A Thousand Words, Part I


francois_icon.gif hiro2_icon.gif

Scene Title A Thousand Words, Part I
Synopsis Directly after this scene, Francois finds himself faced with the challenge of carrying out a normal life.
Date February 21, 1954

Consciousness arrives by the time Francois is already moving, or so it seems. The world resolving itself into colour and definition from black and white noise and grain. Sand beneath his palms, wet and ice cold as he digs his fingers in it to ground himself, almost tips forward completely when he bows his head. Takes a few seconds for him to think again, before he realises he is probably concussed. The sound of rushing water sounds like dragging fabric, crinkling paper, and a cry of a gull cements this noise in reality – he really is hearing the ocean, as opposed to just the blood rushing through his head.

Settling into a comfortableish kneel, Francois blinks his eyes until the overexposure of white stops trying to fill in the detail. It's a European kind of beach, with green stretching out from one side, a wide path of grey sand as a divider, and several feet from him, a gunmetal ocean lapping at the desolate edges.

His hands travel to his shoulder rig, finds the holsters empty. To his calf, where the pant leg has already been ridden up, the knife within it confiscated. Kevlar crushes in tight around his torso, so the next things his hands do is loosen it to breathe. It's not really the vest that's constricting him, feels like he's breathing through a straw.

He wipes his face, mingles blood, moisture and sand together, and studies this combination on his fingertips.

France, Normandy: Omaha Beach

Time is malleable, and maybe a minute ticks by.

Maybe an hour.

Francois sits with his legs in jutting, uncomfortable angles as if he'd fallen and not bothered to correct himself, but he barely feels his own discomfort anyway. He's cold, too, and wet, and has a headache, and occupies himself with watching the horizon. Dreams, probably, are this details and flavoured when they occur – it's only afterwards do they sort of. Collapse. Free themselves of detail like chalk dust lifting off a board.

It's a reassuring thing to contemplate, anyway.

By the time Hiro is nearing, becoming a more solid figure than the smeary, approaching silhouette in his periphery, Francois is remembering the immediate past. The Institute detainment room, and Teo frozen into a living photograph. The near slice of the sword at his throat, and then this place, throwing itself around him as he spun in attack, until hilt connected with his temple and silenced questions and abuse in a neat hook.

He's stopped bleeding, too. He had stopped bleeding, wound broken open again with prodding and poking fingers until he used the sleeve of his jacket to stem it once more, and it seems like the entire forearm of his right sleeve is now rust coloured in contrast to the foresty green of the rest of it.

Even closer, Hiro's footsteps don't make particular noise until Francois can make note of the graveled crunch when the little samurai's tread nears. Halts. Francois lifts the nearest shoulder in a childishly defensive gesture, bringing his knees up to curl arms around. A toddler's attempt at refusing to go anywhere, for all that he would like to leave in ways that do not describe geography.

Hiro says, "I did not intend to hurt you."

"Take me back." They swap focus – Francois regards Hiro as the time traveler turns his attention for the ocean. Francois flexes fingers inwards, cuts his nails into his palm. How to express exactly what he was plucked out from? The crashing thunder of an ambush and the storm of bullets from a gun gripped by the hands of a young woman, Cardinal's snarls about the mission going awry, and the crushing weight of McAlister's influence.

He swallows, feels like it's struggling down glass. "I was in the middle of something. Every minute that goes by— "

Hiro shakes his head, a gesture that is almost difficult to perceive. "There are no minutes that go by. It is 1954. They had written you down as being thirty-six. This is— "

"Oui, I can do math. You are clever."

The time traveler deals the ex-hero a snaky glance, and Francois lapses into sullen silence.

But assured that time is slipping away. It's a small assurance, in an ocean of numb realisation. Oh. D'accord. He gets to his feet, then, confident he won't swoon – goes slowly, at least, hands burying into sand as he spends a second or two on all fours, and eases up to stand completely. "Where are we?" he enquires. Politely, almost.

"Your country. Omaha Beach."

Francois blinks, and automatically turns to regard the stretch of landscape beyond the grey sand. Rolling green, minor hills, and he can imagine, now, what this place may have been like in June, ten years ago. Can see the vague suggestions of underground bunkers and casemates, can picture the armored Panzers, the boats, the men. His arms wrap back around himself, and he looks back towards Hiro, expectant. A quizzical, brunette curl plastered to his forehead with dampness, blood and grit help to communicate the question mark he stares across at the other man. The what next? doesn't need to be said allowed in any language.

Hiro turns to him completely, a soldier's posture in his stance. "I will take you where you would like to go. Then we must part ways forever. You will be grateful that I do not find a much cleaner way of making things correct again," he adds, with a gentle press of emphasis on his words.

"New York City."

When Hiro starts to step forward, Francois takes a step back, and clarifies; "In 2010." Livid protest wells up at the way Hiro's mouth goes thin and annoyed, like the Frenchman isn't getting the point, here, and it's all Francois can do to not fling himself forward. A dull throb of a headache reminds him to stay put. Rather than clawing out Japanese eyes, Francois channels anger into a bark of harsh laughter, trembling hands coming together like prayer, pressing fingertips into the soft underside of his jaw. "I could beg you. What would work?"

"You fought for this country." Hiro casts him a flinty glance up and down, no particular pity involved in his assessment. "There is no record of you returning to it. That seemed strange." When Francois does not immediately amend his own words with where he'd like to take the Hiro taxi-cab, the time traveler jerks a thumb towards the darkening south-east. "It is going to rain soon."

He's wrong. Francois doesn't point this out, though, as he angles off a stare towards the water once more as he thinks. He had returned to France, once, before the kind of depression that the Holocaust might give you drove him back out once more. All the way to Perpignan and then headed away from Spain, back to the old, icy grip of Eastern Europe. And despite every inch of him longing to be back to the clusterfuck that was Massachusetts and the heat of battle, he is tempted, almost, to ask Hiro to take him back to his home.

Doesn't do that either, suspicion keeping his jaw closed until he can think of something else.

"Paris," he finally says, taking a shuddering breath. Green eyes gone a little foggy and damp close as he thinks, dredges up memory. "Gare de Lyon, the train station. Can I also have my guns back?"


Then that will make it harder, Francois reflects, as he offers out a hand in the way Hiro had expected him to in Massachusetts. Some sliver of steely determination reflected back at the samurai might be why he hesitates before taking that hand, but ultimately, the two men vanish with all the fanfare they had arrived upon the former battlefield.

Which is to say, not much at all.

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