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Scene Title Alpha
Synopsis Phoenix's co-leaders powwow about the Vanguard's 'Ethan,' Jessica Sanders, and the former President-elect. Hel's feeling a little crushed, Teo ever so slightly angry. Jointly, their cynicism converges on something useful.
Date January 14, 2008

Staten Island — Old Dispensary

On the outside, this sprawling multi-level complex has not seen use in many years, its walls covered in greenery and stone exterior and glass windows showing evidence of disrepair. Surrounded by a chain link fence, a drive leads from the street to a large dock, and around the back one can expect to find more sprawling greenery that eventually leads to a concrete drop off into the Atlantic Ocean.

Passing through the chainlink fence and into the dispensary will reveal that the aged and crumbling outside is a facade. The loading dock is kept clear for the most part of everything save vehicles and supplies, though a section has been quartered off and transformed into an open workshop. The dispensary itself has been transformed into something akin to a makeshift dormitory, complete with common areas, a sizable kitchen and eating area, with various rooms converted into bedrooms for the residence. One room has even been set up as a makeshift clinic, amply stocked with supplies.

The back lawn and garden of the dispensary is surprisingly well tended, green and lush during the right months. Vegetables have been planted in accordance to season closer to the building, though someone has indulgently planted a plots of flowers - notably sunflowers - here and there. Further out, the ground drops a little and makes it to a concrete edge from which opens out into deeper water of the Atlantic.

Helena is down in the StraTac room, her eyes glued to a tv that's been set up there. For the first hour or so she was a bit numb, but now she's pouring through the database notes. Cold food on a plate rests nearby, untouched as the taptaptaps away. Tomorrow she's definitely going to go see Edward.

There are enormous feet plodding around in the hallway, and the noise of them precedes the voice that calls ahead: "Bambina? You around?" Despite that Helena has betrayed herself with little in the way of noise, Teo is coming unerringly nearer, either because he magically deduced her preference in room locations or because the scent of her food is eddying out on the air vented from the dispensary's heating. He is, after all, a boy.

Helena lifts her head, it's a bit like a whack-a-mole rising to potentially get pummelled. "Teo?" she calls out. Her tone has a faint air of disbelief to it, not that she doesn't believe it's Teo, but more like she doesn't believe the way life just decided to turn upside down and dump on them today. "I'm in here." He's totally welcome to her food.

He will help himself to her food, inevitably, but first things first. The Sicilian's shape fills the doorway before he pops in through, his gaze roving the furnishings once, briefly, assuring himself there's no one else here, before his gaze settles on the young woman in the middle of the room. Teo's eyes soften, instantly, a change in the quality of blue in his irises and the stoop of his brow. "Hey. World hasn't ended yet. That's pretty cool, si?" He comes nearer, bringing with him the residual cold from outside. Drops into a crouch on the floor beside her chair, one arm up on her table, his face upturned to study her expression in neutral light.

Helena can't help but smile a little at that. "Yeah." she says, her spine relaxing just a little as she looks down at him. "There are more chairs." she tells him gently. "And you look like a man who comes bearing news. Pull up a chair and lay on the dirt."

At that, the arm atop the table stealthily begins to mouse across the table toward the plate of foodstuff he had seen perched there, beyond spill radius of her papers. Clearance granted. There's a little bit of shameless mirth in Teo's expression as he does so, but it fades soon enough. He knows there are more chairs. He has this bizarre habit of sitting on the floor. Once dinner has been apprehended, he scoots back a foot or two, though, so that he doesn't kill his neck muscles. "Ethan wants to talk to you.

"I'm lying," he admits after a moment, a faint grimace. "He wants to meet you. Sent word by way of Flint Deckard— the informant from the street, you remember. Didn't harm him, as far as I could tell, so that's a step above Jessica, but that isn't saying much."

Helena's expression turns - for lack of a better word, careful. "Why?" she asks. "Why would he want to meet me? To put a bullet in me? To do what Jessica did, and threaten his way into helping us? He's turned traitor too, right?" It's clear that she's not keen on the idea…but she hasn't said no.

"He may have." Turned traitor. "Seems like Volken overstepped himself with his treatment of Eileen." Teo's eyes sharpen, flatten, then brighten again. He isn't keen on the idea, either. Insofar as that he'd honestly rather die, but it isn't his place to die instead of letting Helena meet strange men if that's her prerogative, and the Sicilian remains ever aware of his own limitations. "I'd keep it to a phone conversation if at all possible. I'd recommend bringing Elisabeth in some capacity, either way. Negotiations and shit, I figure that's her area."

Helena shakes her head. "He said meet." She rises. "I don't even know how to begin to articulate how much this bothers me." She makes a vague 'have it' gesture toward the food. "Anyone comes along and can just dick us around however they want. Ethan, Jessica…the idea of meeting him makes me ill. He cut off Dani's fingers and he killed her, and now I'm supposed to go have brunch. And it kills me that I'm actually considering it."

Teo's legs find a loose pretzel configuration, crossing, Indian style. He picks away at her food, nothing overly liberal for now; it's on the back of his mind, he should get her to eat some of this before he leaves. It's good, if cold. "They can't," he states, post-mouthful. "That's what Jessica found out over these last two days, and that's what Volken's about to learn in two weeks. Yeah, Ethan says meet, but he should have to fucking earn that. And do better than threaten murder if he wants a fucking brunch without somebody winding up dead. At least, it should start with the phone." When he finishes speaking, he finishes suddenly, his fork motionless and eyes suddenly disfocused, disconcerted by his own…

"Do we have time for me to have a 976 party line with him?" Helena asks. "We'd be stupid not to take his help if he's genuine and he knows it. But we don't need him…I don't think. I don't know." She runs a hand through her hair. "We've lost so much, with Rickham standing down. And I don't understand why."

There's a snort, not derisive, but decidedly ill-tempered: the Englishman tends to bring that out in Teo. "We had time for a 976 party line with Jessica, and we weren't stupid to turn her down. Ethan doesn't deserve more than that just because he prefers deliver his murders in triple digits or personal terms." His eyes flicker again at the mention of Rickham, and his features harden over; he closes his eyes briefly, squeezes tight, opens them again. He doesn't understand, either. "We should ask him for intel on his VP-elect. Next in line, right? Or some shit like that? He has to owe us that much."

"We had a…kind of amnesty when he was in power." Helena says. "We're back to full on fugitive status without him. We don't have his backing anymore, which means Parkman could turn everything around. He'd be stupid to at this point, but when it's all over…" she trails off. "I'll get one of the disposables, is there a way you can get a contact number for Ethan? I'd rather call him from someplace I can toss the cell from in case he does a GPS track."

Teo's turn, this time, to close his eyes and suffer a waver in expression. He had tried to avoid thinking about it in those terms. What they'd lost, with Rickham stepping down. Never trusted Parkman. Can't trust fucking anybody, apparently, not even the political freak-hugger of a hippie that swore he'd change the world. The next moment, he shakes his head, grating his eyes back open with a rubbing fist under his brows. He had promised Deckard that they would get him off. Probably something to leave out until after they save the world.

If they save the world.

Or he'll come up with something else. There are always something else. "I think he was planning to give one to Deckard later. Ethan seems to be planning to use the old man as a connection. I figure we could give Ethan one of our disposable phones, though. Tell him you'll call him at some given hour every day 'til you get him. Something like that."

Helena nods. "That'll work. And that'd be better." Now it's Helena's turn to rise and stalk about like an aggravated tigress. "I keep trying to say it's not that bad, it's not that bad, but I hate that so much hinges on factors we can't control." Helena's tone takes on something of a fretting edge. "One problem at a time, right? I think I'll go to the library and have Edward lay down the odds for me." She stops, turning to give him a grateful, tired smile. "I couldn't do this alone, Teo. Thank you. For everything. I think I might come apart at the seams if we weren't doing this together."

"Naw. You'd just have someone else." Maybe someone better. Teo smiles, though, the sheepish cast of pink to his face giving him a semblance of himself as he ordinarily is. "I hope the odds he gives you are good." His shoes scrape the floor as he starts to unwind long legs underneath him, somehow without ever upsetting the plate of edibles she had bestowed upon him. "He likes hot tea. I could bring some for both of you," he says, offering the samosa perched on the nearest lip of the plate to her. Something for the tigress.

"Maybe." Helena's tone is doubtful, but she doesn't push the topic. "So okay…talk to Ethan, talk to Dr. Ray, not necessarily in that order…um, bridges. And oh hey, did you know we're getting a new safehouse? Cat bought a building. If I had money, I'd get an apartment. But I may as well live here. How'd things go with the bridges?" Her grasp on subjects tends to pingpong, at the moment.

The samosa bobs in Helena's direction multiple times, Teo's gentle insistence. It may be cold, but it's still tasty. "The dispensary is the most recent acquisition I heard about. Is there another? I might join you. I was thinking I was going to move out of Abby and Al's way, anyway. It doesn't make sense for us to be in the same spot. More dangerous for everybody." Also his heart is smashed to an infinite array of irregularly sized and shaped red pieces, but that isn't a topic he's wont to attempt with somebody Alexander works with, so he merely allows his expression to dip into a little melancholy.

He had liked living with them. He really had. Sort of like having a family again. "Anne and I found bombs on all the bridges we checked. Pretty fucking professional rigs— a lot of well-hidden, inscrutable, probably-booby-trapped shit that I wouldn't dare get my hands on. Liz says she's going to pass the information onto SCOUT, and I guess the boys in blue are going to take care of it. Hana thinks they should," he adds, a little blankly. That tends to make him feel better. That Hana thinks so.

"Last I heard from Liz, they were going to move in on Jessica." Helena says, "But the sooner the better. We might want to send HomeSec the info, even if we're going to be a lot more careful with them now." A pause. "Cat bought this building with a rock n'roll club underneath it, apartments on the middle floor to be used as a safehouse or rent out to whomever, and a recording studio on top. When she told me about it, I thought she'd float away to heaven, she seemed so pleased. Well, in as much as one sees Cat pleased." She finally accepts the samosa, nibbling on a corner anxiously. "Part of me really wants my own apartment. She suggested I go work in the kitchen - well, first she suggested I run it. I wouldn't know how to, I've never been to culinary school, and this," The hand that doesn't hold the samosa waves about, "Is my job. There's a kitchen here. When all of this with the Vanguard is over and we're all still alive and not turning into cherry cobbler, I'm going to cook an epic feast. Which will not include cherry cobbler."

A rock 'n' roll club. That's kind of awesome. Teo blinks insipidly once or twice. "We're giving Phoenix a younger, more hip image," he says, wry with the harsh awareness that Phoenix is already so damn young, in the perspective of most. His expression fades to pensive, mouth twisting momentarily, before it straightens. He stucks a piece of lettuce into his teeth. Crunch.

"Be interesting to see how this Jessica thing works out. The bitch has a lot on us I'd rather not have HomeSec know, but nothing crippling.

"It's hard for us to hold down jobs," he shifts topics without segue, keeping abreast of the pingpong tack with only a little effort]. "The time it takes, the safety issues. I'm doing most of my translation shit over the Internet. But between cooking and gardening, I think you could find something. Degrees are nice to have, but when you have practical skills and contacts, I don't think they're completely necessary. The Ferrymen might have associates who could use your skills, if you don't feel like using them for personal networking is… beneath you." A quaver-beat. Puzzlement. "What's wrong with cherry cobbler?"

"Peter mentioned the virus being called the cherry cobbler virus." Helena says. "He didn't like the term much. She shakes her head. "I don't think Cat understands that I can't do those things…go along and try to do normal life stuff while all this is going on." More pingponging. "Speaking of the virus, I need to figure out ways to destroy it. Ben had a good point - it's all well and good if Kazimir projects it into the air and through the vents, but what do we do with the air carrying the virus itself? How is it destroyed? I have no clue." Yet another thing to ask Edward about.

The worst thing about making contingency plans is that you start thinking about worst case scenarios. Progressively worse and worse ones. Bridges blown, okay: they can handle that. Fighting a man who can't be killed, well— unavoidable circumstances, but at least Edward Ray seems to have a nefarious plan, or else Teo's just going to kill himself for helping to con and lie to get all these people together. Dealing with an incurable, devastating virus post-release?

Teo has to breathe for a few minutes.

"There's probably an antidote. Kazimir and his chosen survive it— at least according to the messages from the future, eh?" Not helpful. He winces, and wedges a slice of tomato into his mouth and chews, thinking. "Lacking that, and running Jenny and Gillian through duplications until she sweats out and dies… I don't know. My Fed— one of the ones I got to join up? He pointed out this has to be a Hell of a virus if it's able to survive the cold. God knows what else it can withstand. Something else to talk to the Doc about," he suggests, apologetically.

He doesn't know. Not yet. He'll think, though.

Helena waves a hand. "No, I mean - okay, it's airborne, and I can control the wind, do all kinds of weather phenomenon…how do I neutralize it? Blow it out to sea? Won't it just follow the air current and drop down somewhere else? I need to know what to do with it."

"That's what I figured you meant," Teo says, turning his head to watch her hand dive and flip through the air. "Supposedly, it won't die instantly from the cold here. I don't know about heat, or about making it colder. We don't have a sample or anything. We don't know enough about the virus to know what will kill it. The Doctor might: he's the one with the scrapbook of 2018."

Helena nods. "I really need to talk to him." Helena says, and resumes nibbling on her samosa, and then puts it down ont he corner of her plate, about halfway eaten. "We'll be okay, Teo." she says softly. "Just have faith." She tries not to feel like a hypocrate when she says it.

It's either irrelevant or irreverent, but Teo crosses himself at that. "I'm not the one you need to worry about that," he reminds with a wry facsimile of glibe cheer. He snags her half-eaten samosa off the plate and pops it into his mouth, bites down with an audible cracking of fried carbohydrate against strong white teeth. "More than six months in, and I still don't know whether you're an atheist or a believer of another stripe."

Helena cocks her head. "I'm not sure it's entirely a genuine question. Are you asking me if I believe in god or karma or something?" she asks. She seems a bit thrown by the question. "I haven't been to church in almost three years."

"Si." Teo nods his head. "I'm asking you that." Her remark about church elicits a wry shrug of shoulders, a hapless grin that more or less states, explicitly as a look can, that that particular 'sin' isn't unknown to him.

Helena thinks about it for a few moments. "I don't know. The choice is either God - who you can't really see or feel or interact with in any tangible sense of the word, or people, who ultimately and inevitably disappoint. I guess you could say I want to believe in God. Sometimes kind of desperately. But in the end, when you have no family and no friends and no hope…the only thing I have left is me."

That makes sense, Teo thinks, despite the fact that he's well-aware sense has very little to do with it. "I think I used to be like that. But like you say: people ultimately and inevitably disappoint, and I'm one of them." His fingernail clinks porcelain and he stoops forward, propping a clean thumb against her brow before he presses his lips — somewhat less immaculate — to the back of it, briefly. "Fortunately, you're Helena Dean. Think Peter would come to your feast if there wasn't any cherry cobbler?" His gaze shifts away as he asks, unwilling to add weight to an already loaded query with something as bald as a stare.

Helena flinches like Teo just hit her. "Peter's rotting away in a HomeSec cell because he wants to be there." she says bitterly. "Because he's a coward, and nothing will talk him out of his cage. Not me, not the prospect of danger to Claire, nothing. I tried. Somehow I doubt he'll magically show up at our post-Gotterdamerung-averted celebrations to pat me on the head."

"Maybe he just needs time," Teo says, despite the fact that the thought just hit him. Sylar's out there, willing to kill Volken. Eileen turned coat. Ethan might be, too. Flint Deckard's borrowed a new set of stripes, risked his life, his career, his freedom. And of all of them, it's Peter that's laid down arms, buried himself in that deep, dark hole. "He feels… guilty?" The instant after he says it, he regrets it. That much is obvious. His eyes fall to the floor and have staggered difficulty rising again. "It's none of my business."

"Guilty that he failed. Guilty because…" she trails off. "I don't want to burden you with secrets you may not to carry. I - this one, it's the biggest and you might regret knowing it."

By then, Teo's studying her features again, the expression set in her heart-shaped face. He blinks once to say, Okay, though he's never been one to be afraid of that. "Time will help," he says. Tacks on a disclaimer, with a small grimace at his own audacity: "I think so, anyway. I think it will help him understand. For now — I also think you'll feel better when you're doing something with your hands. Or feet. Run, talk to Doctor Ray." Dragging one's burdens around sometimes lends the illusion that they're getting lighter. Stronger legs, he thinks.

Helena gives a small shrug. "I put my faith in Peter and the inevitable occurred." She seems if not content (for how could one be content in this context), then at least resolved. "But yes, I'll go see Dr. Ray. And you…you know there's plenty of room here, right? You could probably even take a couple of rooms for yourself, have it like a proper apartment. I'll help."

"I was considering that," Teo says. Of the dispensary, not of Peter, inevitably. He doesn't consider Peter too closely, most days: doesn't know enough about the man to judge, a fact that's underscored thrice over by the size of the secret implied by Helena's misery as well as that of the man himself. "Moving here, anyway. Thanks— I'm used to living out of pretty small spaces, with the rent being murder around Manhattan and everything, but… it'd be something good to do. You'll do the same?" He angles his first stride toward the door with no apparent plan to relinquish the plate anywhere on his journey.

"Live here full time? Oh yes." Helena says immediately. "I'm needed." There's not much more to say than that. "Drop the plate off in the kitchen when you've finished okay? I'll talk to you later."

Teo, on the other hand, thinks he probably isn't. He's out there most of the time, and maybe that's his place, the natural way that the lines of responsibility fell between the weather witch and her genetically talentless cohort. Nevertheless, it's good to have another place to stay; somewhere to sleep. Or run. "I'll help you with yours, too," he says, after a moment spent reminding himself: that it will have been the least of Helena's sacrifices, an apartment of her own. Some dreams are pointless to encourage. Deckard calls this realistic expectations. Contrary to the old man's thinking, Teo is capable of them. He salutes with the plate, gently, lest something fall off the rim. "A domani, bello."

January 14th: Running Into Strangers
January 14th: Move Away
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