eileen_icon.gif francois_icon.gif

Scene Title Analogues
Synopsis Francois and Eileen review their basic mathematics. 1 + 1 + 1 = 3
Date August 18, 2010

Central Park

The elliptical sandstone arch trimmed with brownstone ring molding and side buttresses that curve outward against soil embankments dates back to back to 1860 and is older than the combined ages of both the individuals standing on it, which is particularly impressive because Francois has been around long enough to father Eileen at least twice and Eileen dresses in clothes that favour styles and accents which were at the height of fashion during his time. This morning, it’s a black cloche hat and a double-breasted wool coat worn over a plain gray dress that’s more functional than it is stylish. The sun hasn’t been up long enough to burn the dew off the grass, but she will undoubtedly abandon the coat in a few hours after the fog has cleared and the temperature begins to rise.

A lavender-blue jay with feathers as washed-out as the Englishwoman’s complexion (with the exception of sharp black markings on its neck and face) sits perched on her bent wrist and feeds from a half-eaten croissant she holds pinched between the tips of her ungloved fingers. They’re healing as well as Francois can expect, though if she asked him to meet her here for the purpose of a check-up then she’s broaching the subject in a very roundabout way.

“Is Teodoro staying with you?” she asks after a few minutes of companionable silence, the question innocuous, her reasons for asking — significantly less so.

It's less likely these days for Francois' wardrobe to retain the same comfort and pragmatism that it did before St. Luke's, and though a faded leather jacket is pulled on against the lingering morning chill in the air, thrift store bought with wool at the cuffs and collar, it obscures a clean, eggshell blue shirt with pressed collar and white thread making the suggestions of pinstripe through it, and a thin grey sweater vest with a low dipping collar. His slacks are the same colour as asphalt, and his shoes are sensibly brown leather, deceptively comfortable. He has work in an hour, and a cooling paper cup of Earl Grey, sans lemon, milk or sugar, is clasped between his hands.

Less old world, more ordinary, but it's remarkable how the foundations of male fashion remain consistent throughout the past century, and even earlier still. He is a washed out part of the scenery, little remarkable about him save for a piece taken from his ear, the rippled scar just barely visible at his collar. Even vivid eyes are too tired and downcast to draw attention.

And he needs to shave more carefully. He darts a glance up at her from where he'd been peeling back the plastic lid of his drink. "No," he says, an American roundness to the response that removes it from his scattered French vocab. "I haven't seen him since the nature centre. He needed more time to recover."

It’s not the answer that Eileen was hoping for, but it’s also the one that she’d been expecting. The jay’s bill clicks against her finger splints, a little too quick, a little too greedy. A low sound at the back of her throat tells the bird to mind his manners. If she could handle people with the ease she handles birds, there may have been a career in philanthropy for her — unfortunately, her gift does not include dominion over mankind, of which Francois is a part, and she is unsure how to tactfully proceed.

“Have you spoken?” is her next softly-spoken query, quiet and tentative. Of course Francois and Teo have spoken. It’s what they’ve spoken about that she’s delicately brushing against. The jay flicks crumbs from its feathers and climbs higher up her wrist, its claws leaving little white dimples in her too-pale skin.

As a general rule, you don’t make dates this early in the morning without reason, and so when Francois crosses a look towards her over the paper rim of his tea cup, tip of long nose disappearing into it as he takes a sip, there is a degree of knowledge sparking. Struggles through generic weariness of the early hour, retranslates it into sadness.

Aaand discomfort, because this is every conversation. Since about four weeks ago. “Briefly,” doesn’t tell her a lot, but the half-smile that arises probably tells her more. Francois shakes his head, edges the side of thumbnail along the paper rim of his cup, making it slightly ragged as he fidgets. “I know— “ What does he know?

Not a lot, admittedly, if one were to ask him. In other ways, he knows plenty, and offers it instead; “I know he isn’t— mine. You have also spoken with him?” His tone when he asks that question is free of implication — no hope, or wariness, just a plain kind of curiousity.

“I spoke with his other half,” says Eileen. “A woman. Dark hair, unkind eyes. Taller than I am. You won’t recognize him when you see him.” She didn’t. Mistook him for another entity entirely to begin with. The jay continues its ascent, tugging at the sleeve of her coat, fabric pinched between its feet as it scales the length of her arm and hesitates at her elbow before it pulls itself the rest of the way up to her shoulder.

She tolerates it combing through her windblown hair with its beak the same way an experienced mother might tolerate her small child squeezing her curls in greasy little hands with fat, clumsy fingers. Like Francois, it’s curious — but about the necklace at her throat and the simplistic pearl earrings shimmering enticingly at her lobes. “I don’t know how I’m supposed to feel,” she admits, gaze distant and unfocused, and not because she’s blind. “What do you want to do?”

News of a second one, one that hasn’t even so much as MAYbe tried to get in contact with him, has Francois mostly silent and thoughtful, a frown pulling at his mouth at the same time a small group of early-morning passersby pull at his attention for wont of anything better to look at. For once, in New York, it’s a typical sort of summer day for all that it’s still cool, with clear light coming in from its eastwards angle, the air still if still damp. It is, in all ways, a pleasant day.

He might have traded it in for one of the killing winter hours, if his personal status quo could match what it was then. The hands cupping his tea tilt outwards, brief splay of fingers, in a shrugging gesture that she might not be watching, with her vision contained in the twitchy little bird climbing through her hair. “If there is a third one,” he says, and there was meant to be, “then I would like it back.

“But we razed the facility to the ground. It was why I was asking you to look.” He tilts a glance her way, shared with the bird, a look of apology for not being transparent in the first place. “I have considered acceptance. Et toi?”

“The Teo that came to see me seems to think that his blended self is still alive.” There’s a but there, a degree of hesitation that can be measured in half heartbeats. “I don’t know whether or not he’s telling the truth,” Eileen adds, “but he’s been honest with us in the past. I owe it to him — all of him — to help. What he— they decide to do from there…” She simply doesn’t know and is, at least for the time being, unwilling to speculate or allow herself to vainly hope that one of them might decide to stay.

“They may have moved him to another facility,” she suggests instead. “We don’t have the resources for another assault. For only one person — there are other ways. I know a woman, Peyton Whitney. And there’s a girl named Molly Walker who might be able to help us pinpoint his location, though there’s no guarantee their abilities will work with three of him.” Because it didn’t with Gabriel. Not the way they’d intended.

Being old and wise, it isn’t exactly optimism that sparks up with the alertness of a young puppy. Attention, yes, jaw going tighter still as this other one continues to decline in popularity — at least the first one had made noises about letting Francois know anything he needed to, although the validity of this offer is pulled sharply into a new light. He doesn’t know. What would they care? What does this one care?

Another sip of tea for the sake of not wanting to waste it. “I was— I can talk to Kershner,” he says, looking more into the murky beverage he holds than at her glassy eyes. “I will, probably, talk to Kershner. If there is a deal that can be struck that does not end in the death of resources, ah?” It would be hypocritical for him to criticise anything that went down that night, and he isn’t — his tone is not as wry as his words imply it to be, a little sad.

“I can be careful,” he adds, still scrying from the helping of tea, halfway drained, the slightly greasy swirls of its low quality catching sunlight.

Kershner’s name has Eileen’s brows angling downward and her eyes lowering. Her lashes create strange shadows that fill the dark circles under them and make her look more haggard and gaunt than she is in reality. Angular cheekbones and a stubborn chin do not help.

Francois does not have to tell her that he’ll be careful. Conscientious is a word that she already associates with him; there is no doubt in her mind that he’ll heed her earlier warnings. The jay dips its head and snaps up her necklace in its beak, eager to explore its texture, but enough is enough — there’s only so much Eileen will tolerate, and jewelry that cannot be replaced is where she draws the line.

“I know you will be,” she tells Francois, taking the bird in both her small hands. Black matchstick legs stick out from between the weave of her fingers, but apart from a few ruffled feathers and an indignant wheedelee in a shrill, nasal voice, it doesn’t put up much of a fight. “Ghost— that’s his name— wants him back, perhaps not as badly as we do, but I can ask him to see you. There may be more than he’s willing to tell me.”

Francois’ breed of melancholy is not exciting, or particularly expressive, but now, removed from it, there’s a frission of tension, petty anger that has his stare fix on her, cast off again. If she is any good at reading situations, any good at empathising, it’s probably not hard to deduce that he is not mad at her. “He and I have not spoken, and it is as you say — Ghost came to see you.” Maybe some degree of irrational jealousy or hurt, too, making his shoulders into their tense horizon. “What he is not willing to tell you, I am not hopeful that he will be willing to tell me.

“Having said that,” and there’s a little bit of whimsy in the way he shakes the remaining tea in its cup, a tilt of his head to denote a shrug. “Teo always did want me to meet them.” It’s not exactly a request to set it up, but it’s not denying that he might appreciate the meeting either. It’s just a prickly subject, handled with caution, talked around.

Francois isn’t going to tell Eileen that he wants to see what is it about the Ghost part of the merged Teodoro that sets him apart from the other. Ulterior motives aren’t meant to be spelled out for acquaintances, not even friends.

Eileen strokes a finger along the jay’s neck to soothe it and wishes that the same trick would work on the man standing beside her. If she suspects that he has ulterior motives — and surely she must; everyone does — it isn’t reflected in her expression or her guarded body language. The jay cocks a look up at Francois, its glittering black eyes no more communicative than Eileen’s lips, pressed thin, or the sigh that streams from her nostrils. The chill in the morning air is not crisp enough for it to form a mist or give it physical presence, but if he listens carefully he’ll hear the reedy sound that accompanies it.

Ghost came to see her. Teodoro — the Teodoro who once upon a time broke her nose and told her she was loved a few months later — hasn’t. If Francois was almost anyone else, there would be a bargain to strike here — your half for mine — but he isn’t, and Eileen is not so presumptuous to assume that the other half even wants to see her. “I should have a phone number soon,” she says. “If he remembers enough to have found me, he’ll remember enough to seek you out.

“I’ll tell him.”

Remember enough is a good term with which to frame it, the corner of Francois’ mouth quirking up in dimpled half-smile. They are murkier recollections, or at least, that is what Francois is, a recent addition to the present, to the convoluted timeline with which Teodoro exists. “Tell him to call ahead. I am working a lot,” he says, coolly, then finishes off his tea, casting a glance down into emptied cup before finally squaring a more consistently settled look towards the bird in her hands, and then up to her face.

“If you wish to interrogate the other,” he says, with a twitch of a shrug, “I think he is remaining in the network for a time. Some of them have seen him. He says he doesn’t remember anything of the other — I don’t know if he knows about the one you met either.” He hesitates, and some of the steel of his anger that made his expression hard seems to vanish away.

If not by a great deal. “I know that Teodoro would have wanted them both to be given chances,” Francois admits, with a removed kind of reluctance, like maybe he’s not the one who should be saying this and only is because he happened to be told it. Just after being given a gift that Francois hasn’t seen since the last end of week before Teo left for the weekend, wrapped silver around his wrist. “Whether or not he is recovered.”

He doesn’t need to say something obvious like and we may have to anyway~, going about as unspoken as much as he’s conveniently reluctant to put it into words.

Eileen releases the jay by tossing it into the air. Instinct takes over from there, its wings flickering into motion before it can plummet over the side of the bridge to the pavement below. Dappled sunlight illuminates its feathers, making them seem brighter, more vibrant in the instant before it disappears into the canopy. She drops her hands, then, one curling around the stone rail, the other adjusting her necklace but not her hair — the breeze will only tangle it again, anyway.

“A chance to be a father to his son, I hope.” Her hand finds Francois’ elbow, a fleeting touch, and she steps away from the edge of the bridge as if to go, but before she does she gives his arm a firm squeeze to communicate reassurances she’s incapable of voicing. “Stay in touch,” is more of a request than it is a recommendation. “And thank you. For helping those of us who you could.”

Francois has nothing to say to that. The part about fathers and sons. His green eyes go blanker, shift away and down, and his investment in this conversation almost slips free entirely before her hand goes out, anchors him. Not really trusting the voice that might come out to verbalise a reply, he only nods, briefly forces his expression into something on the neutral scale of miserable, before turning a shoulder to her departure.

Soon enough, the clipclop of his sensible shoes rings out as he heads in the other direction, chin up and stroll casual.

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