Putting Her Foot Down


eileen4_icon.gif gillian2_icon.gif

Scene Title Putting Her Foot Down
Synopsis Gillian is trying to, and Eileen has some words of encouragement.
Date September 1, 2009

Sheung Wan Kitchen

It's not just the large selection that makes Sheung Wan Kitchen special - it's the quality, the sights, the atmosphere, and the friendly service. This is a very small restaurant with only a handful of seats in front of a large, flat counter where meals are prepared in full-view by some of the Rookery's more knowledgeable chefs. Stacked high against the far wall are wicker baskets full of dried sea creatures, mystery animal parts, deer antlers, wine with whole king cobras, heaps of herbs and twigs and tree barks. Although these are meant to go into the dishes that are served here, it is not impossible to haggle for them.

A large chalkboard behind the counter advertises the kitchen's special menu, though some items are more difficult to read than others. Most popular is the Tree Lizard Soup - cooked with yams, Chinese dates, ginseng, medlar, and something called tragacanth, which is reported to be good for asthma, colds, lungs and the heart.

Not dark, but creeping toward the evening hours of this late summer day, the Rookery is never the safest place for a meet-up, but for two people who have lived on Staten Island, that is nothing new at all. Jacket pulled over her arms to keep the chill off, Gillian steps inside the small restraunt with only a handful of seats, and after a moment of looking at any customers present she plants herself down on the flat counter after casting a glance around. "I've actually never been here before," she says out loud, looking at the menu and then down at the other customers, the plates, the cooling in full view.

Slightly paler than normal, she's actually got a ready smile on her face, showing off dimples. The bag that hunt at her side gets moved to her lap, and she keeps a hand on it, but she doesn't seem to be quite as down as she had seemed in recent weeks. Nor was she limping anymore. "Any suggestions on what's good?"

The woman seated beside Gillian at the counter, nursing a bottle of beer, uses her chopsticks to the chalkboard that prominently displays the daily dinner specials in a mixture of English and another language that isn't identifiable at a glance. "I like the Bun Mang Vit," Eileen says as she pauses to pull a sip from her Heineken, then wipe the corner of her mouth with the wet paper napkin that had been trapped under the bottle. "Bamboo shoots and duck noodle soup. But if you're hungry— " Now the chopsticks point at the steaming bowl of meat and vegetables in front of her, an untouched porcelain spoon resting against its lip. "—the hotpot's always a safe choice."

The bottle of beer clinks against the counter top and Eileen returns her attention to her food, pinching an overripe tomato soaked in broth between the tips of her chopsticks until it begins to ooze fleshy seeds back into the bowl. "What did you want to see me about?"

"I'll go with the safe choice. Hotpot for me," Gillian says, making sure that her order is heard, but adding on, "And just water," for her drink. There's a moment of silence before she glances back over at Eileen, that smile fading a bit. A hand reaches up to straighten her hair, while the other remains on her bag. "Ran into a mutual acquaintance of ours— someone I know you're interested in. Asian. Not exactly tall. Good fighter. Handy with a gun. Sunglasses, but not aviators. Found out he's a fan of music."

The hand that settles hair behind her ear ends up lowering to her chest. Her voice stays down, but she's obviously trying to be vague in her words— she's not sure how safe this place is for talking. "He's also not very nice."

"No," Eileen agrees, "he isn't." She pops the mortally wounded tomato into her mouth and chews in quiet contemplation for a moment or two. Although she might be thinking about what Gillian just said, it's just as likely that she's debating the merits of washing the food down with another swig of beer. Either way, she seems not to share the other woman's hesitation when it comes to using names. "I never liked Daiyu," she says after swallowing. "Even when we were on the same side, he was always so competitive. Insubordinate."

The chef sets down a bowl in front of Gillian that looks similar to Eileen's but has more meat than vegetables floating in its broth, including several thin slivers of crab amidst what looks like spinach, salmon pink on top, white on the bottom. "I could tell you all sorts of stories about some of the stupid shit he used to pull just so he could show up Holden. Is everyone all right?"

"He certainly showed us up, but we managed to do what we needed," Gillian explains softly, pulling out the chopsticks and picking out a piece of meat. Her lack of chopstick skills becomes plain when the piece of meat drops back into the soup before it makes it to her mouth. A second try gets it in there, though. Once it's chewed and swallowed, she looks back over, keeping her voice down, "Eve's in a clinic under care. She's been out much of the last few days since it happened— I only managed to talk to her this morning before I came back over to Staten to help out."

This time she chopsticks out one of the veggies, and doesn't drop it. Not quite holding it right, but it works well enough for what she's doing. She's not asking for a spoon, at least. "She wants to see you— has something to tell you and the others with you. Some of it I know, Daiyu actually talked to her a bit before he decided to just shoot her. Peter was there," she adds on. "We knew he'd be there going in. Some… I'm not sure how much detail I can go into here, but I wrote it all down."

"You should have tried to get in touch with one of us before you confronted him. We might've been able to help." In spite of her words, Eileen's voice lacks real heat. She sounds more weary and exhausted than she does angry, her reprimand audibly wavering with the effort it takes to speak. She must hear it, too, because she takes a moment to steel herself, brow knit, and doesn't open her mouth again until she trusts herself not to say something she might later regret.

"All right, then," she says eventually instead, tone begrudging, "if you went to the trouble of writing it down, I'll make sure it finds its way into the right hands."

"Probably would have gone better if we'd told more people about it, but who Eve tells about her stuff is her own business… But I think she'll give it a second thought if she plans to interfer with his things again," Gillian admits in the same soft tones, taking a few more bites as she lets the conversation sit for a moment. Food is important. Once she's washed some of it down with a drink of water, she sets her chopsticks down onto the edge of the bowl and reaches into her bag, to fish out a small envelope, like one would put a letter in.

"In this case, your hands are the right hands. Just make sure it doesn't end up in the wrong ones." What she passes over isn't really thick, but thick enough for a couple pages folded over each other. Pages copied out of the journal she kept while waiting for Eve to get out of emergency care. Much more details on what happened than she shared with anyone else, even… Including what really happened in the dream, what they'd gone to stop, as well as additional notes added on at the end, about what Eve had gathered from Feng's words when he stopped to talk. Briefly.

"I can't promise anything," Eileen says, taking the envelope as it's offered to her. "Our definitions of right and wrong might not be the same. That's the beauty of language — most of it's subjective." She turns the envelope over in her hands twice, testing its thickness and the feel of the paper beneath her fingers, then slips it inside the leather jacket she wears on her small frame for safekeeping. "I disagree, by the way," she adds in the next breath. "About it being Eve's business alone."

Eileen taps her chopsticks against her now empty beer bottle to get the chef's attention, though she doesn't need to say anything in order to communicate what this means. She visits the Kitchen often enough for him to know, and it's with a sardonic smile that he retrieves another Heineken from the fridge. "Every second that Daiyu is out there is a second he might use to tell his superiors about the Garden," she tells Gillian, "and that's assuming he hasn't already. It isn't just the Vanguard that's on the chopping block. We've compromised the fucking network."

"Then you got a beef to pick with Peter, too," Gillian admits, closing up her bag and then picking at her own pieces of beef, or whatever it is. She has a feeling she's better off not asking what everything she's eating is in this place. She's willing to pay and it doesn't taste bad. Once a chopstick full is chewed and swallowed, she explains, "He knew that he would be there— maybe not when, but he knew he'd be stopping in on the musicians place. He was waiting for it. As you'll read in there, he probably intended to take matters into his own hands. We went in there to make sure things didn't go as bad as they were supposed to."

There's a quiet moment, where she goes back to eating a bit more, frowning at the mention of the Garden. "Eve has other things to tell you, but I'm not sure what they are. The address of where she's staying is included. It's one of our places, so you should be able to get in pretty easily." There's a small pause. "You're probably right that we should have included more people. Both of us nearly died trying to save the day, and all Feng got was a scratch on his face."

That Feng has taken an apparent interest in Else Kjelstrom gives Eileen pause as well. She occupies her hands by twisting off the bottle's cap and dropping it onto the counter with a metallic tinkle, saying nothing during the time it takes to compose her thoughts into something more orderly. "I've got more'n a beef to pick with Peter," is what she settles on in the end. "I suspect Gabriel will, too, when I tell him that his star pupil's been withholding information from him."

Droplets of moisture trickle down the side of the bottle, gathering in a watery pool around its glass base. There are no coasters here, and the counter shows signs of excessive wear where this treatment has begun to warp the wood and stain strange circular formations. "You can tell Eve I'll come see her as soon as I'm able. There are some other things I need to take care of first."

"I will. I said I'd go back and visit her every day, so I'll add that to my next stop in," Gillian says quietly, pausing a bit to take somemore bites off the food, before she looks back over at the bottle, and the girl holding onto it. "Try not to let Gabriel be too hard on him. He… He may not even realize just how much he learned, but— as you'll read, we wouldn't be having this conversation if he hadn't learned anything at all from the lessons. I know you're not a big fan of him either— probably for good reasons."

There's that hesitation, before she dives back into her meal. Eating with chopsticks means it will take some time before she's finished. There's a mild tremor in her hands too, which may not be helping. It isn't one of the warmest nights, but there's plenty of reasons for small tremors.

"You make it sound like he's a dog on a leash," Eileen observes, not without some humour, watching Gillian's fingers work the chopsticks rather than focus her face or her eyes. Her own food has been abandoned somewhere along the way, around the same time that her appetite decided to jump ship. "Gabriel will do what Gabriel will do," she says. "If controlling him is as easy as sit, stay, heel, then Kazimir wouldn'tve had the trouble with him that he did. What I can do is ask. Either appeal to logic or his ego, whichever happens to be in the driver's seat at the time."

"Yeah, I know. I don't expect anyone to have much say over what he does," Gillian confesses, though there's something far off in the way she watches her hands, something softer about her raspy voice. A dog of a leash. "I said try. However you try is up to you. I didn't expect anything else," she explains, shaking her head a bit. "I just… It's probably none of my business, anyway. Just getting in the way, no matter what I do." Seems her appetite might have been lost there, too. The chopsticks get sat down, and she reaches in to lay some money down on the countertop. "What's in there is really all I needed to tell you. Not sure if it'll help with anything, but I hope it does, somehow."

"Sometimes," says Eileen, "getting in the way isn't entirely a bad thing. You put your foot down in Kazimir's business when you agreed to help Phoenix, and you did the same to Arthur when Helena and Catherine decided it was in everyone's best interest to act against Pinehearst." For all its tentativeness, the small smile she offers the other woman is at least genuine. "I'm of the mind that failing to give yourself enough credit is worse than giving yourself too much. You and your people have done good things, Gillian. I can't speak for anyone else, but I'd like to see you continue doing them."

There's a surprised glance from Gillian across to the other woman. She takes in a slow breath. The reason she'd been avoiding eye contact might become clear, even if there's just a little moisture present. Despite the moisture in her eyes, which isn't quite to the point of tears, there's a smile that shows up after a moment. "I hope what you got in that envelope puts a foot down into Daiyu's business. Especially if it helps give an idea what he might want, besides what we already knew." She looks back at the meal she already finished quite a bit of, and adds, "And thanks for the suggestion. I'll probably come back next time I'm in the Rookery."

More cash joins the money Gillian put down on the counter, enough to cover Eileen's meal, drinks and a slightly-more-than-modest tip. "You're welcome," she says as she rises from her seat and zips up her jacket all the way to the chin in the same motion. One hand taps her breast where the envelope's outline is faintly visible beneath the leather material to emphasize the next words out of her mouth. "Don't forget that this is a two-way street. I owe you, and I owe Eve. If either of you need anything that you think I can help with, all you ever have to do is ask."

"If I think of something, I'll let you know," Gillian says quietly, but there's some hesitation in the way she says that. "Fuck, you've done a lot already, whether you know it or not." In some ways, she might be referencing a few words said that surprised her. As well as many other things done by the woman in the past. "If you still think you could do what we talked about at the Lighthouse… I'm honestly not sure if I want to try to see him, not when he doesn't want to be found by me… but maybe even just knowing he's okay every now and then would be enough."

There's that tremor again, she pulls her coat closer around her, doing it up more. "I'll see you later. Though sometime we should have better topics to talk about. Books or something— that sort of thing. All this tragedy isn't really my thing." There's a laugh. "And to think, I used to be a goth— though secret of that is, I really only liked the style."

"I'll see what I can do," Eileen promises, if what she says can even be considered such. She makes no guarantees. Leaning back against the counter, she rests her elbow on its surface and picks up her beer, content to linger behind for a few more minutes until this bottle is as empty as the last. "I like books," she says then, and perhaps this admission is a byproduct of the alcohol. While they're on the topic of erstwhile subcultures: "I like Siouxsie and the Banshees, and Dead Can Dance, too."

She likes a lot of things, actually, but this is probably a line of conversation best left for another time. As Gillian said, later. Eileen has enough grace (and sobriety) not to hassle her. "Take care of yourself out there."

There's a laugh, one that seems very much genuine, even if they're both getting ready to leave. Gillian pulls her bag up until her shoulder and says, "I love Dead Can Dance. Seems we have at least a couple things in common." There's that laugh in her voice, that smile that rises up dimples. But she doesn't mention what else they have in common. They probably already know, anyway. "Good night, Eileen," she adds, before she turns and heads out, to disappear into the street and make it home before it gets too dark.

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