With The Things You Could Do


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Scene Title With The Things You Could Do
Synopsis You won't, but you might.
Date January 23, 2012

New York City, NY

It's obviously a rented office space. There isn't so much as a potted plant or a display of fliers, much less a logo on the door; generic as all hell, it suggests that whoever's renting it doesn't plan to be here for very long.

Or maybe that they're shady as all hell, and this is a front. It could go either way.

Just inside the door, leaning against the unoccupied receptionist's desk, is a man in black slacks and a black button-up shirt. If there's a suit jacket that goes with it, it's missing. He's picking through a bowl of mints as he awaits his appointment, as if looking for one particularly tasty.

The sound of footsteps in the hall that leads to the office signify that his appointment is not one to disappoint. Right on time, the door opens to reveal a short woman dressed in a long trench coat of navy blue with a hood that's pulled up to ward off the cold rain outside. That cold can't bother her too much, as only sheer stockings clothe her legs between coat's hem and mid-calf boots. There's the barest moment of hesitation before she steps inside, but doesn't shut the door behind her.

The hood is pulled back to reveal a head of dark curls. Large glasses draw the focus away from other features, like the angles of prominent cheekbones and jawline. Draw the focus to the wary look in blue eyes. Those eyes sweeps the man up and down in open appraisal, sizing him up. Her posture is casual, but her hands are in the pockets of her coat. Just two steps backward would carry her out to the hall again. And her boots have the right tread for running.

Finally, her gaze meets his, and she waits.

"Oh, hey." The mint's tossed up, and the man catches it in his mouth; chewing it as he straightens away from the desk, one hand smoothing down the edge of his shirt as he does so. Dark hair's swept back from his face, kept short, hazel eyes meeting hers as lips twitch in a faint, crooked smile. He could use a razor, but he isn't really sporting a beard yet. The shattered mint is swallowed, and he admits, "I was wondering if you would actually show up."

One hand sweeps out to one side in invitation - odd black markings, or stains, or tattooing on his hand, as if of another hand grasping his - and he heads towards an office over to the side, the door already open. "Step into my office. As it were, for the moment at least."

His back's to her, so either he's missed her reputation or he's being trusting.

Hands slide out of pockets slowly, like someone's used to making a show of being nonthreatening, so the woman can close the door at her back. Her own display of trust. She's here because of who asked her to be here, and because she has to wonder just what sort of person asks for her at all.

Confident strides carry her from reception to office. Slender fingers work buttons free from holes and uncinch the sash at her waist so the coat can hang open over a charcoal wool skirt and a cable knit sweater the color of mustard. This is as good a place to die as any, she reasons with herself when she gives him her back, glancing around the unadorned space. Neither of them is on home ground, it would seem. When she speaks, it's to ask a question:

"Mind if I smoke?"

There's a desk, at least, and its wooden surface isn't as naked as most of the surfaces in the office; several file folders are laid thereupon, and a laptop. Colored lines zig-zag crazily over the laptop's display in a screen saver, crossing and re-crossing themselves. "Feel free," he replies, hand lifting in a dismissive wave over his shoulder as he steps around the desk, "My sisters aren't here to bitch about it, so smoke while you can…"

He finally drops down into the chair behind the desk, leaning back in a comfortable sprawl and folding both hands over his chest. Hazel eyes watch her for a long moment, before he inquires, "So what should I call you, Ms… Price? Knutson? Lynwood?" Wryly, he adds, "I'm certainly not going to call you by your Manifest Number, but I'll be honest, I'm not sure what your actual name is, so - pick a card, as it were."

Smoke while you can sounds slightly ominous, if only because it's the kind of thing she would say to someone. The kind of connotation she would be intent on delivering might differ slightly from this man's. An old-fashioned cigarette case is withdrawn from her pocket, the latch flipped open with a press of her thumb so she can pluck out one stick and a lighter. Two flicks, and she's touching the flame to the end until she can see the ember glow down the length of her nose. Then, she stashes it all away again and takes the first draw, deep on the inhale. The smoke is expelled through her nose, the effect like some kind of agitated dragon.

The neutral expression hardens, lips tighten faintly, curve in disgust or maybe anger. Throat muscles work around a swallow, bitter medicine that needs to go down. Manifest Number struck a nerve, if the barely restrained shudder was any indication.

"You missed one," she responds coolly. "Saint-Jacques." Hardly surprising; she wasn't called Joy for very long, after all. That life she enjoyed was all too brief.

As to what he can call her now, she leaves that unspoken. For the moment. "What do you want?"

"I'll make a note in your file," Cardinal says dryly, tongue firmly in cheek, and he motions with his hand towards the other side of the desk. "Sit." A brow lifts, a more pointed look, "Sit! For Christ's sake, you're acting like I'm going to try and kill you or something. My sister'd have my head for it— " Another sweep of his hand towards the seats, and then it's raking back through his hair as he leans back, kicking his feet up on the desk's edge at an angle. Black shoes, but those are track shoes, not the sort you'd expect on a businessman. Also good for running.

"What do I want? I ask myself that every day," he admits, gaze lifting to the ceiling, "What I want is a future that isn't so god-awful terrible that precogs aren't telling me their nightmares, a future that isn't so unthinkable that people come back in time to try and stop it."

"But," he admits wryly, looking back over to her and pointing one finger, "You build a future one person at a time, I suppose. This isn't an execution, Ms. Knutson. It's an interview."

Not the kind of reception she's used to having. The whole I'm not here to kill you thing, that is. After a beat of deliberation, she glides over to the indicated chair and eases herself down to sit, blowing another stream of smoke past her lips.

A smirk twitches her lips for the briefest of moments. A fleeting memory about a meeting past. That last bit, however, has her brows - paler than the color of her hair - raising in an open mixture of astonishment and skepticism. "Is that so? And what position could you possibly be wanting to offer me, Mister…?"

"Ray." Hazel eyes hold hers for a moment, and then he reaches over to lift one of the file folders from the desk's surface. "Richard Ray."

"And that's an excellent question," he muses, flipping the folder open casually, "Let's look over your resume, Ms. Knutson. Former employers… the Company, well, I can't hold that one against you. Volken. You worked with Monroe with my sister, and… according to Ygraine you were last working with the Commonwealth Institute."

This time, the smile the Odessa girl wears is tighter. "I can tell you only one of those was entirely by choice." And his sister is the reason she didn't stay there. "I worked for the Ferry for a while, too." She cants her head to one side, a small lift of her shoulder toward her ear, then dropped again. "While I was Saint-Jacques, so the blind spot is understandable." Despite the light tone of her voice, there's no amusement in her blue eyes, which don't waver from his even through the haze of smoke from her cigarette.

"Congratulations, Mister Ray. You know an awful lot about a woman who never officially existed before two-thousand-and-ten." And never under the name of Knutson. Lynwood's record is brief at best, though she finds herself wondering if the Institute ever connected the dots on paper. They must have done at some point, or he wouldn't have this information. She was in possession of her Company file, so there's only so many places his information could have come from. The implication causes tension to start coiling through her again, making her spine rigid despite the relax posture she forces herself to maintain.

In summary of her resume, she offers, "I'm a woman of science and medicine." And bombs and terrorism. But as he's conveniently left those portions of her background out, so shall she too omit them. She has no doubt he's aware.

"That you are," says Richard, tossing the file lightly to land with a smack upon the table before he leans back, regarding her steadily, "That you are."

He draws in a breath, and then motions slightly with his hand, "I had a conversation with a man we're both familiar with, once. 'Penance is not an easy thing to seek', he told me. I wasn't sure if I believed him at the time… but I did, later. He died finding it."

"And I figure that if Kazimir can repay his debt to the world - well. God knows our sins are lesser to his."

And like that, she's up from her seat and staring down, blue like ice and blazing like fire all at once. "Fuck you." The cigarette at her side draws tendrils through the air that aren't quite as languid now, betraying the shaking of her hands. "You do not understand the first thing about Kazimir Volken."

And if he thinks he does - if he thinks he attempted to redeem himself - then she wants no part of what he's trying to sell her. One step to the side and one step back brings her closer to the exit. She doesn't take her eyes off him.

At that fire, the faintest of smiles touches Richard's lips - but his gaze hardens. His feet drop down from the desk to hit the floor, and he leans forward, arms resting on the desk's edge.

"The fuck I don't," he says flatly, "Volken was a god-damned monster, and the things he did were unforgivable. But as it turns out, sitting in the back of Sylar's head for a few years gives you a lot of time to think about things."

He leans back again, "You can walk out, or you can sit down. Up to you."

In years past, that name - Sylar - would have saw her immediately returning to her seat. Leaning forward and purring about how she's prepared to be a very good girl if he could share a morsel of information about her favorite person.

Those days are gone. That woman is dead.

"I'll stand." It's a compromise. The cigarette is brought back to her lips and she makes very little attempt to still her hands. The exhaled breath is juddery. "Why would you invoke that name? You wanted a reaction, and you got it. I'm not interested in The Work anymore. I don't give a fuck if the world is sick. If we're the disease or the cure… I'm not the doctor."

"Fair enough." Richard's fingers slide to rub against the side of his neck, his nose wrinkling slightly. "And you're right— I did, and I did. Sorry, but I needed to make sure you weren't still interested in 'The Work'."

A wan smile, looking over to her, "We're not a disease, and we're not a cure. There's no— 'them', there's no 'us'. We're just fucking people. You've made some bad decisions in your time. I'm just offering you a chance to make up for some of them."

There's a trick here, she's certain. There's always a trick. A trap. The wariness does not abate at his assurances, but the interest does start to return. The curiosity she's known for by those who're paid to pay attention to such things.

"Go on."

She remains, and he nods ever so slightly as she asks him to continue. "I'm going to skip the flowery bullshit, if you don't mind," Richard allows wryly, "You and I both know that the Institute did some amazing things, and then wasted all of them on— on complete insanity."

A sigh, and he spreads his hands, "If we could harness even a tenth of what they did, we could turn it to better ends. We could help rebuild the country, we could improve peoples' way of life. We could make the world better, without having to kill people for it. No more hiding, no more conspiracies, no more plotting. Just a ray of light now that we're coming through that long night."

"And just maybe we could repay that debt we all owe for what we've done."

"I thought you were going to skip the flowery bullshit," she murmurs with amusement in her tone that doesn't reach her eyes. A ray of light through that long night smells a lot like the rose perfume she wears to mask the stink of cigarettes.

Finally, she looks down at the files on the desk and starts to move forward, cautious. She wants a glimpse of what he knows, wants to know if her cards are still close to her vest, or if they're turned out for him to see. "Funny, I don't remember seeing you at the company pizza parties." There are so few places he could have received his information from. So few people know who she is.

Dark bangs are swept away from a scarred forehead for a moment. They're not behind the frames on her face when they resettle, making her vision feel less obscured, even if they aren't in need of a trim yet. "I'll give you credit, nobody's ever appealed to my sense of decency before."

"It's a bad habit," Richard admits, his lips twitching slightly as he's called out.

Most of the folders are new; some of them are old. Some of them have her aliases on them, others have other names. Some of the older file folders are labeled Phoenix. One reads Moab Federal Penitentiary although the last two words have been scratched out and an unknown hand scrawled in Concentration Camp. The most telling folder, perhaps, reads Bishop, E.

He didn't just go by Kaylee's recommendation before agreeing to the meeting, it seems. He did his homework.

"Maybe someone should have," he says then, head cocking to one side as he regards her, "Is it working at all?"

Ellie. Her eyes stay fixed on that name for a long time. It rattles her more than the reminders of Moab - her personal hell for so many reasons. That fear begins to coil in her chest again. Maybe he's heard that she does show concern for other people. If anyone knows that about her, it's Kaylee. Maybe if Elle is feeling charitable, she'll remember some of that, too.

"I'm not a good person," isn't a no when she meets his eyes again. Slowly, she retakes the seat she occupied earlier. "I've tried to be," she admits in a quiet voice, "but I've never had that work out real well for me. Always seems to get me killed." The hand holding her cigarette comes up to rub absently over her turtleneck-clad throat. "I don't have an ability to offer you."

She's watched as she remains silent, and he does as well, waiting for her to look back up and respond to his words.

"Everyone does what seems best at the time," Richard says almost gently, then, "And yeah, sometimes being a good person gets you killed. If anyone knows that, it's me."

His hand lifts - those black marks left by Peter's hand shown off again - and falls. "Your ability isn't you. You're a doctor, a scientist, and God knows you can think on your feet. There's a hell of a lot you can do with that."

One last drag and the cigarette is dropped unceremoniously on the floor in front of her to be stamped out under her boot. One corner of her mouth comes up in a rueful smirk. "You seem awful sure of yourself." About her. There's skepticism there, sure, but he hasn't missed the mark by much, if at all. His assessment of her is generous, by her estimations.

"I am a damn good doctor and scientist," she agrees without shame. If she wasn't so damn smart, her work wouldn't be coveted. She wouldn't be worth the effort it takes to keep her locked away in this prison or that. The Odessa girl would have been left to die long ago. "I don't know how this works without threats, Mister Ray." He doesn't appear to have the one file in front of him that would have her promising to do anything for him to ensure the safety of the subject. "So why don't you tell me, in plain terms, exactly what you want from me and what I should expect in return."

"I want you to come work for me," Richard replies plainly, hands spread a little, "Raytech Industries is going public soon; we've already got several lucrative contracts. We need good minds to work in our labs, to innovate, to make things nobody's ever seen or heard of before - not to keep in secret, or use in some grand scheme, but just to make the world a better fucking place. I mean, and make a profit on the side."

"As for what you get…" His brows lift slightly, regarding her for a long moment before continuing.

"A good paycheck. A very competitive benefits package. We'll probably need to create a new identity for you, all things considered. And one other benefit that, I think, you need most of all."

On the surface, it seems like a good arrangement. A nice sentiment. A noble goal. The Company felt that way once. The Commonwealth Institute masqueraded as such. There's not a lot of trust in lofty ideals from the doctor.

"You know, I really expected you to tell me that all I get is spared a bullet in the head for accepting your offer." Which should be hardly surprising, considering those previous employers. "All right, I'll bite." This, she expects, is where she'll find out the catch. "What's the other benefit that, you think, I need most of all," she echoes back to him, amused.

"So, my sister recommended you for the position, so I know Kaylee would like to have you here," Richard explains, one hand lifting with a brush of his fingers through the air, "And Elle— well, I'll quote my sister-in-law here, 'I love Dessy, even if she can be an evil shit sometimes'."

"You said yourself that you didn't work most of your previous jobs willingly," he says with a shrug, "I thought that actually being around people that give a shit about you might be a welcome change."

The confusion doesn't write itself into the lines of Dessy's face, but there's a tension that's made manifest in a slow intake of breath. The rise and fall of her chest and the too-still posture in spite of it. She shuts her eyes and takes off her glasses, resting them in her lap as she hangs her head.

With a shake, she whispers her answer: "No." At length, she continues, "I can't. I care about both of them. I can't put them in the path of the kind of danger that follows me." How difficult this is to her is evidenced by the way she doesn't meet his gaze this time.

At that, Richard brings a hand up to rub between his eyes. "It just took us two years to rehabilitate Elle," he says quietly, "Because some maniac surgically modified her to serve as the central battery for the Institute's big fucking MacGuffin. She's been kidnapped and experimented on more times than I can actually count."

He looks up, then, regarding her seriously, "Kaylee was nearly killed at Pollepel Castle because of her ability. She's worked for Adam Monroe. She's a Ray. There are more targets on their heads, more enemies on their trails, than you possibly could muster."

"There's strength in numbers, Odessa. Don't pick now to get noble about this, not when there's a hand trying to help you up."

As soon as he speaks Elle's name, the woman's eyes are on him again. In those blue depths, he can see her heart breaking for the other women. Her friends, if she felt she had any right to call them that. Her instinct is to say that they've got enough to worry about without adding her own troubles to the heap, but she draws a knife across the throat of that argument and leaves it to bleed in her mind.

"You're going to protect me from—" Whatever she was about to say dies on her tongue. Her eyes fall then to his literal hand, proverbially outstretched, like she wants to reach out to reach out and take it.

"I can keep the wolves off your heels," says Richard, offering her a faint smile as she asks the question, chin dipping in a nod of understanding, "I've still got that much pull."

His hand lifts a bit from where it rests on the desk's edge, and he raises a brow, "What do you say? Give it a try, at least. Unlike some of your past employers, you can quit if you don't like it, and the worst you'll get is a severance package."

The smile is returned with a smirk of her own. It doesn't take a leap of logic to figure out who might want to get their hands on her. Likely far more than just one individual or organization, but they are certainly the biggest, baddest wolves on her scent right now.

"All right." The protection makes this a worthwhile endeavor to pursue. Everything else is just a nice bonus. If it's a trap - which she naturally suspects - then she'll deal with it when it's sprung. For now, she pushes herself up from her seat to stand and finally offers out her hand, and her introduction:

"Desdemona Desjardins. Call me Des."

She reaches out, and so do does he rise from his chair and up to his feet with a smile crooked to his lips. Of course she doesn't trust his offer yet - he wouldn't assume she would. Just as he doesn't trust her fully, no matter his sisters' opinion on the matter. Time will tell.

He reaches out with that healing-blackened hand to clasp hers warmly, offering in return, "Nice to meet you, Des, and welcome aboard. The name's Richard Ray these days."

She's not the only one who's had aliases.

"Nice to meet you, Richard." Her free hand brings her glasses back up to rest on her face and when she withdraws from the shake, a green spark flutters in the air between them and dissipates as quickly as it came. Then she offers a broad smile.

"Let's do some good."

January 23, 2012

Odessa Woods rolls over in her bed and reaches out first toward the nightstand, then for her husband. Seeking the anchoring reassurance that he represents, she rests a hand over his. Watches his chest rise and fall as he sleeps. Slowly times her own breathing to his and feels the calm return to her. She wouldn't have gotten that from what sits in the top drawer.

3:12 reads the clock on the nightstand opposite her side, in a shade of blue that looks almost iridescent in the dark of their bedroom. As she begins to close her eyes again, her vision blurs and she thinks she sees a firefly floating in the space above her and husband's joined hands. When she blinks again, it's gone. A figment of her tired imagination. Like that dream.

Desdemona Desjardins. Just like the name on the identification card Arthur gave her.

What the hell was that?

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