2007-07-12: Eight-by-Ten

Starring:

Mara_icon.gif Nathan_icon.gif

Summary: Nathan escorts Mara up to her apartment so she can begin packing up to move, again. He also finds out exactly why she needs to move.

Date It Happened: July 12, 2007

Eight-by-Ten


Mara's Apartment

Never not, he told her. So Mara didn't not tell Nathan about what happened to her home. She just… waited a couple of days to do it. After all, he's had a lot on his plate lately and she didn't want to add to it. She didn't want to tell him at all. But… Never not. So Mara sits on the front steps of her building, dressed down considerably, watching the ebb and flow of traffic both vehicular and pedestrian, waiting for a sleek, black car. Or a man in a great suit, and an appropriately hideous tie. Drumming her fingers against her thighs, she glances down at her BlackBerry. She's changed the wallpaper on it. A reminder. Suddenly, she wonders just what the file Eames keeps on her says. Nothing good, she's sure of it. And just wait until she tells him about this. Maybe he already knows. The nervous redhead lifts her eyes from the screen and forces herself to stay alert. Look around. Look at faces. Shadows.

And a great suit and an appropriately hideous tie comes walking down the street right about then. Nathan never did get back to Mara the next day since their last meeting, save for a brisk conversation over the phone that it wouldn't be necessary. No more, no less. Apparently, this recent piece of enlightenment isn't something to celebrate over, because despite the political arena being becoming for Nathan, he looks sleepless. When Mara spies him, he raises a hand in a wave, then offers it for her to stand. "Skipped the car," he says, by way of explanation and greeting. "The traffic's hell today."

"Looks like," Mara murmurs as she allows Nathan to help her up. "I'm sorry to pull you away. I just… didn't want to go back up there by myself. And I have a few things to get." She shrugs her shoulders. "They're finally done processing the place. Said I could go back in. But I can't stay there."

"Processing," Nathan repeats, glancing over Mara's shoulder and towards the building they stand in front of. Then back to her, as if trying to tell if she was attacked, or something, but outwardly he can't see anything and the public sidewalk isn't a good place to ask. He touches her elbow with the intent to steer and lead him inside. "What happened?" he says, asking the obvious question.

"I'll show you," Mara promises as she lets them into the building with her keys and heads for the elevator. Once they reach her floor, she lets them into the apartment. Still looks just as clinical as usual. All white and clean and… sparse. "You want a drink? I'm trying to get rid of my stash."

Nathan throws a glance around the room, as if trying to work out what Mara has to say to him simply by taking in the scene. Nothing to see, and he tries to relax a fraction. Which is why he says, "Yes. A drink would be great. Are you moving out of town?" He's not sure what she means by 'can't stay here', after all.

"Moving in with a friend in Hartsdale for a while, I think. Just until I get a new place in the City." Mara takes down a bottle of Gordon's from a cupboard and pours a shot into a lowball glass, diluting it with tonic before she hands it over to Nathan. "Let me know if you want it stronger." She pauses, eyes lingering on the bottle of gin for a long moment. Temptation dances in those hazel eyes. "You may want it stronger before I show you what… happened."

And he takes that advice, holding out his glass until it's filled to standard. All the while, Nathan watches her, and sips from his drink. "You delaying?" he has to ask, raising an eyebrow. Too much lingering before getting to the point. It's not unlike her, exactly, but noticeable.

"Yeah. You caught me." Mara smiles faintly and puts the bottle away only after Nathan's satisfied with the ratio of gin to tonic. "The other night, when you dropped me off here… I went and I got some sleep, like you told me to. Felt great. Slept better than I have in a long time." She laughs shakily. "That didn't last long."

The gin is put away, and Nathan notices he's the only one with a glass. At least one of us is behaving, is his thinking, and decides not to make her awkward about it by noting it out loud. He focuses, instead, on this. "What did he do?" he asks, after a moment of pause.

Mara takes Nathan gently by the elbow and leads him to the bedroom, but stops him in the doorway. Dramatic effect, maybe. Or just to give him a chance to get his bearings. The room is clean, though the bed is unmade. Sunlight shines through the window opposite the door, brightening up the horribly unpersonalised space. "He sent me a message." She steps into the room, pulling him now by his free hand, turning him around toward the doorway again to face the door and the partition between the living area and her room.

Grotesque is the image of dried blood on the wall. Once angry and red - now faded - still extremely menacing. Trails of blood from stray droplets streak down the wall, staining the carpet. "I'M WATCHING YOU," it says. It's unmistakable.

"The lab says it's human." And judging by the detective's reaction, it freezes the blood in her veins. Even her hand feels cold in his.

It's a lifeless, duller shade than Nathan expects it once was, but there's no question as to what it is. Nathan takes in the sight silently, hand tightening with Mara's even as he backs up a step. A generous sip of G&T is taken, back of that hand pressed against his mouth briefly, as if sickened, before lowering it again. "He did this while you were asleep? And you woke up to it?"

"Yeah." Mara's voice cracks, surprising herself as she begins crying. She sinks heavily down onto the bed and stares at the wall in a shock that she just keeps reliving. "I woke up, and there it was. I slept right through it. I didn't even know he was here."

Nathan doesn't go to join her, just releases her hand when she sits down. His returns his eyes to the wall, and then steadily,the double-gin and tonic is polished off, the glass set aside. He can almost feel his body adjust to the sudden shock of alcohol, but it's nothing new. Then, he moves to kneel in front of her, hands taking hers, in the hope she turns her attention to him and not the grotesque display. "I dunno what he wants, just that he's getting it," he says, voice quiet. "Scaring you. It's only blood on the wall. If he wanted you dead, you would be." Like he knows what motivates Gray? He doesn't. But that sounds good to him, that hope.

It's a very long moment later before Mara's eyes slide from the wall to meet Nathan's gaze. "Only blood," she repeats numbly. She closes her eyes, shutting out everything as she takes in a few deep breaths, reclaiming her control over her emotions. It's only blood. "He wants me dead," she murmurs with a shake of her head. "Make no mistake about that. It's just how much does he want to toy with me before he does it." She opens her eyes again and frowns. "I can deal with this, though. You're right. It's only blood. As long as he wants to derive amusement from me, I'll be ali-" The simultaneous buzzing and series of three loud beeps from her pocket cause Mara to jump and join Nathan on the floor to cling to him. It's a good thirty seconds before she realises that it's merely a notification on her cell.

Oof. Nathan sighs, but he holds her tightly for a few moments all the same, before pulling her back. "Then keep running," he says, his hands planted firmly on her arms. "Give him something to chase. Make it interesting." An ironic smile touches his lips, and his hands fall from her to rest on his thighs, where he kneels. "Give it enough time and maybe someone will take the bastard down before it's too late."

"Running's the cowardly thing to do, innit tho'?" The thickening accent is a sure sign that the fear is eating away at the detective. Mara sighs heavily and slips her phone out of her pocket checking the message. "I go' a package," she mutters and climbs to her feet. "Courier dropped it off. Probably from Doctah Suresh. Maybe Holly. I should get tha'. Go and, ah… Go pour yourself s'more gin. I'll be back up in a tick—" She winces. "A second. A jiff. A flash." She hurries for the door, if only so he doesn't have to see how ill she looks suddenly.

"It's not the cowardly thing," Nathan argues, standing up when she does to do so, straightening out his jacket. "And if— " But she's rushing on out, so he lets himself trail off. Heading out the bedroom, he shuts the door behind him, and goes to pour himself barely half a shot of gin. He's not about to get drunk, but he does want to relax a fraction.

It's a few minutes before Mara's keys jingle in the lock and she lets herself back into her home. She's carrying a manila envelope with a curious expression. "No return address," she says, turning it over in her hands. "And no markings from the postal service. Or any courier, for that matter. Maybe Holly's dropping off his report?" She's looking better than she did when she dashed out. Necessity has its perks. "M'sorry. You were saying something before I left to get this. 'And if' what, luv?"

"I was just going to point out you weren't listening to me," Nathan says, gesturing with his glass. "Not saying you have to run for the hills, just suggesting that you play this game too. He's powerful but not smarter, necessarily. Go where he doesn't expect, keep him intrigued so that he doesn't just flat out kill you." Now, his gaze drops to the manila folder, shrugging once. Nothing he arranged.

"I listen," Mara states defensively. "I listen well. I just… misinterpret." Yeah. That's it. The fastenings on the envelope are pried open and she tips the open end downward against her palm to slide out and retrieve the contents. From where Nathan's standing, he can only see the logo of a brand of film watermarked on glossy paper. Mara gives no outward indication at first of what the photographs depict.

But that could have something to do with how she goes deathly pale as soon as the paper touches her skin. Really, they both should have expected something like this would happen. Mara goes tumbling to the floor with a loud SMACK! as her head catches the edge of the coffee table. Half a second behind her is the envelope, eight-by-tens fluttering out of the manila as if in slow motion.

There's a slight clatter as his glass is half-dropped, half-set down, and Nathan goes directly to the collapsed woman. A vision? Didn't she have this under control? Either way, she's blacked out. "Mara," he says, voice sharp and loud, before she can slip deeper into unconsciousness, tilting her head to study her face. Only then does he reach for whatever it is she was touching.

In any other situation, the photographs would be innocuous. But not after all of this. There's a head of red hair resting against a pillow, form buried under a fluffy white blanket. A bare leg, brushed by the hem of a man's button-down dress shirt, with a badly scarred knee. Just a curled up ball under the mountain of blankets. Sprawled out on her back with a troubled expression, almost as if she might be about to wake up. The last photo, Mara's laying on her side with a peaceful expression. Nothing close to the expression she wears as she lays unconscious on her living room floor. A vision? Oh yes. that would be the telltale sign.

Nathan collects the images up as he waits for Mara to come to, stacking them almost neatly and evaluating each one. There's no mystery as to what these are, and what these mean, and it makes him feel somewhat cold. He pockets the photos, now, and pushes an arm beneath her legs, another beneath her shoulders and back, drawing her off the floor. The bedroom is definitely not somewhere he wants her to wake up, so he lays her on the couch instead, and crouches there to wait out the vision.

When the vision does end, it's abrupt as they do tend to be. Mara sits bolt upright, screaming at the top of her lungs for a solid five seconds before she recognises her surroundings. And her companion. She flops back on the couch again and groans. "Oh, my head."

Nathan's attention snaps up again when she screams, hands reaching out to calm her, but she calms herself before he can. He moves to sit on the edge of the sofa, a hand touching her arm. "You're gonna get a nice bruise for your troubles," he says, fingertips very gently touching the reddened skin. "You saw him. Taking those photos?"

Mara laughs weakly. "Taking? No. If I touched the camera, maybe. I just… saw him. Holdin' them. Lookin' at them." She stares up at the ceiling. "Shit. Time got away from me. I guess I was due for another booster shot." Or maybe some visions will always simply overwhelm her? A possibility she just doesn't want to consider. "He delivered them himself. Reckon he's having fun yet?"

"Maybe. Guy needs a hobby." Nathan moves to stand, again offering her a hand up to do the same, or to simply sit up if she chooses. He considers something, before taking out the photos and offering them to her to take. "You should do something with these," he says, firmly. "Find out where they got developed, what camera. I don't know. You're the cop."

Mara sits up with Nathan's help and then stares at the offered photos grimly. She shoves them back at the politician. "I don't want them. And I don't want to know." She climbs off the couch, rubbing her aching head as she moves toward the bedroom.

Swiftly, a hand comes out to grab her arm before she can get to the bedroom. Nathan's expression is a mixture of grimness and annoyance. "Then you're letting him have one over you for no good reason." Again, the photos are offered, other hand not letting her go just yet.

"What are the police gonna do against him, huh?! What good is it going to do me to find out where he gets his freaking—" Mara gasps and holds her head in her hand, shuddering once before she takes the photos. Finally. "Okay." Happy now?

"Good," Nathan says, voice clipped, releasing her arm at the same time she takes the photos. "You find out where he got these pictures developed, you kill the mystery just a fraction. Maybe you'll find something out, maybe you won't, I don't really care. But I'm not going to watch you roll over."

Watch you roll over. Mara closes her eyes and tips her head forward to briefly rest her forehead against his. "I'll do what I can." Then, she starts for the bedroom again. "I have to pack. You can help."

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