eileen_icon.gif nick_icon.gif

Scene Title Trustworthy
Synopsis Nicholas sees his sister off after a short but tense discussion about something in common that they didn't know they had.
Date February 1, 2011

Brooklyn: Nicholas' Apartment

The three and a half hours of fitful sleep that Eileen was able to steal have not made a noticable impact on her appearance, but a quick shower to scrub the blood from under her fingernails and rise the soot from her hair leaves her skin buttermilk pale and smelling faintly of soap instead of the stench she brought into Nicholas' flat. Her hair is still wet when she sits down at the kitchen table to partake in her breakfast of half a buttered bagel and a small cup of coffee too bitter for her to make an effort to sweeten it with cream.

A sprinkling of poppy seeds is scattered across her plate, only a few bites taken out of the bagel, which she discarded as soon as she realized that she didn't have an appetite for anything except coffee and maybe a cigarette, one lit between her fingers as she cups the drink in her hands with teeth and lip resting against the rim.

The television is dark in its corner of the flat. She's reached the point of saturation and no longer has any desire to listen to public officials speculate about the cause of the disaster when it's becoming increasingly apparent that no one has any real idea at all about what's happening on the other side of the city.

She watches the window instead, magpie perched on the sill with a very familiar view. Dawn bleeds purple across a pale gray sky, sun white behind a thin layer of milky clouds.

Belatedly Nick remembers he brought sugar, and reaches into the pocket of his peacoat to pull out a handful of the various sweeteners, unsure which Eileen prefers. There's so much he doesn't know about her anymore. The yellow, pink, blue and white packets, two of each, are tossed onto the coffee table before he retreats again to where he leans against the wall.

He looks like he didn't get much sleep either; five o'clock shadow only serves to make his skin look all the paler, giving the lower half a blue cast; dark circles beneath his eyes lend a haunted look to his usually tired and weary face. Several hours spent huddled in a truck in a parking garage in the middle of winter is a sacrifice he was willing to make if it helped Eileen at all.

He finally ventures the question that had been sidestepped hours ago. "Is it Gray? If he's trapped — we'll get 'em out somehow," he says, voice rough with lack of sleep and use, but gentle, uncertain.

Eileen lowers her hand, the one with the cigarette, to brush the tips of her fingers over the packets in quiet consideration. She isn't debating which one to choose, but rather how to diplomatically answer Nick's question in spite of the fact that diplomacy here is of little worth. "Gray and a man named Ethan Holden," say says, and drags her thumbnail along the edge of the tiny paper parcel that claims it contains pure cane sugar and nothing else. For lack of anything better to do, she rips off its top in a sharp, swift motion and unceremoniously dumps the crystals into her coffee before taking a long enough drag from her cigarette that its tip flares orange, illuminating her gaunt face.

"Convenient for you, though — your neck must be awfully sore from twisting it around so much." Her voice is bone dry with a quality similar to the cigarette her lips are still pursed around when she says it, seeming to almost crackle. "Why didn't you tell anyone?"

He reaches for his own cigarettes and lighter, pulling them from pocket to busy his hands as well, to look at the red cardboard box, to make a production of pulling out the slim cigarette, lowering his eyes to light it with a cupped hand. Drawing in a breath full of smoke, it's released in a short humorless chuckle.

He shrugs his left shoulder, pale eyes moving to the bruised-color sky outside. The irony of her words is painful.

Why didn't you tell anyone?

He could ask the same of her.

"They were lookin' out for you. Makes 'em okay in my book," he manages after too long a pause, eyes finally flicking back to her. "Holden seems to wanna teach me the ropes or sommat, if he's not just tryin' to come up with a more elaborate way of killin' me. But he could've done easily enough the last time, so I don't think it's the case. I was hoping he'd help me pin down Walsh, but if he's stuck in that thing, I'll do what I gotta without 'em."

The magpie steers its head over its shoulder with a delicate rustle of wings by the window. Eileen lowers her bloodshot eyes to the table out of habit rather than any need to shy away from his gaze. She's not yet broken herself of this instinctual behaviour, or turning her head toward sounds when she hears them, and chances are that she never will. There are benefits to having body language that's difficult to read, but benefits to being human and feeling it too.

She taps ash onto the edge of her plate, away from the bagel in the highly unlikely event her appetite returns. "If you're still interested," she says, "I'll ask if Raith's willing to take you on." Another sip of coffee combines with the taste of her cigarette, more palatable together than apart. She swallows. "As for Walsh— a business associate of mine has promised to put me in contact with a pair of arms dealers who want to see him at the bottom of the harbour as badly as you do. John Logan. I don't know if you're familiar with the name, but he's trustworthy. Generally."

Nick is about to say many things — about the fact he already has a job, already has training. That he is in touch with a few people as well, though none he knows well enough to trust farther than he can throw them.

All of it gets caught in his throat at those three syllables.

"Logan." He repeats the name, and shakes his head, snorting another short laugh before taking a long, needful drag of the cigarette, his hand shaking just slightly as he holds the cigarette at his lips, holding the smoke for longer than necessary, til it burns at throat and lungs, and exhaling it with a heavy sigh.

"This fuckin' city," he mutters, eyes returning to the window. "Small world. Yeah, I know the name."

He moves to dash his cigarette into the empty coffee cup he's left on the bookshelf. "You trust him?"

"As long as he doesn't have a reason to slip a knife in me," says Eileen, which is neither a yes nor a no. She turns the cigarette between her fingers. "Our history's a little bit sordid, so business associate might not the right term for it. What we are." Her nose wrinkles, smoke acrid and stinging at her eyes and the inside of her throat, but she's conditioned to it and does not blink away tears when it wafts across her face.

She's fresh out, anyway. "Not a bad fuck. Bit sadistic between the sheets, but sometimes I like it that way. Suppose I've got you to thank."

The first revelation has Nick swallowing hard, jaw tightening, muscles twitching as his shaking hand brings the cigarette back to his lips to draw a shuddering breath of smoke and tar. He turns away violently at the additional commentary, striding toward the window and raking his hand through his hair, fingers curling into a claw as he stands with his back to her, staring out.

"He know your real name?" he asks tersely, his voice thick and low, words forced through clenched teeth. "I'll fuckin' kill him," is added, lower, beneath his breath — sounding like the protective older brother he once was, a lifetime ago in another city.

It's not the reaction Eileen was expecting, and from behind her smoky veil she is tense in her seat, knuckles gone white. Her grip on her cigarette has grown so tight that it's bent between her fingers, a few milimeters away from scalding her knuckle, though it's Nick who captures her focus.

She has a pistol slung over the back of her chair in a leather holster and she still views him as the most dangerous thing in the room. Seeing him move like a tiger wearing down the floor of its cage keeps her utterly still, because she's trapped in here with him. "You didn't seem to have a problem with the Midtown Man bruising my mouth or spreading my legs," she says finally, and maybe she realizes that she's being unnecessarily, uncharacteristically vulgar.

Language, like stillness, is a defense mechanism.

His lips press together at her words, and his eyes close. She's so different from the girl he grew up with, and he knows so much of that is his doing. Nick stands still, staring out into the gray morning; it's still dark enough that his face is reflected back in the plate glass as a ghost seemingly staring back at him.

"I don't know Gray. Given the fact I almost blew up D'Sarthe's, I'm willin' to give 'em the benefit of the doubt," he says finally, voice low. "Not like my approval means shit."

He brings the cigarette to his lips for another drag, coughing just a little after inhaling like he might be coming down with a cold. Sleeping in his truck didn't help much.

"You met Logan. Back home," he says quietly. "He didn't seem familiar to you?"

"I met Logan," Eileen corrects her brother, "on Staten Island while I was working as an assitant to a ripper operating out of its Rookery. He owned a brothel down the street, and I had him poisoned when I found out he'd ordered one of his men to savage my friend. A few months later, he had me locked in his basement after I gave it another go."

She sniffs, and there's an airy, aloof quality to the sound. There's so much she's leaving out, but she gets the impression that Nick is doing the same. "What are you on about?"

His hand comes up to strike the window, pulling the punch enough that it merely rattles rather than cracks and he whirl around. "Did he hurt you?" he growls, his brows drawn together fiercely, blue eyes narrowing, boring into her. There are other words he could use in place of hurt, but they are too close, too painful for him to say.

"If he bloody knew you were my sister…" he mutters again, though more to himself. He shakes his head, raking through his hair again. "He knew you were Ruskin, or were you going by Spurling, then, on Staten?" he asks, trying to make his voice neutral.

The impact of Nick's fist connecting with the window makes Eileen's reflection flinch, and the magpie snap its wings into flight, though it does not retreat far, coming to rest on the back of the chair opposite her at the table. She refuses to answer whether or not Logan hurt her.

What she says is: "Ruskin. I didn't start using Spurling until last year, and it's been several."

Nick's mind spins as he tries to remember the conversations he'd had with Logan so many years ago — he'd spoken of Eileen; did he say her name? Had he only called her Lee, or his kid sister? But New York, in a few short months, has taught him there are no such things as coincidences, and John being older probably learned that lesson long ago as well.

He finally shakes his head. "Forget it. Doesn't matter," he says, though the muscles twitching in his jaw suggest otherwise. His eyes seem as bruised as the sky behind him.

But suddenly it's back to business. "So what's the plan? I have some Southern bird who's done business with Walsh s'posed to contact me when she's got a meet set up, goes by Daisy or sommat like that. She said she got some lady fencer rounded up who wants her piece of the pie too, and some one else named Lucille who she says is green. I'd rather go with a piece of shit like Logan who can be ruthless than some li'l girls who don't know the barrel from the trigger, but if they can get me close enough to Irish to get mine, then I'll do what I 'ave to."

"I'm supposed to meet with him tonight, but if the two of you already know each other, you might as well speak with him for yourself." The magpie clicks its beak, studying the back of Nick's neck and shoulders, and sees that none of the tension has abated. Eileen feels vaguely nauseous; while Nick is trying to remember whether or not he used his sister's name in front of Logan, his sister is trying to remember whether or not she ever went looking for Nick in Brixton.

Her front teeth click together and her mouth grows smaller still. The cigarette has burnt itself out, meanwhile, reduced to dark ash hanging off a crumpled paper stick, which she flicks abruptly down. "Why should he be familiar to me?"

His own cigarette has burned down to where he holds it in his fingers, and he hisses through his teeth, striding to the coffee cup he'd dumped the ash into earlier. It brings him closer to her, though he gives a wide berth so as not to startle her. His eyes drop to his fingers, examining the burn against the innerside of his middle finger.

"I knew him. Back home," he says quietly, not looking up at her. "He and his mates beat the shit out of me," he adds, though he doesn't give the reason why.

As if such events really have valid reasons.

"Whatever," is spoken with a louder voice, feigned nonchalance. "Bygones. I can work with him if I have to."

Nick swallows and looks up and away. "I actually had somethin' I was going to thank him for," he adds, a humorless smirk curving his lips upward. "But now I don't think I will."

Humourless smirks on Nick's face turn Eileen's blood to ice. She says nothing, and neither does her magpie. There's the thin whisper of her breathing and the accompanying rustle of the bird's glossy feathers. Everything about this conversation is Wrong, but she's too uneasy to push it any further than she already has.

He scared her as a boy. He scares her now as a man. She does not allow it to show, her face too pale and hands forced into steadiness by resting them in her lap with fists clenched. Her back is very straight. It occurs to her that she should probably be feeling some sympathy for John Logan if the expression on Nick's face is anything to go by, but the most she can muster is vague concern.

Nick heaves a sigh, reaching for another cigarette but finding the pack empty. "You can thank him instead," he says, perhaps just to fill in the awkward silence. "He's the one who stopped me from changing the past." The bitterness to those words suggests Nick is yet to see his failure as anything but.

"So you want me to meet him with you, or what? And if this Daisy chick contacts me — you gotta way for me to contact you? I can't send bird messages like you can, y'know." He waits a beat. "Maybe because we're not full siblings. I'm glad you got at least one parent who gives a fuck about you." The acerbic words are actually sincere, in their way.

Guilt flashes across glass eyes and paint-chipped mouth. Eileen's porcelain features may be smooth, but they're not completely set. She can count the number of people who are supposed to know about her relationship with Ethan on the fingers of one hand, and of all of them, it's Ethan himself who's the most likely to tell.

She didn't want Nick to find out like that. Or even find out at all. She's not sure what disturbs her more: the fact that he already knows, or that Logan has apparently been winding his snake coils around her brother in both the present and the past. The colour returns to her cheeks a few moments later and burns with something that isn't embarrassment but close enough to it, both on Nick's behalf and hers.

"I sent Delia to him," she croaks. "You'll probably find them at the Corinthian."

"You what?" Nick's eyes widen with disbelief and then his brows furrow with worry. "She told me … she was somewhere safe, but not … Jesus."

His jaw sets again, and again he paces the short distance from the bookshelf to the window and back. "She's vulnerable right now, Lee. If he takes advantage of that-" He swallows, one hand going to touch something silver at his neck. "There's nowhere else she can go? I'll pay for it — I can put her in some other hotel, some other place. Is there a reason it has to be with him?"

"He has money, power, connections. The things you and I don't." This an argument Eileen's had with herself before. She keeps her voice level. "She's safer there with him than she is anywhere else, if you can believe it. I do. Her father's the head of the network's Special Activities division and he knows the girl is under Ferry protection. That's one bridge he won't burn."

She rises from her seat at the table, hands still braced at its edge. "She's safe as long as she doesn't do anything to cross him, and she's much too darling for that, but I don't think— I don't think reminding him would be amiss."

Nick gives a short nod, and there's a tension in his posture that hints at his anger and frustration — but his eyes hold something she's seen many times in the past.

Hurt. Helplessness.

"I've been tryin' to stay away from her," he says dully. "I'll see if I can set something up with him." He nods toward her. "If you need to stay somewhere in town, you can stay here. I can get a room somewhere else, let you crash here. Logan'll know how to contact you?"

The fact she didn't offer a way to get ahold of her was not lost on him.

Eileen holds out her arm and calls her magpie to her. Knuckles stroke along its throat and proud, sleek chest. Her deliberation is silent and swift, and she transfers the magpie to her shoulder before she can change her mind.

It makes a point not to look at his face when she asks, abruptly, "Do you have a pen?"

"Yeah," he murmurs, and moves to the the bedside table where his laptop and some paperwork sit. He rummages for a scrap piece of paper and finds a pen, bringing them back toward her to set on the table. Keeping his distance, walking on eggshells. It's a fragile truce between them — if truce isn't too strong a word.

Like the magpie avoiding his face, he avoids looking at hers.

She scratches down a number in runny black ink. Twelve digits, all of them much neater than a fifteen-year-old girl's clumsy scrawl. Eileen folds the piece of paper in half out of habit and slides it across the table to him with the tips of her fingers.

"I try to keep it off," she says. Some sort of explanation, though for what isn't entirely clear. "Leave a message if I don't answer." Her hand lifts, snags her holster and pistol off the back of the chair she'd been sitting in, then her coat. "I'm going to send Raith back to Pollepel with Gray and Holden gone. There's a boy we've been taking care of. He needs a drug called Tegretol. If you can find any and have it sent up to the island, I'd be very grateful."

Reaching for the paper, Nick tears it in half, pocketing the segment with her number, then scrawling his own in exchange. Just in case, goes without saying, and he pushes the paper with his information back toward her. His penmanship hasn't improved much, it would seem.

"I'll see if I can find some, though I've burnt the bridges with a few of the contacts, or had them burnt for me." Walsh. Odessa. Not that he could get any meds from Odessa with Roosevelt under a dome anyway.

"I'll do what I can." He risks a look up, his blue eyes seeking her sightless gray-green. "You need a ride somewhere, or wanna rest more here? I can make some calls, see if there's anything they're not saying that I can get, intel wise."

"No." Eileen's answer is prim, curt. Immediate. "I don't think even a flash of the badge will let you get away with letting a wanted terrorist ride shotgun." Her throat contracts and she pulls in a slow breath through her nose, mouth pressed thin again as she pulls on her coat, arms slipping deft into the sleeves after she fastens her holster. She retrieves her worn gloves from a pocket. "And I need to find them." Even if it's only so she and Raith have something to bury.

"Thank you again. Nicholas."

Nick drops his gaze again, nodding once, swallowing audibly. "Here." He reaches into his pocket for his wallet, pulling out the stack of bills he has in there and tossing it onto the table next to his number. "S'all I could get from the ATM, daily limit plus whatever I had already." Mostly crisp twenties with a couple more faded and crumpled tens, fives and ones, amounting to about $400. "And don't say no on account of pride or whatever. Use it for the people on the island, if not yourself."

He steps away again, tucking his hands into his pockets. "Be careful."

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