On the Subject of Things Not to Discuss


eileen_icon.gif francois_icon.gif

Scene Title On the Subject of Things Not to Discuss
Synopsis Eileen consults the closest thing she has to a personal physician about the symptoms she's been experiencing, and although Francois does not confirm her fears, he does not alleviate them either.
Date June 16, 2010

Maison d'Allegre

Something Francois rarely did while it was mind numbingly cold: throw the curtains open. The thicker ones of neutral, unobtrusive steely blue are gathered right back from the edges of the wide, streetside window, with a thin veil of gauzy white to grant privacy from the street beyond the immediate space outside sectioned off from the sidewalk with wrought iron. Morning light is plenty in its shine, enough to make electric lamps unnecessary. The hearth hasn't been lit since it got above freezing point.

Eileen gets the armchair, angled to allow the light to spill over her frame as if Francois wanted to draw her. He is sitting upon the coffee table, as is apparently customary. Abby had said about converting this place into a clinic, once. For now, it's still a living room.

"How much have you been sleeping?" he's asking. At the moment, he has her hand in his, the back of her's cupped in his palm, his own wristwatch twisted around all the better to watch as his other fingers seeking out the pulse beneath the thin skin of her wrist. He doesn't like diagnosing, reasonably sure that his skull would have split apart from the pressure of that much knowledge had he'd asked Sadie for such skills, and too sure he will be wrong, but he also owes something to the two women and the time traveler that rescued him, once.

"Less than I should be," is the confession offered by the young woman in the armchair who, in spite of taking extra pains to make herself appear presentable when she left home this morning, appears gaunt and pale with shadows filling the sockets of green eyes that lack their characteristic sharpness. In her free hand, Eileen holds a white handkerchief embroidered with flowers and stained dark red where fresh blood has soaked through the fabric and saturated its flimsy weave. The other is tense in Francois' gentle clasp, her pulse fluttering like a captive bird under his touch, and not because she's anxious.

"A few hours every night," she goes on to guess. "Four or five. Six, sometimes, when I can manage it." Which isn't very often. Her tone is quiet by necessity rather than a conscious choice. "I thought it might just be the stress, but then this started."

At the word this, she turns over the handkerchief clutched between slender fingers only a shade or two separate from the cloth and holds it out for closer inspection. "Please don't say anything to Teodoro."

With his hands occupied, Francois only glances towards the handkerchief, swift enough so that he's not losing count of seconds and less study heart rate. Being not a real doctor and all, he does not have a stethoscope, but he does have a spare, empty journey, which assumes enough time to finish it. "I do not think I am allowed to," he points out, gently, eyes still down, before the last second ticks by, and he releases Eileen's hand and wrist back to her. Sitting up straighter, his fingers occupy themselves first with adjusting his wristwatch.

Then, rubbing relaxation into his left hand, unselfconscious as to its scarring, or at least not really thinking about it right now. "I can give you something to help with sleep, and the pain. You will have to rest. Drink water — dehydration can affect your blood pressure and increase your heart rate.

"How is your ability?" He sits back a little, as opposed to being perched on the edge of the table as he was, demeanor as subdued, almost faded, as it has been since he's talked to her today. Appearing as healthy as one man can be, Francois is likely not suffering symptoms himself. Perhaps only tired. "Do you have problems ever accessing it?"

Francois' concession earns him a small smile from Eileen, wan and rueful but not ungracious. She does not point out to him that there are many things they aren't allowed to do and do regardless of any rules put in place by a higher authority — or at least not in words. Between the shape of her mouth and the angle of her finely sculpted brows, her expression conveys these thoughts with more clarity than any weak attempt at articulation might. What she says instead is: "No."

She doesn't have trouble accessing her ability, that is. "Feeling them— that's never been the problem. Sometimes it's difficult to concentrate." She folds her arm protectively across her midsection. "I've been close with people who've come down with the virus. There was a little boy at one of the network safehouses—"

Eileen pauses, train of thought diverted by the need to cough hard and wet, though she's mindful enough to do it into her handkerchief. H5N10 or not. "I know what it looks like," she mutters thickly into the cloth.

"Teo started having severe-level symptoms without sign of blood in the lungs, no fever until later, none of the fatigue or the aching muscles that others complained about," Francois says, the soft skin at his eyes crinkling a little at the implication of a smile, slighter at its mouth than it is at his eyes. Rueful. "All the cases I saw were unique and occasionally unexpected — it is not something we can necessary discount, for all that there is no treatment beyond the symptoms. Otherwise, I would guess that you have an infection of some kind, if it isn't the virus. I have some antibiotics you could try for a time, if you have not already."

His hands splay a little in gesture, a shrug without being flippant. "You would know if it was any medications you were taking, oui? An allergic reaction, or a toxin of some kind. I'm sorry," he adds, with a slightly brighter smile, if not necessarily one of mirth, or at her expense, or his own. "You may have been led to believe I am more than just a surgeon and ex-healer."

"There are other antibiotics I can try," Eileen agrees, lowering her hand from her mouth. No blood on her lips, some on her teeth. She runs her tongue across them. On the subject of other medications, her eyes follow after her hand. Beneath her porcelain skin and brittle glass nails is a very sensitive young woman who values her privacy almost as highly as the very few friendships she's been able to establish and maintain since coming to the States. She's uncomfortable putting these things into the open; that she's being candid with Francois at all is probably a fair indication of just how much she trusts him.

"Antidepressants and birth control. I keep epinephrine at home for allergies, but I haven't needed it in—" Her hesitation translates to a very long time. Eileen can't remember. "An inhaler. Diazepam, I think, for a week after I was shot. I don't know what else to do, Francois. I can't go to a hospital."

That's what they all say, and if Francois had ever needed to go to a hospital in his time, he would probably sympathise more. As it is, his gaze drops to study the air between them as opposed to directly look at her. "He mentioned you had another opinion you could be getting," he says, after a moment. "It is probably a good idea, if you can't seek anything better than us both. My opinion now is that I am worried, but I do not think this is something you've done to yourself. Inadvertantly.

"Sicknesses resolve. If you can get diltiazem, it will help with the tachycardia. Ibuprofen for the soreness, zopiclone for the sleep. We can deal with the symptoms and observe, for now. And perhaps you should tell Teo." A wink, fast and subtle. "He could do with worrying about someone else."

Eileen should be writing this down, she knows, but she lacks a tool to write with and paper to transcribe Francois' recommendations onto. She's fortunate that, apart from being unable to remember the last time she shot herself up with epinephrine, she has a good memory. Diltiazem. Ibuprofen. Zopiclone. Not much to commit. "Constantine Filatov used to operate a clinic out of the Rookery on Staten Island," she says, because there aren't many people that Teo could be talking about. "I know a nurse who used to work in the emergency room at St. Luke's. Odessa."

Neutral though the tone of her voice may be, there's something about the stilted silence that follows the other doctor's name that suggests Joie is a last resort. "It's— important that this stays between us." As if emphasizing this point, she folds the handkerchief between her fingers and tucks it back into her cardigan. "If people knew I was sick, my judgments might come into question. My work."

The mention of Odessa has Francois flexing that left hand in vague memory of an offer, retracting both of his to tuck into the pockets of the light sweater jacket he has pulled over against the very mild morning cool. More habit for layers than true discomfort, and his hands aren't cold either. "Maybe," he concedes, then gives a shrug, small and swift. "It is your choice, so long as you keep your health as important as your work. I meant it, what I said once before.

"I will write down those names for you," he adds, using his legs alone as well as a tip forward of his torso to get to his feet and stalk towards the open dining area, the table usually too littered with things to properly have a meal at without needing to stop and clear the space.

But the benefit being there will inevitably be a pen and scrap of paper within ease reach. His fingers sift and paw through the reserved cluttered — two newspapers, a couple of leafy catalogues, photocopied printouts from the library, receipts, affectionate memo notes accounting for disappearances and returns, and shopping lists.

Sitting in the heart of Maison d'Allegre, it's not envy that Eileen feels. As a child, she might have yearned for a house with a garden instead of the dilapidated flat above the antique store that she grew up in, but her time with the Vanguard has since instilled in her an appreciation for atypical living spaces. The Dispensary is home, and when she takes into consideration that it was in part given to her as a gift by someone who has a part of her heart, as small as it is, she finds it impossible to covet what Francois justly earned for his participation in Operation Apollo.

What she does feel is a quiet sense of admiration for what the Frenchman has done with his reward. More importantly, appreciation for his apparent willingness to share it with Teo. Her surroundings aren't what she's paying careful attention to, however — it's Francois' back and the way his muscles shift beneath his sweater when he moves, though there's nothing sexual in her observation of him. Her attention to detail belongs to an artist studying an otherwise stationary model in between poses, invested but detached.

"Thank you."

It's not a prescription pad, but it's canary yellow and maybe difficult to lose. Peeling off a sheet of the paper, Francois scribbles down the words and tries not to study whether his handwriting actually looks different — it does, at that. Less slanted, a little broken, but still his as if maybe someone else were mimicking him. These moments are varied and infrequent, since he'd been given memories and pieces of the people that went with them.

"De rien," he dismisses, back straightening as he distractedly glances over the slightly strange quality to the handwriting, but— but it's readable. Perhaps more so than his, even if doctor's are infamous for their cramped, incomprehensible scrawl. He shrugs at himself, turns when he has a smile for her and striding back the ways across the room to pass over the note. "Try not to use the zopiclone very often. The withdrawal affects might enhance your symptoms."

The note finds a home in the same cardigan pocket that her bloody handkerchief is already occupying. "Yes," is her way of saying I will, even as she bends at the middle and picks up a leather satchel that had been sitting between her feet at the base of the armchair. Her fingers deftly work the buckles and straps with a soft jangle of metal that sounds like tinkling jewelry even though the only item she has on her that even comes close to qualifying is the slim silver chain to which an antique pocket watch is attached, nestled between her breasts.

"I wanted to return this," she says, not of the pocket watch but the battered journal she produces from the bottom of the satchel, its familiar shape bundled in a red cashmere shawl for extra protection. "I've kept it much longer than I should've."

The bundle is taken, unwrapped without the exuberance that would come along with a Christmas present analogy because Francois sort of already knows what's in it already. "Merci," he says, thumb running along the worn spine of the journal once he's given back the red wool, absently flicking over pages that are not so old yet to yellow, but have a kind of delicate feel that implies they've existed some time to match the cracks on the leather and the fade of the colour.

"I never forgot you had it," he feels inclined to add, smile taking on a brief smirking quality, and it's around now he might go in to kiss her cheek or some other swanky show of gratitude, buuut she's diseased, and everything, but it does not stop him from stepping forward to briefly loop an arm around her slender shoulders in a hug inwards, other hand cradling the journal almost protectively to his torso, the crooked splay of fingers stark on faded leather.

Eileen places a hand on Francois' abdomen, not with the intention of maintaining some of the distance between them, but to steady herself against him as he draws her into a quick embrace. "I didn't think you would," she says, and rather than stuff the unfolded shawl back into the satchel, she lifts her hand off his middle and uses it to wrap herself in the garment like a headscarf, presumably to protect her hair and exposed neck from the drizzling rain outside.

She left her umbrella by the door when she first arrived and will retrieve it on her way out again, pop it open once on the brownstone's front stoop, showering the steps with glittering droplets of moisture like water flicked off the tips of a sparrow's wings right after a bath in a shallow fountain. For now, she remains seated right where she is. "There's a little shop here in Greenwich," she says. "Big glass windows with a lattice front on a cobblestone street, stone exterior. The Old Apothecary. Do you know it?"

"Is that a store?" is asked with a little bit of surprise and doubt, but indicates that— "Oui, I've passed it by. It doesn't look very open, but then, I haven't properly looked either." Backing up and resting a hip against the arm of a sofa, Francois looks her over as if checking for details he somehow missed in his close inspection just moments prior, which is a happy distraction than remembering what happened the last time he went hunting around the quaint little shops of this half of Manhattan.

Probably, unwelcome futures aren't actually for sale (if still overpriced) from the West Village to the Meatpacking District.

"It's where I've been filling my prescriptions," Eileen explains, and likely where she'll be taking the slip of paper Francois provided her with. "The man I told you about the last time I was here owns the property, but it's mostly a front. Your hand—"

There's a pause, as if the young Englishwoman isn't sure how best to continue without offending. She presses her lips into a thin line. "There's a chance," because she doesn't want to make any promises she can't keep, "that he might be able to help you with it. I can introduce you, or you can go yourself and tell him that Eileen sent you. He shouldn't charge for a consultation."

It's a little unfortunate for Francois, that he is a proud creature, and shows of pride tend to be a physical lift of his chin as if it to appear taller than his 5'10" suggests, because there is still that ribbon of scarring that Carlisle Dreyfus drew low on his throat. It's a scar of victimisation as opposed to battle, and yet somehow less of a concern for him than his hand. Disability is not something he's ever dreamed of having. Tilting to lean, he rests his journal down upon the empty sofa for later retrieval.

His green eyes narrow in a brief display of— either study or suspicion, he can be hard to read, before that hard expression evens out. "If I do go," he says, eventually, "I would want to go alone. But I can tell him you said to."

"He's Russian," is more of a disclaimer now than it would have been before Apollo. "I don't know how much he'll charge. It's been more than a year since I worked for him, and even then I was just an assistant. He did most of the bookkeeping himself, but he might be convinced to lower his price for a fellow veteran if you tell him you fought in the war."

Eileen hooks her fingers around one of the satchel's leather straps and hefts it over her shoulder as she finally rises, a little unsteadily, from the armchair. "Will you see me again if there's no improvement with this medication?"

When Eileen goes to stand, Francois is left staring around the spot her eyes used to be. The war? Which war?

That war?

But it seems rude to ask, and her question in the immediate is more important. "Ah oui. Yes." Straightening up as well, both hands come out as if to steady her or offer help, but lacking demand, upturned palms simply hovering in the air between them as he takes a step in the direction of out, aware from the unlit hearth, the bright windows. "Even if there is improvement, you shall let me know, and talk to the Russian also when you pick up the medication."

His hand lands on her elbow, gentle if stilling. "On the subject, also, of things not to discuss with Teo," Francois adds, a glance towards the stairs, as much as the younger man is not home right now, "we can include about what your friend may be able to do, to this small list."

Eileen lowers her eyes to the hand at her elbow. A moment later, she's placing hers atop it just so, the very tips of her fingers resting upon the ridge of his knuckles to communicate that yes — this stays between them. It falls away again in the next, and perhaps for clarification's sake she adds a very demure, "Of course." She won't tell Teo.

That's something Francois will have to do for himself. If he does it at all.

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