Life is Fragile


DFAileen_icon.gif DFFelix_icon.gif

Summary: Aileen and Felix meet for their usual chat over coffee. Confessions, an offer, and an unexpected connection.

Dark Future Date: August 5th, 2009

Life is Fragile


The war has not been kind to Felix. He's too thin, and has a strained, wary air, like an animal that's been hunted or hunting for too long without a rest. But he's dressed in his usual impeccable suit. The old coffeehouse they used to meet up in has been closed down, but the neverending New Yorker's need for coffee has another sprouting up in what used to be a garage, of all things - it's called Rev. He's at a rickety table by a window, briefcase at his feet, some iced concoction on the table before him.

The war, while it hasn't been as hard in the same ways, has also taken a toll on Aileen. Hair cut short, her own briefcase full of documents, laptop constantly on hand for work, she's got a perpetually tired expression on her features. She moves to order a drink and fetch it before the woman slides into a seat across from Felix. "Life is pretty fragile, isn't it?" She murmurs.

Felix offers her one of those thin lipped smiles, at that. "Yeah. Well put. You look beat," he says, quietly, cocking his head at her. "But you're okay, right? Terrorists didn't do anything awful to you?"

Tapping the lid to her coffee cup with a finger, Aileen looks partially amused. "Wow. That's more concern that I even got from my boyfriend. Though George gave me a hug, so I can't entirely say he wasn't concerned." She glances back over. "I'm alright, I suppose. Don't even get time to take a break to realize how scary it was. They were gonna break my fingers, which would likely mean I'd never do surgery again.. which, in turn, would make me much less useful and much more likely to end up exactly where I don't want to end up. Not that /they/ would care about it anyways."

"What did they want of you?" he wonders, putting down his cup and frowning at her. No comment on George's behavior. It's worth nothing that Felix himself has never been more than politely complimentary to her. Might be gay, might be that reserved, might be involved with someone - he's really never said. "Where were you held? I don't mean to be nosy, but damn, I do wanna hear your story."

"Just some place underground. I kind of tried to remember everything, thinking that I'd need it to help George hunt them down afterwards. But he came in, alone, to find me." Aileen stares at her coffee cup, a sour expression on her face. "You know, I wouldn't be surprised if no one even hunts them down. I'm entirely expendable." The coffee cup is twisted so that the lip of the cup faces her and she sips from it for a moment before continuing. "That's what really gets me. I used to be so, /so/ dedicated to just helping every single damn person in this bloody world. Then I look at me, I look at now and it means not a damn thing to anyone. Hell, this project's all I got left. It's got to succeed.. or that's it for me."

"What is it you're working on?" he says, looking faintly embarassed at his own absentmindedness. "Well, he likely was faster on his feet. Even the war hasn't made the bureaucracy any more streamlined. And I can tell you that they will be hunted down, all of them." There's an unpleasant gleam of zealotry in his eyes as he makes this last statement. Even Felix the mildmannered has some genuine fanaticism in him.

"The project's the whole reason I was grabbed in the first place." Aileen murmurs. The cup is examined again. "I'm going to find a way to cause ordinary humans to Evolve." She lets out a breath. "Thanks, though. It's a nice thought that the whole thing's not just gonna be ignored." Another sigh. "Didn't expect the project to get so high-profile so fast. But this.. this is all I've got left and I'm already well in over my head. So I guess I've got to see it through to the end. If it kills me." The coffee is sipped again.

Felix reaches over the table to take her hand and squeeze it firmly. "You'll succeed, and it won't kill you. You'll be hailed as the person who brought real equal opportunity to the mass of humanity. Over your head? Aren't you getting the support you need?"

"Yeah, that's what I was hoping would happen." Aileen shakes her head, squeezing the hand back. Right now she's just got so much going through her head that it's nice to have someone to listen. "It's not really that I don't have the support. I just.." A beat. "The President's taken control of the project. I talked with him and when I told him about the project.. he.. he kind of snapped. I've never seen him like that. I told George, since George's known him for much longer than I have.. and he was surprised, but just said that the President was under a lot of stress, that sort of thing." She shakes her head, remembering clearly that look. "But he /scared/ me. And I don't get scared easily. What the hell kind of person would grab you and ignore a /bullet wound/ in their shoulder to make sure you know they're serious?" The coffee is drunk again, as if somehow it would ward off whatever thoughts or feelings she has now. "Either way, the project's under him now. I've got it backed up so that all my research is also in a secure location, that way if anything happens.. there'll be way to fix it, but… really, it just scares me. I feel like I'm in the middle of something I can't control, and everyone around me.. I'm not sure who I can trust and who I can't. All I wanted to do was to help people.."

"I can't imagine the level of pressure the President is under," Felix says, bluntly. "But direct control? Damn. Really, though, you're right. It is sort of beyond your control. But that means it's also no longer fully your responsibility. It's their problem. Trust, though? Do you fear someone betrayed you to the terrorists?"

Aileen shakes her head. "I have no idea. /Someone/ knew about the project. I had been trying to keep it secret. I mean, I hadn't even told the President before the terrorists grabbed me. Either way, it's.. it's kind of a mess now. I've got a backup plan, in case something happens that George knows what to do with, but… I mean, this could change things, if it really happens. Good or bad. I have no idea which it'll end up being." She sips from her cup. "I've got another step to this whole thing that George doesn't know about. When it gets down to it, we need to know if it's safe for humans to use it. So.. I plan on being my own test subject. If it works.. then great, it works. Things will certainly be different. But if not.. then I'm willing to.. deal with the consequences."

It can't be his fault. Felix was never specific about who was in charge of that project, even when he leaked the information. "It would depend on how it was used, just like any other item with military possibilities. Will it be offered, or forced on the unEvolved population?" Really, the answer's not in doubt. He takes another drink from his glass, crunching ice between this teeth. "No. You can't use it on yourself," he says, more firmly, giving her a level stare. "You're the only one who fully understands it. If the initial test is a flub, you could die, and then where is it left? No. By all means, get consenting subjects if you can. But not yourself."

"I'd never let things be forced on people. Not if I had a say in it." Aileen finishes up her coffee. "But there's not a choice on this. I'm going to use it on myself. I live? I can oversee the rest of it. I can make sure, if I can, that it's not used the wrong way. If something goes wrong with it? If I don't use it on myself and something goes wrong? I'm a human. Do you really think I'll still be out here? I'll be as /good/ as dead. If it fails for some reason, then it's better that it doesn't get used on the general populace. If I die? Then the project would stop. Even if it doesn't, George is prepared to make sure it stops. We'd be willing to give it to the other side to counteract it if something went wrong. Either way.. either way, I can't ask someone to do something I wouldn't be willing to do myself."

"It won't stop," he says, staring at her. "Do not delude yourself that that part remains in any way within your control. This isn't the 19th century." His drink is ignored, as he reaches out and takes both of her hands, only barely refraining from clutching at her. "Listen. This is like the Manhattan Project. You may have begun with the most noble of intentions, but once the government has its hands on it….kiss it goodbye. Even if it kills you, they'll find someone else to continue the work. Find a consenting subject and use them." He shakes his head at her. "Rhetoric aside, not all the normal humans will be exterminated or detained… won't. If you're dubious about its use, do work on an antidote. But don't gamble on a toss of the dice that way." He's one to talk - he's Evolved himself.

"I already plan on having an antidote. George and I plan on leaking it to the other side if we have to. Even the government needs a watchdog making sure it does things the right way. Either way, my loyalties have always been towards helping people." She sighs. "Either way, I know I'm already in over my head, I just have this horrible sinking feeling about everything and George isn't really doing much to reassure me." She laughs, but it's not got heart in it. It's hollow, kind of empty. "I envy the people who have something left, nowadays. Someone to protect. Something they have that keeps them fighting. The whole project was what I had left and now.. now it's like I've let them take that from me. That was all I had left."

"What about George? What about me?" he says, managing to keep any hint of hurt from his voice, though he hasn't relinquished his grip on her hands. "We care."

The hand is squeezed back. "George cares. He got me out of that. He came looking. He worries. But.. George is different. He's got his work. Work he's really good at. Work where he can make a difference and do things." She smiles, weakly. "I never even liked politics." There's a moment before she looks back at Felix. "You.. you I've never really been able to figure out, Felix."

He meets her gaze, guilelessly. "What do you mean?" There's no discomfort there, just apparently genuine incomprehension. "I'm simple - there's honestly not much to me. You know that," The last is said with a teasing lilt.

There's a laugh, and Aileen looks back. "Yeah, that's what I don't get. I'm usually pretty good at figuring things out. Smart enough to figure out what people want in life and how they live it and things like that. Not everything, but I usually catch on. But you? Maybe it's simple, but I've always felt like I never knew what you really wanted in life." Her gaze levels on him. "Like you're always hiding just that tiny bit more from everyone."

"No. The secret is that there is no secret. Like I told you back when - I'm married to the job. I'm not a hundred percent pleased with the course the Bureau took in the war and now, but it still has my loyalty," he says, wrapping his fingers around his glass with exaggerated delicacy. "It's not glamourous, or mysterious. Really, if you take a step back, it's depressing," He gives a brief, humorless laugh, before raising his gaze to hers again. "But at least that particular emotional deformity can be useful, right?"

"Guess that's something you, me, and George have always had in common." Aileen murmurs, but she looks back at him. "I know what you've said. I know there's the whole job and everything and that life.. well, life outside of something like that has always been kind of a let down. But.." She glances back into his eyes. "But I've always felt that you could work things out beyond your job, have a bit of a life.. but it's like you're afraid to try. You just don't take that step."

Felix says, with crudity and bluntness that are both unwonted, "Aileen, I wreck shit when I try. Listen. I'm good police. I'm a champion fencer, for that it's worth in this day and age. I'm a sufficiently skilled chessplayer that I was FIDE rated before everything went to hell. But when it comes to making someone happy, no." He leans back, and taps his chest with fingertips, right above the solar plexus. "It's not in me. I enjoy my life. I like my work, most of the time. I do no harm - isn't that the oath you take?"

Aileen continues to look back at him. "Still sounds like you're afraid, Felix. Maybe you've wrecked shit in the past. Doesn't mean you'll always have that happen." She shakes her head a tiny smile on her features. "You're wrong about making people happy, though. You've made me happy and all you've done is sit and listen and given me the time of day."

His answering grin is uncharacteristically broad, unrestrained - he's usually pretty tightlipped even there. "Sweet talking will get you everywhere," he teases, before it fades again. He pulls off his glasses and starts to wipe the lenses idly with a napkin. "But friendship isn't the same as being someone's lover. And the last thing I had wasn't anything at all but a prolonged bout of coercion." She may know the outlines of the Ling story - addiction of varying kinds, until he broke away, with Stan's help.

"No," Aileen agrees, her smile grim. "Friendship is not the same as being someone's lover." Seems she's found that out the hard way. "Friendship is always a good start, though." She pokes at her cup, letting out a sigh. "Either way, though, I'm beginning to see my life not getting much further from here. I suppose that's my own fault, though, when I threw my lot in with George before I knew what I was doing and relied on him to make sure I didn't end up in one of those camps. Now I'm backed into a corner."

"How so?" he says, quietly. "You're protected. This is an ugly comparison, but the Jewish lover of an SS officer should make it through okay. You're doing good work for the government. Don't make this a passive suicide."

"You didn't see the look in Nathan Petrelli's eyes when he asked me what even gave me the right to research this." She answers, quietly. "George saved my ass this long, and I'm grateful for it. Even if.. well, he'd be fine on his own. But all this? I start work on this project, and everyone and everything suddenly finds it the most interesting thing in the world. Sure, it's a neat project, it's got potential. And then I meet with the President himself? The /last/ thing I expected was to get grabbed by the collar and stared down." She puts her head in her hands, leaning on the table. "To be honest.. I'm scared."

Felix reaches over and puts his hands on her arms again. "I understand. Listen….do you want to run?" This last is said in a hasty whisper, almost garbled. "I…..are you that afraid? It can be done."

There's actually a moment where Aileen looks like she might actually cry. A breath, then she swallows, and it's gone. "I don't know. That happens.. I really don't have anything left." She shakes her head. "This is just.. not how I wanted things to turn out. I used George as my lifeline. And I'm sure he cares. He wouldn't have dated me if he didn't care in some aspect. But when I think about this.. and if this whole project gets big.. really big.. and the President and I don't see eye to eye on things? Who do you think he'd pick… his job? Or me?" She swallows hard. "George is.. a good man. I can't say he's not. I.. am sure he.." There's a breath that's then released. "Shit, I don't even know what the hell I believe anymore."

It's almost a roundabout confession of treason. "If the day comes you want to run, let me know. I will find a way to get you out. I will abuse my authority if that's what it takes." His voice is very low, and he's peering at her without his glasses, blinking nearsightedly. "I'd be the first to tell you that the President will win any power struggle."

"I know. I'm just a human, Felix. I'm expendable. Even if he never phrases it that way in his speeches." Aileen looks back at him intently. "Thank you. And I mean that, Felix. Thank you." There's a small smile, though it's a bit more sad. "You know.. I regret never having kissed you. Before the war and things got crazy and I ended up dating George and everything.. I should've kissed you. You're a good man."

Felix licks his lips, like a nervous cat. "I don't particularly believe that bit of doctrine. I think what you're working on offers hope for all humans to achieve their potential. A little rearrangement of the genome, and we become what we could be." She gets an owlish blink at that. "You could kiss me now," he suggests. It's not flirtatious, almost more puzzled.

"I'm glad someone still believes that." Aileen murmurs, but she gazes back at him, her smile a little more genuine when she sees his puzzlement. "I could," she concedes, looking back at him. "But back then it might have made more of a difference. Now.. now, if I kissed you.. what's to say it would mean anything? The war's made everyone bitter, dark, and unhappy. If I kissed you now, it probably wouldn't phase you much. If I had kissed you then.. maybe it would have."

"I don't know. I was literally, physically addicted to someone, at that point," Felix says, unhappily, putting his glasses back on. "Why does it have to mean anything?"

The smile's a little weaker. "Probably because I'd like to believe there's still some romance left in life." Aileen murmurs, studying him as he puts his glasses back on.

Felix's lips quirk. "There must be. Someone right now is falling in love. Somewhere there's a teenager mooning over her first crush."

"That's because they're too young to realize it's not real." Aileen glances out the window. "They're too innocent to realize what a world they're growing up in."

Felix frowns a bit at that. "It's real. It was real then, it's real now. Adults have been hurt, and they let their scars dictate their actions," he says, simply, before taking a last sip of his drink.

"Guess that's true." Aileen's murmur is dispassionate. "But I think now.. even if I did kiss you it probably wouldn't mean much to you." Her cup is glanced at, and shaken to see if there's any left before set back on the table.

"It would mean a lot to me, but would it make you happy?" Felix asks, bluntly. "If George is the one you love. I'm your friend, I care about what happens to you. I don't want to see you dead, or miserable. You're beautiful, you know that."

"When this war started, when people started looking at people differently because they were human or Evolved.. I was scared. I don't scare easily, but I was scared. Mostly because I didn't know what would happen, and even more so because I had spent all my time working and when it came down to it, I didn't have much to come home to. So I turned to the first person I thought I could trust, and that was George. He made sure I wasn't sent off to the camps, he pulled strings to help me get a job, he came up with the idea for the project in the first place. Along the way, things fell into place. We dated. It seemed natural. But love?" Aileen smiles weakly. "I'm not sure it exists. I can't even remember the last time he kissed me. Without George.. I've got nowhere else to go." She looks back at him, the faint smile flickering back. "So.. you'll have to forgive me. I should have done this a long, long time ago." With that, Aileen leans in to kiss him.

It's fairly chaste, at least at first. But he responds with real enthusiasm, after a few heartbeats. Well, at least that resolves the question of his sexuality, somewhat. She'll be the one to break it.

The split second of the chaste kiss causes Aileen a moment of doubt, but the response a few seconds later prolongs the kiss into a longer, more lingering one. She makes no move to break it off, at least, not for a good long while. She's content, it seems, to let it linger, and when she finally pulls back it's slow and almost reluctant. She doesn't speak.

Well, that's put the fox in among the hens, hasn't it? He lets out a slow breath, and just eyes her expectantly. Well, hell, now what? He is, it may be noted, blushing, faintly. Which looks completely bizarre on him.

Glancing back at him, the gentle smile creeps back onto her features, though she takes a moment before responding. "I.. uh." Well, it wasn't much of a response, though she smiles a little more at the blush. "Wasn't really expecting.. um." She tries again, still looking at him. "If you got me out, where would I go..?" Right now, she only sees two options. Stay and see how far she trusted her semi-happy life, or see what led down the other road, completely and utterly unknown.

"Canada, or Mexico," he says, still looking hellaciously embarassed. "That's about as far as I can think. Yeah. I wasn't expecting that, either,"

"Sounds thrilling." Aileen comments sarcastically, but most of her focus remains on the man across the table from her. "That was.. nice. I'm really surprised I didn't do that a lot sooner."

"I am, too. I mean. At all," he says, stumbling over the words.

There's even a tiny blush from Aileen. Especially, as she speaks again. "Did you.. maybe.. want to try that again?"

Felix pauses, and eyes her. "Want to? Yes. Think it's a good idea? That I'm not so sure of. I can't protect you like George can," Felix admits, with no sign of shame.

Shit. There's that situation again, and Aileen frowns for a moment, doing her best to try and sort it out. "No, you can't. Not like the George." She admits reluctantly. Then there's a long pause, as Aileen looks at her empty cup. "What if I was willing to risk it?"

"I don't think I should let you," Felix says, bluntly. "I can't tell you to stay with George if it's that abhorrent to you. But you know what will happen if he thinks you've run to me."

But plans had already begun forming in Aileen's head. "I.. I don't know. George isn't a horrible man. I could talk to him." Her gaze flickers back, but she doesn't speak the next question. It goes unspoken as she looks him in the eyes.

Felix insists, quietly, "You need to wait. Because this can't go badly."

Her gaze doesn't pull from him, her voice quieter. "Wait for what?"

"See how your project pans out, for one," he says, even more quietly.

He had a point. Aileen wasn't sure what would come of the project. She was uncomfortable with things continuing the way they were, but to drop out now.. it could be very dangerous. Still watching him, Aileen sighs again. "I'll wait." She murmurs.

Felix sighs, faintly. "Think about this," he urges her, before tossing his empty cup in the trash.

"I'll think about it." Aileen murmur, her gaze moving back to him. She moves to throw her own cup away. "Whatever happens.. I don't regret that kiss." She looks at him seriously. "And I never will."

"Me, neither," he says, simply. "But I hope it doesn't lead to things that you don't want to have happen."

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