2008-01-05: On The Precipice




Date It Happened: January 5th, 2008

On the Precipice

Pinehearst Research

Fort Lee, NJ

Nathan listens to the rhythmic beeping of hospital equipment for quite some time before he realises that it's not a dream. That he is, in fact, awake. His head turns, his eyes open barely a fraction to see the square of light that, after a moment, registers itself to be a window. Pleasant, boring curtains frame it, and from there, an expanse of white wall. Clean, medical, inoffensive.

One hand clenches, and a small crinkle of paper interrupts the monotonous whir of equipment. Slowly, Nathan opens that hand, and with the awkwardness of someone moving in slow motion, he unrolls the little strip of paper. One word in Cyrillic, impossible to decipher, but then a translation. Mariska. He swallows, dryly, and simply lets it fall, the little, thoughtful note drifting off the bed and onto the floor as Nathan just shuts his eyes again, willing all of this away.

He remembers the sudden splash of red against his shirt and he's dreadfully aware of the fact that that entire portion of his body is numbed, masked from pain receptors for a reason, and he doesn't want to know.

The door is like any other in this particular corridor of the Pinehearst Research building. Shadows stretch between its frame like a spider's web, light from behind reaching the room just enough to shine dully inward and cast a light that's almost warm. Warmth, welcome — safety. Is it an illusion? A figure blocks the spill of invading light. Fine shoes on the floor on the threshold, dark slacks.

Nathan is completely still, almost as if he'd drifted straight back into his coma. Behind the thin barriers eyelids bring he can still detect a shift of light, and he turns away from it. Imagined or not, he flinches, just a little. Perhaps a doctor wants to tell him what's wrong with him. He stubbornly keeps his eyes shut. Perhaps they'll think he's still asleep. Perhaps they will leave him alone.

"It's been a long time." Linderman's pale eyes, so full of wisdom and so sharp with intellect, look across the distance, fixing on his target inside the clinical room. For one guest of Pinehearst, his English-accented voice fills their personal realm of quiet. "We do seem to be on the precipice, don't we… a new era."

Nathan's hands clench a little, which does nothing for the needles taped to his arms. After a while, he finally looks towards the door, and knows a rise of… something. Panic. Loathing. Utter confusion. It doesn't show, but it doesn't need to. The man at the door is sharply perceptive, knowing. Nathan's voice comes as rasping croak, dehydrated, aching. "You can't be here," he murmurs his denial.

"Don't worry," Linderman says; his words are almost soothing, in their own right — a self-assured indication that everything is in the right hands. Perhaps he, of all people, doesn't have the right to tell anyone everything is fine. His very being here means that everything is not fine. Or perhaps he does have that right; once, his hands could heal. "I suspect you're exactly where you should be."

Those fine shoes take a step inside, changing the play of shadow and light. One, two.

The bed shifts a little as, despite his injuries, Nathan forces himself to sit up, a small pained sound emitting from his throat, but he has to get away. He can't leave the bed but he can retreat, in some small way. It doesn't quite work, the Senator-elect simply slumping back against the bed. "Leave me alone," he finally says. It feels like the mostly useless thing to say, when those foot steps of someone who can't exist are coming closer. "I don't need you. I don't."

Linderman stops. His footsteps end, his words cease, and he simply tips his head back in silent, knowing appraisal of the person who he has appeared to here today.

Niki. Next door to the room in which Nathan recovers, she's sitting simply on the end of the bed with her hands on her thighs, looking straight across at Linderman; they seem like a panorama, watching each other across the distance.

She doesn't quite look the same as when she arrived, nor the same as when she first found herself at the biotech firm: she's wearing new clothes that give her carriage a softer elegance, a rose-coloured shirt, feminine with ruffles; brown pants. Her hair is pulled back, knotted. People have a habit of appearing out of nowhere, in this new … era she's found herself in, and her gaze at the man she thinks she shares the room with, Linderman, is a calm one.

And in Nathan's room, footsteps only cease when the visitor comes to a stop at the end of the hospital bed. A matching jacket with his dark slacks frames the slice of crisp white shirt visible, interrupted with a line of expensive tie tucked neatly into fabric. A pin, small and unobtrusive, of the America flag is stapled into his lapel. He's dressed immaculately, and yet it does nothing for the burns of radiation that marks and distorts the man's face, so much so that Nathan can't look away once he finally gets the courage to do so.

"All things considered, Nathan," Logan says, curling a hand casually around the metal fixtures at the end of the hospital bed, "I think you do need me." A smile, not kind, cold enough to rival the heart of an iceberg, twisted with deformity, is given to the bedridden politician who can feel panic rising up in him once more, a cresting wave of it. "Go to sleep," is Logan's advice, and the last thing Nathan will hear as he's pulled unwilling, unstoppably, into unconsciousness.

Something very much like it, anyway.

Logan brings a hand up to brush his fingertips down the side of his own face that he knows should still be irradiated, but is not. Where panic was coiled in the chest of this body, immense satisfaction resides instead. For now, Logan rests. There will be time. He needs his strength. There's so much work to be done.

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