'ere on the 19th, as soon as it were safe for your people, just lay low 'til then so's not to make any trouble for anyone, but now I 'ave a favor to ask." He swallows and his eyes lift but then dart to the side, veiled by long lashes.

"It's not for me — I wouldn't ask for nothin' for me. It's for the redhead — Delia? You know who she is?"

The tension in Eileen's jaw makes a marble cast of her face. There's no sparrow or starling tangled in the weave of her clothes or hair, which she wears loose, still damp from the last shower she took a few hours ago, and the grackle that had sat on the throne of her shoulder at the last meeting is also conspicuously absent. If he knew what those closest to her do, her inability to identify her visitor until he opened his mouth to speak would make more sense.

Her grip on the lantern tightens and she turns her head as if shying away, sheltering herself behind the door without making a full retreat or shutting it in his face. "I know Delia," she says, and her voice is softer, a thread of what might be fear woven loosely through it.

That something is a bit off doesn't escape his notice, but he can't quite figure out what. His head stays bowed, though he peeks up through dark lashes to take in her form, to look for injury or any signs of what she's been through since he's seen her. He swallows hard and reaches up once more in that nervous tic of running his hand through his hair, only to catch on that cap once again.

"You're the boss, yeah?" Nick says softly, the slightest of smiles ticking the corner of his mouth upward — not in amusement but pride that he knows he has no right to claim. "Look, I won't tell anyone who I am; s'long as your buddies keep it quiet, no one'll know, I promise. But as for the favor…"

He glances down the hall at the sound of voices, waiting for them to draw farther away in the other direction before he speaks again. "I know you said we can't leave 'til the 19th, but Delia, she's in some sorta deep sleep, a coma or sommat, and this …" he drops any descriptor for Hokuto, unsure if she's a ghost or a woman or what, "Hokuto said we can't keep 'er 'ere, that it ain't safe, that she needs to be somewhere people can take care of 'er better'n 'ere, and someone needs to go lookin' for her in her dreams."

That was more than he's said in the six days he's been here.

"Anyway, if that Smedley guy'n and her boyfriend and I can get 'er somewhere safe," he finally manages to get to the point, "I'll help her how I can, yeah? And I'll get supplies to you after the 19th. Anything you need that I can get."

Bruising around Eileen's throat and gauze bandages wound around her thigh are the only visible indications that Nick's sister did not escape New York City completely unscathed. If she's nursing other wounds, they're hidden by her clothes. She's silent for a very long time as she considers his request, saying nothing until she's certain that the decision she arrives at is the correct one.

Or at least what she believes to be the correct one. "Be sure that you leave while it's still dark," she says then, with a quiet kind of finality, "and tell no one who doesn't already know that you're going."

Nick nods, brow furrowed as he chances a look at her eyes, blue eyes seeking gray green — then dance away again, his head ducking once more. If he were a dog, his tail would be between his legs, contrite and sure he deserves to be punished.

"Thank you, Lee. I'll try'n help her anyway I can. And get supplies to you. Anything you need besides the obvious — meds, food, guns?" Nick's tone is earnest. "I won't come back if you don't want, I promise, but I can get the merch and get it to the cowboy."

She does not tell him that he's welcome. What she says instead is, "No," and there's a pause before she attempts to elaborate, the rhythm of her breathing dictated by her body's physical discomfort, not just in relation to her injuries but proximity to her brother as well. "We need people who know how to do more than point and shoot. Epstein's here. You've seen Jensen. It's not enough."

What she means is stay, though she can't quite bring herself to use that word. "If you bring anything back, make it medicine. We're short."

"Epstein's here?" Nick says, startled, glancing over his shoulder as if to find the man behind him, reaching to whap Nick on the head for speaking in his British accent. His eyes return to her and he nods. "Well, tell 'em I'll be back to find out where he wants me for the duration." As if it's a war.

Of course, in many ways, it is.

He steps back, further into the hallway, further into the shadows. "Be safe, Lee."

Eileen looks as though she's about to let him go, slip through the cage of her fingers with its glass bars for all that she refuses to come near him, never mind touch. You're the boss, he said, and it hasn't occurred to her until now that within these walls it's the other way around for the first time in both their lives, that it's she who holds the power over him.

It should be strangely thrilling. Isn't.

What she feels is vaguely sick. "Nicholas?"

He pauses, head down, and waits a beat.

Dark lashes blink back tears he can't let her see —

— not knowing she can't.

"Yeah," Nick says quietly, voice barely loud enough to be heard.

"I didn't lie to you."

Eileen isn't sure what compels her to say it, or why, and as soon as the words have left her mouth, she's lowering the lantern, splaying her fingers on the other side of the door and pushing it closed until she hears the latch engage.

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