Almost Home


hana_icon.gif teo2_icon.gif

Scene Title Almost Home
Synopsis Hana doesn't actually live here; she's just visiting. Teo isn't quite the Teo who's wormed his way into her circle of people that matter; he's a little different, in a way that is all too familiar. That doesn't mean she's going to help him. But she lets him cook dinner anyway.
Date June 10, 2009

A safehouse in East Harlem

The sun went down a little while ago, and curfew looms near. Not that curfew holds any weight for Hana; it isn't that which sends her seeking shelter in this East Harlem safehouse. She came here yesterday after her business in Thomas Jefferson; and she, who moves between so many different bases, figured staying here was as good as going elsewhere for the time being. There are a few days' worth of errands to attend to, and one particular bystander to keep watch over… just for a little longer.

After yesterday's incident in the trailer park, the woman who walks up the steps to the townhouse is anything but relaxed. 'Almost home' is anything but safe. Not that this is home — just the next best thing, right now. So when she opens the door, Hana knows something is off.

Everyone who needs to know where she is for any length of time knows she's here. But that isn't the same thing as expecting to have company. And something about the atmosphere says she's not the first one 'home'.

The door is quietly closed, her fingers curling around the throwing-knife that a quick gesture causes to fall into the woman's right palm. Hana doesn't say anything — she simply walks further in, steps slow and deliberate, posture wary.

It's been about seventeen minutes so far, so there are three, maybe five left before the balls inflate to appreciable size and come out ladled in stock to the two bowls apportioned out across the speckly green linoleum of the counter. Asparagus spears are coming to the end of their sizzle on the pan, tiny cloves of garlic resting in the bubbling fluid and black accumulation of grease; the cod fillet, small out of deference to the density of matzah, is already done. There had been dust on the implements when Ghost had gotten to them, initially, but only a little and quick enough to slough off in the runny eddies of tapwater.

He glances out and feels it when she comes in, naturally. Though the brain he is equipped with now is not yet adapted to the clashing train traffic of wireless communications, he can bear it long enough to make sense of it, and makes enough sense of it to recognize his erstwhile mentor and companion's psychic soundtrack… and the slender, deadly weight of the weapon in her hand.

"Don't shoot," he calls out, benignly, tilting backward on his axis to crane his head at the doorway. It seems like as good a reason to volunteer as any other: "I'm Teo."

Of course he is.

Ghost doesn't need to hear the mutter to know the snarl: idiot.

The knife remains where it is, a cool weight slowly being warmed by her hand, but at least Hana doesn't stalk into the kitchen. The tread of her feet is too much quiet to be called stamping, yet the tense energy of her movements demand some related, forceful verb in their description. Energy that Ghost knows well has as of yet no direction; she eyes him askance across the width of the counter, but he's safe.

Puzzled askance, as the Israeli woman regards the Sicilian's not-quite-finished handiwork, dark eyes narrowing in the attempt to compute something out of this and other observations.

"What's gotten into you, Laudani?" The clipped, harsh words of the question are very open-ended. She could mean the unexpected application of cooking skill, or his recent history with Phoenix and their property; perhaps it's the technopathic glimpses of a familiar face, familiar actions, that are unfamiliar in their combination; most likely, all of the above.

At this, the unanticipated chef pauses. Turns the fire off with brusque thumb on a knob, before he turns around. Oil bubbles flatten out into cool and the asparagus stems lay in a blackened bed that grows quiescent.

In his hand, Teo has a spoon instead of a knife, which is altogether a far less intimidating prospect to confront, but he appears to have no discernible ill-conceived plans to fling cutlery around anyway. He has other ill-conceived plans instead, the poorness of said conception of which are either beginning to dawn on him behind those scintillating baby blues now or else he is considering the multiple weight and dangerous heft of her question. His shirt is black and he isn't wearing a hoodie despite that the weather still hovers in its sixties: indelicate evidence that something has gotten into him, if there wasn't ample enough proof everywhere else.

"Toxic anger by way of temporally displaced astral projection. Also, I can cook better than you remember." That is the abridged version. Awkwardly, obscurely apologetic, the silverware swivels between long fingers.

The lioness' dark eyes narrow, and she's quiet for a long, drawn-out breath. Then she snorts, an abrupt and graceless puff of frustrated air. "Well, you talk like Teo." First names — a step up in the world. The throwing knife clatters onto the counter, and Hana turns away to peel her jacket off. Worn not because of the temperature, but because of the chance of rain.

It gives her time — the span of heartbeats, of the steps needed to cross back over to the coatrack and hang her jacket there, then return to the kitchen — to think about his words. Temporally displaced. Astral projection.

I cook better than you remember.

The question she asks is perhaps not the one most people would, given that information — half-disbelieving statements of why and how. "What else don't I remember?"

"Everyone dies," he answers her back, in plain speech. The spoon plucks asparagus loose and balances its delicately bowed stalk onto a plate, and then there is a second, third, "or that's how it feels. Grace, Simon Allistair, Helena, Trask, J— Alexander. Humanis First! gives their speech at Columbia University an explosive send-off by using plastique in 2011. I think you blame yourself, a little, even though you know they had picked that moment and there was no point anyway.

"Residual evidence suggested that the detonator had been wireless." It could have taken Ghost fewer words to impart the same amount of information, but it seems necessary, for some reason, to pick names out of the tapestry and allude to details that he had never discussed with her then. It's been a rough week at work and he has been thinking about the explanations he owes all afternoon; ever since he spoke to Abigail.

Click, then ceramic slides audibly across the table top. Plates. Soup bobs and undulates its level underneath the flotilla of unleavened bread balls, pitching toward and against the ladel in his hand. Flat-rimmed and generously deep, the bowls are plum purple. Not by Hana's discretion, no doubt. Yellow chicken stock and heat-fluffed matzah show in pleasant contrast against it.

"You go back to Israel," he adds, a little blankly. Doesn't exactly know why he tacks on at the end: "Like you always wanted."

Fewer words might have cut less deep.

Everyone dies.

It's not visible, of course, or not in the ways most would look for it to be; Hana doesn't wince, doesn't stare at Teo in shocked, wide-eyed surprise — and she doesn't tear into him, either. The Israeli sits down at the counter, still silence drawn about her as it often is, accepting a spoon from Teo without a word. She might seem to not have heard him at all. Ghost knows better; can interpret the nuances of her stiff expression.

Hana pays little attention to the color of the dishes; artistic aesthetic, when the expression thereof doesn't involve death and destruction, isn't among her strong points. Her spoon slices through a matzah ball with ease, carries the piece and a quantity of soup to the woman's lips.

"And what do you want from me?" Because people usually come looking for her when they want something.

Too late to be useful, though not too late to be relevant, he remembers that she had said as much to him once upon a pier if in different words. There had been a paper crane perched on the gray wood of the piling and fog incinerating underneath the rising light of dawn. 'Everyone dies.' When she'd said so then, it had been meant as reassurance, the acheing inexorability of endings and her own eventual demise. Not even she was immune to death. He could kill her, she'd said. 'You could.' The right equipment, distance, training, a window of opportunity.

He had clarified. No, I couldn't. His objection now is not unlike his objection then.

He carves off a mouthful of matzah from the bobbing knot in his bowl. It doesn't require much chewing, the fragile texture of it, but the application of teeth is automatic and efficient. "Your trust and understanding. If the time comes, your help. I don't—" chagrin grates his teeth briefly, voided now of matzah; his gaze tugs downward briefly into the bowl. He exchanges a narrow-eyed glare with the glints of asparagus. "I don't know how, yet. It's spinning off-course. History, the progression of the bright future.

"Goodman's gone, and Phoenix finds that insignificant because of his role could be executed by someone else. Seems to've failed to occur to anyone that someone knew enough to kill him. Arthur isn't pulling FRONTLINE's strings, but it's coming anyway. The war I came here to fight isn't the one that's burning up the field."

The Israeli woman cants her head slightly, narrowed gaze level upon her companion. "Trust," she says, a flat echo rather than an arch, disparaging retort. Hana knows all too well the niche Teo occupies in her worldview. Distrust comes most easily when someone's a stranger or has personally injured her. He isn't, hasn't done, either.

"You may be Teodoro Laudani. You may not." Shapeshifter, possession, illusionist, telepath. The possibilities are many. She regards him for a long moment, silent, assessing. "You're not my Teo," Hana finally states, turning her attention back to the soup. It's not a refusal. It's not a promise of instant and eternal aid, either.

Translation: I'll tolerate you until you give me reason to be irked. Whether that extends to help… we'll see.

She eats slowly, or perhaps doesn't really eat at all, the halfhearted spooning of soup eventually idling into a study of chicken broth, bits of vegetables, and fluffy starch; her words are soft, whispered, but in a quiet house that isn't the same as unheard.

"I understand."

This will somehow confound her Teo when Teo reawakens. Until then, where he is closely resembles a state of dreaming, and he watches the meal through perceptions too mired down and dislocated to filter incredulity into the fabric of his feeling. His face bends only to the whim of the ghost, whose eyes thin, slightly, briefly, a reflexive smile that does not recontour his mouth into anything warmer or more edifying.

Separate from the probability that his story is an outright lie, he's well-aware that he could have phrased this differently aloud. He's well-aware that the rest of the terms of his presence are apparent even if he hasn't mentioned them aloud. Teodoro Laudani makes a decent hostage, all things considered.

But it means something that he didn't mention that. It must. "I'll make you believe me," he answers, archly if not actually, outright audacious, squaring his feet on the kitchen tiles. Stainless steel clinks porcelain, spoon released in favor of fork. His shaven head ducks low over the circle of his plate and its various offerings. And that might be irksome, too, his being affectionately blithe about this particular challenge but it's a distinct and familiar sort of irksome. "You'll see."

Previously in this storyline…

Next in this storyline…

Unless otherwise stated, the content of this page is licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 License