Off On The Wrong Foot


melissa_icon.gif sasha2_icon.gif

Scene Title Off On the Wrong Foot
Synopsis Melissa and Sasha have their first real conversation, and get off to a bad start. Will they ever be friends?
Date July 30, 2010

Howland Hook Facility - Railyard

Dusk does not provide the best light with which to draw by, but this is exactly what the silhouette of the man seated on the squat concrete block is doing. Sun beams filter through the thin, gangly branches of a stunted tree growing out from the gaping hole in an old steel drum and illuminate his subject: the carcass of a local stray left to rot in the barrel's shade, a length of chain fastened to its neck and a swarm of flies buzzing angrily around its swollen face.

A piece of charcoal pinched between the knuckles of two fingers moves across the page in short, swift bursts guided by the artist's dominant hand. Sasha hunches over his work, broad shoulders stooped, and props the sketchbook up against his knees. There are plenty of other things that he could have picked to immortalize, but the dead dog seemed to him the most logical — and challenging – choice.

After the mission the previous evening, Melissa has been worried about those Messiah members who participated. And silently rebelling about the fact that she didn't go along. So she's made her way to the Howland Hook, to check on those who were here. It's a short enough walk, and she's sure that the exercise will help her back, if not her stomach.

After spending several minutes inside, she's wandered out here to the railyard, pausing just outside the door to pull a pack of cigarettes from one of the pockets of her cargo pants, lighting up. As she exhales she glances around, and her gaze settles on Sasha. A minute is spent simply watching him curiously, before she follows his gaze to the dog and her nose wrinkles in distaste. "A dead dog? Eww."

The sound of a familiar voice has the corner of Sasha's mouth steering up around an expression that's more tooth than lip and only superficially resembles a smile. He does not lift his eyes or turn his head in Melissa's direction, acknowledging her instead with a succinct, "Yes."

Looking from the dog to the man, Melissa's head tilts. "Why? Are you…drawing…a dead dog?" she asks, sounding a bit incredulous. She begins moving towards him, finding a barrel sturdy enough to support her weight, and she settles onto it carefully. Once there, she abruptly switches subjects. "You're Kozlow, aren't you? I saw you in a bar, talking to a guy named Angel, the day before the papers said you offed yourself."

"I am drawing a dead dog because it is there," says Sasha, "and I needed something to draw." He pauses to scrub at the drawing the edge of his thumb, using his skin to soften one of the darker lines around the dog's crusty eyesocket, then rubs the tips of his fingers together. "Aleksandr Kozlow. Sasha, to my friends. They are not very many.

"What do you want?"

Brows arch slowly. "I have to want something to be talking to you?" Melissa asks in a dry voice. "And Sasha…isn't that a girl's name?" she asks, lips curving a touch as she taps ash off the tip of her cigarette. "But no, I did just wanna talk. I'm curious about you, for a number of reasons. Like the reason the institute had you. Figure, I headed the team that got you out, it makes sense to know why they wanted you."

"It is why the Institute wants most people." Sasha reaches up and pushes his bangs away from his forehead, leaving a grimy black smudge above his left eyebrow where his fingers come into contact with the sweat that beads there. Although it isn't as hot as it was during the afternoon, the weather is still uncomfortably stifling and warm. Nearby, a leather jacket hangs off a bent piece of rebar sticking out from the gravel beneath their feet. "My ability," he adds in case Melissa doesn't reach this conclusion on her own.

"You've got something on your forehead," Melissa points out helpfully, motioning to her own forehead with a finger, to let him know where. "And yeah, I get that. But what about your ability makes you so useful to them? Can you, like, make people think what you want, or teleport or something?"

Or something, Sasha mouths, no voice behind the words. He wipes at his forehead with the back of his wrist, lacking proper sleeves in his sweat-soaked wifebeater and jeans, but the smudge stubbornly persists. "You ask too many questions," he says. "I am surprised your friend Pjotr has not answered them already."

Melissa looks a little confused. "Pjotr? Peter?" She shrugs. "I had other things to talk to him about," she replies, though he might notice a bit of stiffening to her shoulders. When he cannot remove the smudge she sighs and stands, moving over to him and rubbing her thumb over the mark. "And why shouldn't I ask questions? It's the only way I'll learn anything new. It's not like I'm a telepath to just wish the answers out of people's heads or anything. And thank god for that. There are some seriously fucked up people out there."

As Melissa reaches for Sasha's face, a cobra-quick snap of his hand catches hers by the wrist. He presses his thumb into the network of veins beneath her skin with enough pressure to cause some serious discomfort, but for whatever reason he decides to spare her any real pain. His fingers remain knit around the charcoal. "I do not recall giving you permission to touch me."

Discomfort Melissa can deal with, and she doesn't even flinch as she narrows her gaze. "I was just going to get the smudge off. But if you want to leave it, who am I to get rid of it? Though I know I didn't give you permission to touch me, and you don't have a reason as good as mine. So get your hand off me," she says in a too sweet voice. "Jesus. Think you'd be a little more trusting of someone who just got your ass away from the Institute."

"I do not give trust freely." Sasha squeezes Melissa's wrist to emphasize his point before he releases her, flicking her hand away with a brusque gesture. "This and military strategy are things I see you have yet to learn."

Melissa remains close for now, though she's looking more and more irritated at Sasha. "My strategy was fine. We achieved our goals and no one was killed. That's a success. And if I were you, I'd be a little more grateful, jackass, even if you don't trust me."

Sasha returns his attention to the sketchbook in his lap, rolling the charcoal between his fingers as he pauses to survey the sketch for the first time since he started it, but rather compare his rendition to the real thing, he opts to trace his thumbnail along the bow of the carcass' back and judges its worth that way, using an imaginary standard that's as much a mystery as to why he chose it in the first place. "You are quick to forget who sewed up your belly."

"No, I'm not. But me having bullets removed is hardly a new occurance," Melissa says, jerking the collar of her shirt to one side to show him the two neat holes that have scarred on her shoulder. "So sorry if I rate fixing up a bullet wound beneath saving someone from a life of being an experiment for the Institute. You do know that's what they would've turned you into if they'd kept you, right? I know a girl who was there for a while. She was nothing but a lab rat in the guise of a daughter."

Her hand drops as she steps back, sitting down on her barrel again. "Though one of us has to be the bigger man, so to speak, so I will. Thanks for sewing up my belly. Now stop being such a jerk to someone who helped you and just wanted to learn a little more about you."

Maybe he takes offense to something contained in Melissa's words. Or maybe he's realized that being withholding only makes her more upset. Whatever the reason, Sasha's only response is to drag his teeth over his lip and resume work on the sketch, once again focusing on the dog's face. The charcoal fills in its eye, the shadows under one tattered ear and the space between its lip and its bloodied teeth, while the slope of its powerful shoulders and stiff hindquarters — long legs stretched out behind it like a hog hanging in a butcher's window — receive no attention at all.

He's ignoring her.

Melissa sighs and tips her head backwards, staring up at the sky. "What's your deal, Sasha? Seriously? Wait, no, nevermind. You won't tell me anyway," she says, shaking her head and rising. She drops the cigarette on the ground and grinds it beneath the heel of her boot. "I'll just go find Angel and ask him about you. I owe him one anyway for being the cause of an innocent woman getting shot," she says, turning to head back into the building.

Sasha makes a gruff sound at the back of his throat when Melissa tells him her plans for Angel Juan Delgado, but this is as close as he comes to verbally warning her away from it. He tucks his chin against his collar, lowers his brow. Sweat carves a path down the side of his face and disappears somewhere in his beard.

They may have gotten off on the wrong foot, or whatever the equivalent expression is in his native Russian.

Though Melissa pauses briefly at that sound, she doesn't glance back, or say anything more. Her hands just slide into her pockets, and she continues on. Finding Angel might not be the smartest move, but it's something that needs done.

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