2010-09-09: Nothing In Defense



Date: September 9th, 2010


Laurie doesn't quite get as far as a walk of shame the door before a rested, but emotionally restless, Maggie wakes from her slumber to spying spy, and questioningly question.

"Nothing In Defense"

The Standard

Maggie's 'Room'

Memories recycled as dreams flash by, out of order, alternately vivid and blurry. The Standard — the halls, the elevator, the pool; blurry. Agent Hamm, dead bodies; vivid. Lisa Olsen, dead; vivid. Maggie struggling with her attacker; vivid. Falling; blurry. Underwater, Laurie — they're intertwined, she's breathing; vivid. The familiar rush and roar of moving water; blurry… until it gets louder and louder and louder…

Maggie wakes up. Despite the imagery at the forefront of her mind, the dreamer doesn't jolt awake with a start: her eyes open suddenly, but she doesn't move. The stillness of the hotel room is almost jarring, however, and lucidity strikes very quickly — it doesn't take long for Maggie to realize that it was a real world noise that woke her up, not the alarming replay of the recent past. Running water — a shower.

She turns her head in that direction and, instantly, the empty room is privy to her open-mouthed expression of exquisite pain. Sinking back into motionlessness, she notices that a heavy comforter moves with her; that was not there before, and she smiles faintly at its presence before closing her eyes as if to sleep again. Maggie doesn't in fact fall back into sleep, but her breath falls back into the slow, deep, easy rhythm it had a moment ago.

Steady and ongoing for another passing minute, the stream of water is soothing in repetition — if not in being what it is. In its shutting off, the room falls to a brief but complete silence. Little noises that must be ongoing in the bathroom are blocked by the door, the quiet with which they are performed. Eventually, some rustling; it precedes the more obvious shifting against carpet as the door opens — with the room exposed, there's the residue of water to hear, the light drip of last remaining water out of the faucet. Another compelled quiet seems to evaluate the quiet here — the pattern of breathing across the way.

Soon enough some conclusion's been reached; the sounds of productivity near the bed continue with drops of a soft weight, then heavier ones onto the carpet — one, two.
Devoid of comforter, the bed only wrinkles slightly on twelve-count sheets when Laurie sits there at the edge, curling his shoulder down to extend his reach for the shoe in front of bare, damp feet — more importantly, the sock stored inside. For all the mundaneness of the activity, the consultant's face is poised in persistent and perturbed thought. The gradual lines across his face light but evident of the consistent stress put on his features for the matter. Certainly more than his loafers, however still wet, ever deserved.

The steady breathing of the woman on the couch carries on without interruption. But, awake under the cover of apparent sleep, and listening, Maggie does eventually open her eyes. Having dozed off with her neck at something of an uncomfortable angle to begin with against the back of the couch's black leather cushioning, and not moving from such an angle now, her gaze shifts to the side and pushes the limits of her vision to catch a glimpse of Laurie there. She watches with the covert but unapologetic stare of someone who knows they're bound to be caught eventually anyway; all the while, miniscule movements, quiet as quiet can be, go on under the blanket in preparations to eventually spur her body into truer motion.

Slipped out of the shoe, the sock is more held onto than immediately worn; his arm retreats to his knee to indulge the pause further. His legs, braced about the corner of the bed, are clad in the pants of earlier but the view Maggie gets from her angle is mostly back — and that's bare — and something she's seen before; at least, it is underneath the criss-cross pattern of many long, raised marks all intersecting each other, making strange, bumpy intersections of scars. They seem to pop, stretching with him as he curves his back, leaning all his weight now onto his knees. His left hand strikes through his hair, lands too hard back on the leg. A little hiss — but then a sigh and that tension's gone, and so is the deep thought. Focus. He unfurls the sock and bends to draw it over a foot.

It's with the quietest of possible movements that the spying detective does turn her head, producing only the faintest rustle of hair — now mostly dried into many wavy threads of chlorinated blonde that almost, almost appear purposeful instead of in need of a wash and a brush.

A few moments later and Maggie makes her wakefulness known, not with a word but with a simple roll onto her side to fully face the room. A creak of the couch's leather and a soft crumpling noise of the comforter signal her movement undisguised, though her reaction to this physicality is otherwise — disguised with a staid clench of her jaw. An arm half-covered by the robe's spacious sleeve drapes heavily atop the blanket and Maggie's wide awake watch resumes just the same.

A little hitch in the otherwise smooth pull of shoe over sock, a ripple of tension in the back perhaps more visible because of those swollen roads — nothing more, nothing less. Laurie finishes placing the shoe around his heel, puts the toe to the ground and wiggles it slightly to perfect the fit. Then he rolls his weight to the other side to do the same there. Sock gained, uncurled, on: shoe.

As he twists vaguely towards her to retrieve the grey t-shirt from beside him, his gaze never quite reaches the full look-around required to see the couch's contents. Still, on the slipping of his arms into the t-shirt mid-section, he speaks up: "Your body's going to be a little unhappy with you today, detective," mellow but aloof in it — almost clinical if not for how laid-back, "My advice continues to be to take it easy." Grey swallows him, then the collar fits over his head, his arms appear out of sleeves. "Ignore as you will."

"I'm aware," Maggie replies without complaint for the fact, sounding placid despite the truth of it — if faintly dismissive. "You should, too. You know. Take it easy. What time is it?" A shift on the couch marks Maggie looking around for some kind of clock; there's little to indicate the passage of time, and her gaze defaults to the window and its view from high above the city's Meatpacking District. Not for long; it's soon back on Laurie, her perceptiveness not at all marred by her recent nap. "Did you call anyone to explain what happened?"

"Evening," is the first response, as though that was also the first thing Maggie said. Laurie, smoothing the lay of his t-shirt, pushes off the bed to his feet void of evidence of his own body's possible unhappiness. "You slept through dinner. I've ordered up for you." The window, curtains open to the display beyond the balcony, confirms this; darkness deeper than what formed as they were arriving has fallen — not that this means dark or quiet for the city; a million lights sparkle below. "Called. It's taken care of— oh," having retrieved his jacket, squeezed of excess liquid but clearly needing further drying, he slings the article over his arm rather than on, "They found Cinderella's shoe, by the way."

"…Thanks," Maggie replies, spoken less clear than the rest. "I'd wondered about that— " The endeavour of sitting up has begun, exertion only audible through a faintly laboured voice as she goes on, slightly somber, "though— Cinderella had— a happier ending…" Upright, the comforter is allowed to fall, and she rests both arms on its folds about her waist. Bruising sneaks down one inner forearm arm by her elbow, stand-out against pale skin; noticing it with no particular reaction, she quickly pulls it down. "Before," a new track now; hearkening when to she uncharacteristically fell asleep mid-sentence, inflections of both reluctance and cool determination intermingle in her voice, enemies, "there was something I was going to say…"

"Cruella was also caught, and the mermaid turns into sea foam, so…" In one of his more common exaggerations, Laurie juts out his lower lip and raises his eyebrows — oh well, there it is. Previously what could've been called 'drifting' away from the bed, his chin raises, in marked interest, at fast moves, the state of her arms. One step begins to ease him towards the couch; it's reversed with a natural lean backwards at her words, rocking him onto his heel in a lazy, but existing, retreat. No more than that; he could just as well have been doing so to accommodate concentration that reassigns from walking — from his attention on Maggie — to talking, and the unplaced but definitively wry expression that follows. "Oh good," he says, though sincerely, "Wouldn't know how to act if you made a habit of saying my name to fall asleep every night."

The detective's progressively more serious expression is rerouted into a little contrary smile and bob of her head to one side as it's angled up to the consultant, as if to say what do you think? "No, Miles," she confirms, "that was a once-in-a-lifetime occurrence." A lightness clings to Maggie's features despite the serious search her eyes put Laurie through then; her bright stare is truly back in full form even though her body isn't. Typically observant, but not critical; in this way, she builds no blame for what she says next. "One of your former colleagues has been speaking to me," she states simply, testing, "the agent who's been lurking around the station for the past few weeks."

By contrast it is Laurie that darkens, deepens; he pushes his tongue into the inside of his lip, creating a bump near his mouth by which to tell he's holding back on talking. To cover this, in turn, his hand jumps to his face, rubbing along his chin, fingers under his nose and then wrapping about his jaw, letting the one forefinger arc over his mouth, along the line of his particularly shaped mustache. "Hnnnn," escapes through the cracks of his other, curled fingers, "This is it…" Finality. Disappointment — inevitability. With a sigh, and the flinging of his hand away from his face, he's accepted it in both tone and gesture: "I'm done for— being replaced by the younger, faster model."

"I'm fairly certain— that he wouldn't be pleased to know where I am, right now. But…" An amused lift of Maggie's eyebrows gradually dissipates down and she pauses a moment— then: "You're not very replaceable." The statement is immediately followed by the faintest of smirks and a more critical, if not-quite-serious stare — as if in examination for irregular edges. In the end, Laurie is a shape that doesn't fit a mold to create a Version 2.0. "Miles." A gentle prod, a thin admonishment; it functions for her as well, smoothly bringing her back to the darker point. "It's time to be serious. You … have to know," already, that is, make no mistake, "what he's investigating."
"— although," Laurie's eyes were watching Maggie, sure; his face turned to her, his hands dipped to either side where he'd left them. But now, speaking, it's as if he never took a break — or only one to compose this next sentence. "While I will admit that he is, on a whole, faster— the time he'll purport was a little unfair— " One palm raised, opened imploringly to Maggie to see reason. "The suspect clocked me first," he draws the hand, morphing into a fist, towards his jaw — one Maggie's seen bruised before and then the fist is a point, "Hamm had a head-start."

Maggie doesn't see reason, she sees confusion. "What?" Her brows stitch, she frowns, and Laurie soundly gets the blame for this change of face: she pins him (or tries to) with an insistent look. Not quite chastising, but it holds some measure of agitation. In a motion too small to reveal stiffness, she hangs onto the blanket and leans ahead ever-so-slightly. "Now. In the present," the detective reminds. "The gang members, Miles, the ones who got off and are turning up dead."

"A good choice, though— " plows on the chattering train that is Laurie, always with his hands leading the way, turning this way or that — one or two fingers whipping in the air, drawing, and dividing focus. "— Hamm. If I had to pick any of them, I suppose it would've been him — eventually. Of course, I think my last words to him were also that he should steal a horse and escape to the countryside somewhere. He likes big— open spaces— ah!" A hand finds balance, stretching out in another point, now towards Maggie, before it shakes, like a nod, in enthusiasm, "You can take him to the Lawn. Ahh, Hamm— " Up to his chin again, a resting place. The other arm wrap his midsection in support. "Hamm, Hamm, Hamm… he hasn't told you yet," the forefinger nods to Maggie from against his lip as before, as Laurie's rambling turns affectionately reminiscent, "That I taught him everything he knows. He hasn't, but he will. And you shouldn't— just don't believe him."

"He— " Maggie is rapidly following along with the chatterbox, her eyes moving with every gesture — her mouth, too, because it isn't following along that she has a problem doing, it's getting a word in edgewise. "He didn't say— not in as many words— " Her rush to get words out slows as she adds, softer, "but I got the impression of what he thinks of you. Or thought… of you. I'm not exactly what I would call working with him— Miles— "

The need to quell Laurie from continued rambling currently seems to be greater than Maggie's need to rest, because she shoves aside the comforter, launching up with a stubbornly suppressed grimace, though she can't stop the small sound — "mmh" — in her throat to show for it. From this height her wide-open, adamant stare can be directed pointedly into is face. " — Okay, please listen," she commands urgently but with a polite, hopeful nod — hopeful that he's on track, watching to see if he is. The words that follow are firm and without aggression; calm, but adamant. "You're under investigation. I'm not meant to talk to you about it, but since I am, I'm asking you to be in the same conversation as I am for a minute."

For that second — the length of the sound she makes getting up — there's staring back. Unreadable, unexplainable staring, recognizable only as a direct intensity in opposition to the more aimless spilling out of words. Really, though, is it aimless at all. Laurie, narrowed in by her noise, patient through her plea, gives only this fleeting impression of coherency before, a single beat after her, he picks up breezily: "I mean— you shouldn't take that against him. It's common to get a little wrapped up," he twirls a finger near his temple, where he'd been recently concussed, "when you think you owe someone. Silly, really. If you have to get someone to write a letter into the FBI to ask you to be in the FBI, maybe both of you would be happier with a bit of distance," his hands separate, both flexing wide, the right slightly less than the left around a still healing slice in the palm.

"Favors— hmm. They're funny things. Meant in the absolute of generosity— barring ulterior motives, of course, and it's absurdly difficult to find a situation without something— everything has a reason— but a favor is meant to be generous— in fact, defined as 'a gracious, friendly, or obliging act that is freely granted'— but it entraps the other person just the same. Even if you say 'you don't owe me', there's this lingering, clinging expectation— "

In the midst of Laurie's long-winded babbling, Maggie looks to the right and weaves with the turn of her head. As if prepared to turn around — to give up and let him go on and on. She only stays as such for a moment, however, waiting out more words. In truth, nothing is ignored: her returning gaze picks up with full of comprehension. "I was never much for favours. Some rules… some definitions are outmoded."

Maggie gives another nod; let's try this again. "I was at a crime scene," a raise of her eyebrows; listening, Miles? "The FBI is drawing parallels to," the briefest of pauses passes by, her lips pressing together throughout, "Roscoe. I'm sorry, excuse me for this— but please shut up," Maggie speaks with remarkably legitimate courtesy, and — speaking of clinging — she does. Both hands lash out for Laurie's hands as if, maybe, stilling his gestures will still the rest; at the last second, her grab reroutes toward his wrists instead as she adds, " — You're rambling."

There's no slowing, no pause, or any kind of grace period allowed for anything Maggie might be adding; Laurie has words and they're all coming out now. His eyes as wandering as his hands might make him seem unprepared for her approach, but the closer she gets, the more absent his looks — translating backwards into the more aware he is. So that, as his hands are targeted, both arms jerk towards his own body defensively, raised at the shoulders, palms out — in surrender but also warning; the hands suggest a greater wall between their two persons. Wrists, though, are vulnerable for grabbing as he stops.

"I'm not rambling. I'm avoiding." A pause; he's irritated to rethink it, but rethink he does, with an impatient tilt of his head, "Okay, I'm rambling. My point is— I can't, Powers." An impassioned shake of his head, his own apology as sincere as her courtesy. In tone. "I can't be serious, even for a minute. It— gives me ulcers. And really very terrible headaches."

Grab she does. The captured wrists are lowered between them and kept tenuously prisoner. Maggie appears completely unsurprised but, despite herself, she smiles at Laurie's explanation of avoidance and sighs, fighting the silliness at every step. "Well. It's a good thing this should take less than a minute." She briefly smiles, again, soft instead of smug — yet knowing full well that her honing in on that little detail of wording was smart-alec of her.

On a glance to the side, everything evens out; flattens. "You don't have to," she says slowly before clarifying, "avoid." The detective's stare returns, having gained a glint of imploring. Yet her demeanour isn't as serious, as weighty, or as dire as it could be, and perhaps should be for the serious topic she, at least, continues to delve into, even around her firm question— "Are you being set up?"

Despite how simply he let it happen, Laurie grows quite forlorn at the capture of his wrists; he offers a tug, testing Maggie's resolve. The attempted lifting of his hand right after that is more of an accident — it's the pinching fingers he wants to use in emphasis to, "Only a slightly terrible headache, then…"

True to the word, Laurie becomes quite serious. Not as she does, but in subtle increments starting from there. His eyebrows lower from their usual high, taunting position, making flat lines over his staring eyes. Staring, taking in — with nothing to reveal in exchange. The mouth softens, not compliantly, but in the unformed, noncommittal state of utter neutrality. No half-started words, or ones being held back, or facial tics, or any suggestion at all that this will change.

The more neutral Laurie becomes, the more Maggie follows suit exactly, until, moments later, they're two blue-eyed statues staring at each other. On and on, this studying, expressionless pose changes not a hint when Maggie does eventually move — her grip loosens abruptly and, freeing Laurie's wrists, her arms cross, fixing and tightening her robe here and there. Her movements are stiff, but she lends exactly no focus the fact; she only watches. Her head tips sideways; and still, she's silent.

She's afforded very little to watch, except the study of a face whose features she's stared at so often times before. Even Laurie's hands drop where she's left them, hanging free, breaking the space between the two monuments. His evenly weighted, so relaxed, posture gives the illusion that he could be a mannequin for manipulation — a contrast across the way to her stiff cross. But the man is not complete stone; his eyes, while unblinking and unfaltering, do not stare as to penetrate, but only watch — as she does — and do so with a disassociated gentleness.

The only thing Maggie's stare holds are thoughts: steady thoughts that, in delving deeper, deepen her gaze progressively. They're hidden in plain sight behind the blue — right there, yet sharing no indication of their leaning.

Only when this silent staring has reigned for a truly inordinate amount of time in the grand scheme does the first clue of a change appear. It's through Maggie; the flicker of a crease near the woman's mouth mars her statue's pose only, not her neutrality. "Use your words, Miles."

Into that silence that he, himself, created and is now in danger of breaking by three words and a name, he shifts his weight — forward — the first sign of life. Even giving this new intensity to his stance, Maggie's thoughts are her own; there's no sign in him that he's attempting to read anything off that face now across, close, to his. A light tensing in his neck precedes his mouth finally opening, just as commanded. "I hope you like chicken palliard." Beat— "And… blueberries."

After Laurie does, in fact, use his words, a small nod slow jogs Maggie's head, gradually gaining steam, accepting of something more than the menu. But she accepts that, too: "I like blueberries…" Her arms cross tighter, which prompts an unwitting tensing of her shoulder and her pose is forced to relax. "If you don't know tell me…" she sets in, lower- and smoother-voiced, "What it is that you're avoiding— what it is that you know…" It's spoken as fact, all of this — not a threat or an ultimatum — and not a well-liked fact, at that. "In the end, I'll only wind up finding out some other way." She a step back along the floor and, once her bare foot has replanted, she turns around on it.

An accompanying nod from Laurie; yes, it's fact. Quite straight-forward fact, too, by the quizzical way he follows along, unsure that she even needs to be voicing it. "Yes," he agrees amiably, in this vein, "That's how these things work, isn't it." Not a question. He doesn't move when she does; he hovers, still. No one has tugged him into leaving where he's been planted, though his elbows bend to allow hanging hands into waiting pockets. He doesn't turn when she turns; he stays perfectly there. There, and not quite there. Eyes that follow her travel elsewhere without moving, and when he's once again seeing the black-and-white interior of a hotel room far above New York City, with a detective in a bathrobe as she turns away from him… he turns away from her, too.

At least one of the rather accidental hotel room occupants turns back. For Maggie, it's only when she's almost out of sight — turning only to close the door of the bathroom and lock herself inside. It's as the door is almost shut that she pauses. With the light on, she's just a sliver of blonde and white under the warmer glow. By most appearances quite irrelevant to everything that just came to pass, she offers a tiny appreciative smile, slightly tired, and eases the door shut.

The second Maggie is alone in bathroom, she grabs onto the edge of the sink from behind. She leans heavily, hanging her head with closed eyes, and suffers through allowing a slow-forming wince of pain and exhaustion tempered, if only slightly, by a long, steadying sigh. That's it; she turns around resilient to the mirror.

She starts to tug the belt of the hotel robe, to find out how much of the source of her winces can be seen— but, looking around the room via the mirror, notices that things in here are … not exactly as she left them. An acutely quizzical slow-motion glance travels corner with no trace of her clothes and sweeps over the empty counter… the door opens pretty fast after that, Maggie searching for any sign that Laurie is still here. "Miles— "

He's gotten as far as the door; he could have gotten farther in the time alloted, but for the pause, the hesitation as he hit the threshold, pulling on the door handle. Poised forward but still — just the way one would wait to listen for exactly something like his name being called. But as the bathroom door opens, Laurie swiftly tugs on his own, exposing the hallway and shielding himself from a merely robed detective by its representation of the public eye. No trace of humor as he generously gives her a glance over, loosened belt and all, but perhaps a hint escapes through his voice.

"Oh, by the way, I sent your things to be dried— take it easy, detective!" And, belying his size and general ache from wear and tear, he's nimbly around the door in good time to shut the door on his own last word.

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