harlow2_icon.gif jericho_icon.gif peyton_icon.gif wendy_icon.gif

Scene Title Win-Win
Synopsis Wendy Hunter and Phoenix's leader are rescued, one of Humanis First!'s leader is dead, and the rain has subsided. It's in this scintillating dawn of new potential and brighter weather that Harlow comes to ask the Ferry for favors, at gunpoint.
Date October 23, 2009

St. Luke's Hospital

St. Luke's Hospital is known for its high-quality care and its contributions to medical research. Its staff place an emphasis on compassion for and sensitivity to the needs of their patients and the communities they serve. In addition to nearby Columbia University, the hospital collaborates with several community groups, churches, and programs at local high schools. The associated Roosevelt Hospital offers a special wing of rooms and suites with more amenities than the standard hospital environment; they wouldn't seem out of place in a top-rated hotel. That said, a hospital is a hospital — every corridor and room still smells faintly of antiseptic.

It's close to lunchtime. Peyton is curled up in the seat next to Wendy, "breaking" the Hunters so they could go get a cup of coffee. Of course, they haven't left their daughters' side since they got there sometime late last night. Peyton stayed until they got there, went home to shower and sleep, and returned early the next day. The good thing about being a kidnap victim is they throw out the whole "visiting hours" thing and figure it's better for the patient to have the people they love near than leave them alone for hours at a time.

The former socialite has put on some of Wendy's favorite music and chatters away about frivolous, unimportant things to a drugged out but relaxed Wendy. Peyton answers quizzes for the both of them, knowing very little of what she says gets through.

"Hmmm. This one's tough. If you were a McDonald's Happy Meal, would you be a cheeseburger, a plain hamburger, or chicken McNuggets? I don't think a plain hamburger… really, what could this possibly have to do with what sexual style you have? What sort of ghetto test is this?"

"Plain old hamburger is plain old missionary, mc nuggets is many different styles in bed meaning the many different pieces in the box. maybe the cheeseburger signifies that you like … food involved in sex?" Wendy's voice is very laid back, congested, very drugged. Painkillers to make up - almost - and compensate for the swatch of gauze across the remains of her left ear and left hand in the same state. Wee bit short an inch on most of the digits there.

"What is this again? Cosmo?" Tubes, bags dripping god knows what to combat the filth she sat in for two weeks. Oxygen flows across and into her nose to ease her breathing. She's in fairly good spirits actually. Even breaking into a coughed version of octopus's garden to make Peyton laugh before she had to stop.

"Wow, how many of these have you taken, or has Bella been giving you lessons on how to pass psychology tests?" Peyton says with a merry laugh, enjoying her friend's company again for the first time in too long. "It's Glamour… Let's see. I'm going to go with Chicken McNuggets. What about you?" Peyton says, putting a check next to the correct box for herself. "Your parents won't be offended if they walk in and we're talking cheeseburger sex, will they?" she says in a stage whisper.

Knock-knock-knock. Swarthy knuckles rap sideways into the planed beige of the door, and Jericho cants his rangy shadow at the hip, his shoulder shooked, hangdog and ever so slightly defensive. Not that anyone's come up and accused him of— anything, but the whole of the Upper West Side feels like some kind of accusation, really.

Columbia University ground-zero for Evolved out of control, and the demarcations between the low-income demographics that make the region dangerous at stark odds with the coiffed and preppy student, professional, and faculty populations that keep the NYPD cop detail around to prevent the actual rubbing of shoulders. Jericho doesn't really fit, even if he's in no immediate danger and not an immediate danger to anyone here, and he's all too aware of it. "Hey," he says, nevertheless, insinuating himself neatly into the conversation from across the room: "I guess the fish sandwich is for lesbians then, eh?"

With any luck, the Hunters aren't right behind him, though one probably wouldn't put it past Jericho Popal to hold his tongue if they were.

"I am a cheeeeeeseburger and no I don't think Bella would ever touch those things. Something tells me she sticks to professional tests being the shrink that she is" The right side of her face turns up into a smile, the left not so good at responding. "And no. Please, i'm an artist. Mom swore when I was twenty that I was lesbian. Worst is that she'll think you're my lover, if they haven't been to the apartment yet. She thinks I play both sides of the tennis team if you get my drift" The ice water is picked up, bringing the straw to her lips. "nexxxt" The need for refrain has been subliminated by the drugs coursing through her system, but likely at some point the itch will be felt.

But there is a guy at the door that is not her brothers and brown eyes dart to Peyton as if to ask if she knows who this is. "You probalby want to check 'fish taco's' for that one. Please tell me you're not some stripped sent by my brothers as a joke… Cause I am too drugged up - heh - to appreciate it"

Peyton uncurls from the uncomfortable chair, long limbs uncoiling as she stands to greet the visitor. "Oh, come on, these tests are just as valid as those Horshack card things." Yes, she means Rorschach, not the character from Welcome Back, Kotter. "Hey, Jerry," she says, a smile blooming on her pale and drawn face that makes her look about half as ill as Wendy, which is still pretty damn bad off. She has had little sleep and the migraine still pounds in her temples like a pygmy sitting on her brain with claws digging into gray matter while bashing cymbals now and then in time with Peyton's pulse.

"Jericho, this is my friend Wendy. Careful, she's an artist. If you piss her off, she'll sculpt you."

All right. Food sex jokes, Jericho can find his way around, but when you start talking about sculpture and artists and shit he gives up, gives way to machismo, tossing up his hands in surrender or some effort to bitchslap the offending verbiage away, whatever. Both. Either. Or to say Hello. 'Horshach'—? "Nice to meet you, Wendy. Welcome back to the land of the not-in-captivity. Must be a refreshing change of pace. Let me know when you're sober and we could work something out.

"You think I could borrow Peyton for an hour and a half? She looks like she's about to yawn technicolor chunks all over your blankets and shit. Maybe if I air her out outside, it might help." He grins beatifically. It's the closest thing to considerate or sweet that he's been since Peyton's known him, the fact that he didn't outright tell her she looks like shit today. There's weary tension at the corners of his own expression, his own effort to appear okay exactly that: an effort.

"Hmm, I could be bribed. Long as you bring me a vanilla shake, I could let you take her for a walk. Her leash is hanging up on the door. Nice to meet you Jericho" Glassy brown eyes go from Peyton to Jericho then back. "Oh, oh better yet, I could kill for a brithday cake sundae from Marble slab. Pretty please Pey? You'll take her there Jericho? Make sure she sleeps and eats and takes a shower. Boy she needs a shower" Wendy grins towards Peyton. She easily agree's with him that Peyton looks like shit. It's not wasted on her and she nods with her chin.

"Go, Pey. John will be back, I won't be alone long. You've done enough. They'll probably come poke me and shit again, give me more good stuff."

Peyton mock-pouts at the general concensus that she looks like shit. Pale skin and lavender under eyes are chic, aren't they? She chuckles at the specific request — birthday cake sundae. Check. "Sure, I can manage that. Hopefully I don't get in trouble with the doctors for bringing in contraband." Never mind she stole medical supplies the last time she was in a hospital.

She notices the weary look in Jericho's face and gives him a curious cant of her head, before reaching for her bright pink Kate Spade purse, that will no doubt be lost on Jericho. "I'll be back later, hon." She bends over the bed to give Wendy a hug. "I'll get some more magazines, too." She moves toward Jericho, standing on tip toes to give him a soft kiss on the cheek. "Air me out, huh?" She jabs him in the ribs.

Morningside Heights

There's a hollowing of the cheek when the girl lays her kiss on it, a mock-grimace. He doesn't actually mind it, of course, and it doesn't take him but a second or three to give her one in return, though the token happens to coincide neatly with the moment she pegs him with her elbow. It's fortunate that she isn't exactly Xena-proportioned in her athleticism. "Yeah, I think you've been shut up in here too long without your sense of humor," he offers, but the wryness to his voice belies an actual complaint. He shunts his long fingers into the pockets at the seat of his jeans, chucks Wendy a nod of salutation. It isn't long before they're outside again.
The weather's better, now, after the worst of McRae's grief dissipated with the slow-spinning storm system over New York and its bleak stretch of coast. What's left is deliberate sunshine, a crisp clarity to the air that lets the sunshine soak straight through when you're standing in it, though the shadows remain blue with cold. "How can I make sure, you're going to take a shower?" Jericho's asking, with a meaningful shift of his brows. "'S what I want to fuckin' know."

"I'm not smelly. I took a shower this morning," she protests, though she grins in response to his smirk. "See, it'd be a lot easier for me to make sure you did something." It's brighter and less rainy, but still a bit chilly, and she tucks her arm around his, leaning close as they walk down the sidewalk. "You doing all right, Jer? You look … well, better than I do, because you still look pretty damn cute, but you look … worried or something." She's never been that compassionate about other people besides herself and her friends, but she does notice things, after all. And he's her friend, or seems to be.

He is. Her friend. Or a reasonable facsimile thereof. He looms up a whole head above her, and she isn't anything like short, so the two of them stilt a rather physically intimidating duo to the average American pedestrian, who passes at best at shoulder level to the Egyptian lad. "I'm all right. Just— Carolina was a friend of mine. I don't know how well you knew her.

"She was part of the Ferry's contributions to that whole…" He raises one arm, closes his fingers around a jagged-knuckled fist, swings it haphazardly through the air on the other side of her shoulders in a manner that is probably supposed to illustrate Fantastic Violence. "Rescue Helena Dean thing. She spent awhile bleeding before she passed. Chuckles— that's her boy? He's kind of fucked up about it. The old man's taking it kind of hard, too. I think he wants to do something in light of it, but I don't know what. I mean.

"We're mutant supremacists, ex-cons. But he doesn't want us or the house of mamas and little freak babies to turn into Norman fuckin' White and his exploding ferris wheel drama. I think we're going to start helping out with the cattle-rustlers some more. I dunno. You always seem to be buzzing around some supervillain's bonnet," he observes, hooking a lock of dark hair back from her face with one forefinger to observe. Lavender under the eyes. Pale. Is symptomatic of heroics.

Peyton didn't know all of the people involved — just what she could hear from the headset, but obviously there were quite a few people in there. She'd heard a couple of people died, but no one she knew. Her brows furrow. Her lip pouts out, this time nothing mocking about it — it's the pout of someone setting their jaw and trying not to cry.

"I didn't know. I'm sorry," she finally manages, tears swimming in those dark eyes of hers as she turns her head to look up at him. "I … I would have been happy to never be anywhere near a super villain in my life, but they seem to pull me into their mad plots. Knowing I could help… how could I say no?" She reaches out to take his hand. "Mutant supremacists?" There's a little scowl of confusion there. "Does that mean you look down on the normal people, or just think being Evolved is… well, actually being Evolved?" That's the funny thing — people use the term "Evolved" like it's a bad thing, but evolution means moving forward, becoming better suited to the world as it changes.

The post-storm clarity and cool are easily held back by the sturdy fabric of Jericho's jacket and the arm he has hunkered around the girl's shape until she reaches for her hand. His palm his warm, not as callused as it would have been if he'd spent all of his life living the way he does now.

He doesn't say much when she tears up, doesn't interrupt, his own swarthy features set in some mixture of serenity and bleak self-discipline. Though the flamethrower might be the one you might expect to suffer the worse of ability and emotional spillover when grievous loss finds them, he's rigid and quiet, listening, supportive. Hasn't set Eric Doyle on fire awhile, either.

"Not your fault," he adds, partially because it's true, and partially because it's the kind of thing that people say to those who apologize for the deaths of loved ones. Breathe in, breathe out. Jericho has to twist his mouth and sniff his nose just once, to curb the other urges stinging and burning his airways now, but he's all right afterward. "The latter. Mostly. I mean, come on: everyone thinks having superpowers is pretty fuckin' cool, and the social backlash and bullshit humility aside, you'd rather have a good, strong, and useful one than have none.

"But I take the term 'Evolved' pretty fuckin' literally for someone who believes in the existence and relevance of God, yes," he finishes off, his mouth in a loose curve. "That being said, I think deeds make the man, not the superpowers with which he executes them. Plenty of non-Evolved I'd fight for, but Humanis fucking First!—" Curve turns to line, Jericho's face darkening, hollowing, growing grim despite the buoyant ethereality of the sunshine.

"We got Wendy back at least. Do you know what she can do? She can sense people's powers. Without touching you, she will know you were Evolved, but if you shook her hand, she'd be able to tell you were pyro," Peyton explains. "She was in HF's hands. Apparently she didn't get brought out like a drug sniffing dog, but that's what they were going to do."

Peyton's own face is more stoic now, the anger pushing away the sorrow. She squeezes his hand. "All right. I can live with that kind of supremacy. It's just got a little bit of a bad feel to the word, you know? Like those Neo Nazi bastards. White Supremacists." Her nose wrinkles up at the thought of them. She nods at a small cafe. "Hungry?"

Morningside Heights — Cafe

Being a boy, Jericho is indeed— inevitably— hungry. He makes a grin. It takes a second or two for it to reach his eyes, but it's right when it gets there, white teeth. He nods, angles his arm out, allowing it to stretch to its full span as the girl navigates first into the cafe.

The door clinks shut, with a clap of reflected sunlight off swiveling plateglass. "Trust me, baby, if somebody's going to be starting another Holocaust for this era, it ain't gonna be me.

"Short of a vagina, I probably belong to as many social minorities as you can bleed your sweet little heart for." He hooks a chair out for her, some curly white wrought iron thing that he'd call entirely too fruity for his taste if he weren't busy reassuring her he wasn't a mutant Jihad, "You're probably right about the fuckin' term though, now that I think of it. Shit, it's what the non-Evolved get for using that word, makes themselves sound like a subspecies of ape. I—"

—am being abruptly, unexpectedly interrupted by another arrival to their table. Leggy, blonde, raw-boned, the woman looks different now to the glacially sculpted socialite who Peyton had met at the hospital. She's wearing black slacks, this time, a gray coat that cowls at the neck in a manner that hybridizes feminine couture style and a detective's voluminous trench. Voluminous enough to hide weapons in, which would explain the frigid metal click of a sidearm's hammer shifted underneath the table, even if she didn't add aloud, smiling:

"Move, and one of you dies now. Judging from the hand-holding, you're concerned for each others' welfare enough that you won't be able to think straight getting into it with me once the blood starts flying. Then I'd kill you both."

Jericho says nothing for two seconds, not even a curse, he's that surprised, his shoulders rigid and long legs rooted into the ground. His fingers twitch and Peyton feels it, despite there's no glimpse of incendiary red light yet, a kiss of heat forming.

Peyton's been with enough boy band tools and Disney Channel graduates that she's easily charmed by Jericho's intelligence and the graceful way he moves his long limbs; there might be a slightly enamored look on her face as he pulls out the girly wrought-iron chair, but the expression slides off into one of wide-eyed horror as she hears the click of that gun and looks up into Harlow's face. She doesn't place her as the donor of the utter ass kicking she saw some poor kid getting or she'd be even more horrified. Right now, there's just a strange disconnect: this woman isn't the kind who should be kidnapping or taking people hostage. This is a Mom of some poor sick girl that Peyton happened to meet recently. She squeezes the hand she hasn't let go of yet, perhaps taking solace in the hint of kindling heat there.

The heat doesn't spark, doesn't coruscate into view, inflicts no pain. Jericho's rage is tangible and visible in the way he holds himself, knotted at the shoulders and bloodshot in the eyes, still unseated, but it's that very difference of posture that keeps him from lashing out. He has better than a little suspicion that the gun is trained on Peyton, the easier target below the level of the furniture, but a good deal of it is the not knowing that keeps them trapped in this stalemate.

Or Belinda would be short a mother as well as her freedom. Not that Jericho knows anything about the girl's situation, of course: he isn't Phoenix, he's barely Ferry, and doesn't follow the fluctuations and daily events pertinent to the Evolved macrosopic situation as closely as some of Peyton's other associates do. "Who are you?" he asks, finally, grinding the syllables out coarse between his molars.

In the background, the woman working the counter gestures an inquiry at Peyton: do they need service?

"My name is Jean," she answers, steadily. Butter wouldn't melt in her mouth. "I want you to get me in touch with the Ferry and the other X-Men. I have a proposition."

Peyton gives a shake of her head toward the woman at the counter, afraid to move any other part of her body, aside from those constricting fingers on Jericho's hand. She isn't sure if Jean is talking more to him or to her, or to both, assuming either of them are with Ferry. She isn't, not really, and like Jericho, not really Phoenix other. Associates. Allies, maybe. She's helped them, but she certainly doesn't know that much about the interworkings of either group, and she only knows a few people by name or face.

"Wh-who?" she stammers — it could be taken as asking who Ferry or X-men are in general, or who in particular she wants them to get hold of. Or even who Jean Harlow is addressing. Or so Peyton hopes. She certainly hopes the question won't backfire, resulting in gunfire from an angry ice queen.

The line of Jericho is so stiff it's perhaps a surprise that there's no audible crack when he turns his head toward the woman behind the counter. He shakes his head, twisting his mouth into a ridiculous, grimacing rictus of a smile. No, no thank you. It will be a few minutes before they're ready to order. Discussion here. Catching up. Old friends.

New friends. "You know who I'm talking about. Poor little rich girl gets abducted by Humanis First!, trips to Staten Island, shows up thieving meds by the pound out of St. Luke's Hospital with a professional-grade ID? The story of your life couldn't be more obvious if you typewrote it for the tabloids yourself, sweetheart. Do me this favor." There's a creak of metal and bird-boned weight as she leans forward, her shoulder easing as she does so, her arm steady to the point it vanishes intriguingly down, down, underneath the level of the table.

"Tell them— whoever they are— that Belinda Aniston's mother wants help for her little girl. And she can get them Humanis First! and several of its associates in return. Do you understand?" She's talking too slow to merely dramatize the threat, something like mockery flickering narrow at the corners of her eyes and the liquid play of her voice.

So much for trying to be brave, trying to make a difference, trying to be someone — all it does is bring her trouble. "N-n-now?" Peyton stammers, hating that fear has her by the throat just as Jean has her by gunpoint; somewhere in the back of her mind is even the fleeting thought of embarrassment, that Jericho has to hear her stammer, a tick that returns when she's frightened. She raises her chin, mustering her self composure. "I can call someone, but I'll need to reach into my p-purse for my cell phone."

"No. You can take your time, but I would appreciate an answer within 48 hours, or else the win-win situation turns into—" Harlow's angular features soften with thought. Well: somebody has to lose, but she isn't going to make guesses for how many and who, precisely. "This isn't a game. A background check should verify my identity. Ask your superiors to use the phone number for Stone and Sons Waterworks based out of New Jersey, and I'll speak with anyone who's interested.

"For now, I'd appreciate it if you sat down so I can get up and finish my shopping." Harlow's eyes flick-click upward, lock cold on Jericho's face and figure idling on the pristine white of the tiles. If his feelings had a sound, it would probably be the dry, crackling of wind stirring desiccated leaf littler, a bushfire waiting to happen. "Cynthia Steffe has a few items half-price at specific carriers this afternoon. Maybe you can take your girlfriend afterward." Jericho doesn't sit. His fingers around Peyton's fingers are tighter now even more than they were before. Humanis First!. It's the magic fuckin' word. He can't let her just—

"Jean. Your daughter Belinda. Stone and Sons Waterworks," Peyton repeats. There's no stammer this time — just a flat voice, no affect, as if her emotions have been drained out of her along with any remaining color in her once-honey-kissed skin. Now she's as white as the tiles, as white as the curly-que wrought iron chair. She sits down with a sudden bend of her knees, an automaton, ready to do what is asked of her to simply survive. The emotion is all in her eyes, however; they are wide, her brows knit together with fear and worry.

The change in Peyton's demeanor doesn't go unnoticed by either of her companions, though by now, Jericho has the mainstay of the older woman's attention. "Please. Sit," she says, each syllable formed precisely through the gritted white of a less-than-beatific smile.

Jericho doesn't, still. He's all but quivering underneath the dense threads of his garb, his hand clutched close and stiff-tendoned hot in the hollow of Peyton's hand. His lips are white, flattened out with anemic torsion, Carolina close to the front of his mind. He knows there's a gun below that table. He knows it could pointed at either of them, and his own death and subsequent uselessness oddly enough the lesser of his worries, but he isn't sitting down. He can't bring himself to.

Harlow arches a blonde eyebrow eye on her sculpted forehead. "Peyton? Any thoughts?"

She can't breathe. She squeezes his hand, tugging downward. "Sit, it's not … it's okay. Her daughter, she's a nice k-k-kid, it isn't horrible that they help her. She's just a kid and has c-cancer or something," Peyton whispers, fear making it hard for her to talk again. She glances at Harlow, her eyes wide and pleading. "Please. Go … just go shop, we won't do anything. I'll help. He doesn't even know anyone on Ferry, I don't think. He can't help you. We won't hurt you."

Though that isn't entirely true— Jericho's knowledge of the cattle-rustlers and their operation, that is, it's true enough that he isn't going to do anything. Can't, despite what seems like a brief, tiny margin of opportunity between her standing up, if he's standing up, and— then— maybe—

He almost flinches. Lips writhe back from the clench of his teeth, and the pyrokinetic finally concedes to sling himself down to sit on the chair, stiff as a puppeted thing.

Harlow rises a fluid instant later. The contours of the revolver are only faintly visible through the canvas of her coat's deep pocket, but it's a thing of terrifying proportions. With only six shots, it was built to make every single one count, and to terrify for a good while before that. "Good afternoon, kids," she says, almost brightly, turning away on a click of boot heels. The tail of her coat flares once with the incoming gust of the door, leaving the two young Evolved to sit in the stink of their own fear and incoherent hate.

"Are you all right?" Jericho's voice is so hoarse from temper that it sounds barely human.

Peyton trembles visibly, an aspen leaf on her chair. "I'm so sorry," she whispers, and the tears finally spill over the lower lash line to splash onto her pale cheeks. "I … damn it, everything I've done, all it's done is endanger anyone who knows me." She fumbles in her purse for her cell phone. "I don't even know if they know any one who can heal her daughter." She's scrolling through the phone numbers — in her fear, the clever code system she uses to obscure people's real names, should her glittery pink phone fall into the wrong hands, is useless; she can't remember the system she used. The phone drops from her shaking fingers onto the table. "I'm so sorry," she repeats.

"It's fine," Jericho answers, which does not sound true in any of even the vaguest approximations of the term. He reaches over, closes a long-fingered hand over the phone where it falls on the table, thumbs it open. The diminutive display comes on, and he turns it around for her to see, nudging the grip down toward her hand even as he secures her wrist with a warm palm. "I'm fine. Hey." He clasps her chin, the next moment, lifts her head to meet her gaze with a hard, dark eye. "You didn't endanger anyone. This bullshit is not on you. You understand?"

If his eyes are hard, her eyes are soft and frightened as she nods slightly against his hand on her chin. "Okay," she whispers, her hand curling around the phone. She wipes her eyes with her free hand, and peers down, taking a deep breath and managing to make sense of the display. Brian, Cardinal, Cat. Those are the numbers she has. She scrolls through the address book to find Cat's number, pressing the button to connect. She glances back up at Jericho, her eyes still leaking apologies and tears.

Scene fades.

Unless otherwise stated, the content of this page is licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 License