2010-07-05: Some Reprieve



Date: July 5, 2010


You're so beautiful. With an edge and a charm. But so careful — when I'm in your arms.

"Some Reprieve"


Nothing like solitary confinement to leave a woman alone with her thoughts. She'd ripped her skirt on purpose and tied it tightly around her hand to stop the bleeding (utilizing her teeth and other hand to tie the knot). It had been a point of utter frustration.

The room itself is complete cement; the floor itself is stained with the therapist's blood, and the eerie lighting only makes it take on an ugly brown hue. It's a cold room with a vent in the too-tall-to-reach roof. It was an avenue Sydney had tried before she accepted her fate in here.

She sits in the corner, as far away from the door as possible, her knees drawn to her chest, and her arms folded over them. Her head rests on her arms, hiding her face from any entrants into the room. Not that that's the goal. She's admitting defeat after several months in captivity and nearly a week alone: she's going to die here.

Heavy, bottom to the floor like on a freezer, the door scrapes harshly against the ground when it opens, protesting the act of bringing movement into the cement cell. The natives are similarly restless — if how obnoxious it was getting the key to the thing was any indication. Questions, questions.

But there's mostly quiet now, just a few shuffling footsteps intruding on Sydney's bubble of aloneness and thoughts. He's stooped slightly, the back in character gangster, creating a looming shadow as he casts a critical eye into the solitary surroundings; his own features are hard to etch out in such moody lighting. There's patterns here and there — everywhere — that seem to interrupt the face, puckered red and purple skin in a formation with no rhyme or reason, all nearly tied together by fading stitching like a connect-the-dots on a human canvas.

In one of his more saner patterned shirts — a dark, suggestive red — and black jacket, Roscoe's a bit more of a solemn picture than he's painted before. And now this atmosphere appropriates that well. Sydney isn't approached instantly; there's just a hand in a biker's glove guiding the door closed, the jangle of keys into back pockets. A call: "Hey, shrink…"

It's been days of near-silence here. Sydney has been surrounded by it. Bathed in it. Especially in the poor fluorescent lighting; it makes it feel that much emptier. The door doesn't cause her to stir, nor do the footsteps, the words, however, cause her to move a little. Her arms move to her side, but her head remains down for a moment as she tries to stretch her spine before looking up. She presses her weight into the floor— her hands pushing to the cement— as she slowly extends her spine one vertebrae at a time until she looks up and extends her neck, and makes a very loud popping noise.

But the noise is forgetful compared to the bruising on her face. The black and blue patterns along her still-swollen right cheek are nothing compared to the left which got slammed into the concrete. Her lip is still split and her skin is extremely pale, even more than usual, but appears jaundice in the poorly lit room.

But she doesn't think about her own appearance as her gaze falls on Laurie. Blood-shot sleep-deprived eyes widen, her jaw drops, and she pushes herself onto her bare feet (rather woozily, even going as far to grasp for the wall), her voice a raspy whisper, "Miles… What… happened to you?"

"Heyyy, hey, hey," the quiet but friendly greeting echoes on, timing to paces as Laurie abandons easing into the room to instead simply stride straight up to the unsteady therapist's side. Closer up, both of their combined injuries fall into better focus, and he scans each bruise in a brisk and efficient manner completely separate to how gently he navigates an arm around Sydney's shoulder, neatly ushering the woman to sit back down with his guidance.

Drawn to the floor by supporting her, he immediately props against the wall, legs lightly bent out in front of him in casual pose. There's already a crackle of plastic when his jacket bunches against the cement, making an easy guess of the water bottle he removes from the pocket afterwards. Undoing the cap, he offers it over with a sincere as day sounding, "I cut myself shaving." If it weren't so ridiculous with the vast number of cuts — that his beard is coming in around them quite unmanaged — and that similar evidence of recent injury mars the skin where glove ends on the hand that holds the bottle out to her.

His attention is back on her injuries whenever hers isn't on him, and he guides his chin slightly over her head to help, in this dreary light, shadow his blue eyes. All the better to not show what he can't control in them.

Easily ushered to the ground, Sydney all-out stares at Laurie's face, her own eyes unshielded, weary, still blood-shot. Her mouth gapes a little as she accepts the water bottle and brings it to her lips. She can't even feign amusement at the shaving comment. Instead, after she downs some of the water, she manages, "That's not funny."

The good humour has died from her eyes over the course of the last few days. Lazily, she leans against the wall behind her, pressing her head against it, and closes her eyes.

But then she does something wholly unexpected, even to her. She slides over to lean against him, the tears welling in her now clamped shut eyes. Her lips press together tightly as her chin quivers.

"It's a little funny." But not an issue too much pushed in the wake of how things look. While Sydney's eyes are closed, Laurie tips towards her ever so slightly, a hand grazing the air just above her messy hair, barely slipping strands away from bruises for a clearer evaluation of them. From the tiniest movement of hers, he retreats — only to have their places reversed.

It's a good thing she keeps eyes closed because a second of unpreparedness survives on his face at first lean, though he does nothing to discourage her movement. Nothing either, at first, to support it, but soon enough the arm around her finds its function, settling a hand cautiously on her shoulder to keep her there.

Her blonde hair now across his own shoulder, he reaches the opposite hand to push some away, letting his chin drop slightly to look at her, cheek brushing the top of her head. He can see her lips as they suffer to manage the inevitable. That opposite hand drops to his side, hidden by his body from where she is; here in secret, it forms a slow, purposeful fist. That pounds into the cement and grinds against the blood created there.

With a hiccuppy gasp for air, Sydney rubs her moistened face with her bandaged hand— the bit of skirt tied around her hand mopping stray tears from her moistened cheeks. And she settles there, with the arm around her shoulder, silent. With another gasp of air she manages to utter something quiet, "…sorry." It's undignified and she's all to aware.

And then, as if trying to backtrack she whispers raspily, "…it's not bad… it doesn't even hurt anymore…" she lies quietly. The being in here hurts more than her face, but she doesn't say that, instead she just maintains the touch, leaning more into Laurie and finding some kind of odd grounding in it.

She glances down at her bandaged hand and gently wipes at her face again.

No sound, no judgment; Laurie's solid as a rock and she could cry as miserably or as long as she'd like and the impression rests that he would be there. That grip does change on her, tightening only as much as it needs — and maybe not quite that much, even — to comfortably shift her further against him, doing all the work to transfer her upper body from his shoulder closer to his chest. A second instance of safety in her not looking is the grimace this decision causes, though it's not a harsh one, he's only going through the motions.

The purpose of this exercise is that now he can sidle that arm from about her to all the way around with only minor flexing from him to properly reach. His other hand, the knuckles there now the newest spot of red in the room, joins in front of hers. Careful but swift from experience, he undoes the skirt that's become a bandage and, in that, darkened by blood. While a hand slides underneath this injured one of hers, cradling support, he reaches with another in to slip the water bottle from her loose hold on it.

There's strain on his shoulders from the reach already but his steady ministrations continue; he threads the skirt piece through his fingers to find some clean spot but, eventually, flings it aside. Some bunched up towel substitute appears out of his pocket, instead, and is pressed to the mouth of the water bottle while tipped, to wet the fabric, before being brushed against Sydney's hand to get away dried blood and to see any coming up fresh.

When she's first being moved, Sydney tenses just a little, trembling as she's persuaded to do so, but relaxes easily enough once all adjusted, leaning into his chest as he goes about his work. Her eyebrows furrow as her hand draws blood again, a frown playing on her lips. She leans against him further as he dabs at it. Her eyebrows furrow further, but she turns away, she can't watch this; she can't see it, it only makes her feel more pathetic.

With another shiver, she sniffles and forces something that's supposed to resemble a smile, but only comes out broken and humourless, "That should… teach me to… pull a knife…" she shivers again, the memory drawing goosebumps across her arms and down her neck, "…on a crime boss…" Biting her bottom lip the smile fades as she sniffles louder and tries to clear her throat only to have her eyes well with tears again. Blinking hard, stubbornly, she refuses to let them fall again.

Frowning is relegated to Sydney as Laurie's neutral game face has won out, keeping him operating in that same systematic but physically soft manner. Each and every spot is dabbed away from the wound, ignoring the new blood until that's all that's left. Then it's into the pocket again and, shifting his knee to prop her hand against, he strings out the cotton ball now in his, creating more of a sheet like shape that can be set — actual medical supplies missing — to let the wound breathe. It's a makeshift first aid 101, but whatever improvement over its former bindings.

As he's doing this, Laurie's chest beneath her rumbles with his noise of "Hrrrrm," and then speaking, "That smacks a bit of my fault." She's not in good humor, but he sounds like it. If you're not trained to hear the undercurrent of apology — something that hardens at the end with purpose, direction. She's given up a perpetrator.

As his hand wraps around hers, thumb pressing the pretend-gauze there, there's a detour for the other from finishing the job. Drawing fingers towards her cheek, perhaps his initial intention was to attend to the welling tears, but he breaks off, hand darting shamefully away and burying into his other pocket, instead, to find what to secure the new bandage with. "To weep," he suggests without pressure, "is to make less the depth of grief."

Trembling a little, Sydney's head sinks low as she's given permission to weep. She tries desperately to fight the tears, but between the permission and the human contact, she melts as large crocodile tears stream down her face. She hiccups again as she tries to assume some semblance of control, but she fails miserably. She turns as much as she can to cry on Laurie's shoulder, this is all too much for her.

After managing to breathe again, she manages to sputter, "I…" she sniffles loudly, trying to push those emotions aside again "…was…" She gasps for breath again "…stupid… I asked for it… I always do…"

"Sorry," she apologizes again, trying to pry herself away from his shoulder. "Sorry," she whispers this time before sniffling again.

Since her hand is as fitted up as it's going to be with only as many resources as can be found in Laurie's pockets, she's free to have it back as the crying happens. The consultant's arms loop loosely around her, just… there. Aiming to give her that sense of a safety net without entrapment. Staring ahead, his eyes bore into the flat untouched cement of the wall across the way, barely blinking for every sob and stutter.

Her words trigger a flicker of reaction, hidden, and dim anyway in those lights — nothing, only a trick. Just a slight adjustment of his arms so he can glance down at her, the idle trailing of his finger prying into the slice of broken skin along his knuckles, peeling further damage. "Did you now," bright curiosity somehow blandly spoken, "Walked your blonde self right up to Roberto— " He takes on a strange falsetto that… actually has many of Sydney's inflections even in its comic over-portrayal, "Excuse me, sir, since we're here and all, I was just thinking 'if you wouldn't mind…" Leaving the rest to be generally assumed.

Meanwhile, if she wants to pull away, she's certainly allowed to; Laurie's arms only slide to his bent knees lazily.

Sydney flinches as the wound is tended to. With every peel she cringes just a little more, yet she doesn't pull away, she's been without real human contact for too long and with her ability gone she felt like the only person in the building, no other emotions were along to accompany her.

The impression, however, earns Laurie a smirk and actually stops some of the blubbering. Not particularly merry, but there nonetheless. "Not… what I meant." She tilts her head a little before smirking at him further, "I just ask for it. I do. Not outright, I just… always have…" She shrugs. "…some of us are like that, I guess." The smirk fails her and she finds herself frowning.

"Is that your professional opinion?" He masks the mockery that could be, though the words remain the same. And his emotions, before now, were not exactly secret on the matter. Laurie eventually stops agitating his own wound, shaking the hand out, to retrieve the water bottle and give it a tap to the side of Sydney's head. "Have some more," he instructs lightly. There's watchful attention on her where that smirk comes and goes. His initial upper lip-twitch is short but exaggerated, as it stretches the hole at his mouth, gaping skin somewhat threateningly against stitches.

"You're right, some of us are," a genial enough agreement: a teacher to a student who's just come up to the board. "We may ask," he keeps the pronoun generic despite inherent personal indication — a general 'we' — in theory, "but there's not a person out there with the right to give it." A moment to think about that. Then his hand waves dismissal into the stale cell air. "So, you know, all those people suck, and good riddance, and goodbye."

Movement; more resettling, not to disturb her placement, but to give her a good look in the eye. To aid in this, his finger crooks under her chin, lifts her up to blue eyes on a scarred face.

"Are you ready to say goodbye to this one, Sydney Falkland?"

The instruction is heeded as Sydney takes the bottle again and drinks a little more as she rubs at her face again, the moisture from her tears drying into that dry cracked feeling thanks to the salt in them. She sighs. "A person would think otherwise," she says quietly as one of her hands rises to her throat absently, causing her to shiver again.

"Am I ever getting out of here?" the question is perhaps too honest and is accompanied by a deep set frown. "And what about Amy… and Fred? If I'm gone, he'll just retaliate more…"

Her face pales again as she lifts her chin, her dark eyes searching his blue ones. "Laurence?" her gaze scans each of the cuts in turn. "What happened to you?"

"Yeah, they might," yet more amiable agreement from Laurie, "But they'd be wrong." Calm, even slight pep, to the statement belies that second twitch; this one he kills by biting at his lip, bringing him back around to neutrality. In time, it seems, to instead curve that mouth into a lightly concentrated frown against her deeper one. "Well… yes." Plain as day: as if there were no other fact but this in the world. "What, didn't I tell you that already? Silly me. Mmmmnnn, Amy can come too. Fred— ?" Wishy-washy on that one. But only for effect.

His head aborts a glance to the side, perhaps regretting the limelight of her stare once she's been directed to look at him and finds the numbered slices instead. At the sound of his name, the consultant gives a slow, languid blink. "Hm?" Just the tip of a smile, breezy, appears. "Nothing terribly interesting. Nor so innocent as to be a 'to' rather than a 'because of'." Smile twitches. "Semantics." A pause, a mischievous turn of the head and lip. "They're written all over my face."

The wishy-washy-ness about Fred coming actually draws a grin from the therapist, albeit short-lived, it is there. "He's not always untrustworthy. Except when he is." She pauses. "Did I tell you I used to paint his fingernails? I did. And I had black hair and wore black lipstick back then. Oh and black fishnets and long armed black gloves. I thought my soul was black." It's easier to reminisce than to reflect on her current circumstances. She wrinkles her nose a little, it's ironic, really, but she doesn't comment on the irony, instead her smile melts away and she raises her damaged hand to her forehead wearily before she lowers it to rub at her darkly-encircled (almost racoon-like against her paled skin) tired eyes again.

And despite the ease with which Laurie answers, the therapist persists, "Who or what was the damage because of, then?" Her eyes narrow a little as they scan each in turn. "You… shouldn't be in here. This place. Pretending to work for him…" Always him. Roberto doesn't get a name anymore. Like Voldemort, he's become he who shall not be named. There's a rather pregnant pause before she asks what she really wants to know, "Did this happen here? And… how?"

Laurie squints inside of her pause. "I was just saying because he's annoying…" But enough about that. It's amusing while it lasts to draw his head back and get a good full look at Sydney — in order to imagine her properly in this costume she describes — but once the focus has entirely moved to himself, it's a little shrug and a thin-lipped smile of vague tolerance. "Ahh, me. It was because of me." So quickly put out there then brushed past; she could've been asking what they needed from the grocery store.

The rest he seems to have no outward opinion on, no stance to challenge her with. Just: "Duly noted." His back moves against the wall support, false settling: since right at the last moment he must've hit a bad spot; he recoils then resettles just slightly differently. It's barely a movement, but Sydney's soaking up of human contact could mean being close enough to tell. "Not here. Because I was somewhere else. How's it feeling, are you dizzy still?"

Laurie's recoil is noticed and duly noted with a stiffness of her own, her lips pursing into a short of quizzical frown complete with furrowed eyebrows. "Who let you back on duty?" she asks quietly before offering, "I don't think they like you much…" Especially given the wince and the face. "I tried to convince him I was giving him what he wanted; that I was capable of it. I think that was my first mistake."

Silently she glances up at the light, finally breaking her gaze from Laurie. Her eyes narrow as she takes a deep breath and shakes her head a little and murmurs, "Better. I think." Her jaw tightens as goosebumps once again form along her limbs, a kind of shivery fear creeps over her as she wonders something she hasn't dared ask. "W-what day is it?" she manages to keep her voice level. Without a window or the luxury of the television the therapists had to watch in their cell, she has no idea how much time has passed since she was put in here.

That face becomes a grin, a cheerful facade revealed behind the marks. "I'm not very likable~" Laurie's congenial excuse for the ambiguous they. "It's a delicate procedure. And some of us are beyond listening to even reasonable convincing." And the excuse for her so-called mistake. More carefully, he listens to her evaluation of herself, and watches for that reactionary shudder. Instinctively, his hand reaches towards her, fingers settling on her knee to give a bit of an encouraging squeeze. "Today." An answer, given to be the end all of that question. "Which is day enough."

He's barely let her absorb what he's said before he tries to turn towards her, now giving her leg a bit of a playful — but careful — nudge. "Now. Feel like getting out of this dark, and particularly dismal, location? It's alright if you can't walk. I have been known to take ungentlemanly liberties."

"I'm not arguing that point— " Sydney quips with a mischievous half-smile about him not being likeable. Moments later though, the smile turns into a wistful frown, "I think I did it too well. He thinks I took something from him now, but liked me after I cut his arm, reminded him of his sister or something. He's going after her. And like his family…" Pause, "…unless I dreamt that." She really has no idea what did and didn't happen at this point. And the knee squeeze wins another flicker of a smile.

A little sheepishly she tries to avoid eye contact now, yet her dark eyes plead quietly, she desperately wants out of here. A little more distantly, she speaks to the cement wall rather than Laurie now, "I… hate this place…" She shifts too and tries to stand only to dizzily grasp for the wall again. "Ungentlemanly liberties, huh?"

Having lingered in a seated spot, Laurie directly springs to his feet at the notion of Sydney losing her balance. That grasp for the wall is intercepted by his arm to serve the same purpose. "I don't know, hate is quite a forceful word. Maybe with a few plants…" As for those liberties, they're coming right up as ordered. Sydney will find that the support she was being given has shiftily revealed itself to be a grab to her — guidance, to go along with the scoop underneath her legs that, deep breath taken mid-attempt, hauls her upwards and once again against the consultant's chest — though, now, off the ground.

There's a bit of an adjust post-carry, hefting more of Sydney's upper body towards his shoulder, but without forcing her to be completely upside-down. More like she tried to scramble away and was stopped by the bear's hug of his arm wrapped tightly about her legs and now near her stomach.

A few strides towards the door and he informs her, "You could hit me a few times once we're out there." A beat. "And try not to look like you're enjoying it."

Clinging to Laurie for support, Sydney squeals with a little surprise as she's hoisted into his arms. "Enjoying hitting you or being carried by you, just for clarification?" she murmurs before settling over his shoulder and taking a deep breath. "Also… Laurence?" She bites her bottom lip. "Thank you." Pause. "For everything. And… I'm sorry." Again with the apologizing.

With another deep breath she tenses. "Alright. I think… I think I'm ready…"

"You're enjoying both, aren't you?" Laurie accuses in the last few steps they'll be alone, "I feel used." One pressure vanishes away from her as he makes a grab for the door, twists, and catches it with his foot while the hand returns to her. "This is something I should bring up to my therapist— oh waaaaait." Then his leg snaps back and the door reluctantly drags open, effectively leaving all of her other sentiments behind, heard but unanswered.

It's business not quite as usual in the rest of the warehouse gang district. Depleted numbers work to keep up their ends of deals while the mood of their boss has certainly taken its own blow against productivity. A sullen lot hang out in the space of boxes and tables between the abandoned solitary cell area and the previous keeping spot of the captured and carried psychiatrist. It's a similar bunch as to bothered Roscoe upon his reappearance and they eye him now — his scars, his possession of Sydney — with tightened jaws that want to question.

As this group looms closer, Roscoe doesn't even spare them a snarl: or so it would seem. His eyes flickering to them is brief, but leaves behind a focus, and a sense of planning that works his jaw, the bone crackling some near where Sydney hangs. There's a sudden slap to her leg that ends up looking a lot harder than it feels. Vaguely prompting.

It takes everything in Sydney not to bask in the open space, in the little bit of natural light coming in from the window, and the company of more people— even if they are murderous thugs who would give her beats if she crossed them. More beats. Make no mistake, she's still scared, but the prospect of leaving those particular walls, it's wonderful. She fights her natural urge to enjoy the air, the sun, the company, and instead manages an angry sneer, drawing on the fact that all of these men knew she was in that room for so long and did nothing. Not that she knows how long it was… as she considers all of these things, her leg is slapped. Right. That's her cue.

"Let go of me you… BIG… scruffy-looking… nerfherder!" She reaches her hand to his back to deliver a solid slap herself, harder than she intends, but then Laurie is bigger than her and much sturdier, right?

Tug of eyebrows could either be amusement at her choice of… insults… or concentration on not bitching her out — depending on whose reactions you're considering — but it's all gone with a slap. At impact, Roscoe's step falters in an instant; close to him, Sydney is privy to the startled wince that escapes. To the rest of the room it would've gone nearly undetected except that, a moment later, he reacts a second time — now giving a regular stumble that jars his jacket and sets something jingling noisily across the floor. Underneath Sydney, his shoulders go completely tense.

"Fff— fuck," is spat out of him, almost reluctant, as he gets the rest of the way to the door and then whirls immediately around. All the faces at the nearby table have zoned in on them unabashedly, and it's to one of the closest ones that Roscoe jerks his head before jutting his chin at the floor. "Pick 'em up."

Chair squealing, the man pushes away from the table, eyeing the others, and then the object of his mission in an overstated fashion just to prove that he's doing a favor, don't anybody forget it. When he reaches the two at the door, Roscoe only steps aside expectantly until the man unlocks it himself. Seeing the underling's unwilling face, the enforcer gets out a foot to kick him out of the way, making an empty grab with his hand as though willing to hurt him more, but deciding against it. "You carry the broad next time," is the grumbling threat when he strides into the more comfortable cell room.

Pressed almost against the door as it closes, Laurie's exhale is a low hiss that he finally indulges, taking a moment with Sydney still in his arms' grasp as he focuses on that held-in reaction that had frozen his shoulders so. "That— that was quite good." And by 'good' he means 'wow, irony'.

As Laurie tenses, so does Sydney, her eyes widening out of utter surprise that can, fortunately, be read as sheer terror. The curse yields a further paling of her skin, eliciting a memory that she'd rather lose than carry which only draws a more subtle, but still there, tremble.

Behind the door her own tension releases substantially, her body naturally relaxing in the consultant's grasp. In this light she looks sickly— not that yellowed jaundice caused by the lights of the nothing room— but painfully pale, her veins all the more prominent under her white-ish skin, only making the bruises on her face seem worse for wear and her bloodshot eyes that much more prevalent. In fact she might look more pale if it weren't for the thin layer of cement dust, that constantly sucked out moisture from her throat and longs, covering her.

She sniffles, the sign of more waterworks to come, but pushes them aside for a moment, pressing her face to worry rather than tears. "What… what did I do?" She swallows hard around the lump in her throat before murmuring, "I'm sorry— " she doesn't exactly know why but it's very clear she hurt him, from her vantage point, anyways. Sniffling again, she shakes her head and swallows her impending tears, "Y-you-you're in worse shape than you let on, aren't you?"

"It's peachy, you're good." Even as he still speaks through vaguely gritted teeth, his head tilted backwards to rest against the door. "Mmmmm, you're just stronger than you look, hotshot." Her sniffling cracks one of Laurie's eyes open and he begins to move, arms wrapping instinctively tighter about her as he steps around the nicer set-up of this old holding room for the unmade bed showing a few less hints of use than the others.

"Of course not," he adds, his usual cheery tone remaining a touch weighed down by something else. "When have I ever let on." Teasing somewhat, it keeps a grin on his face for when he bends to sit her on the bed, naturally sliding into a crouch at her feet once she's down.

His support, that strong grip, doesn't leave her until she seems perfectly ready to let go herself. But one released hand slips tellingly to his waist, around towards his back.

"There's no way I'm that strong." Sydney glances at her own arms, "I'm virtually see-through." And there it is. The horrible honest truth detached somewhat.

The sniffling eases some as the Laurie's arms envelope her more, her own grasp clinging to him now that the facade of outside has passed. A few small, murmured tears are shed against his shoulder, but she tries to push her dignity forward. She chokes a little on her words though, her voice cracking at an effort to sound jovial, "You never let on. It's frustrating for a therapist." There's a pause as she swallows hard and then raspily continues, "But then you know that, don't you? That's probably the point." She sighs a little, trying to not think about everything, as she finally begins to let go rather hesitantly this time and very slowly.

She sits on the bed, her gaze shifiting from the bed to Laurie and back. Watching him semi-intently she cringes, "You… were already hurt… weren't you…?" Her gaze doesn't move from his eyes.

"Counter-point, therapist, I believe I already covered the appearance factor." So her horrible truth has been happily batted aside, while a comforting hand remains on her back. A thumb just barely rubs against her shirt, but Laurie's otherwise unmoving and grounded as an anchor, with one knee pressed to the mattress and the other on the floor.

When she jokes, he chuckles — caught, but not exactly guilty, as it were. "That's… very much the point." It's not so much a mystery, and he acknowledges this with typical carelessness. The only element worth giving any due is her realization of this. And, as his body becomes his own again, and he rocks onto his heels to make some personal space for her, he's giving a soft smile that exists unhindered by her concern, the cringing.

From his back, the hand reaches to her knee again; its fellow props against the edge of the bed in preparation as Laurie's body tenses to stand. But first, his fingers curl reassuringly around her. "It's not bad," he announces with stolen words of steady, quiet meaning, "It doesn't even hurt anymore."

"Covered or not, there it is," Sydney mutters quietly with a fatigued sigh. She rubs at her eyes and can't help but lean into that touch. Her contact-deprived self tries not to bask in it too much.

"You don't like us much, do you?" she asks quietly. "Therapists, I mean. It goes either way most of the time; people love us or hate us," the words are spacey, detached, even. "Very few exist in the realm of the in-between." With a twitch of her lips she fights her instinct, "I loved it. In theory." Her gaze turns downward contemplatively.

Silently, she reaches towards his rather cut face only to lower her hand moments later and announcing as coolly as possible, "I don't believe you," although her voice wavers, cracking around the last word.

There's a humming noise, falling on neither side of the line. Laurie gazes distractedly over her shoulder at the mention of the profession by which he calls her. It fits her own spacey-ness during the matter. But the reach for him brings his eyes around to her as he notices, the suggestion of touch freezing him in place far differently than before, even when they were physically closer. He recovers mobility immediately when she drops away, choosing to complete his started rise to standing.

"I left the water," the consultant muses, narrowing in on her voice rather than her words, "I'll go get it." Body twists when he rises, already turning away from her to start on this mission. His mouth thins in the predecessor to a grimace when this elicits some ill feeling or thought.

But the pause, the hesitation, that happens as a first step dramatically slows turns out to be related more to the string of indecision that occurs while he's looking away from Sydney. He thinks, rethinks; his mind changes, sentences reforming before they're even given a chance to become a sound. Then, with no sentimental bias to the facts: "I've had a long time to become very close-minded from a single influence."

"W-who?" the question virtually gets stuck as it comes out. She's losing that edge. Defeat is setting in.

Her lips find a kind of empty neutrality into a straight line. Pained in its emptiness. Cold, perhaps; a stark difference compared to her appearance in her office where she at least feigned warmth— save for the lack of personal effects.

But as Laurie moves away the neutrality faulters. Sydney's lips quiver against her will, no matter how hard she tries to press them together. She gasps for air with a faint squeak, pitiable in its own right, but she takes another deep breath to keep herself grounded, at least borderline grounded.

"L-" she begins, but the word gets stuck in her throat. She swallows and then manages, finally, "Laurence. I… I don't want… could you… please stay and… hold me?" Her voice is almost even, until the end when it cracks into a whispered squeak; her gaze on the floor rather than Laurie, attempting to prepare to be alone again. Here, in this place she's learned to detest.

It all happens to the indifferent seeming wall of Laurie's back — that leather jacket in its black sleekness is unmoved by quivering and stammering. A long, drifting, unfeeling second passes at the end of her words, leaving just that last squeak to fill the space. Then, easing slowly but eventually definitively forward, there he goes, without reply or glance, to the door.

And he reaches out — and he sets the inner lock.

Wordless but with clear blue eyes he turns around to Sydney, to walk as deliberately to the bedside, to her side. Through the paces, fingers get a hold of the jacket lapels, sliding with one shrug the article over his shoulders and then off; caught by one hand, it's slung over some surface or another.

The same fluid movement sets him on the bed, one knee crooked reflexively to catch his weight that ends up behind Sydney as he barely settles before guiding her by the arm further back on the mattress, into his ready embrace — however she should like to use it.

The indifference of the back has its own effect as silent tears well in Sydney's dark eyes and her lips press together, holding in any excess emotion she can.

Until the door is locked.

With a hiccupped squeak and shiver, tears stream down the therapist's face. Taking a deep breath, she sinks into Laurie's embrace, shaking within it, her tears continue for several moments more. With another deep breath, she sidles even closer to him, finding a kind of niche against him, and gently, she closes her eyes.

And for the first time in weeks, she feels safe.

It's difficult to tell what Laurie feels — even with only undecorated walls and unused trappings to judge him, he bars his thoughts behind a mask of inhuman nothing. Against all their shifting, his back ends propped up, giving him a posture of continuous attentiveness over Sydney as she sinks instead into restful unconscious. Blue eyes stare out over the small body that's come to find home in his arms in a never faltering watch.

Never closing.

He doesn't move until she's sound asleep.

The first thing she'll see when she wakes is a water bottle and a small note that reads: "Today".

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