The Kitten And The Lion


colette_icon.gif hana_icon.gif

Scene Title The Kitten and the Lion
Synopsis When Hana Gitelman allows Colette Nichols to spend the night in her care, curiosity gets the better of that smaller cat.
Date April 13, 2010

Primatech Paper

It's a very small portion of the abandoned facility's substructure which is lit by Hana's command: two flights of the downward-reaching stairwell, a ruler-straight hallway with a sharp bend at its end, spaces to either side that still bear some resemblance to what they used to be: an exercise room; an employee lounge (however small) with fridge, dishwasher, and stove; spaces that used to be conference rooms or offices or something of that nature. Some of the gym equipment is dusty, and some is not, suggesting the room itself sees use; the lounge/kitchen is quite clean, although its contents are sparse and there clearly aren't enough of the mismatched dishes for more than one person's three daily meals, or perhaps two people at one sitting. There's a conference room still decked out as such, with computer and projector and screen permanently tacked to the wall in its 'down' position; the computer is powered up, fan humming quietly while the screen demands login and password input. A room that has the dimensions of a former office, apparently now designated the place to sleep if the pallet on its floor is any indication. Other rooms, their doors closed, prove to contain no more than boxes — nonperishable food, first aid and other supplies.

Nothing personal. Nothing sentimental. And — nothing really very interesting, by most measures.

Hana is a while in completing her errand outside, more than long enough for the curious to investigate the nooks and crannies available… and find them wanting.

Clearly it's the unlit areas that warrant investigation then, and thankfully — or perhaps unthankfully — for the young Nichols girl who'se been invited to stay under Hana's wing for the night, going without light is never much of an issue. Straying off the beaten path is second nature to Colette, having lived along on the streets of New York for several weeks prior to being officially conscripted into Judah Demsky's family. She learned to explore the shortcuts down alleyways, through parks, ruined buildings and untended back yards.

While Colette Nichols, biologically, lacks the tapetum lucidum of night-seeing animals, her photokinetic sensitivity doubles as something of a perceptive field for photons. Although the human visual system can, in theory, detect single photons under ideal conditions, the neurological noise filters limit sensitivity to a few tens of photons, even in ideal conditions. Ideal conditions for Colette Nichols allow the young girl to see in what most others perceive as absolute darkness.

It is by this sense of entitlement to the darkened corners of the facility, and perhaps a little bit of cat-like curiosity, that has her slinking about in unlit spaces, down a long corridor and towards a partly ajar metal door, the brush of her gloved hand against its surface elicits a noisy creak of protest from the hinges, and with little more than a casual glance over her shoulder, she slips in to see just what there is to see, for the sake of simply finding it.

What Colette finds, in that moment after the door is nudged open, after her attention is directed forwards into unknown territory and not the previously-traversed hall at her back, is a hand that seizes the back of her neck in a grip that might give a steel vise a run for its money.

That's going to leave a mark. Or five.

The brush of air through Colette's short-cropped hair is shockingly cold, for all that it is exhaled from living lungs, passed through lips hovering not so very far from the curve of her ear. "I know you're not deaf," Hana murmurs, her voice deceptively soft, velvety in its applied menace. "Which makes you stupid." She doesn't move, doesn't allow Colette to move, nails dimpling the girl's skin although not — whatever it may seem like — at any point piercing skin.

"Only stupid people try my patience."

A beat of still silence lets those words sink in; then the Israeli pivots on her right heel, left foot stepping back and her arm forcibly dragging Colette around. She only lets the girl go once she's facing the direction they came from, with the clear and obvious expectation she'll go back that way.

Much like a cat gripped by the scruff of its neck, Colette spreads her arms out and hunches her shoulders when grasped. The sharp inhale of breath from shock is drawn in at the same time Hana is exhaling cold words against her ear, sending a chill down her spine. The light and willowy build of the teen makes it easy for her to be hauled around, and when she's spun about face and turned towards the other direction, the dark-haired girl stumbles forward a few steps, head ducking down before she turns to face Hana behind her and starts backpedaling the way back towards the lighted corridor she departed from.

"I— um, it's— I just— " Green eyes wander right and left in the dark, wonder at the silhouette of Hana's figure in lightless gloom and can't even begin to figure out how she saw down here. "I— " her voice cracks nervously, "I was just— bored? There's— it's kind've— " nose wrinkling, Colette reconsiders calling Hana home boring so bluntly. "I can keep a secret, honest."

That's probably not the best excuse to go gallivanting off where she was expressly told not to, but at least she didn't try and say she got lost.

Nervous stammers slide off Hana's forbiddingly impassive expression as she observes the girl backpedal. When there's a decent distance between them, the woman herself begins moving, her feet — bare now, sans both shoes and socks despite the cold and unembellished concrete floor — practically soundless in their steps. She glides forward with the grace of relentless physical conditioning, maintaining that set separation between herself and Colette. "Can you, Demsky?" Hana asks without inflection, as if the answer were as nonconsequential as the status of the sky outside.

That's the kind of question Colette hears in movies, right before the serial killer reveals their trophy room full of severed heads or human spines. The faint cinematic response comes as a noisy swallow and a hastening of Colette's backwards progress, at least until the mental exercise of walking and talking becomes too much of a hassle and she trips over her own two feet. Stumbling, Colette brings a hand out to brace herself on the concrete wall, halfway fallen over when she finally catches herself. Booted feet squeak wetly on the concrete floor, find traction and with the air of her one hand against the wall help straighten her up again; such as she is.

"Ah, th— " Once more with the awkward stammering, Colette's green eyes can see Hana's silhouette better now with the light at her back and closer to it, enough to make out more than just suggestions of shapes and hints of colors. "Of course I can," the girl states a bit too defiantly for the conditions, brows furrowed and nose wrinkled, "I— I keep secrets all the time, it's part've our job." Our.

The answer elicits a smile, however fleetingly ephemeral, more sensed than seen; and while it's not a friendly expression in its thinness, it isn't intimidatingly cold either. "Good answer," Hana allows, because Colette didn't make the mistake of trying to offer proof. "Keep it that way." She stops a half-step in front of the girl, regarding her steadily; for all that she looms over the teen, the woman doesn't now push or chivvy her on down the hall, seemingly content to wait for her to resume walking on her own. For now.

It doesn't seem like any invitations to trophy rooms are in the offing, at least?

"So, you're like— a ninja?" Colette offers half-jokingly, backing up a half step from Hana with a nervous smile and crease of her brows, turning only once she remembers how difficult walking backwards when a bit scatterbrained by anxiety can be. Not that turning around has any hold on stopping her conversation, "That's cool, like— I don't sneak really well, or I mean— I don't think I do? It's hard to tell how sneaky you are yourself, that's sort've something someone else has to tell you. But— but I totally want to learn how to be all quiet like that, 'cause it's what tips people off when I'm invisible an' walking around places."

Looking over her shoulder to check and see if Hana's following, Colette emerges back out into the lighted portion of the corridor, turning fully there since she's not going to press her luck and assume where Hana wants her to go next. "But um, I— Learning new stuff's important. I had a teacher who taught me how to use my ability, an' he told me that you can never learn enough in your life, 'cause the moment you think you've learned everything there is, that's when you'll be shown you don't know jack shit." There's an affirmed nod of her head at Conrad Wozniak's words of wisdom, "Uh— his— his words, not mine."

One dark brow arches at Colette's query, though the girl isn't facing her to see it. "I'm not much of anything," Hana replies, which could as easily be avoiding the question as an actual answer; she says it matter-of-factly, and offers no elaboration. She follows Colette into the lighted corridor, then continues past her when she's stopped, failing to supply overt indication whether the girl should go with Hana or — well, do anything else at all. Apparently just having Colette back in the allowed zone is sufficient, by her estimation.

For her part, Hana steps into the exercise room, pausing on its threshold to look back over her shoulder at her temporary guest, one hand resting on the doorframe. "You might try talking less," she suggests, albeit less pointedly than she might; it's an observation, not (yet) a reprimand. Then the woman continues on, vinyl rustling as she steps onto a thin, well-worn mat.

"I— " Colette only catches the subtle remark once words have started to spill out of her mouth, voice croaking when she halts them from coming further. Waiting there for a beat in the hall, it only takes Colette one breath to pick up the pace again and follow after Hana, doing exactly the opposite of the suggested course of action, "I talk when I get nervous, my sister does it too, I just— I um, I get all awkward when it's quiet so I sort've feel like I have to fill that voice with like, words and stuff. My psychiatrist I used to have said it was because of— some— stuff that happened when I was— " Colette finally cuts herself off once she's in the training room, brows furrowed and green eyes downcast to the floor. "I— should talk less."

Teeth worrying at her lower lip, the teen rocks back and forth on her heels, having chosen perhaps a bad time to reconsider her conversationalism as a question of where she should be goes unasked. Instead dark brows just rise up slowly towards the ragged fringe of inky bangs, and Colette's trepidation is broken with the first footfall deeper into the exercise room.

This time the cat's watching, wide eyes on Hana, up and down her taller frame and down to the mat with a crease of her brows and the visible bump of her tongue pressing at the inside of her cheek. The teen draws in a quiet breath, then alights her quiet stare to Hana's far darker eyes quizzically.

Hana doesn't seem to expect — or demand — that that question be asked; at any rate, she doesn't supply a command for Colette to leave, for all that she's very much aware of the girl's intrusion into the exercise room. Rather, as the woman settles into a clearly deliberate, formal stance in the mat's center, she meets her guest's querying gaze. There's another of those brief, thin smiles. "You do learn." Silence is a boon companion of Hana's, to contrast, and if there are things they "should" be talking about, she's very much content to let silence swallow them. The Israeli closes her eyes, pose sliding into the first fluid poses of a well-rehearsed stretching routine. That her thoughts flicker elsewhere have no impact on the motions. "You can use the computer," Hana allows, belatedly enough that it is obviously an afterthought, "if you need to entertain yourself."

It reminds her of Grace. The first thing that pops to Colette's mind at seeing Hana's motions, reminds her of that fleeting self-defense instruction the two shared almost two years ago now. She crouches, instead of taking up the offer of a computer, because if it wasn't going to interest her when she wasn't explicitely told she could use it, it sure isn't going to now. Instead the thin young girl is lifting up the cutt of one pant leg, untying the yellow laces of her black boots, eventually needing to settle down into an awkwardly seated posture to tug one of the boots off from a green and blue socked foot. She tosses the boot aside with a clunk, then repeats the process with the other where she sits, revealing a… bright orange sock on that foot.

Both boots moved aside, Colette slowly pushes herself up to her feet, wiping off the back of her black jeans with her hands and padding on her socked toes across the floor, up onto the thin mat and in front of Hana. There's a raise of her dark brows, a crook of a smile and the nervous tug of her teeth at her lower lip. She doesn't do anything, other than fold her hands behind her back and watch.

In a way, it's like working with Tamara, letting actions replace the far more difficult to convey words. Though Hana's mind is undoubtedly structured differently, the pair share the commonality of not needing the verbal as much as they need the physical. Colette's put herself out there, in so much silent conversation, and she seems eager to find out what she earns in return.

Listening, Hana doesn't need to see to know what Colette is doing; not while they're in the same room, with its quiet atmosphere, the whisper of heated air an unobtrusive background murmur. She knows where the girl finally stands; it's in the sound of cotton on vinyl and the feel of the mat under her own feet, subtle changes in its compression beneath added burden of weight. There are few distractions here, which is why her hand is halfway to Colette before Hana's eyes even open, two fingers catching beneath the girl's chin, angling her head just slightly back. The touch is surprisingly gentle, given how she manhandled the teen previously; her words, however, are quite firm. "Remember what I said about stitches."

Green eyes go wide at the touch, dark brows furrow for the barest moment of time when Hana speaks, and the only motion Colette makes is the silent tightening of her throat in a swallow. If ever there was a way for anyone to get Colette's attention, this precarious situation right here is exactly it. Admittedly it may not entirely be in the way Hana intended, the subtle flush of the teen's cheeks implying something wholly different than what she'd intended when stepping on the mat, but it goes no further than a teenager's uncontrollable thoughts.

"I— " Colette doesn't quite find her voice there in that abortive croak of a word. She has to swallow again, eyes still wide and body motionless, even her breathing shallow before she begins again. "Somebody who wants t'hurt me," Colette offers in a hushed voice, "isn't going to wait for me to be feeling better." Teeth toy at her lower lip, press down enough to whiten flesh and drag back before letting it go.

"You can sew me back up," Colette offers in a quiet tone of voice, "can't— be any worse at it than Raith." Only then is there a crook of the corner of her mouth into a smirk. It's not entirely true, Jensen's a seasoned veteran and knows his way around a needle and thread, but a moment of levity can't hurt here.

"They won't," the woman allows, paying Colette's flush exactly the notice it deserves: none. "But what you learn with that injury, you will learn wrong." And it's her estimation that the girl is very much still in the learning stage, rather than practicing. Her hand falling away, Hana pivots again, coming nearly into line with who is now, however temporarily, her student; about a step and a half forward, where her actions are in easy field of view — the better to be imitated. "Stretches first. And if you complain," the Israeli states severely, "you are out." The student does not get to pick the lesson plan.

Disappointment is quick to change to an eager, broad smile when Hana's initial dismissal instead turns into what might be begrudging acceptance. The brunette teen rises up onto her toes then rocks back onto her heels. One sharp nod is the only answer she gives, reaching up to unzip the front of her winter coat, shrugging it off of her shoulders and down her arms, before tossing it aside away from the mat. Her hands come up again unbuttoning the black denim jacket worn beneath, tossing that aside too in the same rumpled heap.

The slimming fabric of a form-hugging black turtleneck makes Colette seem considerably thinner than her other layers had. The shirt is, admittedly, not hers, borrowed from Eileen given the condition of the clothes she was pulled out of a burning building in. Skinny jeans and tight turtleneck all in black make her look to have the frame of a matchstick, and it's clear from the way she moves that she's mindful of her right side.

Brows furrowed, green eyes intently focused on Hana, Colette nods her head and offers the Israeli a thankful smile. "Anything you say," the teen admits firmly. Whether Hana likes it or not, she seems to have gained the trust and loyalty of a stray cat today.

She never seemed like much of a cat person, either.

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