The Milk Of Human Kindness


helena_icon.gif logan_icon.gif

Scene Title The Milk Of Human Kindness
Synopsis Logan and Helena meet over wine and talk about how to destroy The Nightmare Man.
Date January 5, 2010

A Wretched Hive of Scum and Vill - err, A Random Seedy Bar With Unexpectedly Good Wine

Logan has never been on blind dates and doesn't intend to. That seems like an awful lot of work to get something very simple. This isn't quite the same, anyway, Logan is at least expecting to recognise her as much as he doesn't expect to be recognised. His long fingers dance along the edge of the bar he paces, rich mahogany and mostly empty of people, as if the rest of the place save for a couple of occupied tables here and there, the entire place smokey and dim with shafts of late afternoon light angling in unobtrusively. Upscale but unsuccessful, the bartender doesn't deign to bother the Linderman goon as he makes his restless, lazy pace up and down the length of the long bar, other hand tucked into the pocket of his jacket.

Despite the early hour, he's both in three-piece pinstripe and drinking, and looking about as tired as one would at the end of a very long business day. Who in this city sleeps well, anyway? Inside his pocket, he turns his cellphone over between his fingers as if contemplating the conversation he had on it that led him here, and wondering whether it will be worth much at all.

It's not every day that Helena gets a call from a man who cut out a saint's tongue, only to find out that he's calling with a referral from the aforementioned saint.

But then again, she's actually had civil conversations with Gabriel Gray that didn't end in a pretty new forehead scar. Just goes to show; it's a damn crazy world.

Helena has been less inclined to wear her wig these days, for whatever reason. She still has her Evelyn Wozniak ID though, and that's what she's got in her pocket when she walks into the bar. She only knows of Logan by reputation, so he's correct - she won't recognize him.

Reputation would paint a reasonably ugly picture, but he at least believes he looks his best for this particular excursion, money in the cut and make of his garments as much as leopard print and tiger stripe have all been abandoned in favour of sedate greys and blacks. He's returned to the site at which he had set down a half-finish glass of merlot, the bottle just next to it, sliding back a sip around the time someone is entering the bar, just visible in his periphery. The glass is set back down with a tidy clink of crystal to wood, before Logan is looking her up and down.

There's a sharp scrape of wood to wood, the sound of Logan nudging a stool out from the bar with his ankle. It's enough to have the bartender slice an unpleasant glance over, but there's no particular objection — the Englishman went and bought the most expensive bottle of wine on offer.

He doesn't go to her, just counts on the noise gaining some attention, and lifts his hand to identify himself.

The noise does catch her attention - and it may be bad form, but the thought that comes to mind when Helena checks Logan out is that he looks like the type. Whether that's British or slimy or shady or whatever descriptor currently suits the impression she had in mind. All that matters is that she's correctly assumed he's the person she's here to meet, based on both his action and his visage.

She moves up to the stool accordingly and perches on it, giving him a cautious but not impolite regard. "Hello."

Logan finally gets off his feet as well as she moves on up, keeping pale eyes on her until she's seated. By then, he's flicking a glance to the bartender as if to remind him of a prior order: leave us alone. "You know, I've never been very good at smalltalk, so you'll have to forgive me that one, Miss Dean — but you can call me Logan. I take it Abby said all good things about me, did she?" Spidering his fingers over his glass, he tilts it as if to offer her one of the same, eyebrows lifting.

"Oh, yes." Helena's tone is dry without being cutting. "Full of the milk of human kindness, I think she said." Is there a second glass for that wine? Helena thinks she might need it. "What can I do for you, Logan?" She's not good with small talk either.

There's a second glass appearing as if by magic, the bartender waved away so that the Brit can pour the rich red on his own, a helping that's neither modest for the hour nor particularly challenging. The neck of the bottle bumps a little against the lip of the fat glass, which is left for her to take as he tops up his own. "I don't know, exactly," Logan admits, the smirk she'd been granted in reply dimming a little as he folds his arms on the smooth surface. "Abby isn't who I want to talk about," and his words stumble over a dry kind of chuckle, before he continues, "but rather, Hokuto."

He shifts on his stool, coming to rest his back against the bar, glass of wine in hand as he studies Helena, brow tense over focused pale eyes. "I understand she has you— the prettiest terrorist I ever did see— helping her against… him."

It's automatic - "I'm not a terrorist" - but then she's nodding. "Dreams have rules, and dreaming minds have weapons they may not be aware of. It's been explained to me how he does what he does, and ways to stop him. Measure of success may vary, though. Nothing's garunteed. Dreamings being so slippery and all. Are you going to pour me some of that?"

She doesn't get a reply to her denying statement— only a full glass of wine, nudged over, and a slight eyebrow raise. "I see," Logan says, hooking a free elbow back against the bar, before lifting a shoulder in a shrug. "I'm doing much the same thing. I think. I don't entirely have a rule book, I suppose. Abigail recommended you as someone who'd be able to help me." It's spoken almost like a challenge, though his voice is quiet, mild. "I don't have much in the way of control, I don't think. I could probably count on one hand the amount of people I've helped."

"How do you want to work this?" Helena asks. She takes the wine and sips at it. If it's a pinot noir, she'll adore it. But it's also secondary to their discussion. "I can tell you what I know, and excuse if it's anything you've already heard." She's not going to bother being coy about information sharing here.

He considers that, now, content with a clean exchange of information. "She— Abby— mentioned something about— fuck if I know, I don't remember what she said you said, I suppose that's why she gve me your number. But you mentioned it just now — about weapons, in their minds. Hokuto— " His eyes go a little cold, angling his chin up some as he continues. "Hokuto said she didn't have the time or the energy to help me. But you look young and spry."

"Hokuto's helping everyone." Helena's tone is calm and level and without a trace of sarcasm. "I guess she's the general, and I'm one of her soldiers in the field. The more people know, the better we can fight him off." And she doesn't ask him for anything in exchange for the knowledge, either.

"Then show me," Logan says, with a chin up to her, before taking a long sip of the merlot. "Show me how to do it better, or— keep control over what on earth I'm doing. Did she tell you about the Refrain?" It's, perhaps, a sudden kind of turn in the conversation, focus narrowing speculatively as if something just occurred to him.

Helena nods. "People who've used Refrain have less control over the part of their brain where dreaming functions." she says. "He has easier access to them." She takes another sip of her wine. "Alright. Let's start with the dreamer. He focuses on one particular aspect of your mind. If you're feeling particularly Jungian, you can call it the Shadow. It's all your doubts, fears, everything you hate about yourself, but also the worst parts of yourself that you don't like to acknowledge. It's what he likes to seize control of, make manifest. Use it to force people to surrender their control and succumb to their fears."

Oh. Logan manages not to make that sound out loud when she speaks of exactly why Refrain lights up like a blip on a radar, just steers his attention down into the glass of red in his hand, carelessly sloshing it around as she speaks and he listens. "And that's when he gets them to do things," he fills in, looking back at her, gaze and voice both severe if not particularly aggressive. "The sleep walking. The self-harm, and that."

Helena nods. "Yeah." she says simply. "But there's another side to it. For every Shadow, you've got…" she pauses. "Do you know what a patronus is?" She's speculative, but then again, Logan is British!

He is British, and nevertheless, Logan's eyes narrow in something like suspicion, before sleep-fogged memory manages to glimmer up a little familiarity. "That's the thing Abby mentioned. I don't think I've picked up a book with the intention to do anything useful with it since the nineties. For every Shadow, you've got…" He trails off, promptingly, glass lifting before he finishes off the last sip.

She tries again. "Well, think about it. Yin and Yang. If the Shadow is everything that's worst about us, then it stands to reason that there's a manifestation of everything that's best. A patronus. Or an avatar. I managed to trigger mine a long time ago." She's not bragging, the way she says that, it's pure information share. "And with Hokuto's help, I was able to do so again before I walked off a rooftop. It takes the form of someone I cared about and admired. Your avatar can defend against your shadow. But you have to have the strength and the will to bring it forward. Not to mention, He is really strong. That first time, I had no idea - if Hokuto hadn't helped me, I definitely would have taken a swan dive."

This more or less calls for a top up. The bar seat is easily greased, quietly so, and Logan nudges himself back around to refill his glass with a casual flip of the heavy bottle end up. "Right," he says, with vague uncertainty, still holding the drinking vessel as if maybe he could scry the answers from it as easily as he can ask Helena. "First time— no, the second time, I managed to run before anything happen. I say run, I mean— block him out, sort of thing, long enough to call for Hokuto. The first time, he had me."

Nothing needs to be said on that — if Logan can be convinced to help the side of good, then he must have a decent reason. He sets the bottle down between them in vague offer before he's clumsily reaching for his cigarette case. "What's yours like? Your Yin. Avatar. What does it do?"

"Mine's a guy named Cameron. He was like the older brother I never had, and when he was alive, he was my protecter. And I guess my brain decided he'd still protect me. He just…interceded. Said no. He was stronger, he grabbed me and kept me from falling. The first time he manifested, I was being interrogated by someone with a telepathic ability. He actually tossed the bastard right out of my head, but I also didn't understand what he was back then. I think avatars look different and do different things for different people. But they're one way, the most viable way, I think, of stopping what's going on. And as more people start to converge dream-ways - well. There's a lot of us and only one of him. There's only one other way that I know, and it's significantly more dangerous."

"There's more we can do, you know," Logan says, with some blithe disregard as to her more dangerous solution, back becoming straight and hands absently smoothing his waistcoat. "Not just in— sodding— dreaming. Hokuto said— " He stops, exhales a sigh, as if completely sick of that phrase. "She said that I'd have to clean up my mess. When it comes to the Refrain. Don't get me wrong, the people who were in control of it before were pushing it far and wide throughout the city before I even got a taste of it myself, but let's just say that the people I work for have more or less taken over the family business."

"Once you have Refrain in your system, even once, that vulnerability is open to him." Helena points out, and admits, "I'm not sure where you're going with this, though."

There's the smooth click of his cigarette case opening, silvery and hand-sized, a cigarette slid out and caught between teeth, though he doesn't go to offer Helena one in turn. Despite the little no smoking sign not so far over Logan's shoulder, he lights up in expert motions before nodding along at her words impatiently. "I know that much. Where I'm going with it is that Refrain is, as of now, still exclusive to New York City save for a few…" He wriggles his fingers around the lit cigarette. "Minor leaks here and there. Small time dealings, individual smugglings, things we 'ave no control over. But the source isn't moving; the bigger players are here."

A lungful of smoke is breathed in, traded out for smaller curls out his nostrils, the motion long and deliberate as if he had nerves to soothe, despite at least appearing collected, if lacking a good night's sleep. "Or they were. We already have pharmaceutical companies buying off us under the table, as well as a major distribution looking to leave the state reasonably soon. Of course, I can't lift a finger. What would that do for my reputation?"

"You dream." Helena tells him. "And once you know all the rules, there's means for you to help there." She seems a touch speculative at the idea of attacking Refrain production. "Who are the bigger players?" she asks, despite herself.

"I dream, and I help, but how many more soldiers will we need if Refrain starts spreading out all over the country?" Logan asks her. "Like you said, one dose is all it takes. I don't suppose there's anything to be done about New York City, not anymore, which is why you don't need to concern yourself with the locals. But destroy the exports, cut off wider supply after it's been bought and sold… unless you really are limited to speeches on YouTube, not-a-terrorist."

Helena simply repeats herself. "Who are the bigger players?"

"The ones you care about?" Logan asks, flippant, his demeanor somewhat guarded as he sifts through his priorities. "There's Dolores Rusk, but good luck finding her — as far as I can tell, she fed me an alias, and didn't exactly leave the name of the pharmaceutical company she represented. If you're on board, I can dig deeper. Otherwise, there's our buyers looking to ship out of the state. They're drug dealers and gangsters, do you need their names as much as you need to know when and where?"

Helena lifts her brows. "I don't know you." she says. "And I've made a pretty poor habit in the past few years of trusting in the beneficience of people and doing what is best at heart for everyone. The only things I do know about you is that you're a drug dealer and a pimp and you cut out my friend's tongue. So if you're going to get a snit in your britches because I'm a little careful about the idea of you using me and mine like attack dogs, that might conveniently suit whatever agenda you've got, there's nothing I can do about that. Names would be helpful, because with names I can get information, and with information I can probably do more."

His fingernails tap contemplatively against the wide glass of wine, looking at her over it when he goes to take a sip. Ringed by a very modest helping of eyeliner, his eyes look all the paler, and greener, by the time Helena's mood is lifting just a fraction, a purely physical nudge of chemical adjustment that has nothing to do with her heart nor her head — just every other inch of her body. It's a softening of edges as opposed to a rush. The wine tastes a little better, the cigarette smoke hazy in the air smells a little sweeter. It's not a bad day to be a freedom fighter.

"Fair enough," Logan says, with a slow blink at her in a gesture of concession. "If I wanted an attack dog, I'd pay for it. Of course, if you'd like a slice of a profits in exchange, perhaps we can skip the information sharing for a good old fashioned bribe."

It's a good day to be a freedom fighter in point of fact, and the sudden hazy pleasure comes over her with a slow blink. "No," she manages nonetheless. She does relax in her seat, but her common sense hasn't gone out the window. "These are things I need to know. And there's more you need to know, about dreaming." She's willing to wait to get back to the original subject until he's off this particular track, because hey, at this moment, she's easy-going about things! It's all good.

Irritation does tick in Logan's jaw for a moment, looking down at where he's set his mostly emptied glass of wine, turning it against the bar's surface for a moment before tipping his head in a nod to the left. "Fine. Names, you will be granted. Later." Time and space required in pawing through what he can and can't give, he, too, is fine in cruising along this curve of conversation. "What do I need to know about dreaming?"

"Your ability works in dreams." she says. "You may even have better control over it then you do in the real world. Most people can control their own dreams, but don't, because they don't realize it's within their capacity. The minds you have to be careful of are the minds of telepaths. They can cut you off from being able to return. And if you're in the mind of someone who dies, there's a good chance you'll die too." Which may or may not lead him to the second manner of defeating the Nightmare Man that she'd touched on briefly but didn't detail. "If we make people aware of their avatars, they'll be able to use them against him. And if people start crossing over into each other's dreams, there's more of us than there are of him."

There's a spark of recognition for her words, about ability use in dreaming — something about a golden chain hooking a woman back from the brink of addiction, a visual cue if there ever was one, but his power? Logan's smoking of his cigarette goes in slow and thoughtful motions, smoke snatched and release in expert breaths. "I see," he says, and he does, more or less. "What of— yourself? When you go into dreams, how mcuh control is there supposed to be?"

She appears slightly confused by the question. "Control over the dream itself, or control over one's own ability?" she requests for clarification. "Granted, I don't know exactly what you do," She's sharp, but she's not going to pull what he just did to her out of a hat, "But what you can do with it in the real world, you should be able to do in dreams. I think basically the dreamscape is a matter of will. That's the impression Hokuto gave me, but don't quote me on that."

"Yourself. Your shape. Your actions," Logan clarifies, possibly without clearing up anything at all. Dreams are subjective, and what seems an obvious problem to him isn't necessarily shared. "Sometimes I know what I'm doing. Other times, it's like— herding cats. Only I'm the cats as well as the herder. For that matter, if you can control the dream itself, then do tell me."

Helena admits, "I think your own, you can have completely command of. But I've never tried changing my own shape or anything like that. When you're in another's - I can only offer speculation." Helena frowns thoughtfully and rubs her finger around the rim of her wine glass. "That's where I think it becomes a matter of who's will is stronger, and how much awareness of being in a dream state the dreamer actually has."

Unsure as to whether to take her first words as reassurance or not, Logan instead finds solace in finishing off his glass of wine. He doesn't go for a refill this time, just sets the glass aside and eases a breath out, fumes of alcohol burning merrily in his throat. "Right. And— " His eyes roll up, mildly uncomfortable to be talking about things such as these — drug dealers, subterfuge, violence and money, earthy things are his realm. Dreams and heroism seem silly matters. Until he remembers the scars in his own belly he'd received during such dreaming.

He clears his throat, starts again. "And is it important, whether they know or not they're dreaming? Should we focus on awareness, or this— avatar thing? Or even waking them up?"

She's still forwning at her wine for a moment or two, before she considers Logan sidelong. "I think we need to show people how to defend themselves. They need to know how to manifest their avatars. That's what I intend to do - been doing."

"Alright." Alright. "Doesn't sound so hard. I could probably do it in my sleep." Joke! Dryly delivered in true British style of denying himself a smile as he says it, before Logan is pushing himself up to stand. A wallet is taken out of his breastpocket, a thin thing of shining black leather. The business card he takes out of it is the same glossy black, with pink in elaborate italics reading Burlesque. It's offered out between the pinch of two long fingers, gesture prim.

Helena grasps it in a similar faction with her fingers and sliiiides it out of his, tucking it into her palm. "Burlesque, huh? I have a friend who's been to at least one party there." she says, adding, "This wine is really good. What is it?"

"Californian merlot. Beringer. Help yourself," Logan responds with a nod to the mostly emptied, but not quite, bottle of wine on the bar. A luxurious woolen coat is picked up off the stool next to him, swung over his shoulders without tucking his arms into the sleeves yet. He nods towards the card in her hand. "If you need me, there's numbers on that. If all goes well, you and your friend can have as many drinks on the house if you like — I run the place. Additionally, I don't suspect you'd be so silly as to get the authorities involved, so I trust I don't have to describe what might happen if you do."

Helena leans back in her seat. "Right now I can't say the authorities are included in any strategies because I don't have any strategies yet, and I won't until I know who I'm dealing with. When I do, if there's a questionable solution involved," she flicks up the business card, "I know how to reach you to discuss it."

"We'll cross the bridge when we come to it," he agrees, managing to let nothing show on his face other than neutrality, and then, knife-quick, Logan smiles. "Pleasure doing business with you, Miss Dean." His cigarette case is picked up and pocketed away once more, and he pushes away from the bar as he goes to slide his arms into the sleeves of his coat. "Cheers." Busy buttoning closed his coat in preparation for the harsh New York winter outside, he doesn't look back at her as he goes.

Helena lets out a little sigh and leans forward on her stool. Another warrior added to the ranks. And the prospect of preventing the further spread of Refrain - it's not a bad idea in principle, but Helena's less inclined to jump blindly these days.

On the up side, it really is good wine.

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