danko3_icon.gif eileen_icon.gif

Scene Title Reciprocation
Synopsis Eileen visits Danko in his room at the hospital while he undergoes morphine detox under mandatory lockdown.
Date January 18, 2010

Holliswood Hospital

It's been 12 days. Nearly 300 hours since Emile Danko was first hustled out've an ambulance and into Holliswood Hospital on a stretcher, too sedated to cause trouble. 290 since he rendered his first attending nurse unconscious; 289 since he was knocked out and bound into his bed, leather straps locked in stiff over scars still fresh from the last time he was chained to a piece of furniture.

He spent the first few days alternating between the bed situation and a straight jacket. The latter option allowed him more freedom of movement to vomit with.

Things aren't so bad, now. On a relative scale, anyway. He's confined to his quarters, barred from interaction with other patients. He's in his own clothes — black over grey over black, collared buttondown and jacket both open over a black undershirt that shows the sink of his gut in under his ribs. He has cigarettes. He's smoking one now. As for whether or not he's supposed to be doing it inside — seems pretty likely the staff on call this evening has learned to choose their battles.

The nurse that gave Eileen directions to his room gave her a weary look to go with it. The orderly that unlocks the door for her is similarly skeptical, eyes rolling white in their up-and-down review of her person against neutral paint and a heavy door that has only the smallest of shatter resistant windows to offer some insight into the interior. His, "If you need anything, you just hollar," is very sincere. As if he greatly suspects that there will be hollaring.

Emile is oddly still for his part, seated on the far corner of his bed with his back to the door and his smoke sketching fine lines in the air about his raised left hand. The bed opposite him is neatly made up and empty, and likely will be until they've gotten rid of him.

When nicotine-rich blood passes from the lungs to the brain, it stimulates the release of chemical messengers — acetylcholine to enhance concentration, norepinephrine to boost arousal while beta-endorphin reduces pain and anxiety. It's no surprise that cigarettes are addictive. Eileen is removing her own package from the interior pocket of the pea coat she wears over clothes the same neutral shades that Danko is wearing. Heels click against the floor as she crosses the room at what sounds like a leisurely pace, the staccato tick-tack-snap of her shoes spaced out over even intervals.

He isn't looking at her, and that's fine by Eileen. She didn't dress up and pin her hair back with a red carnation tucked behind her ear to impress Danko. Silk, cashmere and lace are all part of a costume designed to make her appear as though she cares about how he views her, and the performance that goes with it is one she leaves at the door.

They're alone now. Relatively. She doesn't have to pretend that this is a special occasion she's been waiting twelve days for, even though it is in its own morbid way.

She takes a seat on the edge of the bed opposite, saying nothing as she selects a single cigarette from the package and slides it out between her fingers.

Danko looks like hell. There's no kinder way to say it. Even accounting for prior bouts with starvation, bloodloss and infection she's been party to, this might be the lowest Eileen's seen him.

It's not just that he looks tired and thin. He looks kicked, or licked (as you please) through the grim stoop of his fuzzy head between narrow shoulders and the watery pallor to his eyes that lends him an infirm, crippled air where before it marked and accentuated the intensity about him. For all she can tell, he's finally become the sunken corpse he's taken after for so long.

At least it doesn't smell in here. Unless antiseptic, sterile wash trying to cover up cigarette smoke counts a smell.

His lifeless eyes are slow to cast over in her direction even once she's taken a seat, measuring health and distance and intent through the staggering wind of noxious grey air through the cleaner stuff between them. "You look nice." Standard fair for conversation between daughter and father or grandfather or uncle or husband. Up until he swallows against a tremor at his far leg and lifts the cigarette for a protracted drag, watching her sidelong all the while.

"You know I could wring the life outta you before that boy outside even finds the right key."

"You could," Eileen concedes, and it doesn't sound like she's humouring him. Her tone acknowledges that she's taking a very serious risk — there's absolutely no mirth or slyness in it. "Instead," she says, "I'm going to tell you why you shouldn't." Shouldn't. Not won't. She's bold for coming in here but not so brazen as to imply that she knows what he will or will not do.

She sticks the cigarette between lips painted sangria red, leaving an imprint on the filter where it comes into contact with her small mouth, and cups her hand around her face as she uses a match lit in the interim to summon smoke and a bright orange ring of burning embers. "You know why I'm here, you know what I want, and you're smart enough to realize that my associates are in a position to take from you something similar to what you took from me if I leave here in a body bag. I can recommend a good florist, by the way."

Breath held and expelled in deliberately slow kind, Danko swallows again behind an insubstantial haze of smoke, glassy eyes rimmed in bloodshot pink and skullish face not nearly immersed enough to disguise the miserable mess he's made of himself. Even on the backside of initial withdrawal he looks like he hurts, hunched in on himself like a dog that'd rather be curled up in a corner somewhere dying while smoke whisps out his sinuses and through his teeth.

"I don't presume to know the first thing about what goes on in your head."

"Then allow me to clarify the situation for you," Eileen says, tucking the battered package back into her pea coat. "As soon as we're both in the position to, we're going to finish what you started at Amundsen-Scott." She takes a drag from her cigarette, breath rickety and haggard on the inhale and only marginally smoother on the exhale. The make-up on her face conceals the worst of the dark circles under her eyes and gives her the impression of wakefulness where eyeliner and shadow have been strategically placed.

Her voice is tired. So is she. She can't even muster the steeliness to make what she's saying sound like a threat. "If you tell me who gave you the order, I'd be willing to go out of my way to ensure Solovyov doesn't get mixed up in it. If you don't, then I can promise that he almost certainly will. Do they let you read the paper here?"

Danko's quiet for a while. She's in his territory, shaky as it is. He can afford the luxury of putting her off while he tries to think his way through the pain cloying humid up his spine, aching hollow against the sides of his skull to drag at the backs of his deep-set eyes. He smokes and watches her and says nothing, cigarette set into a jut through the flat set of his mouth, irises the color of dirty snow ratcheted hard with hatred under their seamy polish.

If there was any human measure of doubt before — any doubt — that he'd just as soon slaughter her as look at her, it lifts when he makes the necessary adjustment in posture to stare at her head on. "Seems to me, of the few people you've allowed yourself to get close to, the ones I don't shoot, you do. I'm not sure I believe you've got the means." No answer on the paper.

Eileen lowers her hand to rest it on her stocking-clad knee, skin tinted ash gray by the silky material of her nylons. She crosses her legs, the toe of her dangling foot pointed like a ballet dancer's encased in a pointe shoe, and rotates her ankle in a slow clockwise motion. He's quiet, she's quiet — the room is quiet. Apart from the rustle of clothes and the faint rasp of her breathing, the only sound coming from Eileen is the ticking of her pocket watch she carries in her coat pocket, and that is too soft for either of them to hear.

"I spoke with Agent Avi Epstein," she offers. "He says you tried to kill him in Antarctica. Would you like to talk about that?"

Brows faltered up into an uneven lift, as if in mild reassessment of exactly what her placement in the scheme of things is, Danko gives Eileen and the roll of her ankle an up and down that might make a lesser young woman's spine tingle with unease if she didn't know what she knows.

His interest is purely scientific.

A slow blink, a sniff and a scrub of his smoke-wielding hand up under his nose later, he lets the line of his mouth wind into a sidelong lift, lazy confidence steeped subtly into every minute adjustment in his expression now that they're back on the subject of him 'trying' to kill people. "He tried to kill me first."

"And yet you're both still alive." The cigarette between Eileen's fingers hemorrhages a plume of smoke that gets thinner the higher it rises. She curves her thumb around the filter as if to give it a flick and dislodge what very little waste has accumulated at its tip, but with nothing to tap it into she ultimately opts not to.

Purely scientific or not, she doesn't like it when he looks at her. Mattress springs creak as she straightens her back and allows gravity to shift her weight forward just a fraction. "I'm very interested as to how you got back to New York City and why he hasn't come after you since," she says. "Did the two of you reach some sort of agreement?"

Too bad, 'cause when his focus lifts back above her neck, it's with that same look in his colorless eyes, waxwork complexion and gnawing pain lending undead life to predatory contempt. No cagey old lion is gonna confess to a pack of hyenas that his position is compromised, all the way down to watching them pick the glistening lop of his entrails out've a freshly gnawed hole in his belly. Danko says nothing. Doesn't even alter his expression away from blackly tolerant amusement at her expense. And if she was close enough, the stream of smoke jetted off his next exhale would dissipate directly into her pretty face.

There isn't a lot Eileen wouldn't give for an hour or two alone with Danko, Raith and a Tucker telephone. Unfortunately, all she has at her disposal is a lit cigarette and that isn't any likelier to make him cooperate than the strategy she's been using. "Okay," she says.

Okay. Pausing to lift the cigarette to her mouth again, she bites down on the filter behind her lips to release some of her aggression in a way that isn't as obvious as, say, lunging across the space between them and wrapping her hands around his neck. There are a few moments where she simply returns his study in somber silence. Before she set foot in the room, she identified her limits and drew an imaginary line to indicate how far she might go for answers.

Fortunately, lines are one of those things that can be blurred. "What can I give you that's worth the information I'm asking for?"

Well here's an uncertainty Emile never thought he'd have to contend with. For the first time since she's been here he looks genuinely blank — caught off guard by unlikely good fortune before it can catch up with him to be skeptical of her honesty. Or follow through. Puzzled lines etch out across his forehead in fine ranks all the same, disconcertingly human through the course of unexpected delays in his already dubious clarity of thought.

"Intel," seems like such an obvious answer it's remarkable it takes him so long to give it, unless she accounts for the fact that he had to filter through a long list of names and things it'd be pointless to ask for, Sumter not the least among them. "…You don't all get along." It stands to reason that anyone these assholes think is dangerous enough to be a problem is likely a problem for the normals of the world as well, even if the thought process makes his haggard brain want to roll over in his skull.

How fortunate for both of them that Danko asks for the one thing Eileen is readily capable of giving. "There's an ex-member of the Vanguard who's made his way over to the States in the aftermath of Apollo," she says. "Sasha Kozlow, medical officer with the Russian military turned mercenary. They had him working as an interrogator in Grozny during the Second Chechen War because of his ability." Now she does discard ash from the tip of her cigarette — one centimeter's worth, chalk-white. "Someone spotted him at Old Lucy's in Greenwich a few weeks ago. Rumour has it he's got a grudge, but I know Sasha and I know that the rumours are wrong. Interested?"

Okay. That was easy enough that crow's feet are quick to cinch skepticism into the corners of pallid eyes accordingly, sockets bruised purple and puce under a faint sheen of old sweat while his cigarette balances forgotten between his index and middle fingers. "What's the ability?" He doesn't necessarily sound afraid to ask — but from the way he's looking at her, all his narrow powers of perception are honing to the cause of whether or not she intends to bullshit him about exactly what he's getting himself into, here.

A few flakes of ash have stuck to Eileen's nylons between the knee of her left leg and the middle of her calf where they stand out against the material like flecks of snow mixed with smog from an industrial smokestack. She brushes them off, but rather than rid herself of them, they leave an ugly smear on the fabric. If she notices, she appears to not particularly care.

This may have something to do with the fact that the majority of her attention is sitting on Danko. Her eyes never stray very far from his face, and when they do it's to reassess his body language and determine whether she's in more or less danger than the last time she checked.


"Or what? You gonna hurt me, Ruskin?" He sits back an inch or two, spine straightened by a few careful degrees so that he can suck off one last drag on his way to dropping his smoke into a coffee cup that already has butt dissolving blackly in its murk. "Wrap those skinny fingers around my neck; feel the way air tries to thread its way in. The way veins pulse out?" There's just enough of a lilt with his glance at the end there to make it a question — or an invitation. His neck certainly looks wringable, loose skin and aged iron muscle corded clammy and pale beneath the flare of his collar.

"I wanna talk to Sumter. Give me your word you'll let him know and I'll give you the name."

For someone Eileen put a bullet in, the invocation of the pastor's name sees a startling if subtle change in the young woman's stony demeanor. She sucks draws in a slow, sharp breath that expands her chest and makes tense the muscles in her lower stomach as the corners of her mouth twitch down into an expression of quiet displeasure. It isn't protectiveness, not exactly, but something so close to it that if they were wed their marriage would be incestuous.

Telling Sumter that Danko wants to talk to him should be simple. Should, however, has never been synonymous with will and does not absolve her of responsibility if something were to happen. "Somehow," she says, "I doubt my word is worth more to you than just one of the buttons on your jacket, but yes. I'll tell him."

"You have him, then." Danko doesn't sound surprised in the least, this time. More like vindicated. Here he was beginning to wonder if someone else hadn't drowned him in a sack full of puppies. He certainly hasn't been at home.

Only one brow still skewed at awkward elevation, the ex-ex-ex marine swallows thickly against a resilient smear of nausea at the base of his throat and blinks hard. Still sick. Likely sick for a while yet, if not forever. "Kershner ordered the hit."

Eileen unhooks her legs at the knee, places both her feet on the floor and rises from her seat at the edge of the bed in one continuous motion. Unlike Kaylee, she isn't a telepath — there's no way for her to verify if what he's telling her is true, and given their personal history it's likely that she's treating this new piece of information with heaping cups of salt.

Still, any lead is better than the nothing she and Raith have been working with for the past month. To thank him for his apparent cooperation, she begins moving toward the door to rid him of her presence, heels tapping across the floor like a pair of castanets. A brisk knock informs the orderly that their visit has concluded, and as she waits for him to unlock the door she smothers out her cigarette by crushing it against the wall.

"If you're lying, I'm going to find out."

"The Government's only been as kind to me as it's needed to be to make its personal problems disappear." Too unphased by the warning to manage even the barest hint of offense at the insinuation that he has anything to hide, Danko pushes up onto his feet as well. Maybe to remind himself that she's one of very few of his enemies that he can tower over in some capacity.

But the height advantage doesn't keep him from looking small. Not in here, like this, fine burr spined dark against the back of his neck with sickly sweat and clothes hanging loose on his haggard frame.

"My loyalty is to myself. But it only matters so long as you decide where the truth lies before the order comes down to take you out."

Eileen flicks the crumpled cigarette to the floor. Just as she is one of the very few of his enemies that he can tower over, there aren't many people she knows who don't have the edge when it comes to size and strength. Although not impossible, it's difficult for her to forget just how credible his earlier threat really is. "We're both living on borrowed time," she says as the orderly's key turns in the lock, and she can physically feel the window in which Danko has to act against her narrow into nothing.

"When the order does come, and it will, it won't go to you."

Danko, in turn, seems to have experienced a lift in his spirits since she's been in here. Couple more days and he'll be able to eat without puking. Might even make it out of this room in time for the gala — a thought that gives him no small amount of pleasure. If he felt physically better, he might summon up a leer for her retreat. As things are, he watches her go like a smirky, watered down scarecrow and manages not to notice the way his right hand jitters restlessly at his side. "A little initiative can go a long way."

It takes all of Eileeen's effort and concentration to wait an additional few moments after the door has opened before she steps over the threshold again and finally shows Danko her back. He worms his way under her skin with a kind of menacing expertise that even someone with a personality as insidious and repulsive as Epstein's lacks. If she is afraid of him, she's determined not only to avoid showing it but to demonstrate the opposite as well.

When the door closes behind her, the sound of her footsteps, measured and precise, can be heard ringing out for a full half minute before their echo fades completely away.

A little initiative can go a long way.

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