Reality Check


eileen_icon.gif raith_icon.gif

Scene Title Reality Check
Synopsis Raith tries a different approach that isn't met with complete success, though he manages to avoid thrown bottles this time.
Date September 18, 2009

Speakeasy Hotel and Casino — Second Floor Hallway

As Jensen Raith stands alone in the second floor hallway of the Speakeasy Hotel and Casino, his thoughts are repeatedly punctuated by a singular remark that plays over and over inside of his head: This is bullshit. What's bullshit isn't that Eileen's angry at him after their last altercation. That's completely rational. No, what's bullshit is that she is, apparently, going out of her way to drag that anger on long after it should have lost its energy and gone to sleep. But no, she's insistent on keeping that anger alive, and being petty, confrontational, obstructionist and an all-around bitch.

And that's why Raith is standing in the second floor of the Speakeasy Hotel and Casino, silently scolding himself for not bringing flowers or something else that might give Eileen breathing difficulties, quietly smoldering with generic rage over a situation that should have been resolved a day or two after it started, but has not. It's the fight that never ends; it goes on and on, my friend.

And it's bullshit.

The footfalls echoing in the stairwell that leads up to the second floor could belong to anyone, but when you spend enough time around a person, it's easy to learn their unique cadence and commit it to memory if such an inclination exists. This rhythm is distinct, familiar, soft — an extension of the small, lily-white feet that produce it. At the top of the steps, a dark-haired woman whose identity Raith can confirm comes into view as she rounds the corner and enters the hall, a pair of hotel keys dangling between the fingers of her left hand while the right cradles a cell phone in its palm.

She isn't holding it to her ear, and she doesn't have it on speakerphone; the way its pale glow reflects off her skin and illuminates her face in gentle blue light suggests that she's either thumbing through her contact list or laboriously spelling out a text message. Whatever she's doing, she stops when Raith's shadow appears in her peripheral, snaps the phone shut and directs an icy look at his eyes.

"What do you want?"

For a handful of seconds, Raith is quiet. But before long, he speaks, voicing a question he would have asked previously, had things not gone downhill as quickly as they did. "Is there some sort of password or secret phrase I have to say before you'll do something other than snub me and otherwise pretend we've never met when I try to do something difficult and say, 'I'm sorry'?" he asks. "Because, if there is, please tell me what it is, so we can stop wasting our time with this bullshit."

Although Eileen doesn't find herself wishing she had another bottle, Wu-Long's ability would come in handy about now. She envies Gabriel for the ease with which he navigates his environment these days, intangible as smoke, fluid as ink dissolving in water. There aren't many things that she wouldn't give to be able to melt into a puddle of shadow and flow effortlessly around Raith's legs and under the door to Room 201.

Instead, she has to tell him in a very clipped voice, "No." The phone is slipped into the back pocket of the denim jeans she wears, freeing her right hand. "You kissed me," she reminds him, "and when I tried to make you stop, you hit me. I don't see what more we have to discuss."

"I'm not asking you to discuss anything," Raith replies sharply, "I'm not even asking you to forgive me. I'm asking you to do the smart thing and get over it. Remember that part where we're supposed to be working together? This comes with that territory. One of us fucks up, we move past it, because we have to work together, and if even one of us can't move beyond shit that happens, that's it. We lose.

"Game fucking over. At the very least, I hope you can understand that."

Eileen arches a sculpted black brow at Raith. "Did I do something to give you the impression that I wasn't willing to work with you?" Thrown bottles aside. "This is my space, Jensen. I decide who I let past that door. How do you think it felt to come home and find someone sitting on the edge of the fucking bed?" She takes a step forward and then another, not quite brazen but still bolstered by the words that are coming out of her mouth.

"Maybe I should have told Petrelli how I got that black eye, hey?" The keys jangle in her hand. "Get out of my way."

"I think it felt like a good, solid reality check, when you realized it could have just as easily been Feng." Ouch. If Raith's goal with that is to give Eileen something to think about, that just may count as a success. "You know, maybe you should tell Petrelli. Yeah, that's the ticket. And while you're at it, tell Gray and Knutson, too. Even better if you tell all of them at the exact same time so they can fire each other up and really build some team spirit. I'm sure they'll only have everyone's best interests in mind when they do whatever it is they do, and not do it just because they're rail-guided, unprofessional, power-tripping ego-maniacs, unable to resist some bullshit urge to protect 'the baby'.

"That would be silly."

As Eileen continues forward, booted feet striking the carpet, she tightens her grip on her keys, not for fear of dropping them but to wield the metal point as a weapon if necessary. She has the knife clipped to her belt and the pistol in her shoulder holster beneath her jacket at her disposal as well, but as Raith so candidly pointed out— she's facing down an ally, not an enemy. He isn't Feng Daiyu, and he isn't wearing Aviator sunglasses.

"I wouldn't worry about Gray," she says, moving to shoulder past him on the way toward the door. "He's so preoccupied with running his own errands that I doubt he's noticed anything usual about our arrangement. Knutson's a nobody, and Petrelli knows better'n to bite the hand that feeds. That leaves Holden howling at the moon. You're clear."

"I guess I am," Raith replies. As Eileen moves to shoulder passed him, he doesn't move to impede her progress, although he doesn't move to get out of her way, either. "Seeing as how I'm the only one who's ever around. How's Gabriel doing, by the way? I hardly ever see him."

"You could ask him yourself," Eileen suggests, slipping her key into the lock, though she does not yet turn it. It's very possible that Raith has grazed a sore spot with his words; more likely, she's willing to linger outside the door just a little longer in light of his apparent cooperation. "He's out there doing legwork for the benefit of us all, so don't say it like his absence is a bad thing."

"It's not. Not for the group as a whole." But if Gabriel's absence is bad for something, or someone other than the group as a whole, Raith doesn't elaborate. If he did find a chink in Eileen's armor, another needle in it might be to his benefit. After all, he's the only one who stays around. At least, he's the only one who seems to be around at times other than when he wants something from her, and if she keeps thinking that, maybe it's not all bad. Maybe that kiss incident won't seem like such a crime anymore.

Eileen knits her brow at Raith, head half-turned, chin brushing the collar of her jacket. Dark curls of hair teasing at her temples and the curve of her jaw partially obscure the expression on her face from view. "I'm alone because I choose to be," she says, punctuating this statement with the turn of the key in the lock. She's twisting the handle next. "If I asked Gabriel to stay, he would."

"For how long?" Raith asks in reply. With Eileen turning the handle of the door, their conversation is nearly at an end. If he's going to needle her more, he has to make each comment count.

Eileen pauses, fingers clutching the handle, the light from the hall bleeding into the darkened interior of her suite. Only vague shapes are visible from where Raith is standing. The outline of the nightstand beside the bed. The young woman's reflection in the mirror on the opposite wall, gray eyes dark, solemn, shadowed by lashes and the sooty kohl smudged beneath them. "Until he doesn't anymore."

Raith has a small correction to add to Eileen's reply. "Until there's some place he'd rather be." Until he needs to leave. Or has a problem and hides from it. Or, just maybe, until he gets bored with her. Raith could say more, but he doesn't. He may have already said too much. Pushing someone the way he's trying to push Eileen is a delicate process. Too little and there won't be any results. Too much, and she'll figure it out. And he has no doubt that Eileen is smart enough to figure it out, if he's not careful. No one joins Vanguard and then survives this long by being stupid.

Raith won't know whether he pushed too little or too much, at least not tonight. Eileen removes her keys from the lock, steps into the suite without flicking on the lightswitch, and turns just enough to regard him over her shoulder as she closes the door behind her. "Good night, Jensen," she says, voice soft enough to be overpowered by whispering hinges unless he's anticipating a formal farewell. By the time it clicks shut and the deadbolt sounds, she's disappeared completely from the sliver of a view that the gap afforded.

A red envelope with Raith's name printed across the front slips under the door a moment later, and is summarily followed by retreating footsteps and the creak of bedsprings. Let Eve Mas never say that Eileen isn't true to her word when it comes to delivering the post.

Raith picks up the envelope, but doesn't open it. Not yet. He's gotten used to treating every piece of paper that comes to him as sensitive material until proven that it's not. Under his jacket it goes (why he continues to wear it despite the weather, even he doesn't really know), and down the stairs Raith goes. He's made, progress? Something. At least Eileen is sort of talking to him again. It's good that they've come to some kind of an understanding. But the whole situation?

It's still bullshit.

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