Disgust ebbed beneath the surface of his hard expression. It didn't take long to boil up, but it took near-quivering muscle tension being held taught from his head to his waist to keep the disgust from showing visibly. The details did not fuel the somersault rolling below his diaphragm. Cocaine, prostitutes, heroin, or the drinking – none of it mattered. The weakness, though; that did matter.

Stamper held his gaze, and with a slight upward nod, urged Russo to continue. He needed this Congressman to speak, and to say just the right words. Except, in the back of his mind, he knew that none of these syllables would amount to what he wanted to hear – what he needed to hear in order to proceed. Against his instinct, which he followed religiously – his only religion, now – he listened to the shaky and impulsive stumbling and took in every word.

Peter fucking Russo would absolutely never be anything more than a pawn, an expendable and acceptable loss. He felt no amount of pity for that and the longer time went on, month after month, week after week, and day after hour-filled day, finding himself forced to listen to the admissions of guilt and confessions of failures and flubs. Francis Underwood referred to them as foibles, but Stamper disagreed – never to anyone but himself, of course. Peter Russo didn't have slight weaknesses of character, not small or only few. Russo had shining moments of regret and guilt-fueled romantic notions of sudden personal sacrifice making up for having no hearty character the balance of his life.

Stamper sat across the tiny wooden table at the diner, eyes locked on Russo, watching the Congressman pick at his fingernails while trying to make a point. He didn't hate Russo for his nature or any of the reasons a more heroic and moral individual would. He hated him for wasting time – Stamper's time and Russo's time – and doing so with the same useless drivel. He hated him for requiring a strong hand to settle his momentary lapses and for playing at needing a guide, aside from his campaign manager and own experience-based knowledge.

"Look," Stamper interjected, throwing Peter off his sorrowful, self-pitying tangent.

"Don't think. Just do it."

The disgust may have been evident for a moment, as a flicker of something in Stamper's eyes. The flicker had been something dark and a promise of despicable things to come if Russo opened his mouth to speak to say even one more unsure word. Stamper made it a point to remain very still and keep his gaze locked. Russo licked his lips and looked down to his glass of ice water, taking in a deep breath and then releasing it as a sigh.

In his mind, Stamper imagined Russo on his knees, sweating, and maybe crying, maybe sobbing even, or trying to recover from a wet, pleading cry. He imagined looking down the barrel of a revolver at Russo and pressing the mouth of that barrel to Russo's sweat slick brow, right above his shift eyes, at the exact midline of his forehead. He didn't envision pulling the trigger, just the trickling noise and briny scent of urine, pooling at Russo's knees where they met some cold, non-descript cement floor.

Stamper blinked and reached for his own glass of ice water and took a short sip, hiding the smirk now playing on his lips.

"You good?" he asked Russo, who looked up from staring at the table, or the glass, or his hands – whichever had taken him away from that cold stare and flicker of something that unsettled him.

"I'm good. I think."