At the Death of the Day


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Scene Title At the Death of the Day
Synopsis Hana turned 30 today. Don't remind her.
Date June 19, 2009

A Place on Staten Island

The shadows are getting darker, the light more orange; the sun sinks into the west, but it hasn't yet disappeared entirely. Staten Island has begun to quiet, people retreating indoors; the ones, anyway, that don't have business in the shadows.

This particularly Ferrymen residence is nothing special; not even truly a safehouse so much as a place to stop, rest, collect oneself. As such, it is typically empty, maintained by the efforts of several local associates; raided occasionally by the desperate or greedy, but there's precious little of worth to take. Food. Spare clothes. It doesn't even have working electricity, although the water still runs.

The dim light of an oil lamp is difficult to see from outside, given the fading daylight, but it seems someone is presently here. The interior is neat, unlived-in, spare; a minimum of furniture, empty counters and shelves. The oil lamp sits on the kitchen table, flame protected from air currents by a clear glass chimney. There's a small bathroom near the kitchen, a bedroom behind it, and stairs leading upwards to the second floor.

She hadn't answered the text. This surprised Ghost at first, but it faded out before transmuting to actual offense upon remembering, belatedly, a little clumsily, where they are in the progression of their relationship at this point. Hana Gitelman and Teodoro Laudani. It's strange and somewhat embarrassing, how often and what he tends to forget these days, and he can't be sure whether it's a symptom of emotional trauma or if Teo's brain really is too small for the two of them, or what would be more worrisome in either case.

He forgets to be worried about that, anyway. He is thinking about something else: he is thinking about Hana.

The Panhead draws up outside, lancing rickety walls with clean white light and pushing the marine redolence of the island's air back another few inches under the brunt of coughing exhaust and dragging rubber urban filth. Crawling to park, he slings one leg over, then the other, straightens the leather of his jacket with a jerk of fingers at the bottom hem. By the time he gets into the main room, the helmet is in his hands and his eyes are squinting against the watery yellow of the lamp.


There are a few days out of the year that Hana invariably takes for herself; by some cosmic misfortune, they fall close together. Today was not a day for business that couldn't be conducted remotely; she didn't meet with anyone. Someone, however, seems to have come after her — something that she didn't expect.

The woman who walks down the stairs moves with Hana Gitelman's feline grace; to Ghost's eyes her appearance isn't unfamiliar, but Teo has seen her wear a dress exactly once. The tawny blouse and autumn-hued skirt represent a sharp deviation from black and ivory. She does that occasionally, even without dressing up.

"Laudani." The sharp ring of her voice is anything but welcoming; her expression is flat and decidedly displeased. "Why are you here?" As opposed to — absolutely anywhere else.

His shape fills the small space of the living room like a boulder tumbled across the mouth of a tunnel. Not that Hana couldn't turn him aside if she really needed to, and not even with her fists— but there's a sense of settling to him as the woman descends into view, his paired boots parting on the floor, helmet underneath his arm, that Teodoro Laudani isn't going anywhere. Why, the reader might ask? "It's your birthday," he points out.

It's her what? It's a faded thought, seesawing like a defectant visual artefact in the periphery, half-lucid. Teo struggles to establish himself in the porous terrain of not-quite-here, uncertain of this place, time, and the unexpected manifestation of— What's going on?

"Night on the town," he adds, motioning out of the door with his free hand. Outside there are streets. A ruin of a city with walls that circumscribe space but no longer define homes, a moon slowly sweating light out of the dimming sky. He doesn't hover or overelaborate his nonchalance. Whatever gamble plays watchful behind his eyes knows better than to show its hand. "We haven't had one in a while. Care for company?" The question does not sound loaded.

She hadn't finished, yet; wasn't quite to the point of leaving. Timing is everything. Dark eyes narrow at Ghost, the way he stands in the room, the matter-of-fact phrasing of his statements. "If you know that— " It isn't a hiss, precisely; hiss implies drawn-out and sibilant, and Hana is presently more apt to bite off the words before they have a chance to become those things. "— then you're asking a stupid question."

If she wanted company, she wouldn't have set off on this day alone.

The woman walks down the last few stairs, turning away from Ghost and stepping into the bathroom. Plastic rattles across the counter, a sound familiar in type and context; Hana is prone to motion in her irritation, when fine placement of hands, arms, and feet is not a crucial necessity. The second oil lamp sits at the very back of the vanity counter, next to the mirror, as close to safe as anything within arm's reach can be; oddly, a candle rests at the opposite corner, lit but providing no useful illumination in competition with the lamp.

Ghost's contradictions come the way Teo's do; rarely heralded by trumpets, 'But's, her statement flung back at her with a 'not' knotted in the middle, but a simple, factual assertion to the contrary, her logic folded back on its grain as neatly as shaping the tapering wings of an origami crane. "You tend to find company."

His tone isn't acid, not with jealousy never mind reproof he never would've had a right to anyway. Helmet goes onto table-top, clunking the floor without weight enough to tremble the oil lamp. He puts his freed hands into his pockets and steps up behind her, his feet rolling sinuous quiet against the flat of the floor. Eases up into the blurry radius of candle light, pulling shrunken reflections across the tiny warped mirrors of shiny tiles and watches the wall idly as he does so, regarding himself temporarily through the faceted vision of a blinded fly.

He puts his shoulder against the doorway and glances to the spare selection of makeup in pristinely segmented colors move in her hands, tiny foxtailed brushes and slender pencils, a solitary tube there. He doesn't have to look at the mirror proper to remember, but he does anyway.

The simple statement of fact is difficult to refute; it is true enough. Though the one and the other are different contexts, different meanings of the word company; to the Israeli, they are so far apart as to not live on the same planet. Hana looks at him in the mirror as her hands find the case of foundation, expression set and stiff. Chooses, in the end, not to speak, merely to focus on her reflection and address herself to her self-assigned task, refusing to dignify the looming watcher with any further semblance of bother or perturbation.

"I could make a cake." He doesn't add 'instead' so he doesn't really mean 'instead,' but he would probably think it would be nice if she accepted it for that without really expecting so. He doesn't answer the boy in his head, which is a little hypocritical; doesn't think it's any of Teo's business yet, why he'd want to get between Hana and her night of urban revelry, never mind he's been ripping through all of his business with assorted flechettes and deceits.

Teo keeps asking anyway. Finds himself continuously ignored, though the younger Sicilian's questions fill the quiet with a facsimile of sound and cadence, as the ghost leans his weight into his shoulder. "There's this green tea stuff you like."

She looks at him — apparently Teo also has baking skills she doesn't remember? — but the glance is both sharp and fleeting. "A cake," the woman echoes flatly. The first layer of makeup goes into place; the second component to be applied is chosen with deft alacrity, familiarity more befitting a weapon in her arsenal than a decorative nicety Hana is almost never seen to use. It is a weapon; nearly everything is. She looks into the mirror, into the darkness of her own gaze; her lips quirk in a crooked, faint not-smile. "Cakes are for celebrations." And this — is not about celebration. It's about drowning the twenty-year-old wounds that refuse to fade largely because she refuses to let them. That, too, hardly changes.

Hardly. What change is incurred can't specifically be designated as for the better, either. Ghost remembers. "Fine."

Hovering around in the background of her mirror, too, though the one in Tel Aviv had been larger and shaped ironically like an egg. The painted shape of her mouth curves its ends upward, and his upends to a frown; despite the inversion, both expressions practically mean the same thing. His eyes glint brief and pale, unwontedly fierce, abruptly, underscoring already laden words with an ill-conceived dare. "You're supposed to celebrate your birthday with your family."

He means: Don't tell me I'm not.

The woman pivots on a heel, fierce stare intent upon the Sicilian. Painted or not, her lips pull back into something thin and edged; she's almost willing to take that dare. Almost. Ghost knows even better than Teo where he stands, what it takes to actually budge the set of his feet against a metaphorical floor. Even ten years prior, that isn't quite it.

There's that word again. "And what do you think I should celebrate, Laudani?" Hana hisses at him. One step forward; in the close confines of this room, that's all it takes to put them face to face, her eyes just a smidge below his, her frame that bit smaller. It doesn't really seem that way; not when one is standing between a lioness and the door.

Sometimes, the metaphor doesn't work quite right, not when you remember that lions are a male-dominated species. Then it's an odd fit. You try to think of other ones. Bulls and rockets and ticking bombs and the sun, but in the end, it's Hana. Inches from charging, in dire emotional need to take off, seconds from going off, and her garb uncharacteristically colored like the sun but it's the weight of her regard that shows lambent heat.

Ghost draws his head back on its stem as far back as it will go without snapping unassisted. His eyes angle obliquely downward. His throat moves for an extra second before he finds the words to say.

"You're alive," he says, despite being aware that this is one of the worst possible answers he could volunteer. Maybe it's a little better when he adds, "I'm alive. Helena, the others— family isn't just for grieving. We have a war to fight, our health, and even if no one else is going to acknowledge the debt these nations owe to bad men, we can. Take the night off to do it." He opens up a hand, reaches left. His palm closes over the flat shelf of cabinet, fingers caged around one of the earrings she had laid out there.

Definitely not one of the better answers, though only the flare of the woman's nostrils indicates this. There isn't time for much else, as Teo continues, elaborating, covering for his possible misstep. He's Teo; he gets away with a lot, incongruously non-Sicilian face or no. "This is mine," Hana states, quiet but fervent, even as she turns her head so he can pin the carnelian in her ear.

It's not for 'others', those who never knew, never even heard of the women whose shadows and shades have defined Hana's entire life — but somehow, speaking of bulls, Teo has managed to divest himself from that circle and charge into what is private, previously sacrosanct, belonging only to the woman and her losses. Hana Gitelman is not Noah Bennet; the subtleties of how this happened elude her, and her social skills are insufficient to provide an effective counter.

Turning her head, she lets him put in the second earring, too.

For a moment, it's like Teo wasn't going to. Without her carnelians, she couldn't possibly go out. For a moment he almost convinces himself that that would be like— heading into the desert without that half ration of water or the pack, an unallowable abbreviation and rupture of context. Of course, this is not true, and he's bright enough to realize it. The earrings are expendable. This isn't survival in the desert, it's a single detail on the field. Hana doesn't need to bring a knife to a knife fight.

One earring makes its delicate connection through the lobe of her ear, and then the second.

When he is finished, he drops his hands and regards her in a silence that flirts and twines with the possibility of more pretty words, the rest of his persuasive reserves dredged up and flung out to bear. Ultimately, he chooses to do nothing, lips relaxing from the white torsion of corralled argument. He'll give her that, with reluctance, but no doubt. This is hers, to do with what she will.

Hana is stubborn; in this especially, one night's argument won't change her mind. It would, however, get Ghost pitched out the door — counterproductive, if anything ever was. As it is, she lets him stay. Reaches up to remove the matching necklace from the shelf, carnelian wrapped in gold, settling it into place about her throat.

She turns back towards the mirror, but it's not the mirror that holds her attention; Hana dims the oil lamp and extinguishes it, then picks up the candle. Dark eyes regard the flickering, dim light for a brief moment before it, too, is blown out, leaving only the faint glow of the other lamp and a rising curl of silver smoke behind. Cue departure.

In the lapse of surrender and shuffled sidestepping that follows the deepened darkness, there is an errant thought, unintended, but one that Teo catches anyway. Ghost almost sounds wry:

One fight she never lets me win.

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