Business Call, Social Call


eileen_icon.gif teo_icon.gif

Scene Title Business Call, Social Call
Synopsis Oddly enough, attacking Moab Federal Penitentiary together is the easiest discussion to digest.
Date March 23, 2009

Staten Island Boat Graveyard

Teo had called ahead out of courtesy, really, not consciously aware that he had granted the woman an otherwise reasonably rare excuse to get out of the damn clinic, though he had half-expected Eileen to want to meet him there. For safety's sake, practical caution, maintaining the set and stage-pieces of her carefully choreographed death experience. Inevitably, one confines one's thinking to such terms, unless it's one's own cabin fever, one's own sterile, plaster-walled prison, one's own multitude of secondhand enemies won off the white, powdery edge of a poison pill.

Fortunately, Homeland Security doesn't come so near that Teo can't come to the old boatyard when he so chooses, and Logan's sway isn't so vast that there isn't some stretch of brown, salt-crusted grass overlooking the rotting vessels.

The afternoon sun ricochets off waves, throws a shifting diamond lattice of light up against the rust-splattered hulls. Hurts his eyes, a little, but he's been at sea enough to know that's just his brain throwing in extra complaints while his mummy arm is screaming in his inner-ear like a fat ethnic trailer mommy at her brood, incessant, but difficult to ignore. It isn't that bright out. Clouds help. He closes his eyes to remind them of that fact, listens to the rustle of grass and wrinkling slap of waves.

Recluse isn't the most accurate word that describes Eileen, but her withdrawn behavior over the past few days certainly qualifies the young woman for hermitage, even if she can't say the lonely situation she's found herself in is entirely of her own choosing. She's grateful to have the open sky over her head and the giving earth beneath her feet as she navigates the shoreline and the hulking pieces of warped wood and twisted metal that jut out of the sand like broken limestone markers at a cemetery proper.

Her figure, defined by its heavy woolen coat and the unkempt tangle of raven black hair that crowns her tiny head, stands out against the charcoal smudge hanging heavy on the horizon, rainclouds dark and bloated with rain. There are no birds with her today. Even the gulls who call this craggy stretch of beach their home have taken off for the afternoon in search of busier climes.

As she approaches, winding her way around the hull of what was once a cargo freighter, she offers Teo a small smile that doesn't quite touch her eyes in lieu of greeting. Whether or not she wanted to meet the Sicilian, she appears to have no real complaints — if she does, they're the type that aren't easily communicated no matter the method. Words, body language or otherwise.

Teo can always think of lots of reasons to complain about him. For Eileen, he can project… a certain runoff annoyance that he brought Gabriel back, even if he hadn't brought Gabriel back. The fact that he's bothering her at all.

His stupid face? The list, it does go on. When he pulls back his eyelids, his greeting is as typical as the rest of his physical setup, clothes drably cut, colored and configured for comfort and unpestered passage among the locals. "Buongiorno." He doesn't look ecstatic to see her, but pleased enough after the once-over. Her color is good. No perennial bandage attached to the hollow eggshell line of her jaw. It works out. He turns up the corners of his mouth, a smile that goes straight to his eyes, though not his ears.

"Business and social call. Any preference which first, signorina?"

A single drop of rain beads on the alabaster surface of a nearby rock, worn down to a smooth face by years of erosion at the hand of hungry waves. Eileen glances up at the sky as if to confirm its fall just as another splashes against her check and spills across it, following the line of her jaw. "Business first," she says, reaching up to wipe the water away with the broad side of one curving thumb. A flick of her wrist and it's gone. "I don't have a lot of time."

While her choice of words could probably stand to be a little more compassionate, there's nothing unkind about her tone or the way she surveys him from where she's chosen to settle down on the edge of a broken mast, careful to avoid the slickest part, a slippery green hold belonging a permanent accumulation of moss and algae. He doesn't look too bad himself, but maybe this has something to do with the way her perception of him colours things — she's only seen Teo at his worst, never his best.

While her words could probably stand to be a little more compassionate, Teo wouldn't be one to complain, would he? Sticks and stones. They've both gotten up from worse than a token figment of a Staten Islander's impatience, after all. He inclines his head, first to acknowledge the press of time, second to send a squint after the splotch of water coughed out of the sky's lurching, gassy gullet.

"Some of my people have been taken. Lucrezia, also.

"By their government. The American government," he clarifies, a jerky motion of his hand to define everything and nothing. His sentences are not knitting at his most fluent, either, tottering, though his feet remain steady in the sodden sand. "Leaves a mixed bag of people who you don't care for and one you might have, I think. Homeland Security stuck them in a prison specially designed to contain the Evolved.

"I want to get them back. Despite considerable risk," Teo acknowledges the obvious a little blankly, because it's very obvious but grave enough to warrant the dignity of words. His pupils retract into pinpricks in the pale of his irises. "I would be extremely grateful if you would help us do reconnaissance. Principally by communicating with the prisoners."

Of course he wants to get them back. This is the same man who crashed skulls with a genocidal cult over the kidnapping and imprisonment of Catherine Chesterfield and Danielle Hamilton. There was a time when Eileen might have immediately refused him or tried to turn his request for help on its head, but that period came to a close with the destruction of the Narrows. No more ill-gotten deals. No more shaky alliances. No one can afford to make them anymore, nor should they want to.

Instead, she simply says: "Yes."

Oh, good. "Oh, good." Teo lacks the grace to look anything but relieved, though it's no ostentatious thing, hands up and head bowed or great lupine huffs and puffs of air. The sterile, textbook verbiage had been a way to armor himself from the disappointment of a No. Or a Maybe if. Complicated times; it's nice to see something go off with relative simplicity.

A drop of cold water hits his cheek. He doesn't flinch, though the eyelids over his right contract slightly around the moist convex of his retina, darkening it. The image of her fails to sharpen further than the severe lines where piano-key blacks and whites already meet. Something about Gabriel and girls who operate in physical duotone, and morally all complex shades of gray. "Grazie.

"I don't know what your range is like," he says, features flattening slightly with rue, "so I will probably ask a teleporter and Gillian to work with you, if that's all right. Soon."

"Gillian," Eileen repeats, but she doesn't protest. Not overtly, anyway. There's a slight darkening of her expression, gray-green eyes growing solemner than they were a few moments ago. The corner of her mouth turns up into something that isn't a smile and isn't a smirk, neither is it something in between — just one of those bizarre personal foibles, impossible to read.

"I try to keep my distance from Gillian," she murmurs, voice low. "It's the respectful thing. I think you know why." Dark brows raise, angling in such a way so as to make inquisitive furrows appear on the span of skin that constitutes her forehead. Her words are phrased as a statement. They form a question, too.

It is one of those fancy Italian conceits, along with Catholic guilt and affinity for alcohol— that one is supposed to have a sense for shit like… that. Lust. Love. Where the two constructs diverge and converge. Teo can kind of do it. His fail rate is higher than his aunt's, but other times, the exhibits have labelled and captioned and framed and shelved themselves appropriately and, really, there isn't a lot of legwork left to be done for it.

"Not to make assumptions," mindful of last year's admonishments, "but yeah. I'll…" Teo motions with a hand, sweep-sweep sideways, like barnacle scrubbing. "Feel her out first, and get back to you about maybe."

The angle of his shoulders changes, straightens out from the oblique stoop of 'thank you, God' that they had taken up before, finding the starker margins and severity of the rusted vessels' corpses-cum-gravestones that throw down their shadows around them. The miniscule shift in his weight makes the sand underfoot squelch. His arm still hurts. Makes him slow to remember, but the drizzle beats it out of him. What else? What else? "Do you need a new identity or something?" That could have been more gracefully put. With any luck, Eileen won't mind.

She doesn't. "Eventually," Eileen concedes. It's something she's been thinking about ever since Felix offered to make her a deal in exchange for Abigail Beauchamp's safe return, and she'd be lying to Teo if she told him she wasn't interested. She has no paperwork, no identification — fake or otherwise. Left that all behind a long time ago. "It can wait until after you have your friends back. You have enough to worry about without drafting up paperwork for somebody who's been getting by without it."

Her gaze drifts down to his arm as if noticing it for the first time, and her mouth flattens into a subdued line just a downward tug away from a frown. "I don't think I ever thanked you," she adds, voice taking on a repentant edge, "for what you did. You shouldn'tve had to."

"I don't know if it can," Teo replies, his voice as gentle as fatalistic pragmatism can be. The quirk of his brow adds a touch of self-deprecating humor to that. "Some pretty large and fiery 'if's in there. You could probably use the contact information beforehand, though you can put off asking as long as you like." Shouldn't be an enormous surprise, he imagines, that he isn't the fancy forger among the echelons.

No; he's too much the blunt weapon for that, always has been. Nor is he under any impression that the lives of others revolve around Phoenix's clock. Whatever that's ticking down to.

Teo glances down at his arm when Eileen glances down at his arm. Sniffs once, audibly, a reasonable facsimile of a cat's disdain. Air the stink of rust, brine, and wet sand fill his lungs. "Goes both ways, doesn't it? Suits my dignity to pretend it was fucking quid pro quo. Shall we?" His eyes smile instead of his mouth, though it fades then. "'S it for 'business.'" Which leaves…

The social call. Naturally. Eileen makes a vague gesture with her hand, turning it over on itself in what is probably meant to be a dismissive wave. It doesn't quite convey the airiness she's trying to express. Only indecision, compounded by the combined weight of all her emotional baggage. I stab you, you break my nose. I save your life, you save mine. We're even, right?

Dignity. She's not sure either of them have much of it left.

"There's not a lot happening on my end," she admits, shoulders lifting into the slightest, most miniscule of shrugs. "It's dull. Being dead." Or at least pretending.

In quantified blood loss, they're probably at least — almost even. Close enough. Teo wasn't really thinking about that, though, nor about their dignity. They're standing among the bones of old ships, tattily clothed, talking about birds and photocopies and unrequited loves and probable death scenarios. Getting rained on, also. It's actually bringing Teo's bristly hair down to acknowledge the weight of gravity, almost.

"I'm just waiting, myself," he answers, in a tone that implies he merely did so to be polite. This is true; his mind has shuffled off elsewhere, momentarily.

Teo is struggling with assigning words to his meaning, this odd thought construct that's lodged itself in the wrinkle of his mind like a burr, more irritating than painful, increasingly harder to ignore. He wants to explain. It will sound obnoxious and silly if he doesn't explain. It will probably sound obnoxious and silly anyway, but— "I spoke to John Logan the other week. After he tried to kill you.

"He talked about that whole clusterfuck. The poison, what you snarled at him when he came for you. It reminded me…" His words lag between picket-perfect teeth. He blinks against the onslaught of rain. "Of the safehouse last year. There were marks on your arms when you…" Teodoro is this close to actually miming the knife, wrenching upward, ckkkk, but he doesn't. His hands stay pocketed, his eyes go hooded. "Why did you stab me?"

Of all the conversations Eileen doesn't want to have, this one ranks somewhere close to the top. As Teo's eyes hood, hers narrow, not in suspicion but quiet contemplation directed inward rather than out. It happened only a few months ago — the incident to which he clumsily refers. Feels like years. Maybe longer.

He sounds neither obnoxious nor silly. If he did, she wouldn't still be hiding behind that somber mask of hers, eyes veiled by their thick black lashes, face by the curls of dark hair plastered to its cheeks. It's a fair question, and if anyone deserves the answer, it's Teo. The one with the blade in his gut.

Eileen reaches up, rubs at the skin between her lip and nose with the side of one slim finger. "Can I have a cigarette first?"

"Si." Out of his tatty old jacket lapel, the box of cigarettes shows in straight-edged white relief. Teo pushes it open with his thumb and gives it a flick with his wrist, shunting the contents out in a along an oblique angle, the sticks at the edge pushed out the furthest. They're held out at her, in defiance of the moisture in the air, falling out of the sky.

To be fair, the blade's gone now. And fair or no, he would undoubtedly withdraw the question if she so desired.

Cigarette exchanged, he finds his lighter. Cheap, ugly little orange plastic thing. Purchased recently enough that there's a good amount of fuel still bobbing its meniscus visibly inside the translucent plastic.

Eileen selects a cigarette from the carton seemingly at random, but the way she pauses to scrutinize her choice also suggests that logic, however inexplicable or absurd, is at work. She rolls it between the fingers of her right hand, dominant above the left, then places it between pursed lips. Stray droplets of rainwater cling to her hair like globulus pearls without colour, shimmering faintly in the muted light.

"I haven't slept with anybody since I was sixteen," she says, pausing to shift the cigarette from one side of her mouth to the other as her eyes settle on Teo's lighter, expectant. It's an abrupt segue, candid and probably unanticipated, but Eileen finds it easiest to start at the beginning. "Sixteen's too young to really understand what you're doing. Why you're doing it. If you think I'm fucked up now, you should've seen me then. Totally backwards. Vanguard got me out of all that, turned me around, set me straight. Showed me things like love and sex didn't have to be mutually inclusive. Holden. de Luca. Zhang. You were asking for names, but you wanted more than that, didn't you?"

That makes Teo sound greedy or something. Maybe. He can't remember exactly, but the word insurance comes to mind. It had meant something to him, that she had given her name in lieu of anybody else's. Laid down the first faint, graphite marks to the portrait that exists of her in his head now, a sketch to which blood, poison, and sacrifice have added texture, color.

"I wanted to understand," he admits, after a moment. "There are many things I don't know, but I was sure you didn't fit." For what it's worth, it's a concession. That that makes sense: her loyalty. He lowers his eyelids against the changing angle of rainfall. She gets blurrier for it. He is absently concerned she'll lose her cigarette to the weather.

"I stabbed you," Eileen reminds him. "Poisoned John Logan. Almost shot Felix Ivanov out of spite. I fit. Maybe not as well as the others, but I fit. Enough that Sylar— Gabriel doesn't want anything to do with me now that he remembers. Volken used him, preyed on his insecurities, and I wasn't able to do anything about it until it was too late. I don't think he'll ever forgive me for that."

Eileen holds out her hand for the lighter, palm up. She's not too worried about her cigarette turning sodden in the rain, or if she is it doesn't show. "Can't take back what I did to you, to him. But I can say I'm sorry. For what it's worth, I don't think I meant to kill you."

The feeling seems to purge out of Teo's face as he listens. Either that or there are too many disparate feelings going on for any one to see proper staging and lighting on his features. He still hates Ethan, mind you, or as near to it as he can manage without encroaching on the limited supply and necessary allocation of resources to loathing himself.

"You weren't a fan of genocide or terrorism. You didn't fit— neat," he offers, blankly. Before she points it out or sneers at it, he acknowledges, "None of you did. Fuck it. I know."

When she apologizes, he looks away. He had abducted her, his best friend had tortured her, there had been interrogations and claustrophobia, no shower, bedposts, a more metaphorical but no less keen knife plunged into her loyalties and twisted until she had been forcibly severed from the monsters she had loved so dearly.

"Apology accepted. I'm sorry it came to that. Sounds fucking trite, I guess—" He isn't going to apologize for that, however tempting it is. Teo's eyes shade closer to closed for a moment, peel back again without completing a blink. He doesn't look at her, taking the weight off an otherwise prying question: "Do you want him to? Or 's it better if he goes away?"

"That's his decision. Not mine." Eileen lets her hand drop back to her side, fingers curling loosely, short of a fist. It perplexes her, the way he refuses to so much as glance in her direction. Troubles her, too. She draws herself up and straightens her back as she cranes her neck, working the soreness from her joints and the neighboring muscles. Her head tips from one side to the other, rewards her with a dull pop that only she can hear.

The rain is starting to fall heavier now, speckling the shoreline in dots of moisture. In a few more minutes it will be coming down in sheets — Eileen wasn't being coy when she said she didn't have a lot of time.

"He knows how I feel, anyway. Took it from me this morning." She realizes how ludicrous that must sound and barks out a short laugh almost immediately after, devoid of any and all humour. "Mind-reading. He doesn't often use it, but you should know it's part of his repertoire. Don't let him touch you've secrets you want kept."

The look on Teo's face goes 'fuck, seriously?' One eyebrow up, the corresponding eye wider than the other; now, he is looking at her. Keeping secrets requires effort. He doesn't expend that needlessly. "Grazie. I'll keep that in mind.

"I hope you don't mind if I let the others know too." His face relaxes back between neutral lines again. The water from the sky strikes him with progressively greater ferocity. Felt like needles at first. Now they're like thumbs, jabbing cold at his face, his nape underneath his collar.

His left hand contracts, testing the feel of his bandages for sogginess. Not too bad yet. Salvatore will bitch under his breath at his carelessness, but the Doctor's temper needs exercise anyway. "That's it. Or my brain is fucked by painkillers, I don't know." A hapless half-grin. "'S there anything else you need?"

Eileen raises no objections when Teo implies he'll be telling the others about what Sylar can do. He'd told her she had no one to blame but herself — the reverse is also true. "Go home," she says, "get some rest. I'm not anybody's responsibility, least of all yours."

Booted feet touch down on the ground, packing sand beneath her weight. When she steps away from the mast, her soles leave faint prints in their wake, though they won't last long with the weather turning as it is. If the rain doesn't wash them away, then the tide certainly will.

Her farewell comes in the form of a slight inclination of her chin as she turns her back on him and raises her hand. "Thanks for the cigarette." And the sympathetic ear. She appreciates that more.

"Anytime." The cigarettes, he means. The sympathetic ear is cool too, but she didn't say it aloud and that would be awkward like bedposts and knives never are. Teo watches her hand trace its shallow parabola through the wetness of air, and pulls his chin down under the edge of his jacket collar. By the time he sets off, Eileen is too far away to hear the damp tread of his own feet leaving prints fading from the sand below.

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