May We Discover
Three hours after Bitch Fight, somebody wonders where Officer Neely is. That's a lot of loops around the block.

St. Michael's Hospital, Toronto, ON, Canada


"I don't want to hear anymore about lack of preparedness or … lack of pants, or whatever."

In the spare hospital corridor, attempting to be out of the way of the scroll of emergencies, two patrol officers in official colors loiter behind an unused nurses' counter, looking for all like the protection they weren't earlier. Wearing nearly identical expressions of tries for guilt that reach halfway to bashful— and are mostly ruined by boredom— they linger, one behind the counter with his arms draped and the other braced on its side, chin occasionally ducking then head rolling back in a stretch as he contemplates what punishment might be on the horizon greater than 'you wait at the hospital till she's out'.

"Fuckin' Neely…" he manages to grumble in a generous assignment of blame.

He's unlucky enough to complain just as another man in uniform approaches the nurse's station from behind, where a shortcut for employees cuts through from one hallway to another. "I'd shut your mouth if I were you, Fitzgerald." A surly voice for the surly trod, trod of his boots on the squeaky hospital tile; Officer Maslow would rather not be here. His reasons, however, are not parallel with the officers who contributed to this series of events unfolding.

That is, they have distinct differences along the same path. Instead of irate boredom, he wears clear anger — restrained on his face, it hangs from every surface, pulling his features down rather than turning them to stone. Instead of grasping for some sense of guilt, his is within easy reach — if only to him, present only in the harder-to-interpret restlessness of his eyes, looking darker than their silvery hue, barely looking at the men he addresses.

"Of course, if I were you," he continues as he appears beside them with a curve of desk in-between, flattening, "I wouldn't know how, so hey — never mind. As you were. Keep being an asshole." The underlying — if drab — threat in his voice might stop them from needing to wonder about further punishment. He can't quite dole it out from his position, but he's been known to influence it, and sometimes that amounts to the same thing.

Twisting abruptly on the hand braced on the counter, Fitzgerald straightens like a bolt before everything sags in an exaggerated sigh. "Come on, Maslow…" His hand wags in the air, "It was just a joke, man— and she's probably gonna cry and go straight to the tabloids." Because, if it weren't evident, they're the victims here: these poor, overworked gentlemen about to get thrown under the bus by the fragility of a woman. The older officer's assessment of this one was not an inch off from the truth. "How were we supposed to know that tonight there'd be a pack of rabid STDs?"

His partner, elbows cradling most of his weight on the counter, rocks forward more uncomfortably, but while avoiding direct eye-contact until the last second, he hums the tune of, "It's not like you haven't made the comments, yourself…"

Dominick comes to a reluctant stop, his eyes briefly shooting up to the ceiling, becoming half-buried in the tired hang of his eyelids. He leans one hand into the counter. "That was a while ago. She was a rookie. Ha ha ha," he gives the dry impression of a laugh, "joking around. You know what rookies usually do?" He levels on the pair. "They grow up." He pushes off. "You're supposed to know the area and have your fellow officer's back," he adds, a strong echo of his time as a training officer, a solid lesson with a rigid thread of annoyance wound tightly throughout. It pulls at his forehead as he strides away, not bothering to ask for any useful information — such as where or how Neely is. He'll just look himself until he finds out.

As Fitzgerald's mouth opens in argument, his partner smacks him on the arm and the two drop back into staring at the floor.

He finds her around the corner, just out of sight of her reluctant guard dogs' post and down the row. Slung around the shoulders with a heavy shock blanket still from the ride over, Annabelle sits on a slim visitors' bench, hunched out of her tall figure. Knees sag tiredly in, scrubbed inefficiently; the patchwork of her torn fishnets has left diamonds of dirt scratched into her skin. The fingers that barely bother to hold the blanket around her, crossed inside her back's lean, look no cleaner. Blue hospital slippers made of flimsy paper cover her bare feet. But all that is second to the unfamiliar silhouette her head cuts— from an impromptu, brutally unprofessional, haircut. Strands dart out unevenly every which way, shorter than the longer strands an inch to the left, and trimmed straight down to a scalp treated with stitches along her right temple. She stares ahead, vapid and unresponsive, all the color in her eyes absorbed into the dull, washed hospital floor.

Officer Neely has never looked more like how the police encounter working girls than right now.

"… Christ, Neely …" A somewhat familiar exclamation greets her in a less familiar tone. Dull shock, and sympathy, though it still manages to sound like a complaint. A declaration: this shouldn't be happening.

Dominick stopped around the corner when he spotted her. He strides further around, only far enough to linger at a vague diagonal a couple of feet away. He's marking her degraded state with a cop's attention; she fact that the working girl image superimposed over the officer is ground right into her skin is far from a joke. His arms cross not quite evenly, biceps past the short sleeves of his summer uniform twitching.

A cop wouldn't miss each red arc as if burned into her neck, identifiable as nails, aside bruises from grips: her neck, along parts of her jaw and an arm and, obvious if only because she's wearing a torn slip of a shirt, inside a thigh. And there it is, that's what they're still waiting here for: injuries in that area mean a rape-kit's usually requested. Unfortunately, the hospital's never quite as staffed as it wishes it could be, and everyone's counting on a police-officer not skipping out, even if takes a while.

Hearing Dominick's voice barely makes Annabelle twitch— maybe she didn't hear it, after all. She sits, a Samson: robbed of what allowed her to keep trying every day.

Past the lingering delay, her chin shifts, as if trying to look over and up at him, before she suddenly recants, casting that other side of her face back in the shadow of the corridor.

Dominick eyes the corridor that shadows his view. He marches into her tentative safe-zone, wanting to catch a glimpse of the hidden side of her face — but, though he could, he doesn't look once he's there. He stands there, at the corner of the bench, tightening his crossed arms, awkward. After another few seconds, adverse to speaking, he sits down on the bench corner beside Annabelle. His bulk, not tremendous, but extended by the police accouterments hanging from his belt, and the coil of his muscles, is too much for the corner: he perches there more awkwardly than he stood hovering. He lets his arms unfold and presses his hands together between the small space between his polyester-clad knees.

"This all should have been avoided," her former training officer finally says. Eighty percent flat and gruff, twenty percent an emotion that's hard to source. He looks at the floor, and one minutely shifting boot (scuffed rather than perfectly polished as it should be) rather than Annabelle.

A minute shifting from Annabelle, of fingers clenching, retreating herself further in when Dominick slides up on the bench. The ball she makes stiffens at the second reprimand of his voice. Disdain and bitterness cross paths on the no-man's-land of her face, casting allusions to the war underneath; her emotionless distance begins to warm, but to nothing comforting. With a soft croak of a sore throat, she nods— tight, official. "— Yes, sir."

Her official little answer prompts a sigh from the figure sitting so tensely beside her, taut and heavily taxed. "Cut that out." It's not Dominick's intention to sound so put-upon, and he doesn't notice; but, rubbing his palms together, he presses a different point. "Fitzgerald and Lee are assholes." A point previously pressed before he found Annabelle. His voice reaches into something more … something more. "You have…" He palms pause, and his line of words redirect. "Are you alright?" he asks, looking over with more purpose— to her face. Alright, in this case, is definitely a relative term.

Eyes close, wavering, then open, pointed high to the ceiling in a similar strain. Tiny prickles put an ache in her face to show something but what fight she looks not to have she's funneled all into that strict, just short of neutral expression. At her mouth and eyes, it weakens, her throat tightening visibly in and out around the bruising of fingernail impacts. Nostrils work wide and tight. Just seconds— agonizing seconds— and she manages to compose for a stiff shake of her head. At least, that's the intention. It starts, chin raising and then falling— and then falling, dropping in, the hidden cheek pushing even further away from him and she's suddenly shaking her head.

Looking out from a strained, freezing face, Dominick's eyes shoot this way and that, tracking Annabelle as if she's a fast-moving target who is making him dizzy. Unequipped with any immediate bestowal knowledge over how to still that sensation, he sits stiffly in disorientation. The fingers of one hand curl onto the knuckles of the other. His hands bob in an awkward casual gesture. She's not alright; what is he supposed to do about it?

The answer is: something.

He should do something.

He should have done something.

Eventually, on an abrupt huff of his nose, he reaches out— he grabs for Annabelle's chin, trying to turn her face — that distinctly mysterious side of her face — toward him. He's not exactly gentle about it; his focus is on watching, not feeling. "You don't deserve this, Neely," he's saying before even getting a solid look at her, though his eyes are solid, digging, serious. "You were given the bad end of the rope, and everyone just let you hang there." Everyone, including him, the point he doesn't drive.

Her instinct screams to fight. For a second, the relative safety of the hospital drops out like her stomach, vanishing in a black abyss of helplessness as her jaw's man-handled. When her chin jerks— too late, always too late— Annabelle's eyes veer from a fathomless to a very narrow fear: he's looking at her.

Sterile hospital lighting outlines the sculpted face; she's pretty, yes, but across that slender nose, a gross constellation of dime-sized, and shaped, burns that radiate from black and bubbly in the center out to a fairer, merely irritated, pink along the edges. They speckle her cheekbone, occasionally blurring together in a scrape of angry flesh. Antiseptic causes them to shine even brighter.

When she fast recoils, the bundle of fabric by her side caves in— following the pained fold of her ribs. One of her clutching hands vanishes beneath the folds and frustration flutters across the strain of her mouth before she dismisses it. Eyelids drop like shields, casting her gaze to the bench, swathed in the corners of the blanket she's wrapped by. "I take responsibility, sir— " she blurts out, high-pitched and tenuous except in commitment, "For lack of preparedness— " Every individual word manipulates the patchwork of facial burns, grating the bubbled skin.

Dominick's jaw juts out in his version of a wince. Once over the telltale burns; a second time over when Annabelle takes responsibility. His grip's fast to drop, but his eyes hold her — not responsible — even after hers have gone. "No." Frustration that was previously lurking escapes. "Yes," he reroutes after all: "Take responsibility for doing your job the best that you could in the face of shit conditions." He sits back straight, only to look more uncomfortable than when he was perched. "That's it. That's all. I don't want to hear anymore about lack of preparedness or … lack of pants, or whatever. You're a good officer."

Honest surprise makes a clean slate of Neely's too-clean face — barring the burns; her eyes shine like her injuries. Fingers from inside stitch back out to the blanket's edge, tugging, as her knees curl self-consciously inward despite the bolster his words might normally cause. "Yes— sir," she gurgles out, uncertain of what she forces herself to accept from a superior officer. Paper crinkles around her shifting toes, an only slightly sharper noise than the rustle of the blanket. A breathless little noise escapes in a wisp as her head slings to the far side, all in shadow for a press of her chin into her shoulder, before curling back, along the line of her collarbone to look imprecisely at him. Though crackling, her voice has changed tempers. "How's Mylo?"

With her change of temper comes his, although he too settles uncertainly into it, planting his hands on his knees too formally. He is, however, quick to reply. "He's…" Only to realize, after the fact: he doesn't know. An update came in after the teenager was sent to hospital, and Dominick didn't stick around. He glances down, where his hands grip, preparing to push off. " — here at St. Michael's. I'll getcha updated on his status." Formal, like his pose. Abrupt, he rises, stalking two strides away from Annabelle's bench of distress over there, distancing himself as though it might catch further.

He turns to go back the way he came, but he halts to point at her, thumb up, finger straight: pegging her in his sights, this time livelier, a ray of comedy. "You're not gonna give up on me now, are you?" She multitude of meanings to choose from: on her job after being dragged through this latest mud, or on him after he seemingly ditched her? In any interpretation, Dominick hasn't given up on Annabelle, after all.

Startle is short-lived; it gets Annabelle's face up to regard him but it's the driving indecision that leaves her there, eying him straight-forwardly with an unintended spread of obvious intention across her features: what could she possibly want to stay for… Arms curl in as the intent drifts from her eyes, leaving her staring ahead but not; she no longer sees him, as her gaze meanders both slightly to the left and inward. Argument flickers at the corner of her mouth. As she sniffs, her chin threatens to dip— but then she lifts it— wearily, but up to meet, almost stubbornly, the aim of his hand.

… through pain and torment…

"No. Sir."

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