Anatomical Discombobulation


eileen4_icon.gif teo_icon.gif

Scene Title Anatomical Discombobulation
Synopsis Teo returns to his body.
Date August 26, 2009

A Ferryhouse

The way dreams feel, the way sleep ought to, returning to one's body should feel like breaking out of water rather than the inverse. Instead, it feels like the inverse. Plunging back into the thick viscosity of a medium that you weren't quite engineered to move through, having to tread or drown, the certain uneasy, lingering background conviction, at instinct-level, that one's reserves of endurance will come up short, that this thing you're in is going to snuff you out, slowly, because it isn't where you were meant to live.

Drama aside, waking up is just a bitch. "Hngghf." He does so inelegantly, his legs jolting against the mattress, lifting a spidersilk web ridging and tracery of wrinkles through the linens that were tossed over his loosely-pyjamaed frame, pale eyes jerking saccadically across the view of the low, slate-wood ceiling, the IV stand's sketchy shadow crept up at its corner.

Eyes that obey the commands made by his own nerves, hands, will. It's confirmation now, after a rather haphazard journey across the island, that he didn't make a complete fucking mess of geography, eventually wandered over to the right address and circled in on the right lily pad. His spine protests his absence, his mouth tastes like cotton and the edges of his vision are threatening a violent cave-in to some unattractive secret pocket dimension constituted entirely of snow static and neon fuchsia spots. He can't hear very well. He feels heavy. And kind of sick.

Moving's a bad idea, but it's reflex, when his spine snaps upright on a whiplash-inducing hyperbole of a parabola, dumping his head over the edge of the cot so he can throw up whatever's flip-flopping around in his stomach that isn't water.

There are fingers in Teo's hair, long and slim, their crescent nails grazing his scalp as a hand comes to rest at the back of his head. Another maneuvers a bucket into place and spares the safehouse's hardwood floors from a torrent of dilute vomit that spatters its plastic bottom with a wet sound like water sloshing around in a basin. There isn't a lot. He's been unconscious for too long and the IV attached to his arm, held in place by a liberal application of clear medical tape, has been primarily responsible for replenishing his fluids. The last thing he ate is a distant memory, even to his stomach and the attached intestinal tract lurching in his belly.

"Let it out." That's Eileen's voice, and if it doesn't identify the stranger sitting at his bedside, supporting his head and neck as he empties himself into the bucket, then the familiar smell of her clothes and hair almost certainly will.

"You're going to be okay," she tells him, her breath warm at his ear. "We've got you."

ONLY A YEAR AGO these words would have struck terror in his heart, if he knew who Eileen Ruskin had been then. The times, they change. People, with them. Rarely so apparent as with the distinct conviction that his body's supposed to be older and bigger and better adapted to this transition. His brain bounces in its bowl as frivolously damp as the acid gunk sliding out ropey through his jaws with an iridescent bubble or three trapped in its viscous substance. God, he hates throwing up. Can't breathe. It's better that Eileen's here, though.

Which is why he tries to grin at her, once he heaves his head up onto some more useful axis. Grins idiotically, shows a broad arch of teeth across the middle of his face, only to be plowed again by another seismic convulsion of guts and locked-in lungs. Nothing but acid leaks up this time. Hhhgh. One palm winds up slapped down on the floor, pathetically white-fingered from the miscalculated effort necessary to hold himself up shoulders shaking. He breathes in. Out again. He is crying but mostly, probably, surely, that's just the side-effect of retching.

With his other hand, he presents a feeble loop between forefinger and thumb, three other digits trembling around the proposition of a 'k.'

Eileen's arm winds around Teo's shoulders, steadying him in case he should lose his balance or his elbow buckle. She uses her sleeve to wipe the wetness from his cheeks and eyes, then the corner of his mouth and the very bottom of his chin. The smell aside, they're only clothes — they can be washed or, if such a thing were to become necessary, replaced.

Asking him how he feels would be the courteous thing to do. It would also be excessive. Along with the mess in the bottom of the bucket, the retching sounds that he's making make this abundantly clear. When she's sure that she's finished, she nudges the bucket back under the bed with her foot, its contents out of sight and — with any luck — out of mind. "Do you want a glass of water?" she asks, careful to keep her voice hovering just above a whisper. "Some aspirin?"

The hand that hand been in his hair and wiped his face moves to his back, rubbing circular motions down through the small of his back. "I have some food with me if you think you can keep it down."

He means to say 'Aspirin,' but it comes out more like spprrinnghhhngh. Culminates in a racking cough that seems to dry enough of Teo's throat and lungs enough to speak with, but also clear his head enough that he decides not to try. He bobs his head a few times in sluggish succession instead. Water, drugs. Possibly also food and that is a peculiar role reversal too; he would have made a joke about child-safe cutlery, probably, if he had the capacity to voice his acceptance of these offers as well. Teodoro Laudani would appreciate it very much if she could set that up. He also appreciates the helping arm around the bole of his torso. Without it, his own might well have folded.

He's weak and addled as a fucking newborn. It's half anatomical discombobulation and half in self-exasperation, when he lurches back onto the bed, flattening out onto his sweating side with his spine in a recursive sine squiggle of spasm. He will now chivalrously: keep out of her way, as she makes with the helping. It's the only way he can help.

A fucking newborn or a baby bird minus the enthusiasm — Eileen isn't sure which comparison is more apt in this instance, but it doesn't matter. When she's sure Teo isn't about to roll off the bed and onto the floor in a tangle of flailing neck and gangly limbs, she rises from the mattress, springs squeaking, and crosses to the dresser where a silver pitcher and a solitary crystal glass have been set aside on an ornate Moroccan-style tray. It rattles when she removes the pitcher from it, brass clinking audibly against wood, and pours lukewarm water into the accompanying glass. Like the vomit in the basin, it makes a wet sloshing sound when it splashes into the bottom. Unlike the vomit, it smells fresh, tastes better — Teo might not even notice the chalky mineral deposits clinging to his tongue when he drinks.

"I've been thinking about Filatov's," she admits as she sets down the glass on the nightstand within his immediate reach and goes rummaging in the dresser drawers for a bottle of aspirin, ibuprofen or something similar. "You stayed with me when I was out. I thought I might return the favour."

That glass and that tray are pretty to look at, from here. Teo regards them in somewhat absent, disfocused interest until the carried drinkable emerges into the field of clarity and makes a faintly gooey noise of thanks before latching his fingers on around its middle and his teeth on the rim. He doesn't notice the chalky mineral deposits when they stake their claim on the terrain of his tongue, no. Sterile tastes clean. Two seconds, three swallows, and the majority of the cup's contents is swirling its way down into his stomach. Jesus f. Christ. Bodies are disgusting.

"Quid pro quo, uh?" His voice gutters slightly in his throat, once, twice, before he manages to swallow enough of his regenerated saliva to smooth it down. "That's a likely principle. You mean, more like because. I'm." The joke he'd been about to make would have fallen flat if it had managed to achieve elevation off the level of the floor at all, but it doesn't, just sort of lies there like a prematurely ejected birthing effort. He peers quizzically into the glass, though its distortion withholds from him any accurate gauge of his current appearance. "Not handsome anymore and desperately need to be restored. Grazie."

"You could probably stand to shave," says Eileen, using the heel of her hand to press down on the bottle's childproof cap, popping it open, "but you're still as handsome as you ever were." She shakes out two pills into the palm of her hand, replaces the cap and then drops the bottle back into the drawer before nudging it shut again with her hip. Adopting a seat on the edge of the bed once more, she holds out her hand with the pills in it, palm flat and fingers stretched out in offering.

"Thought we might've lost you for a little while there," she adds as she studies his face with a faintly knitted brow, her expression one of cautious optimism. They haven't spoken since Pinehearst, and she's not entirely sure what Gabriel's fix entailed, only that the person she's talking to isn't Ghost. That's the hope, anyway. "There are a lot of people who'll be glad to hear you've come around."

Under the circumstances, pills in any way, shape or form seem to promise relief. Teo accepts the ones proffered to him with a faintly greedy snatch of fingers, doesn't ask what they specifically are because it's she who's giving them to him. Gulp. Chalky water moves capsules down his throat, spills slick down his chin without, likely, doing much to erode away the sticky patina of churned-out stomach acid.

"Thanks. Poor suckers," he responds, when his mouth is clear. He's wadded up in a massed clot of blankets now, one bare foot poking out, knobby-ankled and pink-toed, hoarding warmth despite the sheen of sweat slow-fading off his skin. "S—o much excitement, 'nd all they're getting is a poor sick muhfucker bed-ridden." If nothing else, it still curses like Teodoro Laudani used to. It doesn't occur to the hybrid that he ought to introduce himself properly, explain himself in detail, less out of subterfuge this time than because the notion merely escapes him.

One does not, after all, typically introduce oneself in Dickensian fashion to an old acquaintance, even if you were recently deconstructed and remade. Not immediately, anyway. He shifts his eyes to the ceiling, greases his retinas with a weary blink of lids. Mirth fades. "'M sorry. I know the timing could've been a little better. Heard y' been left your own problem set to work through, at home. If Feng wasn't one, you wouldn'tve risked bringing fuckin' Ivanov into it."

Ivanov's name earns Teo a flicker of a smile that doesn't linger on her mouth any longer than it takes him to speak it. "Nothing I can do about Daiyu right now." The hand that had been presenting the pills moves to touch his hair again, just briefly. "And even if there was, I'd rather be caged up in here with you than out there with him. Gabriel and Ethan are taking care of it." Raith too, but not knowing how much knowledge Teo has retained from the past few months, Eileen decides it best to leave his name out.

She removes the glass from his grasp, sets it aside on the nightstand. Wiping his chin again, this time with the other side of her soiled sleeve, her fingers angle his face so she can get a better look at is eyes. Or perhaps more accurately: his pupils. She's not convinced that they're out of the woods yet. "I don't suppose you're going to tell me what happened?"

By now, Teo's hair has scraggled beyond the even velvet horizon of its buzzed cropping, no longer bends with homogenous deference to pressure. It sort of starbursts outward under the gentle poke and pat of her fingers, which merits an unfocused blink and smile. Heey. She's staring deep into his eyes. Somehow, that's construed a little less like poetry and correctly, instead, like the brief medical examination that it is. He is okay. Half in shock, evidently tired and still sparking static from the collision of mind and body, but okay.

"Humanis First! snuck up on Liz when I set up a trap thing for 'em. Dozen dead, their side— blew 'mselves up, pretty much, but they got her. Liz. 'Nd what they did." That sentence wasn't built to end there, but end there it does, his tone drawing, tightening to a neat conclusion, but the grammar abbreviated, almost deliberately, like parting curtains to find a frame with no window glassed behind it. His face empties and his eyes fall three inches. "'S remarkable, how hard it c'n be to kill an 'ord'nary' human being, isn't it?"

Eileen's fingers smooth across Teo's brow, slick with sweat, and then settle on his arm as she listens to his explanation in silence. It's only after he's dropped his eyes that she thins her lips and tries to work her mouth into a reassuring shape from which consolation might spring forth.

There's nothing.

In the end, she tightens her grip on his arm instead, giving it a firm squeeze, and says simply, "I'm sorry." No empty promises. He's not six; he's six and twenty, and he deserves more than that. "Do you want me to call Abigail? Flint?"

"No. Nah—" Teo hastens to dissuade her, flattens the back of his hand across the scruff of his chin as if this minor improvement in the misshapen growth of his beard would reassure her enough to think he needs no one else. He doesn't. Really, it's okay. Yes, he is too pale. Yes, he sounds like a bullfrog that washed down a mashed-up ball of sandpaper with a half-cup of broken glass and he saw things, felt things best left outside of experience— but so haven't they all? Somehow, he thinks that adding his to Abigail month, after Logan and other losses, or Flint's evening, after Beach Street, would only multiply their collective problems rather than dividing the burden. He dislikes to be a burden. "It's okay. I feel better now," he adds, after a moment.

Maybe being out of his body did his brain or mind some good. Maybe she is right: and when he looks at himself in the mirror, this time, his face will fit on the front of his head properly and it will be that simple, and tidily punctuated. Sorry. His eyes lid slightly and his mouth stretches, closed and thin-lipped and amphibiously foolish, around a genuine smile. He hopes so but he does not really think so.

"You're up to something, though," he says, in a voice that slouches dreamily along between recollection and fatigue. "When you say shit like— 'there's nothing I can do' about a thing or 'I'd rather be caged up.' 'S what you say when you're up to something. Over vodka before Argentina, or after you've been at the house." His gaze slides a few inches past its mark, the even white stones of her fingernails describing an algebraically perfect parabola on her knee. Suddenly, he remembers such thing as wrong answers.

That house.

Eileen does not remove the hand from Teo's arm. The look she gives him now is tentative, fearful, but it isn't the wild-eyed stupor of someone who has just woken up to find themselves trapped in the tiger enclosure at the zoo after an outrageous night of drinking and escalating dares. This might have something to do with the fact that, bristly stubble aside, Teo doesn't have whiskers, and while his breath might smell foul after the deposit he made in the basin under the bed, it isn't for lack of proper dental hygiene or questionable dietary choices. She would be foolish, however, too treat him with any less caution.

She's never been to Argentina. Not in this life, anyway.

"I may be," she concedes, "though I fail to see how that's any business of yours." Whoever he is. At this precise moment in time, Eileen can't say that she knows for sure. Teodoro. Ghost. Ian. Some chimerical amalgamation of the three. "Unless you're willing to help?"

For a long few seconds, stretched out and stretched thin by the knife-like extrusion of difficult subjects and verbal missteps. A spasm goes through his fingers, just the one: a nervous twitch like the kind that startles one out of falling asleep.

'Help.' Finally, he cracks a fragment of a smile that implies a little bit of machismatic wondering, if she's showing him pity, though only the sort of wonder that comes of someone old enough to know better. If she didn't know him a little better, she might wonder too: whether there was a right answer here, too.

"He's after Ethan, isn't he?" the Sicilian asks, after a stilted moment. "'The Wolf.' The one who killed the kids and saved you, 'nd let you go, and seems to have you back. What's Feng after?"

"It's more'n just Ethan," Eileen says, and for once there isn't any defensiveness bleeding into her tone at his name or the moniker he earned during his service with the Vanguard. "There's a little boy, too. Bai-Chan. Gabriel. Me."

Now she does release Teo's arm, using that hand to brace against the mattress as she pushes herself to her feet once more. "We knocked skulls few weeks ago during an ambush over in the Red Hook," she adds, stretching her limbs. "Didn't stick. Petrelli took off half his face and Daiyu was good as new the next time we saw him, which tells me he's got a healer nestling in a pocket somewhere. Someone who isn't Flint."

It's a prettily triangled coincidence of soul-crushing recollections. Argentina, the house, and then that The three of them used to live within those walls.

Not so much the tiger, Teo's face goes very still when her hand leaves. His eyes shut and open again, slowly, almost with a creaking. He tries to keep the defensive out of his voice when she mentions about Alexander, too. Such nostalgic statements and awkward silences are friendships made out of, or else, comradely tolerance for each others' sustained brain damage. You'd have a certain understanding, after inducing a concussion in one another, or two.

His memory isn't so bad, though. He remembers, among other things, who those who had been originally responsible for Bai-Chan's conception had been, and what that's supposed to mean or, perhaps more importantly, what this might mean to Eileen Ruskin. "We'll help," he answers. "Flint and me. We're superheroes now, I d'no if you've heard." There's a beat's pause, like Teo isn't sure he shouldn't ask, unsure where the lines are drawn on this particular coastline. Then: "How's Gabe?"


"Gabe," Eileen repeats, trying on this variation on for size to see how its texture feels in her mouth. She's called him a lot of things but never that, and there's a certain childishness to it that causes her lips to crease and her teeth to show in the instant before she catches herself grinning. "I couldn't say," she says as she tries to work her expression back into something more somber and serious. It isn't difficult. "We don't see each other very often, and when we do it's usually out of necessity. He's decent, if that's what you're asking. Better than he was rotting in Pinehearst's basement."

A steady arm refills Teo's glass of water. "You should see him if you haven't already. He could use the company, and I imagine he's curious about how you're getting on." Plink goes the glass, placed on the nightstand. "And thank you. For helping. It's been very lonely."

"Thank me when I can get off my fat ass, onto my feet, and accomplish anything, si?" Teo can imagine. It's why he took the the audiokinetic with him. An unfortunate consequence of tackling one's problems alone is loneliness, and even a man with as vast and varied personal experiences as one who's lived his life twice occasionally fails to weight that in the proper scale opposite potential consequences as torture and summary death at the hands of psychopathic enemies.

He pulls his foot in underneath the hem of the fleecy sheet, his toe snagging briefly on an inexplicable hole bored into the corner before he manages to retract it in proper gopher-like timidity. Another long pull of water recovers his voice another few inches, but it's worn through with fatigue anyway, when he answers: "He came to see me a few weeks ago. Don't think he really liked what he saw, though. Not to be melodramatic; I should— probably just buy the next round."

"I'm not sure Gabriel ever likes what he sees unless he's looking in the mirror," Eileen teases, and in spite of the wryness creeping into her voice, there's something about the way she says it that suggests she's being partly serious. "A few weeks is a long time for you'n I. Things change. People. I don't know if he did it because he wanted to see you fixed or if he did it just because he wanted to see if he could, but I'm still leaning toward the former."

She adjusts the blankets, smoothing the rumples from starched cotton folds, quilt turned down to allow for more freedom of movement. That toe gets a pinch. "I'm going downstairs," she says, then. "I'll be back in a few minutes with some food, hot water, soap. Maybe a razor if you want to give cleaning yourself up a try. I've robbed you of enough dignity for one evening."

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