2010-05-05: Brutal Honest Truth



Date: May 5, 2010


Erin tells Max exactly how she feels. Language and implied insults about sexual orientation contained herein.

"Brutal Honest Truth"

Erin's Apartment

Max is not well. Not at all. Day by day, his infected stab wounds have grown worse, festering to a sickly, supporated purple. An inflamed area the size of both his hands surrounds each puncture. Despite all he's done to keep them clean, his wounds are going septic. His skin is flushed, his eyes are fever-bright, and he looks more than a bit green around the gills.

Still, he seems peaceful. Relaxed. He's draped across the couch again, his hand pressed protectively to his torso, a small smile on his face. His eyes are closed, but his breathing is too ragged and uneven for him to be sleeping.


The past few days, Erin has come by and done little except check to make sure Max was still there. She's renewed the tracking virus when she's needed to, but has otherwise left him alone, noting with a conflicting sense of satisfaction and dread that as the days went by, he got sicker and sicker.

Today is different.

The door opens, and she steps into her own apartment, noting Max's location without even glancing at him. It's been like that for days. To Max, it might have seemed that Erin didn't even know he was there. Today, though, after some hesitation, she heads over to the couch and looks him over. He's not so scary when he's half-dead. "I brought you some antibiotics. They're just a prescription from the last time I had a sinus infection." Slinging the back pack off her shoulder, she drops it on her coffee table and pulls out an orange bottle. "Didn't use these. Had a bad reaction. Hopefully you're not allergic to…" Looking at the label, she adds, "Bactrim. 'cuz this is all I got."


Groaning quietly, Max looks up and nods his usual welcome to Erin. When she makes her offering, though, he makes a vain attempt to moisten his cracked lips with an already dry tongue. "Thanks," he says raspily. "Can I… May I please have some water? I. When I stand up, I get dizzy and sick to my stomach."

This is a difficult moment. Very difficult. Max forces himself to look up into Erin's eyes. There's no need for him to admit aloud that he's at her mercy. It's obvious. Instead, he clears his throat and repeats himself. "Please?"


Some part of Erin is so satisfied seeing Max like this that she actually smiles. When she tries to be ashamed of that, she just can't. "Did you make me beg? I don't remember," she says, the smile disappearing at the memory. Nutrients cut off, no water. Turnabout should be fair play, but it's not as easy to watch someone suffer as she wants it to be.

To the kitchen she goes. When she returns, it's with a glass of water and three extra-strength Motrin. "Here. This'll help with the swelling." Handing over the tiny orange pills first, along with one dose of the Bactrim, she holds out the glass. "I don't even know… if you really understand how much you're capable of hurting people."


"Thank you," Max says after accepting the water and the pills gratefully. He gulps them down, never mind the fact that he's drinking NYC tap water. He stopped worrying about bottled water and decent food a few days ago.

When he continues, he seems much better for having had something to drink. His voice is steadier and easier to understand. "I do understand," he replies. "Too well, I think. It was all a part of the process. You don't want to hear the details. It's so cold and clinical, even in my head."


Erin snorts, sitting on the coffee table and folding her hands in front of her. Her elbows rest on her knees. Compared to the panicked half-crazed state she was in when she first found Max in her apartment, this is a vast improvement. It's almost at-ease. "Nah, if you really understood, you woulda dragged yourself out into the alley behind my apartment and shot yourself."

After a pause, she says, "But I think maybe you're on your way to getting it. Cody… Says you're being honest. I don't believe her. Maybe you're trying, but I don't know if you're just fooling yourself along with her, or what. People like you have an agenda. You said it yourself. Y'want to know everything… and you can't. You can't know everything, it's not even humanly possible.

"And to be honest, I don't like you. No." It's way beyond that. "I hate you, you fucking son-of-a-bitch. I hope your children and your childrens' children are born with ten toes on each foot and six eyes. I want you to die of some horrible, painful, incurable cancer that draws out your suffering for months. And I hope that when you do go? You get into heaven for the sole reason that God needs a punching bag, or a little bitch." She's had time to rehearse.

"And I don't know how or why you deserve another chance, but you're getting one. Don't fuck it up. If you hurt someone else, you'll wish you died from this." She reaches for the injured flesh to give it a good poke.



That single word is an incredible understatement. Oh, it hurts to be prodded when your body is rotting from the inside. A lot. The sheer quantity and quality of Erin's hatred hurts worse. He's never been around someone he's damaged for such an extended period. He hasn't even left one alive this long.

Max curls forward with his arm clasped around his gut. Vainly, the stump of his left arm scrambled to do the same. He gasps in short breaths until he regains control, which takes him several second. "Do… Do you feel better?"

It's not a mean or spiteful question. It's an honest one. Hopeful, even.


Settling back in her at-ease position on the table, she nods. "Yeah. A little," she says, which is the truth. Some things she thought she'd never get to say to him, mostly because for awhile, her only goal in life was to never see him again. "I don't know if you know my sister, Janet, or not. She worked with you. And she got me out of there before you could do anything worse." Never pass up the opportunity to dig the hate-knife just a little deeper.

"She's a doctor. I haven't asked her to come here yet, but I will. She knows your name, so I can't guarantee that she won't kill you, but if you want to get better, I'm pretty sure she's your best shot."


Max nods his head loosely. Every movement seems to bring pain from somewhere. His brain. His guts. His rotting chest and shoulder. Even the possibility of relief is… a relief. "I'd like that. I don't want to die."

More uncomplicated honesty from the monster with a five year plan. "Thank you. For helping me. And for trying to teach me." He clears his throat wetly, which sends fresh ripples of pain down his throat and into his shoulder. His eyes sag closed and his forehead pinches into a frown.


"I'm surprised you never learned how to be a decent human being," Erin says. For now, there's nothing more to really do about Max's injuries. She's certainly not going to touch him — that's just getting too close. She can ask Janet to take care of that.

"You want something from me," she says. "You wanted me to help you make the next plague, or something. Well, I'm not going to do that. But you know, I was thinking. I don't want your first ever honest inquiry into how someone's ability works to end up being some sort of slap in the face. I don't like it. But if you want to know, I'll try to show you."

After a bit of silence, Erin stands, heading over to the television to turn it on. The volume is kept low, just enough so that the apartment isn't silent. "You know you could actually help people with how driven you are. You don't have to be like this."


"I was trying," Max sighs. He takes another sip from the glass of water and then leans forward awkwardly to set it on the coffee table. "To help people. I thought I was, anyway. Thought I knew best and my opinion was all that mattered. It's funny what you learn when you stop to listen."

He changes the subject abruptly. "I wrote down everything I've learned about your power. Maybe if we work together, you can learn more about what you're capable of. I promise that I won't ask you to do anything distasteful."


At that, Erin arches her eyebrows. He's actually kind of like a little kid. A five-year-old who has no idea what's right and what's wrong. It's just that this five-year-old has the ability to bend metal to his will, and he doesn't mind torturing things larger than flies.

The thought of 'working together' with Max actually strikes a chord. It's not anger, it's fear. Her next statement is possibly one of the most honest things she's spoken today. "I don't… know if that's a good idea," she says, voice betraying her and cracking a little. "I c…" she sighs quietly, eyes closing. "…can't stop the nightmares."

It's a vulnerable moment. She could have buried it, but why? If it helps Max learn, then maybe he'll be less inclined to make the same mistakes again.


For a moment, Max truly is a little boy. He bows his head and closes his eyes as well. "I'm sorry." They flutter open again a few seconds later. "I really am. I can help you, though. I think I can." His brow furrows in ponderously deep thought. "In the short term, I know a combination of tranquilizers that will help you sleep more soundly. Less chance you'll dream. Or you could talk to me." He pauses for a sad, self-depricating smile. "I know it's not ideal, but maybe talking to the person that caused your problems will help."


Erin's limit for tolerance is very rapidly approaching. It's already started to show in the set of her shoulders, the slightly higher pitch of her voice. She's good at acting, but she can only do it for so long around the man who truly makes her afraid.

"Help!? You don't get to offer me help! Never! Never!" It's petulant. There might have even been a footstomp at some point, though the expression on her face is closer to rage. "Nnh— No. Stop asking. Hold out your arm." She very suddenly heads for the backpack, pulling out one of the syringes she was able to recover from Max's stash. Erin is certainly not going to forget the most important part of this visit - ensuring that he can't use his power.


Max doesn't fight it. He has no desire to. Despite his condition, despite how much he hurts and how emotionally draining each day here is for him, he actually wants to stay. As such, he holds his arm out willingly. "Let me know if you change your mind?" he asks quietly.

And he looks at Erin. Intently. He watches her through his fevered eyes very closely, indeed.


As she administers the injection, her eyes are locked with his. What the hell is going on in that head? When does he stop playing this game and try to attack her again? Why does he think he has the right to offer her help?! "Cody cleaned up your mess," she says, voice quite purposely harsh. "You can thank her."

Re-capping the syringe, she throws it into one of the pockets of her pack. Nothing else is said, no further acknowledgement is given as to the fact that Max is sitting right there on her rather bloody living room couch. She doesn't even turn the TV off when she leaves; in the end, all that's left is an exclamation upon the entire conversation: The sound of a slamming door.

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