2010-05-02: Worth The Price We Pay



Guest Starring: Kris

Date: May 2nd, 2010


Everything has a price, and everybody a story.

"Worth The Price We Pay"

NYPD Dispatch

Phones ringing, people bustling, coffee burning: it's a lot like the NYPD bullpen on the surface — and the inner room is more like Wallstreet — but the offices portion of Dispatch is desks, paperwork, and blissfully free of anything resembling a perp. It's a whole different atmosphere of urgency, and the kind that doesn't require a bullet-proof vest.

Or, at least, that's what Kristina Torres likes to take from it, as she settles into a slightly less than ergonomic chair in front of a brimming inbox and with a phone-piece already glued to the inside of her ear. To keep the buttons free, she has her full head of wild dark hair pulled into a strict ponytail tight at the back of her head. Her red stretch top, grey slacks and vest are all vaguely utilitarian, but the buttons are undone and there isn't a lack of spark from the gold saint medallion at her throat.

"Coffee this morning, Torres?" A temp asks as he strolls by with a cart of other equipment right next to people's hot beverages.

"You know how I like it," Kris replies, smiling easy even over the workload and setting fingers to keyboard: she goes to check the newspage first and foremost before getting to work. Too bad there's just enough bodies on it to make a smile pause.

Someone who doesn't belong in these offices is making their way through. Doesn't belong inasmuch as she doesn't work here; but she's made it this far, she must not have simply barged in. Blonde hair, vaguely straightened; dark grey blouse that hangs loosely, slightly too large, open over a lighter, heather grey t-shirt tucked into a belted pair of plain jeans; Maggie appears to be without her detective's accessories.

Her path gradually takes her toward that of Kristina Torres, but it isn't a straight route — she wanders with the sense of someone who has been pointed in a direction they've never been.

Maggie isn't using her meager amount of off-time doing any of the things she normally does while she's not on the job; she's doing more detective work. Only today … it's off the books. "Ms. Torres?" Approaching moments after the temp and his cart roll off, her voice is quiet with hesitance, politely so — this Torres woman has an earpiece, she doesn't want to interrupt her morning more than she already is.

There's a brisk, but not rude, finger in Maggie's direction asking her to hold on a moment as Kris' head lightly tilts in the direction of her ear-planted phone. Her hand darts to her mouse, opening FileMaker, a few documents. Fingers switch to keys and she taps in several numbers, checks them. Then, the button near the front of her earpiece is pressed, muting all of that outside noise so she can swing her chair to face Maggie.

The woman's smile is welcoming, pleasant — reassuring, even — it's rather not unlike the ones the detective has used on witnesses before. "That's me," she greets, holding out a calloused palm of firm and gentle handshakes. "Is there something I can do for you? You don't… quite look like the uniforms we get in here complaining about radio errors…" Using this excuse, she scans Maggie with the critical eye too ingrained not to use, though she never stops looking friendly.

"Hi." Maggie smiles at the stranger. It's for the sake of courtesy, good manners, but there's nothing insincere to be found. She takes the woman's hand, and their grips are rather similar. So are their gazes; a critical study of Kris going on behind her clear blue eyes. "N— My name is— " she stops just short of saying "Detective" and changes tracks slightly, "Maggie Powers. I am with the police department, but I'm a detective. I'm not here about any errors, and I'm not here for official business … not exactly." Her smile flickers, down, up again even as she starts to sober. "I'm sorry to interrupt. If you have a minute… I'd like to talk to you. I understand you used to work with Laurence Miles. You were his handler?"

Some polite nodding has happened with Maggie's introduction, so when she pauses at the sound of the business, Kris' chin ends up jutted high and almost defensive. She immediately corrects the pose, shifting against the back of her chair and crossing a leg over the other. "I do have a minute," she says hesitantly, clinically, while glancing in either direction at her busy coworkers as they have better things to do than listen in on this. "But old work isn't something I usually just discuss without due reason, you understand." She holds firm for a moment longer, lower lip curling under the other as a thought or another betrays her. Concern leaks into her green-grey eyes but she holds herself still taunt as she adds just warily enough to be hiding her actual emotion, "Is Laurence Miles in some kind of trouble?"

"Trouble— not that I know of." There is a key word in there somewhere. Maggie was perceptive from the get-go; now, her curiosity is being set into motion at a faster pace thanks to the other woman's reactions, however she tries to disguise them. A step is taken closer to the desk, a hand on its edge, but her pose is not one of overbearing — though she towers anyway. "Why would you ask if he was in trouble?" she inquires as casually as her pointed curiosity will let her. "My due reason is that we work together. Miles is … well, he's something like my partner on some cases."

Kris' arms come to cross over her open vest, closing herself off physically even as she regards Maggie as openly as before. Hearing the reason, though, lets some of the air out of her raised shoulders, and she tosses her head back slightly in the beginnings of a laugh that never comes to fruition. "Force of habit," she informs the detective with a humored sigh, a knowing look crossing into her gaze at this new information. "When you've been undercover like that, it's sort of the only call you expect. Here," she gestures to the wall behind Maggie where a few waiting chairs have been set haphazardly. "Why don't you pull something up. You probably have questions."

"He's not undercover anymore," Maggie points out with a brief smile. A look over her shoulder finds the seating, and she quickly abandons the desk to fetch one. When it's set in front of Kris, she sits, leaning ahead slightly, her hands flattening together above her knees. "His past isn't the most accessible," she states. "I mean, there's the newspapers… I'm not looking for secrets outside my jurisdiction, it's just that there are… some… concerns going around, and— well if you worked for him, you know what he can be like." Right? She assumes, but gives Kris an outwardly curious look after the fact.

Nothing Maggie says exactly surprises the other woman; Kris only situates herself more comfortably in the chair to collect her words. "You mean, do I know that he goes beyond what he's supposed to, quotes rather than admits his own beliefs— bullishly defies reason? Yeah, I do. And it took some getting used to, sure," Carefully, her arms pull away from her chest and she taps fingers against the thin arms of her office chair. "Because that wasn't the Laurence Miles I was assigned to."

Maggie's head tips to the right. There's a question she's ready to ask, just then. Her eyes are transparent with it: what Laurence Miles were you assigned to? The question she actually asks is simpler, the detective's voice taken on a more exacting edge. "What happened?" One hand gestures, lightly, before pressing against the other. "When you work with someone — when you work with them closely — it's important to know what you're dealing with."

"I know," Kris delivers flatly, not unkind but certainly hard, "That's the only reason I'm even talking to you. Don't get me wrong, you seem like a really great person, and I'm sure you're a fine detective, but…" Her head shakes, "Anyway." Her eyes flicker away off to the side, summoning the past. "Most cops who go undercover, they pass themselves off as buyers, try to catch somebody at the act. Or they go the junkie route, pick up any names they can get, bust a dozen petty sellers and get out." She hums, calculating each sentence before saying it. "Lo— Laurence— he made his way to being the most trusted cohort at Salvatore's right side. It was— unprecedented." Here Kris reveals her discomfort, the arms coming up again as guard while eyes harden: this is personal. "I tried to pull him out. Twice. I was overruled by top brass. They okayed everything that happened in there."

Maggie doesn't appear surprised; that may be due to the fact that she doesn't appear much of anything but hard-featured and calculating by this point. As she sits back out of her lean, resting against the chair, a few little gestures betray her investment in the former handler's information: a touch of her lips here, a knuckle against her cheek there. She's quiet in her study of Kris for a moment, before: "It was a success. In the end. Wasn't it?" she says, faintly provoking in her attempt to learn more. "The mafia group was taken down," she adds. "But … I'm… guessing there was a cost."

"A record take-down. The biggest win for the law against a criminal organization in decades. A real morale booster." All of which Kris recites, without ironing out that last edge of bitterness. "Meanwhile, Laurence Miles, this serious, righteous, down-to-earth cop…" She swings her head around, shaking it another time and bouncing her curly-haired ponytail about her shoulders. "Look. All I'm saying is— I was just handling the case, filing the paperwork, and I still bolted for this desk minute it was over. Happiest I've ever been." She tries to offer Maggie a smile. "Hey, could you hold on one minute?" After confirmation, she gets out of the chair and strolls away down the hallway.

It's some long seconds after she's gone when there's the buzz of a vibrating phone against hard wood. Kris' phone, on her desk. Maggie knows the number. The screen alights with the words: New text message from Loz.

Somewhat unsettled, Maggie maintains her expression of straight-laced neutrality as best she can, but it's clear she's thoughtful. A tight smile and a soft "Sure!" comes and goes and she's left looking around the Dispatch offices in the absence of Ms. Torres. The vibrating phone on the desk gains no attention, at first, until her gaze wanders back for lack of anything else to look at, and she recognizes the number. Unexpected. Her brow furrows, darkens; she looks away and ignores it.

For a detective, she really tries to not to pry sometimes. There's a fine line between nosy and curious, but it's an important line.

A glance the way Kris disappeared to reminds Maggie that this is her only chance to take the bait and that line happens to blur. With a rather repentant little wince meant for no one but herself, she swiftly reaches out spur of the moment, a few long fingers swiping the phone and checking the message.

Krissy, darling, need you to have my bike picked up off of 478. Discreet. There's free lasagna in it for you; I made too much.

Checked, the alert fades, as does the screen when no longer touched. No sooner than that, there's distinctive voices down the hallway: "Torres, I've got your coffee," and, "Oh, thank you, Todd, I'll just take it back to my desk myself."

The message has Maggie tipping her head as she reads it. Huh. At the sound of voices, she quickly puts the cell back where she found it. Exactly where she found it, as a matter of fact. Barely a hair out of place. That has barely been arranged before she's on her feet, hovering at the edge the desk waiting for the return of Torres — though it looks like Maggie won't be staying much longer.

Now breathing over a hot mug of dark coffee, Kris strolls to her desk, smiling her thankfulness at Maggie patience, though her head tips as she registers that the detective is now standing. Side-stepping around Maggie to stand in front of her chair, the woman doesn't even give her desk a first glance, much less a second suspicious one. "Off to save the world?" She asks with that smile, "I'm sorry about before… sometimes, it's just a person's time to get off the streets. I didn't mean to badmouth any of your possible superiors…"

"No, don't worry about it," Maggie assures. She considers the woman for a long moment but only goes on to say: "Thank you, for— your answers. I'll let you get back to work." The detective loops an arm under the top of the chair, prepared to put it back where it came from; she stops as soon as she starts to turn away with it, the legs lifted off the floor. " — are you still in contact with him?" she asks suddenly. "If there's anything, Ms. Torres, that you think I should know— remember I'm not here on behalf of the department."

Hesitation, a small amount of that suspicion missing before: these hold Kris up from immediately responding, her fingers tightening and relaxing variously against the mug as she gives Maggie's face an inspection second-guesing her first one. But as she catches herself at this, she forcibly relaxes, exhaling long. "He used to," she admits with a wistfulness she doesn't even seem to notice in herself, "Contact me. Send me gifts I didn't even realize I needed until I had them. Offer food when he wanted to talk but couldn't ask." Her mouth thins, an honest disappointment. "But not anymore. Not since… he got the job here, actually."

Way to make her feel bad for being a spying spy, Torres. It's a good thing Maggie is leaving; she's tight-lipped, the polite smile not quite making it to the surface this time. "Right." She heaves the chair under one arm and inclines her head to Kris. "…Thank you. Again. Ms. Torres."

She'll fix this.

* * *

Laurie's Apartment

Knock knock knock. The sound of sharp knuckles on a door are unmistakable from inside. Outside the door, the source of the knocking is also unmistakable: Maggie, clearly having bypassed the building's buzzer, is there waiting, staring down the hallway while she waits, right then left. Other than her roaming gaze, she stands on alert, rigid, having clearly journeyed here with some purpose or another.

"Coming, here I come!" is Laurie's voice from inside followed by some jogging footsteps leading to that very door. When it swings open, he's glancing off to the side, some destination further into the apartment. Unguarded, he's smiling for who he thinks he's greeting. It isn't the only thing about him on display, either: the navy blue sweater he's wearing is hiked up where a large make-shift bandage sits against his stomach. As he stands there, he's adjusting the article back down; abs and the mass of masking taped-on paper-towels — such as it were — disappear underneath fabric but there's nothing to really be done about a matching head-wound at the corner of his forehead or a variety of scrapes on the hand he uses to point in where he's looking.

"You're right on time, I was just at Italy, your favorite…" It's too late by the time his gaze swings to her. He's already stepped backwards, preparing to let someone in. But he still doesn't move as the instant recognition hits, only flashes momentarily alarmed and then crystal clear smile: "… Powers. You're getting sneakier, aren't you."

The accidental greeting, the real greeting (such as it is) and every detail in-between is taken in soundly by Laurie's unannounced guest. As a result, Maggie's hard expression mingles with something nearing amusement — but not quite. More apt is the sentiment of is that so? as her eyebrows arch higher than naturally set. All the while, her focus does not change, lending her a serious air even as she says with a joking tone, "Masking tape?" Joking tone; a legitimate statement. "You know I have a first-aid kit in my car. I can get it." There's space enough to enter, but she stays where she is. "Can I come in?"

Laurie is able to match her near amusement, his own eyebrows lightly, unabashedly facing hers' question. "It stays on," he tells her carelessly, "When I don't move." Defiantly, he turns the rest of the way around, strolling into an apartment a lot less temporary than when she first visited it. A few tall plants spruce up the place; a whole line of flowers marking the outside window as they lean into the light. And scattered along the coffee table are not the signs of hurriedly hidden files but the remains of dozens upon dozens of travel magazines, each one cut deliberately into. Bending to this surface, and subsequently probably losing most of the masking tape, Laurie rolls a thumb over one of the pictures waiting, a sticky tab already applied to the back. He turns and presses it into the wall: a travel wall. An accurate map of everywhere not here, with taped up photos, hotel print-outs, and post-cards on some. "I suppose you're here for the lasagna."

The door shuts as Maggie nudges it on her way in, and she assumes a slow stroll inside. A fleetingly suspicious glance is cast to Laurie, when he mentions lasagna. "Supper wasn't my intention…" she answers absently. Her planned intention will have to wait, however, as she's caught up in looking around at the various new additions to the apartment — and, every so often, the state of Laurie and his abrasions. But it's the travel wall that she drifts toward, naturally magnetized to the 'everywhere not here' outlook it embraces. She's prompted to ask the obvious question: "Going somewhere?"

There's a wafting scent of that supper now that she's in the apartment — the pan of it sitting out on the counter and cooling in preparation. Laurie goes to check on it next, cutting across the apartment even as she moves to where he was by the wall. "Pity," he says, "I made too much. I'll just… see if anyone else is interested." The phone's also sitting next to the food. His fingers land absently near it as he braces against the counter, watching her chart her way across the expansive world planning. "Not anymore. Not, ah," he leans more heavily to allow one hand to detach, trail uncomfortably along the trail of broken skin at his hairline. "Well, consulting came up and the rest of the world sort of… oh, got away from me."

"But you still add to the wall," Maggie points out casually — curiously — as her eyes roam the map of places upon places. Who's profiling who this time? She reaches up to lightly touch one of the travel destination clippings. "You should go to Patagonia. It's just absolutely beautiful, especially off the beaten path," she comments fondly, but her reason for being here comes back around, and she turns, a finger or two still upon South America. "I have to talk to you, Miles," she declares, serious as can be. "about work, and— you— I'll even eat your food if you give me some straight answers."

"Why shouldn't I," Laurie returns, "There'll be plenty of time for it all when I retire." Ha, get it. Because he already did. As she admires a locale, he all but admires her, head tilted and watching the way she reminisces. "You can write it up there," he suggests, regaining the fullness of his weight as she turns on him, moving away from the counter. "You have to talk to me a lot," is the breezy observation as he braces his hands against his side, the fingers along that bandage squeezing extra support subtly. "If this is about the file, I apologize. But it's more fun to go down and get the details yourself rather than just read them, don't you think. Speaking of— Patagonia. When did you get there?"

Maggie does "write it up there", with Laurie's nearby permanent marker, in bold all capital letters. "Nineteen-ni— when I was a lot younger. It's not about the file," her answers come mixed, but her thoughts are clearer. Capping the marker, she drifts from the wall and slow steps take her toward the kitchen, though she doesn't make it that far. She points at Laurie with the marker, her hand bobbing a few times in consideration and reluctance. Reluctance which is vanquished.

The authoratative mode the detective slides into in order to talk straight with Laurie happens to be rather bold. "It has been brought to my attention that there is a possibility you've been using police resources for some other reason than what you have been hired to do," she starts in firmly, focused. The fact that she's slightly incensed about what she's saying— that's kept just under the surface. "And I don't know if that is true but what I do know is that I am almost certain that you tampered with evidence. I have seen that there is something going on, with you, that affects how you do your job — "

This new mode earns a snort from Laurie, who side-steps to the food again, scooping up a utensil to begin slicing into the cheesy meal. One cut after another during the tirade. Then his head lifts. "Nahhhh," the metal spatula hits the edge of the serving dish with a *clang*, "I don't think how I do my job has made any radical changes recently. Oh, no," he lifts a hand to turn towards her, "I did promise you there'd be no more leaping past protocol in our cases. This is true. Oh. Does that mean this is about you?"

"No." Maggie is very momentarily waylaid, blinking her bright eyes at Laurie. "You did say that. And you did it. W— mostly. That's great," she answers — sincerely! Promptly, she starts to lose her steam, and presses her lips together 'til they almost disappear.

She moves to the counter and sets the marker down, pointing instead with a finger or two — lightly, a delicate gesture that doesn't match her authority. She stays there, in that pose, pointing, considering her course of action, for longer than she intended. Maggie does regain her mission, though, quieter but just as adamant. "You're a consultant. But you're not just a consultant. Maybe if you were just a consultant, it wouldn't matter but you do things that— you aren't just like a consultant, Miles. We work … like partners. Partners need to— " An unfinished thought. "Did you take something from Evidence or not?"

What time she spends gathering her statements, Laurie resumes sawing away at the lasagna with swift, practiced movements. Back and forth, he tips his head in consideration side to side, marking each time the word 'consultant' comes up — it starts to sound like a word game: how much consulting does the consultant consult if the consultant were… "Does that make us partners, or just like partners? Because I've been telling people we're partners and it would just be this really embarrassing moment, you know, if someone asked and we said different things at the same time. It's, like, can you tell any more that two people need to go have 'that' conversation." Complete with quote-fingers, the ramble substitutes where she might have been waiting for some kind of answer.

Eventually now, his sawing is finished and he slides the spatula under a piece, delivering it to a plate deftly. The fork is laid down with a soft clatter and then the whole ensemble slipped towards Maggie 'like' an offering. An offering coated with: "Yes."

The offering, expected as it was, actually gives her pause, Maggie's features softening before she looks down at the food, blinking a few times with more consideration than lasagna — however wonderful — really merits. Maggie sets her hands on either side of the plate on the counter. Then, bluntly: "Why?" Curiousity, need-to-know — these things take precedence over chastising.

Laurie takes up what he was doing a second time in order to fix himself a piece now, the slice marginally larger than the one he gave Maggie. Scooping the dish into his hand, he nods his head towards the outer room — the couch and the coffee table spread with pictures. Fork plucked between fingers, he skirts around her first, striding also around the table. Mid-stride, walking becomes something more of a feat because he lifts a leg to use a socked foot to shove some of the magazines out of the way and onto the floor on the opposite end. Nary a tip in the wrong direction, even with food balanced in the other hand, but when he drops onto the couch, there is slight discomfort in the way he immediately has to adjust himself. "Because I thought it would help me get what I wanted." Beat. "I was… wrong!"

No actual table. Duly noted. Maggie follows, plate in hand, waiting throughout the unveiling of the coffee table. "Laurence Miles, wrong about something. Impossible," she manages to say blithely in the midst of her own seriousness. There is a small pause before she sits down as well, marked by a faint sigh that precedes her sitting on the opposite end. The plate is balanced on her knees, the fork taken, held like she's going to use it, but her focus is on Laurie more than his latest culinary masterpiece. "What did you want? What… could you have possibly wanted. I know what was left in there. I know that it was drugs."

"Improbable," Laurie corrects, with false ego and honest good-naturedness, easily latching onto the lighter side of things. Even so, he gives enough of an attentive nod when she inevitably turns to her questions again. A foot slides to the table, the other one tucking lightly underneath him as he shifts briefly up to make room for the leg. As he speaks, he transfers the plate from hand to hand in order to roll up the sleeves of his sweater. "Then you know all you should know, Powers. It wasn't that what was in there would help that I was wrong about…" Fluttering, nervous: the smile doesn't quite make it to fruition, but it leaves an impression of its passing. "I was wrong about what I wanted." Both elbows come back, one jutted out to hold the plate near his lap and then the fork is wielded left-handed.

Right-handed, the other fork cuts into Maggie's portion. She's quiet throughout. "So." She takes just a moment to appreciate the first bite and keeps her head tipped down even after. "What did you think you wanted?" she asks almost conversationally. "You still took something. Maybe, you don't think it matters but — what did you lift?" Up comes her gaze to study Laurie him frankly, mostly the evidence of injury. "I don't want to have to wonder."

He considers answering — maybe — and uses her transition into more talking as an excuse not to. Digging into his food helps a bit with that, as well and, over his first mouthful he ruminates on the inquiry. The glance to her happens at her comment and he chuckles wistfully, then smiling to the same tune. "Can't always get what you want." His arm settles against his side to orchestrate a second piece onto the fork while he debates over the finality of this elusive answer. "To go through with this," he says, finally, like the end of a thought playing in his head. "See it through. No matter what." Eyebrows jumping — so there it is — he lifts a forkful of lasagna at her as a toast. It could have gone on unnoticed, that navy sweater's so dark after all, but Maggie's studying him and what could a detective better pick up on than a streak of fresh blood on the inside of the arm he's raising, the one that was against his side.

Maggie is still left wondering. It was an answer though, and if the faint smile that starts to form is an indication, it may have been enough. "No matter wh— ?" Those keen eyes of the detective widen. "Miles!" She shoves her plate onto the coffee table with both hands. The clatter still sounds when one such hand comes up in a quick and halting grab for the wrist of Laurie's raised arm. "You're bleeding." There will be no hiding that fact, while she keeps that arm from his side. "What happened to you, anyway? Listen, I think you need to do something more than throw some tape on."

"What?" is the chirp of honest bewilderment as Laurie watches Maggie not only abandon her food — come on, it's good food — but also come at him from the other side of the couch. "Powers—" He's in no position really to counter this, one leg trapped by his own weight, a hand holding a plate now out to the side, and the other clutching a fork while being clutched the same by the woman. Some other vague noises of protest aren't formed into words before he complies, vaguely, by glancing to where she's spotted the darker soak of blood into his sweater. "Ohh… so I am." He sucks in a sheepish breath through teeth clenched over lips, the first excuse something more of an exhaled, "Ahh…" before he shrugs around plate and Maggie's grip. "I am so embarrassed," said briskly, but not at all in the sort of seriousness this might otherwise entail, "Those paper towels said they were hardy."

"Paper towels are not medical supplies," Maggie points out as if this might be a revelation to Laurie. She lets go, her fingers brushing at her own blonde hairline. "Were you in an accident?" Answer: yes. Her frown is paired with knowing eyes, but she levels her head down, keeping them on that dark-on-dark stain on Laurie's sweater. "I'm no doctor— " This has been established. " — but I've seen my fair share of things and I've done a lot of first aid… let me see."

Answer: "No." Dark, a brooding laugh. Laurie instantly moves to retract it with a lighter chuckle, "I mean… yeah. But who wants to admit he can't drive his own motorcycle…" Simultaneously, he goes to adjust his seating, completely flexing the injury and further supporting Maggie's theory that he knows absolutely nothing about taking care of one — or doesn't… care to care. His arm regained, he awkwardly wants to put it again to his side, but now she's there and so the arm floats a bit around the back of the couch before he gives a heavy and fully resigned sigh. Twisting to the side — another terrible movement for it for those keeping score at home — he settles his own plate on an end-table behind this side of the couch's arm. Fingers curl at the ends of the fabric, eyes staring at Maggie silently asking if she really, really means this, before he edges the sweater up, just slightly. "I was wondering if you were going to ask…" he comments idly as the bottom of the soaked 'bandage' is revealed.

Maggie does mean it, and she's unconvinced on the "not an accident" front. She gives Laurie a lift of her brows and a tug of her mouth to one side, but doesn't question, however, not right now. On the reveal of the bandage this time, there is a faint wince from her, but she is otherwise focused — however, her hand is somewhat reluctant to snake out toward Laurie (because, you know, of the bleeding). She nevertheless does so and pries off the tape.

"One time when I lived in Africa— " P.S. she lived in Africa. "This kid fell off the back of a truck that was driving past an embankment— " Maggie carefully presses a few especially bruised looking spot near split skin. She's appropriately apologetic in every instance, though. "— can you take a deep breath? — he broke his ribs, there were no hospitals for hours… he was okay but only because we stabilized him before he got pneumonia." Moral of the story: "You should go to the hospital." The more likely route: "I can do something a little better than this though."

Despite that Laurie neither winces nor twitches when the tape is pulled off, he shoots Maggie an indignant look clearly illustrating that this is her fault. It times well to the apology in her as skin is prodded. His hands move away from the shirt, leaving it to her and gravity whether the article remains up or falls over the injury again. Slung behind him, the arms hang around the edges of the couch almost bored; there's the small sound of his fingers tapping the wooden back-boards on one side. "Hmm, Powers living in Africa…"

When prompted, he breathes in deep — and it hitches. Instantly, his casual pose reverses; a hand reappears in front of him, pressing down on hers to still her movement. "That's normal. You don't have to bother. I'm real glad the kid was all right. How come you never told me you lived in Africa before? Sometimes you're just a big, boyfriend-hiding mystery, detective."

"It is normal for fractures, you didn't ask, and he's not my boyfriend," Maggie delivers calmly without taking her eyes off the abused skin, despite the addition of the hand; her opposite held the fabric up, but she now lets it drop and sits back out of her more intent pose. Pointedly, she looks to Laurie and gives him a small but dimpling smile. "And it takes a mystery to know a mystery."

"Ohhh," Laurie scolds, wagging a finger at her for clear emphasis, "You used the 'didn't ask' defense; I was hoping for more from you. And I knew the last part, I just think 'boyfriend' sounds more juvenile and petty." He lingers there, leaning against the couch and smiling fondly at her when she quips to him, "Without mysteries, life would be very dull indeed. What would be left to strive for if everything were known?" — and then, suddenly, he springs up from the seat in escape, conveniently forgetting the reason she was sitting by him. Instead, he dips down to fetch one of the other colored markers by the fallen magazines and pops the cap off with a thumb, aiming the tip towards the African representation. "Tell me where in Africa you lived."

"Ah— " Before she can protest the escape, Laurie's up and Maggie is left staring at the travel map. "Botswana…twice. Um. I spent a lot of time in Zambia— and Uganda. Oh, and Mali. That was only about two months…" She rises from the couch also, though she goes nowhere and only folds her arms. "My family … we moved around a lot," he didn't ask, which is precisely why she answers. "I went back as soon as I was old enough to go alone. It was a long time ago." Personal history lesson evidently over, she insists: "I am getting my kit. I don't know how you had an accident but you'll get over it faster if you get a bandage on there."

Pleased at her recital of names, Laurie moves to circle each one as its given; it'd be a more exact location were this an actual map, but the general impression is that he knows where they each are. "I find," he comments, sparing a glance to her, "The span of time between certain things sometimes matters even less the longer it gets." There's no glance, instead, for the other part. "Do as you like, detective, I would hardly stop you from going for it. Oh, ah, don't forget to prop the door open with something because I probably wouldn't let you back in."

A statement Maggie can agree with; she doesn't say so, save via a few slow nods of her head in accord and the thoughtful look left on Laurie — rather than reflective of her own span of time, she's focused on his. "Fine," concedes the detective after a pause. No kit. "But take care of it. I know you haven't been in the businesses you've been in this long without learning how to take care of yourself properly." Better than he did.

Laurie's hands come up to either side in surrender as he takes a long step backwards away from the wall when he is thus instructed. The statement following is enough to delay whatever next action as thin eyes narrow already further, though they are alight with an amount of humor. Curiosity, whether forced or otherwise, prevails. Hands since dropped to his sides play with the edges of the staining fabric, the parts of blood still wet enough to come off on the tips of his fingers. "The businesses I've been in…" he muses, a pint moodily, "I'm curious, which one of those were you thinking of, exactly?"

Dangerous territory? Maggie sizes him up as if trying to suss out that very thing — her head tips up and her cheeks become faintly hollow as a more serious air takes over. "All of them," she says easily enough, and it's the truth, but it's also true that she's thinking of one business above the rest. "FBI— I mean, Quantico… and being undercover as the second-in-command in a mafia group…" An admission of knowledge she doesn't flinch at; but the detective's blue stare is particularly exacting on the bleeding man. "…you've seen some tough times."

A tug of the mouth here and there to accept those safer options; yeah, sure, FBI teaches you how to take care of yourself, maybe. But the lips really turn up as she hits on the one. His foot turns first, considering, before it leads into a step and then another until he's strolled his way a bit closer to Maggie with an unpredictable neutral face that in this moment likely does nothing for Maggie's sussing. "Being undercover…" He echoes, near mockingly, his hands clapped together over the words as he stares somewhere off the detective's shoulder. "I will tell you about that one."

What pretense of anger? — danger? — it falls away as abruptly, leaving him glancing off to the side with a hand running hesitantly, near bashfully, over his mouth. He sucks in a deep breath, the twitch over his eye matching the hitch this time. Then, hands return to the sweater, to the action of pulling it away. He doesn't stop at the first hint of accident injury now, though, but lets his fingers trail to a spot he knows the exact location of. Bypassing old wounds, other puckered skin, what might be a burn — he stops alongside the inside of the ribcage. A scar is there, too, in a distinctive arc shape; and it's there that the skin protrudes oddly, for today also discolored by the blood under the surface.

"This," he announces plainly, "Is the summary of being undercover as the second-in-command in a mafia group. Not what the papers say — this."

Observantly, Maggie takes in the sight of a scarred past and every movement of Laurie's with an unchanging, composed stare. "Like I said," she says calmly — and, to some extent, knowingly. "Tough times." Her exacting gaze may stay the same, but there is a hint of a faint, astute smile. At odds with that, she folds her arms tightly. "I'm a detective, it's what I do, Miles. I know the newspaper never tells the whole story."

"They had to leave a bit of it in there," Laurie continues, unhindered by her comments, and prodding at the protrusion experimentally. "It moves around sometimes — strenuous activity, they told me. I like to think it's just trying to finish the job it started." Rolling the fabric back into its place and sending all those scarred reminders away to be hidden again, he slides the last bits of sweater through his fingers critically. "Well… I certainly learned how to get rid of a stain. You know, those businesses." He raises mischievous eyebrows to her, turning just so to start towards the kitchen sink. One glance at her first: "And I didn't mean the newspapers."

Maggie's arms unfold and she takes a step toward the kitchen but, really, her pose is edged just enough that she seems more apt to take her leave. Her study turns faintly dark, after Laurie's mischievous look. "Papers. Anything. Hey. With anything — everything — the whole story can really only be told by whoever lived it," she says without any real judgment. "Even then," she pauses to consider. "We don't see things as they are, we see them as we are." It seems Laurie isn't the only one with a few timely quotations in his repertoire. Her head leans to one side, toward a shrug that doesn't quite come into existence.

"But some things are important for a partner to know," Maggie pipes up again — pointedly, but on a markedly (and purposefully) lighter note, sweeping a gesture at the kitchen, and thus, Laurie. A good-humoured smile springs to life. "Like someone having something inside them that might try to kill them with strenuous activity, you know, that's imperative information."

Laurie hums a noise of approval over the new sound of the water running in the sink and cupboards opening as he gathers more paper-towels for the stain or the wound, or both. "Well, you didn't ask about that," he carols back to her, unhesitatingly taking her cue to humor. "Besides, I'm sure it would've come up when it needed to — oh oh, look what I found." Spinning to face her, his elbows plant on the counter as he holds up between two fingers a bright cartoony band-aid. It's deliberately peeled and then smacked rather haphazardly over the wound on his forehead. "That's for you," he tells Maggie brightly, smiling like a boy with a crush.

Spotting the abandoned plates from some random glance, he gestures there. "You didn't finish your food, Powers. I believe words were exchanged to the tune of you eating something for my devoted and painfully honest testimony."

A glance follows Laurie's to the coffee table, then back, focusing briefly on the little bright swathe of band-aid. "It's a start." Maggie heads back to the couch, reclaiming her seat in precisely the same position as before, which wasn't especially cozy to begin with, near to both the end and the edge; but the off-duty detective retains her good-natured smile. True to her word, she gathers her plate to her and sets on her knees just like the minutes prior. "I really would not want to be your doctor."

But wait — there's more! When Laurie meanders around the edge of the counter, he's engaged in taking some slightly more appropriate tape around his ribs. Though not a job typically done on oneself, he seems completely comfortable with the maneuvering. At one point, one edge of the tape ends held briefly in-between his teeth and he grins around it at her. "Oh yeah? And what, pray tell, would you like to be?" Spitting out the tape and finishing his work, he folds over the sweater and crosses his arms around his chest to watch her. "You know," one finger stretching to wag in her direction, "I was expecting… someone else. I think the tape was originally her idea in a crunch…"

Whilst eating, if Maggie is appraising or disapproving of the effort to better take care of the injuries, she has barely a tell — over that. "It doesn't look like she's coming." She at least attempts to make the comment seem light — she may have been called a mystery, but it was not due to being disingenuous, and a brush of knuckles to her jaw serves as an unwittingly uneasy gesture while she focuses on the lasagna from now on. "I'm not much for wanting to be something I'm not," she states calmly, matter-of-fact, winding up using her knuckles as a chin rest. "And as far as I'm concerned what I am is your partner."

"I suppose I can't… blame her." Hurrying over the words, a bit of a turn of the head nearly distracts Laurie from noticing as Maggie diverts. Some of what was growing weariness showing in the lines of his face turns to a knowing he doesn't need to second-guess but does. "… But here you showed up instead. Fair trade!" He's smiling again in an instant, arms remaining crossed as he moves slow-paced to the wall across the way full of far-off destinations. "But how can you know what you want, till you get what you want, and you see if you like it?" Devil's advocate, he doesn't put much emphasis on the words. Her statement transfers his intense study to her. "I do believe… that's the first time you've wholly admitted it."

The sound of fork on plate pauses as Maggie considers that Devil's advocacy for a few seconds before deciding any counter would be too convoluted to entertain. On Laurie's all too perceptive remark, a glance is shot, well-aware and gleaming, toward him for a fleeting instant beneath lifted eyebrows. Half of her amusement is reserved behind her smirk before Maggie just says: "You left your lasagna."

"So I did." Thus compelled, Laurie eases to his former spot as well, catching the plate off the end-table and spinning full-circle in order to drop into the right position. The instant hitting the cushion, he retracts slightly and readjusts, but it's the only sign of possible discomfiture from his new wrappings. On opposite ends of the couch, holding their respective pieces, it would seem they were back where they started. But the silence has earned a new quality as it dips in — is faded out by Laurie scrapping at a stubborn piece of cheese. "It'll stop soon," he says, not as out of the blue as it might sound, "The sneaking around. I just have one more thing to do that I need you to not ask me about. Then the rest of it… I'll let go." A laugh; "I don't want it anymore."

Maggie, from her edge of the seat, chin perched so heavily on her fist, is quiet for a long span — without even the scraping of her own fork — looking across to Laurie with her typical stare. This time it shows some surprise; a peaking of her brows, a few slow, realizing blinks. "You know that just makes me want to ask," she points out, though it's joking as much as it's telling the truth. Considering, circumspect, even a little suspicious (or is that concerned?), she rolls her head so that her knuckles press into her cheek. "Okay," she answers — decisive, if sing-song, before adding a quieter echo, "Okay."

A grin; he knows. He probably knew when he said it, too, and Laurie glances over at her with silent eyebrows and turns of lip to counter would it have been better not to know? The inquiry doesn't linger — only a thought there for the sake of it and then discarded. He's told her already now, hasn't he, after all. And she's answered. A strange little twitch happens at the corner of his mouth; strange because it's one he doesn't seem to be entirely in control of like all the others. Despite smile upon smile before, a hand jumps to his mouth to surreptitiously cover this one. "Okay!" is repeated through fingers. And from there on, he's perfectly content to put his feet up and finish a nice meal.

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