cog_nomen: (I am Tony Stark's Vanity)
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Abandon Pile, 2013.
Every so often I have to go through my WIPS and terminate the ones that I haven't had ideas for in some time, or that just aren't working out the way I want to. So here's the deal, these guys are abandoned, but if others want to take parts from them, or take them wholesale and complete them in your own way, they're free for the picking. You don't even have to credit me. It'd be cool if you dropped me a link to let me see the finished work, but not required.

Title: ​ POI-Hornets
Fandom: Person of Interest/Marble Hornets crossover. Inspired by livenudebigfoot's short work of the same flavor.
Pairing: None, really, but Vaguely Elias/Scarface, Reese/Finch
Rating: T?
Word Count: 1,001
Status: Abandoned
Summary: "This is Harold Finch," he said, distractedly. As if he was leaving a message for a loved one, as if the sound of his voice wasn't quite enough. As if he didn't realize he was giving them far more information than they already had. Then a sound had overtaken the voice, a howling of distortion that sank the heart but spared the ears just enough that you didn't have to pull the phone away. You could go right on listening to it while it groaned and churned electronically-

Had gotten a message from Finch - a garbled voicemail that seemed impossible in this day and age when digital made everything as clear as possible.

"This is Harold Finch," he said, distractedly. As if he was leaving a message for a loved one, as if the sound of his voice wasn't quite enough. As if he didn't realize he was giving them far more information than they already had. Then a sound had overtaken the voice, a howling of distortion that sank the heart but spared the ears just enough that you didn't have to pull the phone away. You could go right on listening to it while it groaned and churned electronically-

"-house at 41810 Needham street, for the love of god stay - stay-"

And here the voice had skipped a while before silence had consumed the message. It was long, almost unending-seeming, before at the very end came-

John's voice. Jack knows it too well to be mistaken, but it's pitch bent maybe, like the bottom had dropped out of the possibility of depth that humans could achieve, and it carved out a little part of you as it went by. Then, it clicked and he was free.

Jack realized he had been captive, and that his whole body was tense for a fight, having slowly racked itself up like an automatic pistol coiling to fire while he stood as unable to escape the message as Elias' eyes watching him - as if to be certain Jack heard and experienced the same thing.

He doesn't listen twice. The straining, ever reaching octaves Finch's strident voice had reached conveyed enough - stay away.

Elias doesn't understand things on that level - he things higher, trying to find the play.

He doesn't know what's gotten loose in the city, all he knows is that it's been the same amount of time since it started and since he'd run into any expected interference. He's got boys disappearing left and right, and he personally is only capable of running so much empire. He hasn't seen the vigilantes, either - and some digging had given Elias the information that two detectives had gone before the rash of disappearances.

"You think it's connected, Boss?" It's a stupid question, but Jack doesn't want it to be connected. He doesn't know what he wants, except he doesn't want anything to do with that phone message.

"Has to be," Elias said, confident. "I think they're laying a trap.

He came here to prove something, something about himself but now that he's staring down into the darkness, he's not sure he wants to anymore. Not sure what it was anymore, either.

"Elias," jack says, and his boss pulls in a breath and stops coughing. "Boss!"

"I'm listening," elias answers, voice stretched thin with coughing.

"Don't send anyone else down here," Jack knows that's important now, somehow. That this is what it needs, to pull things to it - lure them here and take them whole. "No matter what happens, don't -"

But he's moving while he's talking and then his foot comes down on something round and hard, which rolls sharply out from under his foot and almost takes him down into the halfinch of damp at the bottom of the tunnel. He's caught his balance, swinging his legs wide and stomping down to catch himself when something slams into his back and takes him the rest of the way flat. Elias is still coughing bronchially in his ears.

The void welcomes him into it, easily.

Some slow, low movement to his left catches his attention (Elias' voice, wordless, hisses indrawn breath in his ear-) and some thing is slow crawling toward him with a white face and holes for eyes, a gangling, wrong-moving arrangement of limbs -

Usually Elias' handling methods were less direct, but <i>he</i> has to know, and he can't direct Jack the way he usually does, with a grip in the back of the collar of his shirt and a palm low-steadying on his back, leaning into whisper just a name, only that much, before he lets go.
A cough, harsh and hacking rattles against Jack's ears and it's probably what saves him - for the first moments, anyway.

As he hits the ground the trap slams shut but not before - he sees what's on him, who, maybe. The sense of bulk, the height is familiar, but the face is pale as death and closed-mouthed. The eyes - the whole sockets - are gouged out into clean black holes that nothing glimmers in, vacuous and beckoning. What remains of the hair is silvered, and then it smashes his flashlight out of his hand and it spirals light crazily away, then points toward the wall where he can see at the edge of it's broadcast light that there's a camera on the floor down here, in a harness. A camera, and the light is on red as a warning, but in those few seconds he can't understand that notion because the thing on top of him is so strong, so familiarly strong, and he's pushing with all of his might. He's scratching and clawing and twisting himself because it's bigger than Jack is and if it pins him still, it's over.
They struggle until Jack could lose track of which limbs are his and he tries to hold it, to launch it off him, but his grip slides again and again, like he were fighting oily smoke. The grip it has on Jack, when it reaches and then closes fingers on him, pressing down on his windpipe until his ears are full of the sounds  of his own gasps and whistles - that grip is sure, however.

Somehow their struggles have taken them across the floor, over the wet cement, and his fingers close on the flashlight like there was some hope left in the world after all.

Title: ​ Crying Havok
Fandom: Person of Interest, Werewolf AU
Pairing: None really.
Rating: T
Word Count: 2,645
Status: Abandoned
Summary: Finch balks as they enter the library, smelling the stranger and John had expected as much, had expected to see the rising anger reflected in the bristling, raising hairs on the back of the man's neck, but before he can get too angry, Bear is already greeting them - granted, with a half-eaten book in his mouth, but politely enough.

Finch balks as they enter the library, smelling the stranger and John had expected as much, had expected to see the rising anger reflected in the bristling, raising hairs on the back of the man's neck, but before he can get too angry, Bear is already greeting them - granted, with a half-eaten book in his mouth, but politely enough.
"Relax, Harold - it's just a dog," John says, his tone is level, but Bear flicks a gaze at him, and then helpfully allows his tongue to loll in comfortable happiness.

"<i>No</i>, John," Harold says, and his tone is scathing but not unforgiving. "He's a stranger-"

"He helped us find you," John says, and Bear leans down and nudges the book forward apologetically. "And you know my apartment is already suspicious that I'm hiding an animal-"

"You <i>are</i>," Harold says, with some amusement, though he is looking forlornly down at the ruined Asimov. "Just not in the way they think."

"Why isn't he greeting us properly?" Harold asks, after a moment. "he's not so young that he shouldn't be able to control his change..."

"I think he's shy," John answers, but he's not sure. Bear is something of  a dilemma - they both knew each other from the time their eyes met, understood that they were the same. What science fiction would call 'werewolves', and movies would poorly parody - for better or worse, the term was close enough. Finch said 'lycanthropy', but John found that unsatisfying and medical.

Bear hadn't left his changed form since John had found him, and the possibilities for it worried him.

"I thought you might have seen something like it?"  John asks, as Harold begins to move forward, claiming space from the new interloper and finding his right to move utterly unchallenged, which seems to settle Harold's nerves a bit.

John relaxes a little too, exudes alpha confidence in a way he knows will reassure Bear.

"There are some who can't accept it and never change - until the full moon makes them." The role of teacher comes naturally to Harold who edges into Bear's space again, forces him to move just to reinforce his command. "But they are dangerous. Unstable. Like-"

"I was," John agreed, and he defers to Harold, letting the man pick where he will settle before John joins him. "Loners who have no pack to steady them, only-"

"Fear and anger. Others simply prefer one form. Usually they opt for the one with thumbs, however." Harold turns stiffly, from the shoulders, and looks at John. "Have you tried-?"

"Not yet," John says, and he lowers his eyes, defers. Normally  he wouldn't, they are both alpha, and the pack is almost small enough that it doesn't matter, but he wants to cement that respect into the newcomer's mind - that definition of where things stood "He was being kept as a pet, and I was trying to find <i>you</i>."

It's not a complete explanation, but it'll do.

"Tomorrow," Finch says, with uncharacteristic hesitation. The Hunter  - Root - had shaken him, and he needs to reorient. John had made it difficult with the addition. "And the whole pack should be here."

He sounds so tired that John reaches out, puts his hand on Harold's side and tips his head down against his neck and lets out  a breath of air, so relieved to have t his steadiness back in his world. "You say that like it's more than four."

"It <i>is</i> now," Harold says, and just like that, the first part is final.


John's change is getting smoother, because he's always embraced it. There's something satisfying about the pain and pull of his muscles re-orienting, bones changing. He notices it most in his feet, the tightness of his thighs, a contrast to the loose give that develops under his skin to change his limbs from plantigrade to digitigrade. It's a painful, sweaty endeavor, and the first few times he'd done it, it had felt as if it would never end. Until it had, sudden and abrupt, letting him have his mind back in altered format. Now he's learned to feel exactly where he is, how to keep presence of mind. Like sex, sometimes John grabs on at the end and holds himself a few minutes longer, muscles pulled to their limits and bowstring tight before he's over the hump and everything snaps into place and settles together.

Not on the full moon, though. That's different. If changing normally is - he'll admit it - almost sexual - changing almost fully against his will, violent and pervasive, is <i>beyond</i> that. No one has ever asked him to pick a word for it, but he'd have let his voice drop to a growl and said, 'orgasmic'. Maybe not with an utterly straight face.

"Stop messing around, Reese," Finch snaps - he never holds it. He's fast, and Reese admires his aptitude. Finch has had longer to master it, and was never as fascinated by it as Reese, or so Reese suspects, anyway.

Reese lets go, and springs up to all fours before his muscles have fully reoriented. He stumbles a little, loves the feeling of being lower to the ground, of feeling so much closer to his instincts. He wags his tail once, and then bounces down into a stretch just to feel his body work.

"It's not a rule that I can't enjoy it, Finch," he expresses. It's not so much that they talk as such - but they vocalize with equal parts sound and expression. He always feels a little more prone to whimsy on four paws, and he ignores his fellow alpha's disapproving stare and wanders over to Fusco to encourage him to change a little faster - he finds exposed, unfurred skin on his twitching inner thigh and applies a nose that he's well aware is cold.

It works - Fusco yelps and jerks around, rippling and snarling into his shape fast enough to seize a mouthful of Reese's haunch before Reese sits on his head. Fusco doesn't hold his wolf back because he enjoys it like Reese -

"Okay, okay, you're the boss,"Fusco grumbles, muffled, paws splayed on stubby limbs.

-but because he's developed some kind of shame about his form. Reese isn't sure why - it's sort of magnificent, in a stubby, red-furred and bouncy way. He still manages to carry himself in a way that suggests he doesn't barely have legs. He won't listen to Reese when he says it doesn't invalidate him as one of them. Fusco is blinded by his differences.

"Just reminding you," Reese answers, letting him up. Fusco shakes himself out with an audible slapping of ears and sliding of claws.

Finch had explained why they didn't look anything wolves, looking disdainfully down his long nose at Reese's newest pack addition, except during the full moon.

"Survival, Mr. Reese," he'd said, because as obvious as the differences between him and Reese were - Harold's 'wolf' was all legs, long and lean with a delicate grace that was ruined by his lopsided gait - it was more obvious still they weren't wolves. Finch's form was not that of a working breed, which made sense to John, but a racer - a hunter, maybe in even more distant ancestry. He'd mentioned what the form owed homage to once, but John had promptly dismissed it. He was Harold, and he looked like Harold.

"Where's the new guy?" Fusco is asking, his nose pressed against the library floor - it's not very far down for him - and investigating in a zig-zag pattern.

"He's around," Reese answers, surprised they haven't seen Bear yet. Or, he realizes, turning his head - Carter. She never changed where they could see. So far as Reese could tell, she'd been a werewolf almost as long as Finch. Of the four of them, she had been the only one unrelated. Finch had passed the curse to Reese, and barely forty eight hours later he'd used his bite on Fusco to get himself out of a free trip to Oyster Bay.

Carter had just been a kindred soul. He'd never expected her to become as much a member of their pack as she had, but she'd just sighed, almost shrugged spotted canine shoulders, and said, "Someone's gotta keep an eye on you."

"I'm still not sure I get all this," Fusco says. "I mean 'pack stuff', okay, whatever..."

Fusco is trailing. He's not as good at holding his mind - he loses himself easily in this form, so John thinks he almost overcompensates by keeping his mouth running.

"But why do you get to be a husky, and Carter is a dalmation, and Finch is a - fuzzy greyhound - and I'm - I don't even have a tail."
Fusco twitches the stump demonstratively.

"We're all wolves," Finch snaps and shifts himself awkwardly, lifting his injured leg before it can settle wrong under his weight and pain him. "But so as not to get us shot in our necessarily urban environment-"

The sounds of a scuffle - of claws clicking rapidly on the wooden floor - interrupts them. Bear scrambles up the last step onto the landing as if his tail were on fire and his ears are turned back behind him - pursuit.

He sees the pile of other olves at the end of the hall and brakes sharply, rear end skidding. Carter's spotted form surges into view, and she pins him in the middle of the pack by blocking his exit. "Look what I found!"

Reese cants his head, as Bear looks back and forth, and then wags his tail, feebly.

"He was trying to get through the bathroom window," Carter explains her pursuit.

"Probably not too excited to be demoted to the bottom of the whole pack," Fusco says, somewhere between bitter and anticipatory.

"Somehow I doubt he'll be your stepping stone, Lionel," Reese says, getting up.

"Shows what <i>you</i> know," Lionel retorts, but Reese only half hears it as the smaller form plows through his front legs and barrels forward full tilt with his mouth going in what are <i>almost</i> meaningless dog barks.

Reese nearly hits the floor and has to re-sort his limbs quickly.

"Hey! Who-do-you-think-you-are?" Fusco is still going by the time Reese can look up again, overlarge ears pinned back in clear (if probably foolish) intent.

"Are you kidding with this-?" The stranger asks, and Reese almost has a moment to think he sounds familiar - but of course he would. Reese had heard him bark before, even if he hadn't been equipped to understand - and then Fusco lunges and clamps his jaws on the looser skin of 'Bear's' neck.

Not kidding, then. Reese should probably - possibly intervene, but there are other layers at work here. For one, Fusco is trying to impress him. It's just as endearing here as it was outside of pack business. For another, Reese wants to see how the newcomer handles himself.

After the initial yelp - almost as much disbelief as pain, darkly curious eyes had turned on Reese, questioning. Good, he wasn't a total feral, then. He still knew enough not to infringe on an alpha's  duty without permission.

"Go ahead," Reese says, and Finch makes a noise like a scoff.

"Reese, this isn't-"

Reese looks at Finch over his shoulder, playing a card he knows works. It's just enough of a threat that Finch reconsiders disagreeing with him in front of the others. Two of them are too busy to notice, but Carter always watches the pair of them like a hawk. She's a stickler for rules.

'Bear' has resorted to taking the scuffle down to Fusco's level after his initial tactics had almost tied him in knots trying to protect his belly and undercarriage from an assailant squat enough to pass completely beneath him at a full run. Fusco isn't doing more than delivering hard pinches with his teeth yet, harrying and testing.

John wonders if he's thinking about how he fights lately to try and get better leverage against John himself.

He's got a ways to go if so - Bear foils his assault by simply crouching and surging forward as Fusco makes another pass, kicking Fusco off his center of gravity and spinning as the smaller dog skidded sideways, locking his teeth around the back of Fusco's neck and twisting to drop most of his weight onto the increasingly desperate smaller dog.

His snapping and growling barely warrant actual words - it's just the most basic level of communication. He's pissed and if he gets his teeth on anyone, they're coming away bloody.

"Why were you running?" Reese says, tone low, muzzle against the stranger's ear. "You're not a bad fighter, so it's not -"

But there isn't an answer in words so much as a heave of the whole body, and then the fight is serious, not just a placement but a real, all out fight that sends the rest of the pack skittering into a wider parimeter as both Reese and the stranger start to shift in earnest. Reese doesn't remember ever losing control like this - turning into a real, serious monster - without the full moon.  Finch had warned him if he got his blood up too much, if he forgot himself too far, that his curse might be close enough for the wolf - the eight foot tall bipedal monster that haunted creature features - might spring to the forefront. Film had never even come close. He barely notices the change this time, it happens almost mid-lunge, and then he and the stranger are locked in a grapple.

"Jesus, man," Fusco is saying somewhere, but Reese barely registers it. They hit a book case sidelong and topple it in an avalanche of several hundred pounds of books and wood, and all Reese feels about that is victorious. They're both pushing with all their strength and Reese has never felt so exhilerated. The challenge appeals enough to both his natures - his and the wolf that waits behind his - that it's at truly pure sensation of enjoyment, not having to hold anything back. It shouldn't have gone this far, but now that it has, Reese is glad - win or lose. He knows how the tension is going to break after this, because they'll both know without any <i>questions</i> - where they belong in the pack structure.

And Reese has to win, so he doesn't doubt that he will, but he takes no risks either. He turns them, and for a dangerous moment both their footing gets fouled up in the spilled books and they slide, shift, but John embraces it while the stranger fights it. Dropping his weight to all fours, John slams forward and they tumble - John has the time and opportunity to clamp his teeth on the furred forearm before he realizes they're falling further than they should be - over the toppled section of railing and toward the first floor. Finch's worried 'John!' has time to echo through the space after them.

John bites down harder, feels claws catch into his back and he expects - but the other wolf makes no attempt to spare himself the fall by flipping John into it, and then impact is jarring them both, and the sharper yelp is registering in his ear as well as the pained recoil of muscle - and John feels the windup coming, the outlash that snaps back at him and how the

"When I was -"

Deposed, John guesses. The limp, the occasional vague reference to his past and what he'd lost in it, and his unquestionably strong personality. He had been an alpha in the past, though he was a maverick when John met him - it was why he limped. Someone had betrayed him, overpowered him. Someone that John would destroy, if he ever met them.

Title: ​ Skyfall stuff
Fandom: James Bond Skyfall parts, bondcentric.
Pairing: None
Rating: T
Word Count: 350
Status: Abandoned
Summary: For James, his body has always been as important a weapon as his gun.

For James, his body has always been as important a weapon as his gun. In the past, he has had his own gun turned on him - and here came the shining new ray of technology to erase that possibility like an embarrassing smudge. He has never had his own body turned against him in the past, but there is always a first time.

He should leave the drink untouched, but his mind has trapped the image of Severine's trembling, clawed hand in his notice, and James tips the martini up against his mouth, through his teeth, and wonders if what he's facing is too much for him. He has never been <i>underestimated</i> by a woman before, has never seen someone so convinced they had met the devil.

The drink stills his own tremble a little, eases the downward pull of ruined muscles in his right shoulder, and seems to dull the grind of unevenly mended scalpula when he lowers the glass again. If the three men kill him - though James does not expect they will - he will go to whatever gates will have him with a bad Chinese martini painting his breath.

Too shameful for an Englishman to even consider, and so James resolves simply not to die.
It is a parallel he finds unnerving later, much later, while Silva sits like an adoring dog at the front of the clear glass cell, kneeling as if he had remembered his commands appropriately. As if begging for a pat but somewhere remembering that a dog must work, must <i>obey</i>, before he is acknowledged.

Bond is sickened when he sees the damage that a loss of structure can bring. The tail-chasing, the wide-eyed lunging of an injured canine thus broken. He does not know how much of himself he is looking at, but he knows that someday he could line up the parts of himself that way.

If he lived long enough, if he continued to refuse to die - someday something would turn that combination in him, and he would click into place exactly the same.

Title: ​ Untitled Fischer-centric piece.
Fandom: Inception
Pairing: Intended Fischer/Cobb
Rating: T
Word Count: 1,904
Status: Abandoned
Summary: All he has is the memory of a dream where he trusted someone more than he did himself.

All he has is the memory of a dream where he trusted someone more than he did himself.

It went against his nature; if he was more honest with himself, it went against his 'training' even more than the sudden idea to lift his father's company over his head and then smash it over his knee. Like a child with a toy - only he had never been that child.

If there is one thing Fischer has come to understand (and in this understanding is a sort of loathing),  it's the power of money to accomplish anything. So when he remembers as liding American accent, a toast to his father (made ironically in water, his father would have felt it an insult), and somehow, extraordinarily, his instinct to trust the man. The two concepts were inexplainably and unwaveringly linked. A blue eyed American - had he ever learned a name? - and unshatterable faith.

To your father, he was a great man.

At the moment, Fischer had felt stiff and hollow, as he typically did when he thought about Maurice. Moreso now that his understanding of existence had been shaken to its very core. Always before he had that threat of disapproval to put his back against.

In moments of vertigo, he stepped upon it, at least until it became so tumultuous as to drop his balance away from him, leaving him to get back on his feet in solitary shame.

Money erased. It created. But more importantly, it undid. Robert Fischer had come to understand that regardless of who he was, everything around him was the subject of his father's immortal and irresistable power. Robert's very actions could be erased, his words unspoken, his image sculpted and re-written for the eyes of the whole world until it almost became unrecognizeable to him. Until the only way to possibly hold onto himself was to try and be that image. As if he himself could cease to be and yet the picture would go on walking and talking. A hollow shell animated by money. A puppet implied in imagination, but in reality even the doll did not exist.

So when he can't quite understand why the two concepts - the American, Charlie? Mr. Chuck? - and trust are aligning, he knows that he can have an answer to his question through his inherited power. He could, in fact, have any answer he liked. He could build one, or simply track the man down in his home and <i>demand</i> one.

Partially, it's that understanding  that drives him to hold to the security of Fischer-Morrow, and partially it's that he no longer understands what he himself was, without his image forged for him by iron will and what his father called 'investments in his future'.

He does not understand the part of himself that simply wants to tear it down and pick up the bricks and build something new. It's an old feeling - not understanding himself - and it makes him feel sharp, all edges with those around him. He has not been at odds with himself like this since he was fourteen.  Since he made the decision that if his father more liked the stranger presented to schoolmates, business partners, magazines, newspaper, and a thousand young women - then so did Fischer himself.

His quarrels with himself had slowly fled. Easier to be concerned with what impression the tabloids would get if he wore a patterned tie instead of a solid. It was a tentative self-peace that relied entirely on fitting into the hole he was square-peg hammered into, surrendering his corners and rounding himself with what was left. Now there was no hole. No workbench, even, it  seemed. He felt himself falling out of shape and it alarmed him, left him with parts he'd thought he'd shorn off long ago now extending rawly outward like new skin.

Trust, and it somehow attached itself to someone who barely remembered him. Irritation and awkwardness would have made sense, but they weren't the emotions tied to the man in Fischer's mind. He went around and around again with himself until he decided he had to know. Even if it meant he had to use his Father's power to do so.

Fischer knows that by putting money into the flight attendant's hand, he should be able to get what he wants. Everyone has a price, everything has a worth, and yet he can't even find <i>her</i>, though he learns her name with some carefully worded inquiries. Janice, but it ends in 'neice', not 'nice', and no one's seen her in months. Not since she moved away. He finds the captain of the flight, but the man knows nothing - and seems equally nervous and apologetic to see Fischer.

He reaches the limits of legality quickly, and then the limits of what money can do without further interference. Money cannot prize what people don't know out of their memories, or he wouldn't need to ask any questions of anyone else at all.

Uncle Peter watches Fischer make furtive phone calls, disappear for unexplained hours. He makes excuses when Fischer shows up late to meetings, looking askance at his godson with eyes that still see a little boy with scraped knees and muddy shirts. Browning always saw more of him than his father had, but always seemed to be looking several decades in the past.

Finally, he corners Fischer, puts a hand firmly but gently on his shoulder, inclines his head down, his gaze away in a posture that implies confidence.

"Bobby," He says, then unexpectedly, "You don't need your father's approval anymore."

But what Fischer hears is, 'He's wrong about you. You can build something-' and then, immediately, in the voice of the American,

'He's lying.'

"What?" Fischer asks, struck unexpectedly. "What are you talking about, Uncle Peter?"

"The girl," Browning says, and Fischer almost - <i>almost</i> - laughs. He doesn't know if he could stop, once he lets himself start. "Whoever she is, you know the two of you don't need his permission anymore."

"It's not a girl, Uncle Peter," Fischer answers, and leaves Browning to try and figure that out on his own. He doesn't care what his godfather thinks, he discovers, or what his father would have.

He hires a private investigator after that discovery, because he can't decide if he should be alarmed that his next thought is that whatever Uncle Peter decides he's doing so secretly, he's also probably lining up price tags next to.

That conversation is easier. Robert doesn't dare ask around for any reccomendations, unsure why he really wants to keep the info to himself aside from superstition. Partially, it's that he knows no one will bother trying to understand him, and he wants to save that fight for when it really matters. The P.I. asks to meet him at a nice location downtown, and doesn't balk at his name. Either he's too busy with his head in the sand of the sort of small time cases he usually probably works and doesn't recognize it, or he's a cool customer wen with the visions of dollar signs running through his head.

They meet over coffee at a non-corporate place. Fischer wasn't sure if that was intentional, though his years of corporate training told him he should take it that way.   One look at the P.I. and he disregarded the thought. The choice of venue probably had more to do with the free coffee refills.

Robert has never seen a man who so closely resembled a beaten dog. The whole posture is tired and hunched, like the man hasn't properly slept in a while.

"What I want is simple," Fischer says, once they've introduced themselves and shaken hands - the P.I.'s is warm from where it had been curled around his coffee cup. It gives the handshake more confidence than it might otherwise have had.

"I traveled from Sydney to L.A. a few months ago - on a commercial flight. I need to find one of the other first class passengers on that flight," he says, while the P.I. looks at him intently. Like even this shabby, half-starved P.I. could afford to be picky enough to involve morals in his case acceptance decisions. Fischer likes him better for that, even if it is an illusion.

"That shouldn't be too hard, but the question is why you want to find this person, Mr. Fischer." The investigator turns it into a statement, carefully. He isn't implying anything but curiosity - of the professional sort - by it.

Knowing the answer would actually affect his ability to get what he wants, Robert carefully considers his answer before he just surrenders to the truth.

"I'm honestly not sure, detective." Fischer admits, pushing his cup of coffee back and forth between his hands. "Something about that flight changed me - and he was the only one who spoke to me. I just - I'd like to ask him how he seemed to know me so well."

"You're a public figure, Mr. Fischer - and no offense intended," the P.I. begins with a sheepish smile. "But I know more about you than I do my own girlfriend. It's possible..."

"No, you're right. It could just be that my father had just died and I'm making up something that wasn't there, but -" Fischer realizes he's still running on instinct. "I still have to know. Even if it was nothing."

The P.I. measures him a long time with his gaze. Fischer can't tell if he's passing or failing and it's an unsettling emotion for him. He shifts his coffee cup along the table and is about to lose patience when the P.I. finally comes to a decision.

"I'm not sure if this is really the sort of case I'm used to, Mr. Fischer, but I'm going to do it anyway," he says. "I'll need half my fee up front, and expenditures will be billed to you as they arise. That's standard - unless you wanted to hire someone higher end."

Fischer eyes the man, how lean he looks emotionally. How average. He recalls his reputation for discretion. "No, you're exactly what I want.

"Mr. Fischer," The P.I. says, because he can see the way Robert fixates on the file in the man's hands. "I can give you this information, and what you do with it is your own business, but.."

And Fischer thinks: <i>if we were ten years younger...</i>, and then his father would have had something else to erase.

Robert calls with the <i>idea</i> of demanding an explanation, of starting the conversation with, 'I know you couldn't afford to be on those seats on that plane,' but the phone rings only once and then the American - Cobb - picks up, and doesn't give him a chance.

"I know why you called, Mr. Fischer."

"You do?" he asks, thinking what a strange thing that is to say to someone who has very little idea why they have done something.

"Yes," Cobb answers, sounding supremely confident on the other end of the line. A businessman selling a deal that can't be refuted or refused. "I saw it on the plane," he continues conspiringly.

Fisher feels inexplicably like they should both know what Cobb is talking about. That he should lie and play along.

"That makes one of us," he says instead, after a pause.
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