By Any Other Name


colette_icon.gif tasha_icon.gif

Scene Title By Any Other Name
Synopsis Tasha and Colette discuss last names — changing them, taking them — while making Mac and Cheese.
Date October 24, 2010

Gun Hill

Sometimes a day goes by and it makes all the difference in the world. Sometimes an important day like that happens, and no one realizes.

Under the glow of the ceiling light in the kitchen, Colette Nichols has obliviously missed a turning point in the life of Tasha Oliver — Tasha Renard — Tasha Lazzaro. That selection of aliases is partly to blame for the trouble, for the turning point, and in her own single-minded focus Colette failed to notice the subtle shift in the young teen's emotion over the last four days.

The subject of Colette's focus lays spread out across the small kitchen table. A fold-out map of New York City's five boroughs is partly covered by books, notepads, post-it notes and a few colored markers. Kneeling on a chair at the table, Colette is hunched over the map with a red pen cap in her mouth, drawing a lopsided circle around a location on the map.

The unzippered front of red hoodie sprawls across the bottom part of the map, covering another circle with a name written next to it. In the section she's writing on, though, she writes three names.


Tapping the back of the marker on the map, Colette scribbles out a building in the circle, then lays the pen down and keeps chewing on the cap she has between her lips. Mapping out a venn diagram of the visions based on their position around New York City has been a labor that has swallowed Colette since she started it near a week ago now. Over a dozen names later and best guesses going for a lot of them has taken all of her attention.

Some times, Colette needs to be shaken out of her tunnel vision. If not for Tasha's sake, than for her own sake. She hasn't had anything to eat today, and the clock reads quarter past eight at night.

Tasha's been studying for a midterm. Or rather, sleeping after several hours of reading, and she's just woken up from a too-long nap on the couch. She pads into the kitchen with a growling stomach, pausing to lean in the doorway to study Colette's busy form.

Her lips curve into a soft smile. "This reminds me of when we first met, you know," she murmurs, her voice a little huskier than just from want of sleep. It sounds like she's got a touch of laryngitis as well. "You were marking those delivery truck paths for our raid."

She moves closer to peer over the map — if the names on the spot that Colette is working on bothers her, she doesn't say, instead bending to plant a kiss on Colette's hair.

"I didn't mean to sleep through dinnertime. Want me to make something? Mac and cheese? Peanut butter and jelly? Or we can be all gourmet and have Hot Pockets."

The kiss to her hair has Colette's tense posture relaxing. She reaches upt o sheepishly pluck the cap from the market ouf of her mouth, teeth-marks gnarling the end. Tasha's presence has this way of grounding Colette, taking her from her obsessions and allowing her to focus on something more immediate, something more in the now. In a way, their relationship is not entirely unlike how Colette is with Tamara; an anchor.

"I'm trying t'see if I can overlap anyone's visions, find people who might be in the same place at the same time, maybe then they'll be able to kinda' help each other out, y'know?" Both of Colette's dark brows crease together, and one socked foot slides down from the stool, touching the floor as she puts weight on it and rises to stand, wrapping her arms around Tasha and drawing her into an embrace. "Dinner… dinner sounds good, I haven't had anything t'eat um… in— " Colette offers an awkward laugh that covers up how long it's been.

"I got some shells and cheese from Grand Central when I went there to show Quinn 'round. I'll cook 'em up." There's a brush of Colette's nose through Tasha's bangs, across her forehead, and is followed by a kiss to her brow. "You okay?"

It's always easier to deal with problems that aren't her own.

"You work, I'll cook," Tasha murmurs into the hug, wrapping her arms around Colette and nuzzling her shoulder, breathing deeply of skin and fabric. "I told my mom I'd stay with her that week, but I promised Delia I'd help if we need to move the Lighthouse kids… and I want to be wherever you are, too, so I'm not really sure how to deal with all that," the petite teen admits, stepping back out of the hug and peering at Colette with worried eyes.

"I'm okay," she says softly, turning away to move to the cupboard, retrieving a pot and then stepping over to the sink to start filling it with water. Over the rush of water on metal, she adds over her shoulder, "I know this is a dumb question considering who my mom is, but do you think Cat will do something legal-y for me without charging a lot? It's not something I can put on my mom's credit card."

Reluctantly letting Tasha out of her embrace, Colette lets her fingers slide down the girl's shoulders until she's out of reach. Hands fall down to Colette's side and she backs up on socked heels, considering the table once, chewing on the inside of her cheek before mismatched eyes square on Tasha again. "What're you takin' out a loan or somethin'?"

Visibly nervous, Colette fills the space between the rhetorical question with laughter as she leans back against the kitchen table, hands flat on the map behind her. "No, but like— Cat'll probably do it for free, y'know? Unless it's like super complicated, it's not like she really needs the money, she's a billionairre or something, isn't she?" One brow lifts in query about that. Cat's actual financial status may be in absurd numbers, but Colette's estimate is a touch high.

Moving from sink to stove, Tasha doesn't look up, instead focusing just a little more than is necessary on turning the stove on, then moving to the pantry to find the box of mac-n-cheese to open oh-so-carefully. She shakes her head, letting her hair fall forward to cover her cheeks, eyes averted, studying the box's directions like she hasn't made it a hundred times.

"I need to file for a name change. Legally. And I don't want my mom to know. I mean, it's already the name I use for school stuff, so I don't think it will change anything, really," Tasha murmurs, trying to keep her voice neutral, as if just reading off a list of facts. "I don't think that'd cost much, but you know, lawyers charge you all sorts of crazy fees for licking an envelope and sticking it in the mail for you."

That much has Colette straightening up, moving away from the table but halting due to indecision in the middle of the kitchen floor. "Wait it— name change?" Both of Colette's brows furrow together, confusedly. "Why— why would you need t'do that? You don't— what happened?" The question has totally different stories expected behind it, some sort of legal trouble, something dangerous. The truth may not be quite as exciting, but it's certainly more depressing.

"Wh— what're you changing your name to?" Only now does Colette start walking forward, up on her socked toes, making progress over to Tasha to lay a hand on each shoulder as she squeezes gently. "Why d'you gotta do this?"

She hadn't told Colette about the night she spent huddled on a subway platform after curfew, waiting until the pre-dawn hour where the trains started running again. She let Colette think she had spent the night at Vincent's; on the two other occasions Tasha has visited her father at his home, he didn't show up til near midnight or after, requiring an over night stay.

Tasha swallows. "Just to Renard. I mean, I guess I could change it altogether to Oliver or something else, but I'm registered at school as Renard, and I do still have some people who know me that way, old school friends." She answers the easier question first, finally turning to look at Colette.

Her dark eyes are sad, but she's spent enough tears on the issue already, and enough time has passed that it's not a raw wound anymore. "When he agreed to help us on the Lighthouse thing, he said I needed to change it," Tasha says softly. No need to explain who he is.

Her eyes flit away, and she shrugs one shoulder, reaching for the packet of cheese powder to set aside on the counter so that once the water boils she can pour the pasta in. "I think … I think that's the last thing he is going to do for me, you know? I guess this is some symbolic gesture. Severing the bond."

There's no reason for Colette to think otherwise, either. Sliding her arms around Tasha, Colette hugs her from behind as she settles her chin down on one side of Tasha's shoulders. "That's not fair've him," she whispers against the side of Tasha's neck, letting her hands slide down to the brunette's stomach, fingers curling in the fabric of her shirt, arms squeezing tight in a firm embrace. Colette has by now entirely forgotten about her map, there's more pressing matters to tend to.

"M'sorry…" is whispered, as if this were all somehow her fault. In a way it is, if she hadn't interceded in her life Tasha wouldn't be here in New York, her father wouldn't know what she does. Everything would be better.

Or not.

"Are you settled on Renard?" Colette asks quietly, her nose resting at Tasha's ear, arms sliding to wrap around her midsection, holding her close.

The compassion — meant to make her feel better — brings the tears to Tasha's eyes and she shakes her head. "It's probably better. We've done nothing but hurt each other for like the last seven years or whatever, you know? It'll be easier for him if I get caught doing something illegal — the name won't obviously go back to him, though it's not like people don't know my mom's name. It's just less obvious," she whispers, tears sliding down her cheeks.

"That's what he told me to do — just drop the Lazzaro. Natasha Olivia Renard." She snorts, a little bitterly. "I should drop the Olivia too, really, since it's for my grandpa on his side. If I'm not his kid anymore, can I be my grandpa's granddaughter?"

Well, she was trying to be grown up about it, but now she's failing a little.

Tasha shrugs, resting her head on Colette's and picking up the box of shells, rattling the pasta into the now boiling water.

"Don't— don't do it like this." Colette's voice is soft, her arms still tightly wound around Tasha's waist, fingers curled gently in the fabric of her shirt as if proving that she's anchored to the girl. A kiss is placed into the back of Tasha's hair, and that moment later Colette's hands slide around to opposite sides of Tasha's waist, drawing her into a tight hug.

"He's probably just— trying to protect you. If people know you're a Lazzaro, you're a target. I mean like, there's those psychopaths out there who tried to kill people in the DoEA. What if they found out you were Vincent's daughter or something, y'know? Not— not legally having his name makes it harder for people t'make those kinds've associations."

Brushing her nose through Tasha's hair, overturning one dark lock, Colette exhales a warm breath against the shorter girl's scalp. "Would you take a suggestion?" That's more quietly asked, sheepishly.

The pasta now softening in the bubbling water, Tasha turns to wrap her arms around Colette. The logical part of her wants to believe it's for her own protection — but there are the voices that say the people who want to hurt Vincent can certainly find out she's related to him easily enough. Joanna's marriage to Vincent wasn't secret; Tasha went most of her life with her hyphenated name. Dropping the Lazzaro isn't going to hide those things, not to someone determined to hurt someone.

And then there's the fact that she's not sure hurting her would hurt him.

Tasha swallows and nods, to either the idea that Vincent is trying to protect her or to the suggestion or to both, it's unclear.

She swallows and shrugs, sniffling slightly. "It doesn't change anything, really. I mean, I never use that name anyway. It's just… it's just a name." Like Shakespeare said.

Defeat sounds a lot like resignation, neither of which Colette is all that good at doing. Lifting up her chin to press a kiss to Tasha's forehead now that she's turned around, Colette draws her in closer and offers a tightening squeeze around the brunette's shoulders. As her arms relax, Colette brushes an errant lock of dark hair away from Tasha's brow, then leans back to look at her with one brow raised.

"What if you… like… were going to change your name because you wanted to? What if— like— what if you did it, like… like he wanted, but on your own terms?" One of Colette's hands slides up from around Tasha's waist, a palm brushes over her cheek, thumb strokes gently beneath one eye.

"You could always change it t'Nichols…" There's a sheepish smile that dawns on Colette's lips again, her brows lifting worriedly, not really sure how her silly sentimentalities might be received.

Those oft-worried-looking brows quirk at Colette's words, and Tasha tips her head, eyes softening as she stares up the short distance to Colette's mismatched gaze. Her lips pull into a touched smile and she throws her arms around Colette's neck, squeezing tightly, probably choking off a fair supply of oxygen.

"Oh, Colie," she breathes, head tipping to kiss Colette's cheek then lips and then knocking her forehead against the other girl's. "I love you so much, you know that?" It's not a yes or no — Tasha isn't entirely sure exactly what's being offered aside from the use of the name, and with that, a symbolic gesture of sorts.

She holds the position for a moment, more tears slipping down her cheeks but these are happier, spilled for love and not for sorrow.

"I know," Colette jokes with a burble of laughter, "I'm pretty awesome, y'know. It's only natural." Smiling teasingly, she slides her hands up the back of Tasha's head and curls fingers in her hair, swaying from side to side slowly, her nose brushing against Tasha's. "M'serious though, you wanna' stick it to your old man, take on your girlfriend's name." She's still half kidding, but in a way there's that warm sentimentality there that is trademark of Colette's personality.

"I love you too," is whispered against Tasha's lips in the midst of an abruptly offered kiss, Colette's hand still at Tasha's cheek. Now, though, her thumb is sweeping away tears rather than gently brushing skin. "Might make people mistake us for sisters or somethin', but whatever. I ain't worried, an' if it makes you happy that makes everything worthwhile…"

"I adore you. And I love you fiercely. But that's the wrong reason to do that," Tasha says softly, shaking her head. "If — or when — we take the same name, I want it to be completely, without a doubt, one hundred percent just because, and not even a teensy like point-one percent possibly just to make him mad or get back at him for … anything."

She brings her lips up to press a kiss into Colette's forehead, and when she leans back to look at her, Tasha looks happy, the sadness dissolved, the only trace of it the wet lashes and salty streaks down her cheeks. "And if we do, it'll not just be a name change," she whispers, reaching up to push Colette's dark hair out of her face. "Okay?"

Brushing her hand across Tasha's cheek to let it come down and rest at the back of her neck, Colette nods once, slowly. "Okay," is whispered in agreement, though despite the understated tone she uses, the gravity of the implication of a future between the two inspires that growing smile Colette wears. Gone is the worry and the fretting, replaced by the serenity that their fleeting moments of happiness can afford.

With her arms around Tasha, Colette relaxes against the brunette, smiling fondly as she places another kiss across her lips, fingers curling lightly int he back of her hair. "You gonna' be okay? It's as gently asked as Colette can manage, slowly leaning back and away from Tasha to look at her more appraisingly. "I mean, as okay as okay can be, really…"

Nodding, Tasha finds the answer is truthfully yes. Surprisingly yes, in fact. "Yeah," she says with a smile. "As long as you're with me, I can get through anything."

She turns back as the sound of boiling pasta catches her attention, and Eeps! as she turns down the heat just in time, then grabs a pot holder so she can drain the pasta in the sink.

"I didn't actually think about it as possibly protective, you know? I thought he was just done with me. That I had asked him the favor … I thought it was the last straw. And that he'd do it, but that by telling me to change my name, he was basically throwing me out of his life."

One errant tear slides down her cheek, but this one is for her own ignorance. "I guess I should stop assuming the worst of him, one of these days. Everyone keeps telling me he's a good guy. Delia — he arrested her, you know? And she told me he was nice. I saw him — I saw him in her memory, in my dream, and he was nice. Or at least … understanding." She sighs as the steam rises, making her face and hair sticky with starchy vapor.

"You tried to tell me he was okay, you know? I guess I should start listening to you now and then," Tasha says lightly, glancing over her shoulder and winking at Colette.

"The Colette is always right," is offered with a slow, studious nod as Colette presses a kiss to Tasha's cheek, lips brushing away the salty dampness of tears. "Your dad's a really good guy, an' he's genuinely concerned about us. I know it," Colette affirms, "I know he cares an' I know he loves you. He's like a hero, y'know? He saved a bunch of Ferrymen at the Armory when he didn't have to, he's… he's just a jerk." There's a crooked smile that spreads across Colette's lips at that.

"But that jerk loves you," Colette whispers against Tasha's temple, squeezing her once more before slowly relaxing her from the tight hug she's been wound up in. "Don't you ever forget that either, right?" Both of Colette's brows lift, one of her hands moves to rest against the side of Tasha's neck. "I know what a dad who doesn't care is like, an' your dad ain't that guy. He just… he's just a jerk." And she means that in the best way possible.

Whatever that is.

Tasha nods, leaning her forehead against Colette's head, closing her eyes and then wrapping her arms around the other girl again. She takes a long breath, then releases it in a shuddery sigh. "He said it. Before I left. It was the last thing he said," she admits. "But I think … I mean, if he wants me to do this for my own protection, I probably shouldn't hang out near him or anything. Not like we had but…"

She shrugs, reaching around Colette for the cheese packet. "It's funny how you take it for granted. And only miss it when you lose it." Tearing the foil, she brings her eyes up to Colette's. "I promise I won't ever do that with you, okay?" It's a small voice. She blames herself for doing it with Vincent — now that she feels she's lost him, she can see all of the things she could have done better.
"You won't get the chance to," Colette affirms as she steps in closer and slides one arm around Tasha's waist, swaying from side to side with her slowly. "M'not ever goin' anywhere, so you're not gonna' have t'worry about losing me. An' I know you appreciate me, 'cause you're just wonderful like that." Nose brushing against Tasha's nose, Colette offers a fond smile to the younger brunette and slides around her to step over towards the stove.

"I downloaded a bootleg copy of that Maxwell movie last night," Colette notes with a nod towards the direction of the living room where her laptop is. "S'this totally cheesy action flick called Multiple Man that never got finished 'cause Humanis First was fuckin' around with the actors an' the set. But a bunch of the unfinished footage got released. It's most of the movie, but none of the special effects tha weren't from Evolved."

She turns around, back to the pot boiling on the stove. "We're gonna have dinner, we're gonna' watch a terrible movie, an' then we're gonna get curled up in bed and not worry about nothin' for the rest of the night. Sound good?"

"Bootlegger pirate woman," Tasha says playfully as she squishes orange cheese-like substance onto the pasta in the bowl, grabbing a wooden spoon from a container on the counter and starting to stir. "But that sounds just about perfect."

Having finished "making dinner," if one can call it that, she leans to kiss Colette's cheek before reaching for bowls in the cupboard to dish the pasta into. "No more map stuff, either," Tasha adds, a little bit of a question in her soft voice, though she tries to make it into a statement. She isn't as good at being bossy as Colette is. "Not tonight. There's time tomorrow. 'Kay? Just you, me, mac and cheese, Ben and Jerry, Jupiter, and Tamara and Missy if she comes out of her room, and that's it." It's quite the household.

"We should get a kitten," Tasha adds thoughtfully, pulling forks out of a drawer and handing one to Colette. "We can name her Miss Kitty Fantastico."

There's a snorted laugh as Colette nudges the fork aside with the back of her hand and leans her weight against Tasha, arms draped lazily over her shoulders. "We have too many pets," she admits with a slow shake of her head, pressing a kiss to the back of Tasha's neck distractedly, reaching out to take the fork that's been offered to her finally, slowly twirling it between her fingers before placing a kiss at the side of Tasha's jaw.

Looking back over to the map, Colette's brows furrow. She wants to get back to work on it, desperately so, but for Tasha's sake she can agree to put work aside just this once. "But maybe if you're a good girl," Colette suddenly says with one brow raised, "Santa might get you a kitten for Christmas."

Then, crossing her arms over her chest, she eyes the fork and lifts one brow. "Well," she amends with a smirk, "if you're good, or appropriately naughty." Mismatched eyes flick back up to Tasha again, grinning playfully now.

"Whichever comes first."

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