warning: brief violence
"What has it cost you?" (Set in the Blackburn Prometheus lab.)
Blackburn Research Facility - Rec Room
The sign by the door says "Rec Room", but someone with a permanent marker bookended the first word with "W" and "k" at some point, and the subsequent effort to undo the vandalism was lackluster. Inside it is not usually that much of a wreck, though it might be more interesting if it were. One corner is dedicated to the reasonably sized flatscreen television mounted on the wall, with several rows of folding chairs arrayed before it. Another is centered around a set of tacky vinyl sofas bracketed by two bookshelves largely stocked with supermarket checkout paperbacks (about half James Patterson by volume, with Danielle Steel heavily represented, and there are at least six copies of /Fifty Shades of Gray/ at any given time). The rest of the space is more modular, but usually plays host to several card tables ringed with folding chairs, supplied by a shelf of games, from playing cards to chess (with a couple of improvised pieces) to three different flavors of Monopoly.
It's quiet in here, just at the moment. A couple people playing cards in the corner, someone watching Law & Order over in the back. Not much else going on, just now. Flicker is curled up in a corner of the couch, his eyes only -- barely focused on the copy of Michael Crichton's /State of Fear/ that he is holding. It's been a long time since he's turned the page.
A large calloused hand reaches down, pushes the book down against Flicker's lap. It's a tanned and freckle-dusted face that looks down into Flicker's, brown eyes kind of squinted up, a small frown pinching his brows together. Not in scrubs like most down here -- his guard uniform is crisp on his muscular frame. "Huh." Ansel's jaw works, slowly. "Heard they'd finally brought you in."
The skinny young man who's just now returning to the reading area with two paper cups full of water in hand stops in his tracks when he sees the guard speaking to Flicker. Jamie's dark brown eyes have gone just slightly wide, darting to and fro while he hesitates, but finally he continues on his way, walking slowly, scuffing his feet, and keeping his gaze down. He puts the cups of water on the wobbly coffee table and sits down beside Flicker, picking up the dogeared paperback he had left (/Angels and Demons/ by Dan Brown) but not opening it back up.
Flicker looks up slowly. His fingers clench against the book, wrinkling at the edge of the page he's been on. He stares up into Ansel's face, his own brow slowly rumpling in a mirror of the larger man's frown. "I'm sorry, sir," he finally replies quietly, "do I know you?"
Perhaps it is not entirely unconscious, but when Fen is lead into the room, she follows the recently acquired water for a few steps, eyes wide and focused on it until Ansel speaks up. Whoa. Guard. Shit. "OHhhh. heey Ansel... I mean Guard Covey. You know the new kids? That's nice. Do you want to introduce me? I mean. You don't have to. I am sure I can manage it on my own, but sometimes it's refreshing to be introduced." The young woman adjusted her scrubs top -- once bright and horribly hectic, now dingy and discarded by whatever dental hygienist or nurse receptionist had gotten all of their use out of it. She then smiles at the pair, waiting.
Ansel leans a little harder down. Where his hand presses against the book, against Flicker's knee, it carries an improbably painful force given the seemingly casual contact. "We met a couple years back. Ohio." He looks up, glancing over when the others draw near. "Friend of yours?" His chin jerks to Jamie. He finally does straighten again once Fen arrives, shaking his head. "Nah. We're only just getting acquainted."
"Yes," Jamie says, his voice quiet but steady as he looks up at around the area of the Ansel's chin. He jumps when Fen speaks, his eyes skidding aside, shoulders tensing for a moment and then relaxing again. Still, he seems slightly more wary of /her/ than of the guard. "Hi. I'm...Jamie."
Flicker pales as Ansel leans down. He sits up, sits /back/, pressing slightly against the couch with a small but visible tension in his posture. Jaw clenched, just a little. Slowly and deliberately, he pulls the book back from where it sits under Ansel's hand. "Ohio? I haven't been --" He breaks off, his jaw tightening further. "/Oh/." He lets out a slow breath, studying the guard more carefully. His lips press together, and he's silent as he turns to look at Fen, instead. His smile is a little tense, but is voice is kind of /deliberately/ cheerful. "I'm Flicker. Good to meet you."
"Oh. Well. I'm Fen. Nice to meet you. Welcome to the land of misfit toys. This is Guard Ansel Covey. I know I'm not supposed to use first names, it really gets under some of the guards' skin, but Ansel is kind of a unique name and it always makes me think of serene black and white landscape photography. Also, likely, not a useful association, but not actually breaking any rules." Cheeky and subtly sliding just a little closer to the labrats - maaaybe inserting herself between them and the guard, Fen looks at the books they are currently not reading. "Interesting choices. It is probably best to avoid the Danielle Steele's for the time being. You'll get desperate enough to read them in time and having something new to read is best savored."
"Oh," Ansel repeats, on a short sharp breath, "/oh/. You have any idea what you and your terrorist friends cost me? No, no --" He shoulders Fen aside, his fist slamming down against the couch cushion beside Flicker's head, "you /wouldn't/. Wouldn't even think of it. You fucking criminals give all of us a bad name."
"Sadly, I think I've read all of the Danielle --" Jamie flinches when Ansel shoves Fen aside, reaches out kind of reflexively to steady her in case she looses her balance. His eyes have gone wide, his shoulders hunching inward. Even so, he manages to sound some part surprised, part relieved, and part curiously when he says, "Oh! You're -- one of us, Sir?"
Flicker closes the book he's been not-reading. Rests it on his leg, rests his hand lightly over it. His face is still pale, and his breathing slow. "I hadn't," he answers, quiet and slow, "stopped long to consider how freeing slaves from torture labs would be a hardship for their captors, no. I'm very sorry, sir." His eyes skip aside to Jamie, then lift back up to Ansel. "What has it cost you?"
Fen stumbles when shouldered, her expression cooling. Jamie's support is appreciated, but doesn't need much to steady herself. The meaning of his words, however, are lost on her. "Sheesh, Ansel. Did you get written up, reprimanded, or shuffled off to a new facility because of someone else's terrorism? You don't have to be a jerk about it." Her general disgruntled attitude disappears as soon as Ansel punches near Flicker's head. A glance is spared for Jamie's reaction, but her attention returns quickly to the heart of the conflict. "Uh. Dude. That's... the 'terrorism?'" Air quotes are heavily implied but no gesture follows. "OF COURSE, you're going to get a bad name thinking of slave liberation like that."
Ansel's eyes narrow, a visible if brief flinch shivering through him at Flicker's question. His hand balls into a fist, snapping up from the cushion to crack -- once again with alarmingly more force than it seems like it ought to have -- against the side of Flicker's head. He straightens, his jaw clenched. "/You/ don't need to talk at all," he snaps, eyes cutting to Fen though he doesn't turn from Flicker. "Freeing dangerously unstable delinquents and criminals isn't goddamn /noble/. We have laws in this country for a goddamn reason. People like you go around breaking them, makes it harder for those of us just trying to live a /decent/ life." He takes a step back, finally looking to Jamie. "Tss. I'm nothing like you." His fists are still clenched as he turns to go.
Jamie flinches again at the blow, scooting forward on the couch as if he would launch himself from it and flee, but he does not. He's still watching the guard, still not meeting his gaze, but reaching for Flicker, concern written plainly on his face. To Ansel as the man turns to go he only says, "Yes, Sir. My mistake, Sir."
Flicker's head snaps hard to the side, a speckled reddish mark spreading where Ansel's hand connected with his cheek. He falls sideways, his arm shifting too late to really prop him up. Just kind of half steadying him against the sofa. He pushes himself upright slowly, eyes trained on the guard as the man leaves. Only after this does he finally take a cup of the water that Jamie had brought in. He sips at it very slowly, eyes fixed across the room and not on the others.
"Since when has that stopped me." Fen replies, dispassionately observing. Her words are fairly quiet, but she is braced for any sort of retaliation, given Ansel's apparent mood. When he leaves, she moves in front of Flicker's gaze, eyeing the red spot. "So... you're a unicorn."
Jamie drops his hand, fiddles with his book for a moment, watching Ansel until the guard is well away from them. He blinks curiously at Fen, raising both eyebrows, but when he speaks it's to say, "I'll see if I can find some ice." And then he's padding quietly away again.