Under The Sun


eileen_icon.gif logan_icon.gif mu-qian_icon.gif raith_icon.gif

Scene Title Under the Sun
Synopsis Logan arranges a meeting between Eileen and Mu-Qian at the former's request.
Date March 29, 2010

Central Park

Mu-Qian acquiesced to meet after lunch. Central Park has been transformed twice over: first by the blizzard, massive tonnage of snow dumped down to inundate the trees, clot the bridges, and mass the benches, second by the blizzard's momentary cessation and the various public servicemen into a ludicrous… what is the phrase she keeps hearing pitched between the teachers, the other parents? 'Winter wonderland?'

Sounds pretty stupid, even among the ranking of phrases that don't have the faintest direct Chinese translation.

Tunnels dug through, marked off. Scooped-out slides rife with toboggan and trashcan lid marks, snowmen, staircases cut into the white, brick-laid igloos.

Maybe this is impressive to children who can't scale walls with their shod feet and race shadows across the ceiling. There certainly are far too many children out here, and they look clumsy, slow, and at constant risk of death, despite the joy manifest in their laughter. Tiny, gloved hands grasped in bigger ones. Mu-Qian suspects these parents are all irresponsible. Maybe she will bring Bai-Chan out tomorrow, instead of school, and then they will be sorry, when things go wrong for them and he remains unscathed. Tomorrow.

She is seated very precisely on the edge of her bench. Her coat is nearly as white as the snow fort behind her, double-breasted, a loose C-shaped scalloped-collar buttoned over one shoulder and a flared triangle for the tail. Her slacks and knee-length boots are white, too, both the fabric and the decorative cross-crossing of laces, as are the gloves folded around the take-away coffee cup on her lap.

Accessorized for high contrast, are two shocks of black. First, the burly bodyguard behind her. Second, her unbound hair tangling and untangling in the breeze, threatening or tantalizing a tickle at the Englishman sitting an uncompanionable distance away from her left.

It's almost like someone asked Logan to be here, for all the misery he seems to be suffering right now to be so. It's cold, you see, and they are outside, and his arms bracket tight around his narrow torso, back bent to brave it against the cold and protect a chest that feels like it has knives struck through it for all that breathing sucks right now. He's dressed in black to Mu-Qian's predominant white, with a mottled grey scarf looped around twice and gathered into the lapels of black wool. The most colourful thing about him would be the red and yellow tinges marking his face, across his nose and beside his mouth, standing out against the pale of his skin.

Sometimes, he resembles a mobster, or at least the ones he pays to get hit in the face for him. As if in defiance for the continual cough threatening to burst from his throat, Logan raises his lit cigarette up to take a drag, wind pulling the exhaled smoke away and scattering it along with steam, and he glances back at the bodyguard, a wryer look bouncing off Mu-Qian before he settles his gaze on his boots in the snow. Fans out his ankles to expose the struggling green beneath it, as restless as her son might be.

It's almost like someone asked Raith to be here, if only because that is exactly what happened. Despite how recently he was wounded in the shootout with Feng Daiyu, here he is, wearing dark overcoat and sunglasses (in this weather?) approaching from around a snow drift alongside Eileen. He is having an absolutely impossible time concealing the fact that he's injured: Although his arm is easy enough to deal, his leg is another matter entirely. There is no getting around without, at least, the slightest of limps, and even that takes a good deal of effort. If he actually needs to do this bodyguard gig, both he and Eileen are going to be in a lot of trouble.

He may well look every bit the part of a mobster as Logan, or perhaps more like a semi-retired hitman. Given the crowd that Eileen normally hangs around, would either one of those be terribly surprising? The differences between the two of them, if someone could look at each of them objectively, are slight. Too slight, perhaps. Eileen needs to get new friends.

Denim and wool are a popular combination this time of year, and with good reason: both materials are durable and provide protection against the elements, appealing to pragmatism as well as style. Eileen's charcoal pea coat, combined with the dark leather of her gloves, skinny jeans and the boots she wears on her feet all contribute to her very ordinary appearance, brown-black hair covered by the cashmere headscarf she wears knotted under a deft little chin.

Cheeks kissed with rouge, a mouth painted deep carmine red and pale eyes lined in kohl make it easy for Logan and Mu-Qian to identify the Englishwoman at a distance if the peony she wears pinned to her coat's breast like a silk broach isn't clue enough. Until a few moments ago, her lips had been moving around words — something about snakes and Raith watching his step — but as the pair approaches the bench, they form a thin line. She does not allow herself to smile.

The healer tightens her fingers around her coffee cup, slightly. It is not a movement perceptible to anybody present. It is not aggressive. She's enjoying the heat that emanates through the walls of the cup, the heatproof slipcover of cardboard she'd tucked it into, and the gloves covering her fingers. She brought coffee. No one else present apparently has coffee. Eileen's bodyguard even appears to have a broken leg.


Logan's wryness is reciprocated twice, before she deigns to speak first: "Nihao, Eileen." Aloud, Mu-Qian is civil at least. Her lips turn up at the corners, barely a twitch of color, her choice of cosmetics was ghoulishly pale today. Probably, she thought it would dissuade her co-workers at the Triad from bothering her as she went out on one of her more inscrutable errands. Probably, it worked.

Their's a bovine dumbness about the bodyguard behind her that has nothing to do with a shortage of actual intelligence. Either the telepath or the ex-CIA agent can probably tell that the man does not understand English. "Bai-Chan is doing well in school," she supplies unasked, and that is polite too. Her English is tinctured with a Mandarin accent. "What brings you out under the sun?"

Rather than stand, Logan drags his attention up at the sound of approach, eyes sharp and bright and switching from Eileen, to Raith, who gets an additional noting sweep of a look in an attempt at recognition, and back to Eileen again. Though she does not, he smiles, and any amount of sincerity will have to be guessed and assume because as per usual, it's impossible to tell, with him. Silent for now, he's less the role of protector that Mu-Qian's hired muscle and Eileen's friend fulfill, more the spying weasel. He taps ash off his cigarette and doesn't say hello.

No one today seems to be particularly happy. Raith certainly isn't. Eileen may not be allowing herself to smile, but Raith can't find a reason to smile. He can find a reason, however, to size everyone up when he and his companion reach the bench. The talking, he leaves to her. Mu-Qian, being the first to speak, naturally gets Raith's attention first. John Logan is the next, if only because he's closest to where Raith was initially looking. Finally, the hired muscle gets a look. Right now, any one of them could probably do a real number on him. Not without paying a heavy price, sure, but that doesn't change the fact that if the meeting starts to go south, they might be in trouble. Fortunately, he has few doubts that it will stay fairly civil. After all, this isn't a drug deal.

The effort Eileen makes to choose her words with caution is doubled this afternoon courtesy of Logan's presence. She's hesitant to say anything that might give him more information than she's comfortable with him having; ever since he pinned her between his chest and the wall at her back at Burlesque and snarled Aleksandr Kozlow's name in a spitting fit of rage, she's been extra mindful of what comes out of her mouth lest it find its way to someone else's ears.

Unfortunately, there's no way to phrase what she has to say in a way that Mu-Qian will understand and Logan won't. Not unless she speaks Mandarin, which she does not. Maybe she ought to have brought Gabriel along to do the talking instead. "Daiyu told me he'd taken him."

"Why are you still fighting with him?" Mu-Qian's head tilts slightly, and the infinitessimal shuffle of movement stripes her white cheek with an immaculate lock of hair. Despite that bird-like delicacy, and certain air of feigned indifference, it's difficult to miss the fact that every nerve of her willowy frame is now sharpened to attention. What the Hell? That seems like an unlikely threat to dispense to a woman who did nothing more than care for the boy five months. That seems like a likelier threat to tell her mother, really.

Either Feng's a very poor judge of character, or a very good one. Assessment turns around slowly in the healer's dark eyes, and she opts to talk, nonchalant as anything, over it. Irritation flares through her features, and she finally stands up, herself. The guard behind her shifts, slightly, searching their faces for a clue as to Mu-Qian's ill-temper. Other than, you know.

Her child's name. "Is he still hunting Holden? Is that what this is about?"

Nope, Logan is fine where he is, and does not follow Mu-Qian's cue in standing up. Conserving heat by remaining curled on the edge of the bench, and he got kicked in the balls reasonably recently, so. Cigarette kept from his face with the curl of his fingers, Logan muffles his mouth against his sleeve and coughs into it, kept quiet but chest-deep and wretched all the same. When it's over, he runs his tongue over his teeth, first, then peers up at Mu-Qian, angles his attention back to the other two.

"Did they get Feng on their side?" he asks of them, without really expecting a response back. "Clever, I suppose, 'cept he fucked it up last time."

At the question of why they're still fighting Feng Daiyu, Raith's gaze lists off to the side as if a particularly attractive butterfly was now the focus of his attention, although the movement is plainly a show of irritation. "Daiyu is like a rabid dog," he says, directing his eyes back to where they should be- onto Logan and Mu-Qian- as he is addressing them, "He only chases what's in front of him, and he's never taken his eyes off her. Or me, by association. So tragic. Makes you want to cry.

"Point is, like a rabid dog, his brain doesn't work right anymore. He can't think ahead, doesn't consider consequences. He'll say or do anything he thinks will get him what he wants."

The sharp expulsion of breath into Logan's sleeve gets Eileen's attention before his query does. She's standing far enough away that she doesn't need to worry about what she might catch by proximity, but there's a sort of wary quality to her expression that wasn't there before and has nothing to do with the conversation at hand. Nonetheless, she tightens the imaginary screws in her jaw and presses out a breath through her nostrils, body growing tense. He's right not to expect a response from her.

Gets one anyway, albeit in a roundabout way. "Holden made some enemies in Russia the last time he was there," she says to Mu-Qian. "Former associates of your husband and the man he worked for. I wouldn't put it past them or Daiyu to do whatever they feel is necessary to lure him out into the open. Everyone Holden has ever known is a target. That includes you and the boy."

Automatically, Mu-Qian searches out the holes in those arguments, as deftly as a moray eel ropes its sinuous and mucus-slickened body over rocks in search of an ingress. Places to hide. She doesn't expect Ruskin or her gimpy old friend to lie, exactly, but a fine spin on things is likely. She wouldn't put it past them. It's no discourtesy, either, that she firmly believes it's something she'd do.

Lines in the sand. The woman doesn't narrow her eyes, but she's under no illusions about the one she's trying to cast. Eileen knows that she has leverage over both of them, Feng and Ruskin, both. Enemy-of-my-enemy-of-my— "I understand. Xie xie. Thank you for the warning." The particulars of Holden or whatever are, apparently, not much of her concern, passing beneath her notice much the way that Logan's state of brittle discomfort seems to.

"If he does anything— stupid," schoopit, her accent makes it, but somehow Mu-Qian doesn't sound stupider for it, "I will tell you."

Logan lets his mostly spent cigarette drop, spares his attention for pushing the still burning thing deeper into snow. Slowly shifts his gravity on forward enough to creak his knees into standing up, his hands smoothing his coat and tucking in a loose edge of scarf. Beneath that— more wool, none of the sophisticated lines of a hidden suit and tie, dressed for comfort against the cold and possibly a sick day. Sick week. His hands tuck into pockets. No commentary, and no further questions. There is possibly more he should explain to Mu-Qian, if an eyeroll during Eileen's words were of any indication.

For a brief time, it's Logan who once again has the majority of Raith's attention. But it's nothing more than a brief time. Neither of them seems to be in the mood to cause trouble, and that's all the better for Raith. Once again, he allows Eileen to do any talking. She knows the other woman far better than he does.

You're welcome is probably the socially appropriate thing to say here. Eileen conveys this with her eyes instead of her mouth, lacking faith in her voice for how it might come out. She gives the older woman a nod, flicks one last glance in Logan's direction and lets her gaze hang on him for a brief duration before finally turning her face up toward Raith and gesturing that they resume their stroll along the gravel path, past the bench.

Their meeting with her employer and Bai-Chan's mother isn't the only one they have today, and as tempted as she is to linger and ask Mu-Qian about her son's schooling and how many centimeters he's grown since she saw him last, she crushes her desire under the heel of her boot as she steps away and leaves shallow imprints and broken ice in her wake.

In their background, kids like lemmings tumble off the ice, colored like Mardi Gras. Girls in green, boys in purple, mothers in pink and dubious-looking men in black. A snowman loses an eye to the bitter streaking of meltwater, and the wind chases garbage to a crunching halt in the skeletal protrusion of an ice-locked bush. There is a lot of motion for the matchstick girl and the crippled man to get lost in, but they stand out like sore thumbs anyway. Strange to think, that she and her companions are the ones who really don't belong.

It takes Mu-Qian a few too many seconds to call out, finally: "Zaijian." It isn't altogether perfunctory. If the girl answers, she'll be able to tell Bai-Chan that Eileen was happy, though she missed him. If she doesn't, Mu-Qian will settle for the Englishwoman being well, and strong. Confident, if nothing else, and thinking clearly. "Bie danxin. Tamen buhui haishang women," is a sideways, backward call off the arms for her bodyguard, though she doesn't grace him with a look. Logan, on the other hand, she graces with nothing else.

"Call me," she says. She would rather do it over the phone, if it's all the same to him.

"Fine." Logan twists enough at the waist to briefly follow the sight of Eileen and Raith's joint departure, before turning his bruised profile back to his healer-friend. Thing. Normally, he would swoop in to steal a kiss against her cheek, but even he has enough awareness that he looks like hell, feels like hell, and Mu-Qian would probably rather not. And what good would she be then? "If you need anything," and he glances to the hired suit in a sort of subtle indication about the sort of things she might need that one might not always want to ask the Triad for, "do make the first move."

And with that, Logan flakes off from the group third, clearing his throat, iron-tasting, and shoulders hunched inward, penguin-like and sullen for the perpetual winter.

To three of the four winds, the group separates and scatters, and when they've reached a safe distance, only then does Raith voice his remaining concern to Eileen. "If Daiyu does go for the boy," he says, "The big man won't scare him off. Can't predict what he'll do, either, he's that far out of his gourd. If you have any brilliant plans, now would be a good time to start sharing them." That's the heart of their problem: They need a brilliant plan to do with the situation as it starts spiraling out of control. Although it might be arrogant of him to think they ever had the situation under control in the first place.

Rather than stop, Eileen casts a look back over her shoulder at Mu-Qian that she's swift to reel back in again, visible as a pale sliver of cheek eclipsed by the dark sheen of her hair and the sunlight reflecting off its glossy surface. It's good she did not bring Bai-Chan along to this exchange; confident and thinking clearly though she is, the Englishwoman isn't sure how long she'd remain the latter if confronted by something— someone that she's been trying to put out of her head ever since she remembered he was there.

"Just one," she tells Raith, "and I'd really rather not have to use it."

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