Blood Loss


abby_icon.gif cat_icon.gif helena_icon.gif teo_icon.gif

Also Featuring Coma-boy, AKA:


Scene Title Blood Loss
Synopsis Abby repairs Al's comatose self and speculates on the extent and nature of his bizarre injuries, and Helena and Teo handle the logistics of further medical treatment to supplement what Abby's ability is incapable of healing. Eventually, the crowd trickles out to leave the recently bereaved alone with one of the men responsible for her loss.
Date December 23, 2008

New York Public Library

Once upon a time, the New York Public Library was one of the most important libraries in America. The system, of which this branch was the center, was among the foremost lending libraries and research libraries in the world.

The bomb changed that, as it changed so much else.

By virtue of distance, the library building was not demolished entirely, like so many others north of it; however, the walls on its northern side have been badly damaged, and their stability is suspect. The interior is a shambles, tattered books strewn about the chambers and halls, many shelves pulled over. Some have even been pulled apart; piles of char in some corners suggest some of their pieces, as well as some of the books, have been used to fuel fires for people who sought shelter here in the past.

In the two years since the bomb, the library — despite being one of the icons of New York City — has been left to decay. The wind whistles through shattered windows, broken by either the blast-front or subsequent vandals, carrying dust and debris in with it. Rats, cats, and stray dogs often seek shelter within its walls, especially on cold nights. Between the fear of radiation and the lack of funds, recovery of the library is on indefinite hiatus; this place, too, has been forgotten.

By the time Abby and Teo come stumbling into the library, it's evening. The healer's shakey from using her gift; Teo's teetering slightly under the weight of his best friend, a bundle of bloody canvas and sickly pallor, stabilized but unmistakably unconscious, jumbled in the circle of his arms.

The password exchange with the sentry is brief, possibly redundant. Winter's beaten ruddy red into the tips of their noses, fingers, ears, and accumulated snow in the creases of their clothes — of the waking two, anyway — and chased Deckard back to the Ferryman safehouse where he was staying with the promise of bad traffic and crotch-height snowdrifts. The Honda Rabbit, if or when it is retrieved, will undoubtedly prove inundated by snow, too.

Teo bumps into a wall on his way to a room which used to be a reading room. And isn't anymore, furnished instead with a cot, or last he remembers from dragging buckets of diluted vomit, toolboxes, and stained towel past the open door. He lurches into it, this time.

Helena is shouted for quite promptly, and she comes running with - of all things - a Red Bull in each hand. She almost drops it when she sees the trio. "Oh my god!" she breathes, and immediately thrusts the Red Bulls toward Abby as her body language indicates her willingness to take the healer's place as Alex-support.

One would swear the blonde is petting Al, peering now and then from within her drawn eyes to the redhead. Glances here and there on his body as she sends tendrils of her gift to him. No longer owrried about it trasnferring to Teo, becuase frostbite sucks too. Maybe why they haven't gone from red to white. And why al's not afflicted like they are. That warm touch. Red bulls though. Red bull. One hand reaches for one of the cans. "Open it please"

It isn't the first time Teo wishes he'd had more hands to go around. He grants his co-leader a bleary half a grin as she rumbles up, before turning to angle Al in without knocking the edges of him into the doorframe. Stooping his shoulder to pre-empt the fall of the redhead's skull, he manages to lower him onto the cot without unkind accidents.

Not a moment to soon: his arm gives the next instant, awkward angle and the effort of carrying finally taking their toll. Muttering a curse, he straightens and shakes his arm out, squares his shoulder, ceding Al to Abby. Exhale. "I'll call the Ferrymen again," he tells Helena. "Get another IV rig in with Rickham's next transfusion. Think we could call Ben in to deal with the needles or meds or shit?" There's no pressure in the tone he asks with, his voice tight from automatic restraint.

"We've been doing okay so far." Helena murmurs as she sets one of the Red Bulls down to pop open the top of another and hand it off to Abby. "I don't think he'd want to come here. If he can be moved, we could shift him to one of the safehouses and have Ben treat him there?"

"Ben just wants to be useful. He'll come. I already sent a message to Grace that Ben might fit in with them, since he's not here. Call Ben. I can't.. Al's.. the Demon man did something to him and it's harder. It.. I can't explain it's like…Things are, were shifted. You don't need to bring Ben to the President but Al needs him." The redbull is grasped, fingers digging into the can and without fanfare, she tilts the can back to drain it's contents. "I don't I won't know how to do things that Ben does until i've gone to school" Thee Healer looks up gratefully and imploringly at Helena for the redbull, still keeping one palm planted against Al's unconcious chest. Subtle spilling of the gift, carefully working. She's going slow and for that very reason. There's something freaky with Al.

At that, Teo gives a low grunt of acknowledgment if not unequivocal agreement: they've been doing okay so far. Okay means nobody's dead, but a lot of bodies are short on more pints of blood than Teo would rather have not seen missing from any of them. He isn't going to talk about that, though; this isn't the time for rancor, at himslf or anybody else.

"I'd like him here," he says. "I'll call him and see what he thinks." Leaving that there, he puts another stride's worth of distance between himself and the healer's work area. Raises one hand clumsy from strain, to touch Hel's chin with the flat of his thumb: belatedly, Hello. He starts to hunt around for his cellphone with his other. "I— the 'demon man' is Wu-Long, right?" There were mentions. It's in the dossier. "What do you mean 'shifted around?'"

There are footsteps in the building, the sound of someone in winter boots weighing about 145 pounds. Cat's not seen, as she's entering the library with a guitar case over one shoulder and a backpack over the other. It could be a sign of progress, that melancholy and grief are easing, that she's toting the instrument around again. The steps continue, she looking around for people, until some are found in the area they've brought Alexander. "Stormy, Teo, Abby," she greets quietly. Her head cants to the left, then straightens. "What happened to him?"

"I don't know his name. I never had time to stop and ask him what his name was when he was making me solid again underneath a pew" Abby snaps, then puts up her hand, with the now empty red bull up in silent apology as she eases down where Teo and Helena have deposited the former GI. "I sorry I just don't.. I don't know what else to call it.. it's like.. things got moved off a little. I know where things are in a body, I can feel where the healing trickles to, how far it goes and the placement" Unlike cat, that was learned through hands on, not reading Grey's Anatomy only once. "He's not going to die, but he needs blood and he's in shock. I can't.." She puts the can down to reach over and stroke her fingers across his cheek. "I can't do anything for either of those. I'm almost done I think, with his innards."

Helena notes softly, "He is Registered. We could get him to an ER." She nods vaguely at Cat, seeming more focused and fretful about Alexander's injuries.

Snapped at, Teo demeanour characteristically turns apologetic. Not with any hands-wringing or tearing his hair out, of course: he lowers his eyes and nods his head. "We only got his name recently. I'm sorry. He's the shadow man." His eyes shift to Helena even as his phone winds up shoulder up against his ear, ringing. "We have the supplies and the personnel.

"I'd rather not move him, but we'll see what happens with Ben's consult and I'll see what you want to do after. I think he's three days without or minimal food and drink, too. I didn't see much in the way of supplies where we fond him." His shoes tock strides backward to the doorway that Cat is filling, greets her with a wordless nod. Another moment, and evidently someone picks up on the other end of the line; he angles out into the hallway and speaks.

There's no telling what's tucked away in that brain of hers. Cat stands there and looks Al over carefully while calling up things read and heard long before regarding front line treatments. "Moved out of place, like someone reached inside and changed their locations? That's just…" She trails off for a moment. "Evil." The room is entered more fully, to leave room for Teo whenever he comes back.

Abby's remained quiet, letting them figure things out. But Cat's words, her own from before, a virtual lightbulb might have lit above abby's head, "No.. he didn't rearrange.. He made him incorporeal…" She remebered the feeling all too well. Of being no physical anymore, of something of different substance and then the next, the bench pressing against her throat and chest. "He tried to make him corporeal.. Oh lord, that has to be it. I'd lay bets he grabbed him and turned him shadow and then tried to make him real with something in his middle."

"If that's true," Cat observes, "he may need a hospital, or some means of looking inside to determine what's what, Abby. Foreign objects left in there." She winces visibly, but after giving her opinion makes no move to interfere.

Abby glances to Alexanders abdomen, her hand splayed there "None. There's nothing foreign in there. I'd feel it." It's spoken with a certaintly. "Five more minutes. It's so… it's so strange, it's like it all.. was all stretched, intertwined, like he got taken apart, then put back, but just.. just differently, off by just such a fraction." Abby glances up to Cat. "I don't think he can afford to go to a hospital, Cat."

"Can't afford, as in not able to pay the bill, Abby?" Cat asks. She doesn't sound concerned by that possibility at all. "The question, I think, is whether or not he'd need to be opened up so things can be put back in the right order. I get the impression you're feeling your way to determine what's where and how to move them back?"

"'Can't afford' as in he's weak as fuck," Teo inputs from over the lawyer's shoulder, his less-than-expert opinion punctuated with a sloppy click of his phone shutting between gloved hands that are still more numb than not. "Ben can be here in an hour, if Hel's okay with it. We'll keep him away from Rickham and Matt, if that's an issue.

"The library is big enough." Having already voiced his own preferences and touched on the logic behind them, he is apparently disinclined to repeat his opinions as if presuming they ought to bear more weight than anybody else's in here. Shoving phone into pocket, he folds his arms loose across his chest and leans back on the wall. He looks at Alexander.

Helena nods. "Of course." she says. "Someone needs to meet him part of the way or just outside, so he can make it past the sentries." Ben with a bullet in his gullet would be bad.

"He won't need to be opened up, he won't need a hospital Cat." Abby looks back to his abdomen, closing her eyes for a moment. "I'm.. think… think like a thousnad little threads, binding and tethering things, back to where it's supposed to be, how they're supposed to be, back to perfection. That's what it's doing right now. They won't need to open him up, he'll be fine, soon. But Ben would be better, for what gods gift can't deal with. He'll need blood, like the president, There was a bullet wound and I think he lost quite a bit. Does that make sense?" She's tiring, the second red bull groped for. "If this was a year from now, you wouldn't need ben, I could do it, i'm sure, but i'm not even enrolled yet, and ben's got training under his belt." The blonde leans close as she works carefully, at the slowest possible speed to fix him. "Have faith that I can do this. Some things require Faith."

She listens in silence as Abby speaks her assessment, and considers faith. Nothing is said on that angle, Cat's deliberation is internal only. Faith… not far from confidence, in her book. And there seems to be little she can do here in any case. But one thing does occur to her, an opinion she speaks quietly. "You don't need a year to learn it. You can get the books about what you need and read them on your own time, learn the material that way, instead of taking the time for a class which only meets a few hours each week. It won't have the hands on practical parts, but… you're getting that outside of class too."

Some corner of Teo's brain marvels at their lawyer's lack of tact. Given it's Teo's brain doing the marvelling, that either means a lot or absolutely nothing at all; he does, after all, tend to talk the way he punches, articulate the way a hammer is. A particularly repressed hammer, maybe.

It isn't something he'dve mentioned unless he was out of temper or under a particularly large amount of professional stress. Despite that he stares fixedly at Cat for a long moment, most of his attention is fixed on Alexander, its remnants divided among the continuous process of analyzing the intel that was dispensed among Phoenix the other day, his available energy reduced by fatigue. He moves only to type Ben a confirmation by text. "He's coming," he answers succinctly. About Ben. Then, "Thanks, Hel. Abs."

"I'm not you Cat, read it once and it's stored in my mind." Abby looks over her shoulder at the lawyer. "But I understand, what you mean by it. It'll still take me that long to learn to be an EMT. It's different than serving alcohol, remebering what combination goes into a glass or a plate of bacon and eggs, or laying my hands on someone and asking god for his help. BUt you can bet, that i'll be doing what you just said, even with classes" She leans against the cot that harbor the unconcious GI and she takes one hand away, then the other. She has faith ins ome area's, and lacking in others. "I'm done" She works akwardly to pull a blanket from under his feet and draw it over the slumbering red head. "The rest is up to him" Spoken as she leans her head against Al's leg for a moment.

She seems puzzled by the way Teo looks at her, to Cat it was a calm assessment, an expression of confidence in the healer's ability to learn. When Abby speaks, her eyes turn toward the healer and she nods once. "It's all really about how important it is to you, getting the knowledge quickly. Medical knowledge was developed over time by people who learned it on the fly, they practiced and treated, wrote down what they learned. Taught themselves medicine and left the records for others to study and learn from. Colleges, really, are just expensive ways to go about it, the biggest value is in the prestige of their documents."

For the first time in a few hours, Teo finds his face twitching with something that approximates good humor. Which might just be the beginning of hysteria, nervous laughter, or him going a generalized kind of insane from stress, but— likely not. He's been around death, injury, and morbidity long enough to know that you choose either to laugh or cry about it, and he's always gone with the former when forced to choose.

What a conversation to be having. He offers Cat an apologetic nod, before he steps forward to help with blanketing Alexander's corpus, squatting at Abby's side. "What else you need, ragazza?" he asks, looking at her. "Hand up, coffee, cot?"

"I need people to stop pushing me towards school. I'm going. I decided last week. I'm registering after Christmas. I don't want to, but I have to." She puts her hand in Teo's, the healing ceased by now and so it's just her hand, nothing ectra. "I'll scrape up the money for school, and I'll go to college, i'll learn it the way I know how to, and I'll get that little scrap of paper that will mean they'll hire me. But they won't hire me without that certificate. Same as they wouldn't let you practice law Cat, without that license either. Whether you have all the knowledge in your head, or whether I can channel gods gift and keep a person alive to make it to a hospital" She leans on Teo to help get back up to standing. "If you know of any books Cat, just give me a list and I'll find them. I can at least see what I'm getting myself into. Al will be fine. Rest, and Ben, he'll be fine."

"I recommend saving yourself the money, as far as books go, Abby," Cat counsels, her voice still calm. "Get the list of what books your courses call for, and ask Jennifer to get them at Columbia's library. She can check them out, duplicate the texts, and put the originals back. Because book costs… those can eat you alive. Beyond that, you're right. If you want a job as an EMT, you need the documentation. Just like being able to pass the bar isn't enough to practice law, under the law, even though it should be. I was thinking more of you doing what you do, hands on in the field." She pauses. "You also needn't worry about scraping money together. Funds might find you." She looks Alexander over again briefly, and turns away. Footsteps are heard moving to somewhere else in the building, where Cat picks up a book she stashed and opens it. Let the study of Italian commence.

Obligingly, Teo helps he healer to her feet, his grip steadier now that the strain of hauling nearly two hundred pounds of Alexander around has worn off quaking in his muscles. "I'll shoot anybody who pushes you either way," comes the initial promise, facetious and light as the smile he puts on his face, sincere with the pleasure that comes of her promising that his boy's going to be okay. It fades to a round-eyed stare of surprise when she mentions Registration, which in turn fades to blank as the girls talk about… book costs.

And Registration. Having long since decided that his brain is much smaller than most of his companions', he decides to leave those two notions alone until somebody feels, for whatever reason, that he has some place in the discussion.

"Long as you're sure," he says softly to no one in particular. Dropping a glance at Al over his shoulder, he starts a slow step toward the door, empty of the lawyer now. Noting that, with a belated touch of confusion, he picks up where Catherine had left off: "I can look up the syllabi for you on the Internet. Most professors don't especially mind getting the book list out early."

"That's why I'm going to go to school and become an EMT. So I can be out there. Thank you though, for that suggestion" Spoken to cat's retreating form. It hadn't occurred to her to get the list and have Jennifer duplicate them. Or for Teo to look them up. She walks with him, the same glance to slumbering Al. "I should look in on Rickham and Parkman. I'll stay here tonight, keep an eye on Al as well when Ben gets here. Sleep and then see about cooking some real food for people here, instead of whatever's been.. eaten" She looks over to Teo. "He'll be okay."

One of the Sicilian's bright blue eyes flashes up, shows Abby her own reflection miniaturized and tinted by the pale circle of his iris. Crinkles slightly, a smile that dosen't quite reach Teo's mouth. "Sounds like a plan, bella. Though I think Rickham and Parkman can wait 'til morning. Sooner you're in bed, the sooner you're up again, and Ben's going to be here any minute. Allistair, too, with the blood plasma and second IV stand." Easily — without even thinking of it, consciously, Teo shortens his stride to match the younger woman's.

Book in hand, fingers turn pages. Cat lets herself smile a bit, this is certainly easier than Hebrew, a language she's been spending some time with. In the process, she compares the words with French and Spanish, even English, for their similarities and differences. If anyone seeks her, she's in fairly plain view. Seated near a wall, with the guitar case and backpack nearby.

"Can wait 'til morning." There's tacit agreement in that from the blonde. "No bed yet. Just a rest though. Then see if I need bed. THank heavens I took the night off" She's processing words, mind churning sluggishly. "Should probalby have christmas day here. Al will be in no shape to get up and make it to the apartment" Their steps bringing them to the main room and the location of Cat. Abby's moving unde rher own steam right now, instead of keeling over and falling asleep in spot like she had three days ago. "Why did you say that Cat. About not worrying about scraping up the money for college? Money doesn't grow on tree's and customers in a bar tip good but not that good. It's not medical school but.. With Jennifer taking care of books I should be able to swing it. If I still work at the Bar" She's going to lean on Teo though, when they're in the room. Teo's comfy for leaning against, all those layers of clothes. "Not like they give out scholarship for… being blessed."

"I wouldn't mind doing Christmas here, if Al doesn't really want to go home. Though I think he might. He likes having one." A home. Weary though Teo is, he isn't nearly as much so as the young woman whose energy was exactly commensurate with the amount of damage she had cured. He'd walked a lot, called some people, carried a man.

Adrenaline and terror on the outs leaves him feeling more drained than he is. That which remains is more akin to a thinking computer than the sanguine young Italian normally is, emotion grayed out, swear words dispensed with, straight-faced and solemn despite the better humor implied in the festive twinkle of his eyes.

He acknowledges the book that Cat's reading with a fractional tilt of his head. Unintrusive but ever incapable of withholding, he hunkers an arm around Abby's willowy shoulders. Furiously fortified against the winter's cold, he really is like a walking, talking body pillow.

"I mean money might find you, Abby. I may steer some in your direction." Cat's reply is simple, spoken with a slight smile forming. Then she turns toward Teo and tries out a few words from the book. It's a rudimentary sentence, her voice becoming a bit hollow. We've not talked in a while, Teo. Not since before… Her head tilts back against the wall, resting there, with eyes regarding the roof above.

People speaking foreign languages in front of her. "Maybe I will go lay down. let you two talk. I'll go get a cot and pop it in Al's room, wait till Ben comes" She's too tired to protest money making it's way to her, and part of her frankly, doesn't want to. Be nice to just, not worry about that. "Thank you, Cat, if any steers my way." She bumps her head sideways against Teo's shoulder. "Go speak italian with her. I'll go sleep so it's one less worry for you. Make him eat something, and drink something Cat" She starts to extract herself from under the taller man's hold.

Some part of Teo doesn't want to have to let go, less because he's a cuddly animal — because he isn't; not even from the old, uncomfortable awareness that Abby doesn't take to the rudeness of people speaking in foreign tongue around her. He just doesn't want to have this conversation. It isn't difficult to overlook all of Cat's social eccentricities in light of the Hell she's been through. It would be the case, even if he didn't hate himself anyway.

But because he does, and because he knows about that and has a better than vague idea of what he owes, he does this thing. Though it takes him a moment, to loosens his arm around Abby and offer the healer a hapless half a smile. "Sorry," he says, because he is. "And thank you, bella. Again. I know exactly what I'd be without you, and given my druthers, I'd rather not be." Dead, otherwise irreparably broken. "I hope school is kinder to you than it was to me."

She's unaware of Abby having objection to languages being spoken as she has. Cat's eyes rest on her, not even a question in them, there's just a slow nod. "Sleep well, Abby," she offers sincerely. "I hope I don't sound too cold. Sometimes things make a person less compassionate than might be needed." She lapses back to silence, her eyes returning to the ceiling again.

"You're allowed to right now Cat. Same as Brian is" That's all the healer answers, taking her leave of the group,s he's still in her winter gear, turning to snag that can of redbull that Helena left out, and take it with her back to the general direction of where all the injured people are residing. "Chiao!" See, she knows some Italian.

Though there's enough floor for Teo to find himself comfortable seating, he chooses instead to lean on the wall, his head meeting the cold stone with a tinny register to the sound of contact where subdermal metal rather than hair and bone meets it. "Ciao, bello. Don't forget, Ben will be here to take shifts soon: don't wear yourself out, eh?" There's a slight chuck of his chin, salutation, further tousling the hair on the wall side of his head. He watches Abby go, her slight shape shrinking further in the light of the hallway until the bend takes her out of sight.

"You've been well, Teo?" she asks once they're alone in that area, Cat keeping her eyes focused upward. "How do you usually celebrate the Holidays?" The voice she speaks in is somber, a bit subdued. The book remains in her hands, one finger between pages where she stopped to mark that spot when she resumes reading and learning from it.

Though ordinarily, Teo instinctively mirrors his companion's mannerisms and follows their gaze to even the oddest places, he doesn't this time. What takes his attention is the spectacle of a young woman, bereaved, with her finger in a book and her eyes turned Heavenward, even if there's nothing to look back down at her but old stone and cold dust. That makes more sense to him than any image stained into a church window that he has ever seen in his life.

Except, perhaps, Rita. "I've been well, grazie. My last few winter holidays, I was a civilian among civilians whose lives I could still pretend to have anything in common with. I helped pay for booze, got laid, burned a few textbooks that had no resale value. And you?" Either query repeated back to her, quietly. Both.

It's a quiet chuckle that starts her answer. "Holding it together, forcing myself to be tough, trying to not let things show in front of others… sometimes succeeding, sometimes not. It's easier to be tough when there's a crisis happening, it brings focus and forces out everything else, like when Mr. Rickham was in trouble. I have to confess, holiday traditions of getting laid have their value. I've done that a time or two."

"But this year, it's all different. Tree's up, things are under it, but no person to share it with, directly. I've not touched alcohol since. Christmas day, I think I'll go to the apartment and get drunk, call up memories of happy times, and talk to her all day."

"Because you believe she can hear you or because you need to think she does?" Teo asks, his gaze dropping briefly from her face to the floor. The hallway has seen more traffic since the library was converted to space for to give medical care to so many, and many more foot prints have been peeled out of the dust and inlaid further in meltwater, the sand that the traffic department mixes in to make the terrain less slippery for Manhattan's residents. He studies those. He can recognize some people by their shoes now.

"Because she said to remember the good times, and so I shall, best I can," Cat answers. "And because it still hurts. I think of her, and see what happened, what the sadist did as if it's happening again right next to me." The voice stops, while silent she lowers her eyes to look at the man's face. "How does what happened make you feel, as a leader, about what we do, and about being around me, Teo. I can't imagine it's easy in any way."

To this day, there is an agreement half spoken and entirely understood between Phoenix's leaders that they aren't yet what their people need. Instead of the ex-military, professional thieves, and variously gifted Evolved Helena had at her disposal, she had asked him. It makes things easier for Teo, in a way. He can take the heat for a joint decision the same way he'd take a bullet for any member of their faction: willingly; knowing he's no less if not more expendable than the people he shares coffee with; as long as it's needed.

Other times, he doesn't know what's needed. What sort of answer her question requires. A practical animal by nature, he is left silent for a time. "Sad, for the loss of life. Angry, at Ethan, Volken. Curious, a little, about how they found you; why they kept her. Angry some more at myself: for how little I truly regret, that what I say sounds trite. You chose well; boys weren't built to discuss their feelings." His tone takes a humorous note and loses it in the span of a single sentence. "Taking Eileen was my idea."

"Why he kept her, I don't know either. I don't think he knew if either of us had abilities, or what they might be. I think, though, it may have been because I'm with Phoenix and she was just with me. You taking Eileen, well, it was an operational matter. You had your reasons. In this, we deal with people who play hardball, play for keeps." While speaking Cat's eyes remain on Teo's face if possible; there's nothing in her expression which suggests anger with him.

"That means we also must play hardball. I made my peace with dying, I didn't expect either of us to make it out. It's the nature of what we do there will be sacrifices, and they'll hurt for those closest to them. People who get captured can't expect to make it out. It's sometimes just not possible." Trailing off there, Cat inhales slowly and exhales. "I was much stronger in captivity than now, because I had to be. It's still there, I have steel when I need it. You've no need to worry about that."

"You also don't owe me any apologies. Don't hold guilt over any of this."

Naturally, the Catholic in Teo — and despite appearances, there's a lot of Catholic in Teo — would have found anger easier to deal with. He would have looked up if she were angry. He's going to look up eventually anyway, because talking to the floor instead of the person you're speaking to is completely rude and he tries not to be. "He shouldn't have known you were with Phoenix. Brian would've been easier to find.

"Abby. God knows they've managed to, since. Or me. Something happened, and I can't…" More an accident of irritation than because he finally remembered his manners, he raises his head with a spasmodic jerk of his neck, shoulders. "Nobody's ready to play hardball here. You'd heard Hel say it. Everyone thinks so. Elisabeth, Conrad.

"'The sacrifice wasn't worth it.' Maybe they've changed their minds since: after the photographs from the future. But that isn't clarity, that's reactionary. More than a hundred dead children, ten bank patrons gunned down, word of personnel and proof of funds all over the world, Nazis and biochem purchases — we have all that. But it isn't until a fucking could-be Photoshop job that makes people realize that this thing is bigger than Ethan. I'm not angry with them, and I know this isn't fair.

"For me to be saying this to you — I just…" his gaze wavers, implicitly apologetic; his breath erratic between his teeth. "I'm pretty sure I'm not seeing clearly either. I am sorry. For your loss." Empty words like salt in a wound, he thinks. Trite.

She listens quietly, her features hardening bit by bit as Teo speaks. In her eyes is the loss, the mourning, some degrees of lingering guilt. Rage too. So many things, many of them which conflict with each other. Cat doesn't look away from the man's face.

It's only when he's delivered his apology that she speaks her own piece. "Everybody's sorry. I am too. That doesn't bring her back. Nothing will. Truth is, all the while, I knew I was getting into dangerous things when I came into this organization. I believed, and still do, inaction is worse than any consequences of action. I won't say anyone else among us is or isn't ready to play hardball. I just know at least one person is." The silence hangs a bit when she speaks those words, left unbroken until she says one final word.


"I've heard you can kill," Teo says, his face blank with something that isn't indifference. "But believe it or not, this may mean you have to stay your hand. Of the plans and muster Volken has all over the world, Ethan's cell is the only one we have a bead on. We need to be subtler, I— I fucking think so, anyway. Jesus fucking Christ, listen to me." Said in the tone of voice that indicates he doesn't think anybody should.

Tactics are a conversation for a later time and a larger crowd.

He looks up again. His shoulder's getting sore from the weight he's pushing into the wall, so he toggles his balance back even across his feet, weary. Glances back down the hall to the room where Alexander's sleeping, briefly. "I can't take your absolution. But thank you for it. What I could use is your advice: on who Hel should replace me with, once this is done. For when we tackle HomeSec. If you could look at people over the next few weeks."

"I'm pragmatic, Teo," she says simply. "I'm not about to put simple vengeance over the big picture." This is sincerely spoken. "It would mean very little to satisfy that, and all of us die because we took eyes off the ball, or I did, or anyone did." There's a ghost of a smile which comes across her face, she too can use humor in dire conversations. "Who could be more patient than the woman who never forgets? Our best course is the operation plan Doctor Ray is cooking up, based on all our abilities, and other things in the mix. Kazimir Volken is formidable, but we've got a physicist who sees probabilities in our corner, and we have something Kazimir doesn't. We have nothing to lose. If we fail, we're dead. If we do nothing, we're dead. Can you imagine anyone you'd want to face less than someone with only one option?"

Cat gets to her feet. From a pocket she pulls out a hamburger wrapper. "At the end, despite being abandoned, she forgave me. Told me to let go of guilt. She was the one betrayed, left to be tortured in I don't know how many ways, and be murdered in the end. And still she forgave me. It's hard to take her absolution, but her wishes will be honored somehow. Now, you take mine." On this point, Cat is stern.

"Why do you want to be replaced, no longer serve in leadership, Teo?"

No offense to Edward, but Teo reserves the right to question his relevance and utility until he's seen him do more than puke in a hallway and ignore the clean-up. Seriously. If pride was an issue, apparently the physicist didn't understand that he was compromising his own. Or so the irritable Italian portion of Teodoro's brain thinks, while the rest of his brain grapples with the task of forgiveness. Which feels, for reasons that make him kind of clinically insane, just as insurmountable.

His brow is knit, his face all serious, earnest: he's young enough to both pull off the look and fail entirely to. The next moment, his features relax, slightly. Incompletely. "That's a hamburger wrapper," he says, at last. "Not absolution." Sidestepping her insistence, retreating past humor and into practical query.

Practically, then. "I'm Helena's inferior in every fucking department that counts," he says, without particular emphasis or embarrassment, his mouth slightly crooked. "And I'm apparently experiencing ideological conflicts with the crew. I believe ideology defines Phoenix more than it does most groups. She needs a complement, not me. Would you please consider it?"

The wrapper is turned briefly so he can see the writing on it and know there was a message there before she pockets it again, while remaining silent. It's only after several long seconds that Cat speaks. Her features have shifted back to a visage of neutrality by then. "I can't make you forgive yourself. Only you can do that. And if you think you're inferior, well, what anyone else says is just words. You have to believe in yourself. As to ideology, what conflicts are you having, Teo? And consider what? I'm not out for leadership. I give my thoughts as I see them needing to be given, simply. Placing my own shadow on the organization isn't my goal. Success is."

The smile Teo gives her then doesn't fit right on his face, awkward with a new sense of distance that wasn't there before: her words crowd a little too close to home and he's regretting saying something, now, though he isn't sure what exactly. Invoking the term, maybe. Absolution. It might have been the wrong one, and he might have cheapened it with its use. "Approval and validation are other shit. Irrelevant. I don't need either of them, and I know it. But Phoenix needs a leader they can trust.

"If you could find me a person like that, and— and you know." A to-and-fro gesture of his hand, still gloved, "Not tell Helena, so she doesn't have somebody else to be prematurely horrified at while this shit's still approaching the fan, I would appreciate it. Thank you." Given she's yet to accept the request, one is left to conclude that he's merely off-balance and offering gratitude, belatedly, reluctantly, that at least she's forgiven him.

"My eyes are open, Teo," Cat states after some moments of contemplation. "This isn't a thing to discuss with her, either, by anyone other than yourself. So I won't. I would, however, ask you this: Do you see a person such as you feel should absorb your slot?"

"More than one. And I think they'll be ready when the time comes around." Teo squares his shoulders up around his jaw. His gloves find his pockets, a slight smile fading back to serious. "But like I said: I don't see clearly." There isn't any sort of impending hurry, though, and he knows it. Refrains from elaborating on it because of that.

There are things Teo has to do. Bring Ben in, get supplies off Allistair's hands — or whomever Allistair sends. Lurk in the shadow of Al's doorjamb, house a Fed, speak with Wireless, and eat, eventually. He'll go start that soon. Readies, visibly, to leave. "If you're going to spend Christmas morning with a glass of wine and a tree, I think you should have Christmas Eve here, signorina. I like to believe that Dani wouldn't mind sharing."

The time for words between them has passed by, on this particular occasion. Cat has nothing to say in response to his suggestion. She simply studies his face and resumes the seated position she was in on the floor when he approached, eyes fixing on some distant point, as a journey of memories begins. Within a few moments a smile of sorts appears, the woman perhaps taking to heart the fallen partner's instructions and calling one of the good times into view in a way only a pamnesiac can.

He inclines his head, offers a salutation that he knows she'll know the meaning of soon enough, if not yet now. "Andare con Dio, signorina."

December 23rd: Redcrosse in the Cave of Despair
December 24th: Like This
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