2.5 Inches of Steel


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Scene Title 2.5 Inches of Steel
Synopsis Teo returns to the safehouse to confront Munin again and learns a lesson about letting his guard down in the presence of the enemy. In return, he teaches her that every action has a reaction — in this case, a violent one.
Date December 7, 2008

A Ferrymen Safehouse

It's the beginning of tomorrow but today never seems concluded before bed. Under cover of darkness, Teo tries not to think about the fluidity of his sense of time. The look Romero gave him him in the library was yesterday. Abigail's panicky phonecall and invocation of Sylar's name was yesterday. The bus wreck he watched pass in the window was yesterday. This sand-soiled snow is now. Descending the stairs to the Ferrymen's safehouse is now. Eileen is now.

And Brian too, apparently. Teo pulls the scarf off his neck and imparts a grin at the younger man. "Same drill," he says, by way of caption. No bad cop this time, the self-replicator might be happy to see. He loops the colorful cloth over his hands, mashes it into a bundle and then tosses it, gently, underhand at the bench outside the observation window. Walks to the door and, placing three knocks on the middle, he pushes in.

"Yo. Waddup bawsss." Brian says in an over-exaggerated New Yorker accent. Or at least what he thinks might be a New Yorker accent. It may be any combination of the big city accents that he has seen on TV and in his DVDs. But whatever it is, it sounds a tad cheery. For once, Brian seems to be in a good mood. He tilts a brow as he comes in. "Are you sure man? I'm pretty sure she hates you. She likes me." He pipes, it sounds like it could be a point of pride for him. Or just a fact.

Then Teo passes him and into the door. A little shrug. "Call if you need me to stop her from kicking the shit out of you." He says with a little smirk. He is on the ground with his back to the wall, a book in hand. A bible. He seems to be studying up.

Awash in shadow and half-light, pale skin slick with sweat and glowing like moonstone where exposed, Munin sits in the corner of the room with her back to the door. Her dark head is bowed, shoulders hunched, raven-black hair spread out across her back in a pattern that makes her body and its curving spine appear reminiscent of a newly-wilted flower. She shows no outward response when Teo enters her cell, but her back rises and falls with every shuddering breath she takes, filling the space with what sounds like a rasping death rattle.

If she isn't crying, she's expending all her energy in the struggle not to — judging by the way each intake of breath is accompanied by a full-body tremor and a terrible choking noise, she has been for awhile.

"Go away."

Some part of Teo wishes he could oblige. He doesn't want to be here, not really. Last time was— awkward. He gives Brian a wry glance over his shoulder, acknowledging this confirmation of the younger man's eralier observation, a moment before he lets the door fall shut, his shoe squeaking on the floor with a sound of water. He comes closer, but not by much. Halfway across the room, he stops again and seats himself on the floor, as he's generally wont to do. The foot of the bed is to his right, the span of observation window to his left. His shoulders hunker low beneath his jacket and sweater.

The former comes open, after a moment. He extricates a newspaper from its dense panel and tosses it across the floor with a sideways reel of his wrist.

"Buona notte, Eileen," he says. It wasn't actually what he'd meant to, but his politeness is pathological until his hooliganism kicks in; the words had jumped onto the tracks, subverted his original intent with their insidious rue when he opened his mouth. He looks at her back. She looks as small as the smallest part of a Matryoshka doll, like there ought to be a shell around her. Or seven. "Give me someone you don't care about," he requests, quietly. "Anything about them. Volken. Please."

"Volken." The name leaves Munin's mouth in the form of a half-croak, strangled in her throat. "Kazimir Volken. He'll kill me, when he finds out I've been talking to you. Life. S'meaningless. Ethan. Sylar. Everyone. I've seen it—" She's cut short by a sudden hitch in her breath, a sob bubbling all the way up from the very bottom of her gut. She raises one arm to wipe a glistening string of snot and tears from the small space between her upper lip and nose. When she does, she reveals a series of thin rivulets trickling down her arms. Blood. Hesitation marks on the inside of her wrists. Tiny cuts that started out as surface scratches before evolving into something else, something aimless and desultory.

It's the work of a sharp object of some kind or another, but she holds nothing in her hands except the empty air, her fingers balled up into furious little fists — the only parts of her body that, steadfast and pulled taut with silent determination, aren't shaking. "You're all going to die."

The cuts catch his attention. Prompts him to straighten where he's seated, his brow furrowed, a glance at the window, inquiring after some unseen face. They would have said something if they'd seen her cutting— and with what? Her fingernails? His mouth finds a hard line. "We knew that signing up, cara mia.

"It's supposed to be worth it— worth having the chance to stop this shit from happening. We've hidden this long. We only come out to fight. That's how it's done. You know that; you've had that much experience." His tone is strange. Quick, low, like water passing over stones in effort to smooth their points and harsh contours; he's trying to comfort her. His hands fall to the floor and curl, knuckles-down and he leans, aborts motion before he rises to go to her. "We can protect you.

"Life will look better when we've fixed this." He lacks the audacity to actually propose specific meaning to life because he's spineless like that, but his sentences don't dangle; his is the confidence of one who can not afford to lose. "You'll see. Help us and you'll see."

"Protect me from what?" Munin's voice spikes at the tail end of her question, suddenly shrill. Quavering. "You don't understand what it's like, wanting to hurt the people you love. To push the pillow into their faces while they sleep. To stand over them, pull the trigger until they stop moving. You think of all the ways you could do it. Try to settle on which one would be the quickest — the least painful. Only you can't. Because the only thing that hurts more than watching them carry on is imagining what it would be like if they're gone."

No right answers, no plausible ones. Sympathy does Teo no favor here. He gets up and idles on his feet, wretched at six feet's height and a handsome weight, a lump sliming its way up and down inside his throat, and the everpresent gift of Catholic guilt creaking against the framework of his bones, a slight sway to his stance that bespeaks no physical weakness. "The legal system isn't just going to kill them. And we won't do anything we don't have to. What we have to do is try: to save people. That isn't…" he trails off, stupidly, as if he hasn't wished it on every single one of those fucker's heads before.

He comes to her then, long, slow steps, hesitant from fear— for her, stepping over the fallen newspaper, shedding a drop of meltwater on the print. His toes are two feet from her back. She looks even thinner up here, with the light bleaching straight down into her bones. Her spine stands up like a trail of roaches under the oversized shirt. "C— come on. Let me see your hands." The wet rubber of his boot soles pinches audibly against the linoleum as he drops into a crouch, offers her gentle hands. "You're marked up."

As Teo lowers himself down, Munin turns to lean her body into his, her arms held close to her chest and crossed at the wrists, elbows tucked against her stomach. The physical urge to be with another person — to feel their warmth through the flimsy fabric of her shirt, to experience the heat of their breath uncurling into her ear — is overwhelming, all-consuming thing.

So is her desire for freedom.

She buries her face in Teo's shoulder, and soon he can feel her tears seeping through his clothes, hot and damp against his skin beneath. "I wanted to —" She chokes, hiccups, pausing to swallow down a mouthful of what's probably excess saliva and maybe a little bit of bile. "But I c-couldn't —"

If these walls could talk, Teo thinks, they wouldn't shut up. The pain seething underneath her skin makes his gut curdle and his hackles rise as if the pores of his own are trying to thrust her away, get her away from me, this pain-puckered pale thing she's turned into wrung out by the opposing torque of guilt and fear, love and whatever the fuck else toys with the human mind when keeping the company of domesticated monsters. "I don't think I could have, either." His voice comes out wrong. Segmented. Assembled with difficulty, the joints between words twisted, protruding, the wrong shape and size. He had a broken arm, once. Like that.

Conveniently, his arms aren't broken now. Slow in that blank way, he lifts them up and encircles her in them. The embrace contracts around her slowly, as if concerned that the violence with which she's shaking would hurt her banged up against its confines. Clumsy fingers pet her hair and his throat thrums on her ear, toneless now, deserted by every word of every language he knows: a lot.

Grief gradually begins to release its knotted hold on Munin's body. The tension melts from her muscles, shoulders growing slack beneath Teo's arms as uncertainty hisses out of her like air from a balloon — a long, anguished sigh through her nostrils. She grows still, settles, and soon no breath enters or leaves her lungs; only the jackhammer of her heart echoing against Teo's chest serves as a faint reminder that the girl he holds in his embrace is indeed a girl and not a corpse, ashen and cold though her skin may be. When she opens her mouth, it is not to take in air. Rather, it is to speak, and despite the roughness around the edges of her voice, her words come forth with startling clarity.

"I'm sorry."

One arm shifts, long fingers closing around the handle of the dinner knife trapped between the length of their bodies. Munin has felt the metal compressed against her belly ever since Teo opened the door and she found herself with no other place to hide it. Now, it's his turn — only it's the tip that meets his skin instead of the blade's flat edge. Using the heel of her palm, she drives it through his sweater and into the meat of his stomach in one swift, unforgiving motion without so much as an ounce of hesitation behind her hand.

"I'm so, so sorry…"

He freezes.

And he had been cold before, mind you, numb at the edges and incapable of producing another shiver closer to his core. He feels that. Sharp: agony lancing somewhere in his torso, the feeling too dispersed, too inaccurate to determine how much skin broke, whether or not his viscera was punctured, how much that rasp was thread splitting forcibly apart or whether that was membrane. Teo doesn't make a sound. He blinks once, eyelashes fraying on his face with the force of it. Inelegantly, he crumples, his center of balance skewing until his butt and knee hit ground and can't go further.

His hands disobey conscious orders to leave her and go to the wound; they tighten on her. Not out of any initial malice but, ridiculously, in automatic, thoughtless supplication. It's a joke worth keeping to tell: you stabbed him, and he asked you for help. He doesn't have to look down to see—

Crimson. And sanguine with something that merely isn't liquid blood, his grip changes then, a scramble gone mad with the crushing stress and venomous hatred of the intervening weeks since his kids died, and the blonde girl's spilled froth on Alexander's sleeve on the bowling alley's floor, and Abby's unloaded shotgun. He wrenches her, face-first, into the bedpost.

Munin is much slimmer and slighter than Teo. She should, in theory, be faster — unfortunately, reality doesn't always play out the way you expect it to, and before she can slip away and make her mad dash to freedom, she finds herself once again held fast in Teo's grasp. There isn't much of an opportunity to cry out, to squeal a warning. The only noise she makes is a startled gasp when she feels his nails sinking into her, each finger exerting more pressure than she has in all of hers combined.

Teo has big hands and strong arms. Driving her face into the bedpost is an inconsequential thing. Or at least it would be, if he wasn't leaking blood all over his clothes and the floor. Munin lets out a strangled shriek of pain, simultaneously punctuated and cut short by a wet crunching sound that Teo will undoubtedly recognize if he can hear anything over the pounding in his ears. He's broken plenty of noses before, though the nose of a young woman is probably a first.

That is a first, it's true: one of his last. He fails to appreciate it or the strangled squeak he divests from her. Yanks her back toward him in a dervish of black hair, black cloth and heroin white, hurls her toward the floor where spilled blood and force conspire to mottle her thin frame with discoloration. Brian's coming. Must be. Teo fails to appreciate that either, the door banging behind or the helter-skelter drub of sprinting feet. Endorphins supplant pain, adrenaline displaces endorphins. That is no first.

His face ugly with fury, he reaches down to yank the blunt little knife from himself and hoist its sticky, slick handle aloft. Metallic crimson. "I'll slit her ear to ear, the skinny, selfish little English bitch should love a Chelsea grin: she'll tell me every last fucking thing she knows if it's out of the last breath she has." It isn't spoken in English. He doesn't finish it before Brian's on him and his legs start buckling, smearing the floor, his clothes red, body incapable of making good on the malice of his intent, nothing logical or righteous in the failing twitch of his jaw. No more words.

The door swings open as Brian rushes at Teo and Munin. His eyes widen, his understanding of the situation coming to him while he bounds across the room towards the Italian. "Teo, what the fuck are you—" He cuts off himself as his arms swing around the other man. Trying to pull him away. Though to ensure there are no more problems… poppop.

Two naked Brians are suddenly out of the original Brian, grappling with the Sicilian. It's always a shame to be naked in front of people. But sometimes, it's necessary. The two will try to keep their backs to Munin… but… eh.

The clothed Brian retreats, moving around to march on Munin.

Were Teo in slightly better health, he would probably be a little less manageable. As it is, it's probably his size and the fact that he's walking on a smooth floor all fucked up and slathered in new blood that's giving his temper any sort of practical application. He yanks, snarls an epithet that predates English. Channels a deep breath through his lean torso even as the Brians haul him backward, summoning up the strength to spit. Blood wells in irregular spurts; the knife slithers out of his fingers and hits the floor with a festive tinkle.

The two unclothed Brians lock their arms around Teo. An arm under each of the Italian's, then the hands gripped behind Teo's neck. They hold him firmly. Not willing to give the man any slack at all. The two naked assailants will carry Teo out of the room if they have to.

The clothed Brian peers at Munin as if confused. He bends over to quickly pick up the knife. Holding it up, he peers at it, shocked by its very existence. Then he shoots his gaze over his shoulder at the woman. Advancing on her, his free hand swoops out to grab her by the shoulder and practically fling her at the cot. "Why did you do that?!" He asks, rather loudly.

Munin and the cot collide with a thunderous clatter that rattles her bones as much as it does the bed's metal frame. She covers her face with her hands, dark liquid oozing out through the gaps between her fingers — so thick and concentrated its trails appear more black than they do red. Although she's in no real danger of dying, it has become a struggle to breathe; every time she tries to pull in air, she sucks down mouthfuls of blood, hissing, sputtering, spitting.

Even if she had an answer for Brian — and she doesn't — she wouldn't be able to voice it, never mind using her mouth to form the words.

Teo's heels drag two squiggling, squeaking lines of red along the floor, jerking zigs and zags as he kicks and flails for no especially practical reason. He buries four fingertips in one's Brian's arm, stops before his thumb starts probing into the joint of his elbow. His other hand bounces uselessly against the air and his snarl and breathing converge into some other noise that's halfway between, rasping loud with the heave of his shoulders. He's manhandled out of the doorway, blue eyes roving past Eileen's ruined shape on the bed, left and right through the room, then up for a sharp-focus close-up of the ceiling. You can see a pipe.

Brian twists his brows at the girl, the knife is tucked into his belt. As he glares down at her, he reaches down and pulls her hand away from her face. "What did he do to you?" He asks, his voice rather rough. He's not sure exactly what happened. But he knows he should be angry at someone. He's not totally sure who, yet.

Just to make this already very naked situation that much more so, he releases Munin and proceeds to take off his shirt. The piece of clothing is flung out of the room.

Outside the room, Teo is thrown down on the ground, one of the naked copies snarling at Teo's nails embedded into his arm. One steps back to close the door and grab the shirt, the other to pin Teo to the ground. Ripping the shirt up, one goes to wrap the cloth around the wound. "Calm the fuck down."

Brian's movements appear as a blur of motion on the fringe of Munin's vision. She's still reeling from Teo's savage assault by the time she realizes her attacker has been extricated from the room and replaced with another less-clothed one. The only thing stopping her from launching herself at him in a wild fury is the fact he's bearing down on her with questions instead of his body — and even so, wrath shines bright in her eyes: a lunatic stare that's almost all sclera and dilated pupil, no iris. What does he think Teo did to her?

Two-point five inches— it isn't deep. Missed his stomach, skin and muscle stuck, a nick in the— intestines? Teo can't remember fourth grade— quarto grado— science class. He suspects he isn't going to die, but knows there is a lot of blood.

Knowing threatens to win out over suspicion.

He extricates his grip from Brian's arm finger by effortful finger but can't seem to make the rest of him relax, every inch of him taut from instinct, a defensive mechanism whose actual survival value has probably long since expired by now. The back of his skull meets the floor with a clunk. Another one. A third, and he cranes his head up to look at his torso, the sticky red thickening and dripping down the supine line of his waist. He coughs. "J's put some — pressure on it," he snaps, ill-temperedly.

Staring at Munin for a long moment Brian shakes his head. "This isn't good. This isn't good." His eyes are wide, trying to comprehend the full implications this has. "You shouldn't have hurt him. You really shouldn't have hurt him." What's going to stop the crazy pigeon victim now? He's going to go apeshit. Teo is going to go apeshit. And Brian is going to be the only thing standing between them and this girl. "Why did you do that?" He asks, it's less rage this time, more desperation, sadness. "Why did you do that?" Maybe even disappointment.

Outside, the shirt is pressed down against Teo's stomach. "I'll get you to Abby." He murmurs, the copies go up and prepare to take Teo off to Abby. After of course they get clothing, the last partially clothed Brian steps outside Munin's cell, closing the door behind him. He will stay here, prepared for the shit storm to come.

December 7th: Broken Pieces
December 7th: Price of Blood
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