Talking To A Brick Wall


melissa_icon.gif nick_icon.gif

Scene Title Talking to a Brick Wall
Synopsis Mel tracks Nick down with intervention on her mind, except he's stubborn, even when she remembers something important.
Date September 11, 2010

The Rookery

The small apartment building in the Rookery has seen better days, as has everything surrounding it. The studio apartments within are all in a varying state of disrepair, and the landlord makes sure that the tenants here know that they're renting the rooms "as is," and any repairs that need to be made need to be made by them, not him. Rent here is cheap and in cash, a week's rent payable ahead of time. Most don't have the means to pay for more than one week at a time.

Nick has the money to pay for more than a week at a time, but the government's dime has already rented him a nicer apartment on the other side of the water that's perfectly livable — Nick knows that he's being a little foolish by not living there, especially after his run-in with Amato the other day — clearly the priest doesn't intend to kill him.

That'd be too easy.

The single room doesn't contain more than a mattress and a couch for furniture, and Nick's laptop does him no good here with no wireless or cable hook up to connect him to the internet. Dinner consists of a couple of Cliff bars and a bag of Fritos, chased down by a can of Bass. He lies on his mattress, throwing a blue raquetball up at the ceiling again and again, something he found on the streets from better days, the aged rubber of the ball making its bounce a little weak.

With him staying in a cheap room to protect himself, likely the last thing he hopes to have happen is for someone to show up at his door and knock. But at least it's not pounding, and there's no gunfire or "It's the cops, open up" accompanying the knocking. Instead, waiting patiently on the other side of the door is Melissa in a pair of black cargo pants and a black tank top, a backpack slung over one shoulder. She doesn't look happy, but then, neither does she look like she intends to inflict violence on him.

Unfortunately, there is no peephole in this door — another fault with the place, though not as bad as the partying cockroaches that come out at night. Nick catches the ball and frowns, but lurches up from the mattress, grabbing his gun from where it sits beside it. No shirt and no shoes on, he's clad only in jeans when he pads toward the door, opening it just a crack —the chain lock is in place — so he can see who it is on the other side.

His eyes close when he sees Melissa and he shakes his head. He passed the exercises on catching people following him while in Interpol training in France. Why the hell do people keep finding out where he lives?

"Melissa," he says, civilly, though he doesn't open the door. His eyes open again and he simply looks at her, waiting for an explanation.

"Nick. Gonna open the door, or should I start blabbing your business through the door where everyone around can hear?" Melissa asks, leaning against the doorframe and arching a brow, her lips curving up at one corner. "Personally I'd really rather talk about this inside in some privacy. The guy three doors down came out just as I was passing by and showed a little too much interest in my ass."

"Oy, blackmail. That's always bloody charming," Nick mutters with irritation. "We don't have anything to talk about, but if you're gonna start shouting and making a scene, you might as well come in." He shuts the door so that he can unlatch the lock, then swings it open, adding a little flourish of his left arm to invite her in — nonverbal sarcasm.

Once she's through the doorway, he shuts it, locking both deadbolt and chain lock after. He turns to look at her, brows raised, then heads to where a duffel bag lies near the sofa, grabbing a black and gray t-shirt and pulling it on over his head.

When the door's opened Melissa steps inside, glancing around and looking extremely pained. Eeeee. Dirty room! But she manages a faint smile when he goes for the shirt. "No need to get dressed on my account," she says, moving over to the bed and sitting gingerly on the edge, the backpack getting shrugged off and set next to her.

"Look Nick, I don't like blackmail, and I //really/ don't intend to blackmail friends, but you need a kick in the ass and I'm just the chick to do it." Another faint smile. "And before you even think about pulling the whole it's dangerous to be around you thing, don't. Been there, done that, and it really pisses me off to hear it. I'm not some helpless chick who needs protected, and I've got the scars to prove it."

He runs a hand through the back of his hair, up rather than down, so all it does is make him look more rumpled as he stares at her. "Goldilocks, scars don't mean you ain't hurt or can take care of yourself. They just mean someone hurt you and you survived it, but you might not be so lucky the next time around."

The brief moment without the shirt allowed his own scars to be revealed, the shoulder injury most recent, amongst older and faded lesser marks, mostly vague and un-recognizable, unlike that bullet wound on both his front and back shoulder. There were, however, a handful of very recognizable marks — cigarette burns, in places that were not likely to be self-inflicted, such as right between his shoulder blades.

He doesn't sit, but instead perches on the back of the couch, staring down at her where she sits on the mattress. "You might not need protected, fine. But I don't need to add to the risk, all right?"

"And that's my choice, Nick. If I want to take the risk. And I have few enough real friends that I will fight to keep each and every one." Melissa's voice softens. "But I do get what you're saying. The brother I told you I lost? He wouldn't have been where he was if it weren't for me. He'd be alive if it weren't for me. So trust me, I'm just not talkin' out my ass here, hon."

Her gaze drops to where some of those scars were before he put on his shirt. "Who hurt you, Nick? Is that part of why you're like you are? 'Cause clearly you want friends, otherwise you wouldn't have come by to comfort me. And trust me, I value that, a hell of a lot. I don't know if I can repay you for helping me that night. And I want to help, I want us to be friends, but I can't help if you don't tell me what the problem is."

She looks back to his face. "And believe me when I say I can keep a secret."

"It's not just your choice, kid." We're back to that. "It's my choice, too. Trust me when I say I know this — you can't make people be friends with you, no matter how much you want it." He turns to head to the kitchenette, grabbing two cans of Bass from the old, loudly humming refrigerator, and returning to her, handing her one of the cans. A consolation prize.

"Look. You're a nice enough bird, all right? You're nice and you're cute and all that, but you're a good person, and because of that, no matter how many ways you try to make it look like we do, we ain't got shit in common. Getting shot in the shoulder ain't a foundation for friendship," he says, his voice flat and wry. "I told you a long time ago — you're better off not knowing me. I'm not trustworthy, but you can trust me on that one."

The can is taken, opened, and sipped, before Melissa gives him an amused look. "And what about me possibly says good person? Was it the scars? The fact that my ability is pain and it makes me feel good to use that ability? The fact that I've taken lives? Or the fact that I got a seventeen year old killed? What about that says good person, Nick?" She shakes her head. "No, I'm not good. I haven't been good in a very, very long time."

Another sip then she lifts her chin slightly. "And to prove it, or maybe just how stubborn I am, I'm not going to stop harassing you until you tell me what's so bad about your life that you don't want a friend. Or maybe I'll just call bullshit on you not liking me 'cause that kiss? Letting me fall asleep on your shoulder? Not exactly the sorta things an enemy would do. Or even just someone who's indifferent."

Nick snorts, leaning once more on the back of his couch. "No, I don't think anyone could be indifferent to you, Goldie. You're the type that drives folks mad, either in a good way or a bad 'un. Drive 'em mad with desire or drive 'em up a wall, but you're the type to drive 'em somewhere, I can tell you that."

It's kind of a compliment. Maybe.

He takes a long swallow of his beer, and shakes his head. "I ain't telling you shit, Melissa. Part of it because it'd get me in trouble and you possibly killed, and part of it because it ain't your business, no matter how much you think caring about someone gives you the right to know about them." His blue eyes glare at her for a moment, and he shakes his head again. "It doesn't."

The grin Melissa gets makes it look like she certainly took it as a compliment. But immediately after her head cocks and she looks thoughtful. "You're right. Not about the whole getting me killed part, but because I don't necessarily have the right to know jack shit about you. But then, according to a great many people out there, I don't have the right to continue breathing, much less living in the world with decent folks."

She shrugs a little and puts her beer aside, rising to her feet and moving to stand in front of him. "But you mentioned losing someone the other day, Nick. And that is something I do know something about. Will you at least let me help you there? If you just keep everything bottled up, you're gonna end up snapping, teddy bear, and I don't wanna see that happen."

He'd take a step back, but he's backed up against the sofa, and for a moment he looks like a trapped animal — leading to the near growl that comes next. "Let it be, Melissa. I'm not going to sit and swap sad stories with you — I could go to a bloody support group or sommat like that, if that's what I wanted, and it ain't, okay?"

He stands straight, pushing off the couch and pushing by her to put more space between them, moving toward the window to look down at the grimy alley below. "I haven't seen her for years, but she died last year sometime. It just took me by surprise that she's dead, all right? But it's not like I lost someone who's been in my life til recently. It's not the same as you and your brother, so just bugger off, all right? I'm sorry about him, I am, but I'm not gonna cry with you about it. It's not my style."

After rolling her eyes Melissa follows him to the window…and smacks him lightly on the back of the head. "Shove the 'tude, Brit Boy. I'm sure it's just your way of coping or keeping others safe or whatever, but drop it around me. One, it's not necessary, two, it won't make me run out the door crying that I never wanna see you again, and three, it's just gonna piss me off."

After that pop on the head Mel doesn't try to touch him again, but rather slides her hands into her back pockets. "Look, I'm sorry, alright? It's some defect in me. I wanna help my friends. Which is what you are, whether you wanna be or not. It turns me into a masochist, even though I know I'd be better off banging my head against a brick wall or trying to fly. I mean, it never works, so why should you be any different, right? But I can't help it. You lost someone, so I wanna know who so I can comfort you, even if it's not the same thing as me and my brother. You've been hurt, so I wanna make it better. It's just who I am, and it's not going to just…go away."

She looks away from the window to look at him, hesitating a long moment. "And the girly part of me really wants to know why the first guy to give me flowers is now treating me like I've got the plague," she finishes softly, even as she braces herself for some scathing retort.

Nick closes his eyes as she follows him, not seeming to respond to the hit on his head — at least it wasn't his arm or shoulder, his injury the sort where any sudden bump that jars the still healing muscles and bone in that part of his body is enough to make one feel nauseous for several moments until the waves of pain pass.

"You can't 'elp, Melissa. I'm a lost cause. I'm doin' some things to try to make some shit right, but it can't ever make it all right, and it i'n't anything you can do with me," he says, though it's a little more patiently, no scathing retort. He can see she's earnest, and he doesn't want to hurt her — but if he has to, he will. If it's the only way he can keep her safe, he will.

"I'm also sorry I'm the first one to bring you flowers. I mean, I'm glad someone did, but now you're gonna think I'm special in some way that isn't me. If some nicer bloke had done it first, maybe you wouldn't be so goddamn stubborn about tryin' to save me," Nick says quietly, almost more to himself than to her.

He opens his eyes and looks down at her, shrugging his good shoulder. "One day you'll meet a nice bloke who fancies you, and you'll quit chasing the fuckin' bears, kid."

Melissa turns to face him more directly, insult showing on her face. "What, you think that giving me flowers makes you special? No, it just makes you the first guy who gave me flowers. It was the fact that you came over, let me get drunk, didn't pry, and just let me relax that's making me so goddamn stubborn where you're concerned," she shoots back.

"As for me meeting a nice bloke who fancies me? Fat chance. Besides, I can guaran-fuckin'-tee that my life is more dangerous than yours, so I'd be one hell of a selfish bitch to let him fancy me, now wouldn't I? Not a month has gone by in this fucking city where some sort of emergency hasn't happened around me. I've got the goddamn government wanting a piece of me, Humanis First hates me because I just happened to be born evolved and kick the shit out of me whenever they get the chance, my former co-workers probably all hate me because I punched one of them at a fucking memorial service."

"So no, I won't be finding a nice bloke. All I've got are my friends, and you're one of them, you jackass, so just accept it and let things go a little easier on the both of us before I just tie you up, force feed you alcohol, and make you spill your problems so you can move past them! And trust me, you don't want that. Last guy I tied up for information ended up dead," she says, arms folding over her chest, her gaze intense and focused directly on him. She's barely even blinking.

Nick's blue eyes go from amusement to something a bit more like anger as she goes through her harangue, and at the end he finally just snorts. "So, let me just point sommat out to you, li'l bit. You liked the fact I didn't pry," he points out to her, and once more begins to move, heading this time back to the duffel bag. "I wonder what that's like," he adds pointedly.

Tossing a couple of garments from the floor into the bag, Nick zips it up and tossing it over his shoulder. His leather jacket is grabbed from where it lies on top of the sofa, and then his eyes take in the rest of the room. Nothing but trash and food, nothing important left behind.

"As much fun as being tied up might be, I'm gonna pass on that one, Goldilocks," he says, walking to the door. "You ain't gonna leave, I will. I'd say see ya 'round, but I'm hoping you won't fine me again. Still, coincidence seems to be the governing force in this fuckin' country of yours, so I probably will."

When he goes for his duffel bag, Melissa moves to stand directly in front of the door, looking as stubborn as she ever gets. "I never said I was consistent. And I'm not the one telling you to take a hike, either. Beyond that, I could go talk to priest boy, and get him to tell me what the deal was, since he's friends with one of my friends, but I thought I'd let you tell me."

Then she actually smiles, just a bit, and it doesn't reach her eyes. "And babe, I know everyone in this city. If I want to find you, I can. By the way, I find it odd that so many people have heard your last name. One of my friends said she'd heard the name Ruskin in Russia a while back. You been to Russia lately?"

"Bloody 'ell, lady, you can't blackmail people into liking you," Nick mutters, staring at her at the door and shaking his head at the name Ruskin. "Whatever. So yeah. I go by fake names sometime. York isn't real, all right? Neither is Ruskin. My real name's Devon Parrish, all right?" It's an alias he's used before, so it sounds legitimate enough. "That guy knows someone who knew me under Ruskin. It's not the most uncommon name. I mean, it ain't like Smith or something, but it's not unheard of."

Shaking his head, he moves toward the window that's about two feet off the floor and about four-feet high, that leads out to the fire escape. "Fuckin' can't believe I'm escaping out of my own apartment because I don't wanna hit a bird," he mutters to himself, pushing that window open and swinging one leg over the sill.

"That wasn't blackmail," Melissa says, though she's starting to frown, her mind working in its own weird way. "Wait a second. I know I Ruskin. Not you, but another one." Her head tilts and she looks confused. "But then why didn't Abby say something?" She shakes her head and moves over to the window. "Wait a second Nick. Seriously. Just lemme think," she says, reaching out to try to grab his jacket as she continues thinking.

First there's Scott, yelling at her for quitting, and talking about Bennet and Ruskin. And Andy, cursing at Scott over the phone, after the raid where the Institute nearly got Liette from the safehouse, talking about…Eyes widen. "Holy shit. Eileen! Goddammit, I knew I knew that name!"

He doesn't plan on giving her time to think, yanking his jacket out of her grip and tossing the duffel bag onto the metal landing before crawling the rest of the way out. Climbing down a ladder won't be fun with his arm, but he's desperate to get away from her and her desire to save him. He wonders idly how often the fire escape beneath his feet has been used to get away from a woman who just wouldn't take no for an answer. It might be the first time.

He is one step down the ladder when she finally alights upon that name, and he pauses in his descent, a scowl in his face. The Interpol agent training in him tells him to keep going. Wait. Of course she knows Eileen. Eileen knew of her — they must have met before Eileen died. Or so his logic tells him.

This is not news.

"See ya, kid," he says, climbing down the next few rungs, and then hopping that last few feet to alley below.

Leaning out the window, Melissa calls down to him. "So you know Eileen? She your family or something? And you know you're being pretty annoying running away just as I remember where I heard the name. Don't make me go ask Eileen about you! She's easier to find than your priest buddy!"

He freezes, looking up at her, his eyes narrowing. "Can you quit shouting people's fucking names in the street? Jesus, I don't need people to know this shit, okay? If you see her," he looks doubtful, but maybe the woman he thinks is a ghost visits people besides him, he doesn't know, "Don't mention me. And for the record, she'd probably approve of this — me leaving you. So just let it be."

He strides away, turning swiftly through a labyrinthine series of turns and u-turns in the alleys of the Rookery so that she won't be able to follow him without him knowing.

"Oh fuck that. I'll call her right now and ask her if you've always been this much of a stubborn jackass," Mel yells down, pulling out her phone and starting to dial Eileen's number. Either she's crazy and thinks she can call ghosts, or…something else is going on.

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