tasha_icon.gif vincent_icon.gif

Scene Title Cahoots
Synopsis Namely, who's in them with who. Tasha stops by her father's for dinner and mild reconciliation but no answers.
Date June 01, 2010

Vincent's Apartment

When Vincent enters his apartment, the redolent scent of tomatoes, meat, garlic and oregano greets him before anything else. The heat of the interior is a touch warmer than he probably left it at, and finally there are more lights to indicate someone is within, if the smell of food wasn't enough to tip him off. Tasha has been there since late afternoon, knowing he would be at work — enough time for the teenager to make the family bolognese that takes hours to simmer down to thick, hearty sauce, ready to spoon over spaghetti noodles.

The television is on, set to the news, in the living room, though Tasha is in the kitchen, standing at the sink and peeling cucumbers for a fresh garden salad. She doesn't hear her father enter, thanks to the iPod buds in her ears playing the Smiths into her ears, a touch of it bleeding out and probably asking for a lecture on how her generation is going to be deaf thanks to the incessant and too-loud noise in their media-saturated lives.

The murmur of late o'clock news through the apartment door would be disconcerting even if there wasn't a sliver of warm light creased along the frame to accompany it. Someone's home.

That is to say, someone's home in his home that isn't him and there are only so many keys.

A cursory examination of the exterior reveals no indication of tampering or forced entry. Only the faint smell of something appetizing and a dull recollection of having eaten something like dinner for or five hours ago. Six, actually. According to his watch.

Process of elimination is quick owing to the short nature of the list of keymasters he must consider, and for what feels like a long time, Vincent lingers outside the threshold of his own apartment, suit and briefcase and overcoat and fedora. When he finally resolves to enter, there is nothing for Tasha to hear, earbuds or no. He's an oily smudge and turn of smoke like soot in the entry a ways behind the kitchen, hat tipped onto a hook and briefcase with laptop slid silently onto the table. He vanishes again then, reappearing in the kitchen proper coatless and quiet to prop himself in the doorway to watch while she peels.

He didn't know she could cook.

Her repertoire is limited but growing thanks to the rotating chore list that comes with living in a ferry safehouse coupled with helping out at the Lighthouse for the past month. Spaghetti, tacos, hamburgers — she's good with ground beef, at any rate. The bolognese is Vincent's mother's recipe, or as close as she can make it. Tasha's inexperienced fingers aren't as certain when it comes to chopping onions or even peeling cucumbers, but they're deft and able, artistic fingers.

When she's done peeling, she turns to the knife block for a knife, but jumps visibly when she sees Vincent watching her. Chagrined, because obviously, she's waiting for him in his house, she offers a shaky smile, setting down the cucumber and pulling her earbuds from her ears.

"Hi," she says, dark eyes wide in her pale face. "Hungry? I can put the pasta on — it'll just take a few minutes."

"Evening," says Vincent, unfathomable as ever. He could be angry or disappointed or affectionate or all at once. His coal black eyes don't provide any hints and neither does his posture, slouched somewhat as it is sideways into the open door. "I could eat."

Right hand scuffed absently over his balding skull, ridges in his palm sandpapery and coarse where he's overdo for a buzz down, he pushes away from unflawed wood only to stay where he is, both hands sunk deep into his trouser pockets. Awkward. "Does anyone know you're here?"

Reaching to the stove to click on the pot of water already on a boiler, Tasha then goes to the bag of groceries on the counter to pull out the pasta — the fresh refrigerator-section noodles rather than the hard dry pasta.

"Not that I'm here specifically, like this building or anything, if you're worried about people knowing where you live. I told Colette I was coming to visit you, yeah. That's all who knows where I am," she says, her eyes not meeting his as she moves back to the knife block to select a weapon for slicing the cucumber.

As Tasha begins to cut the vegetable into the salad, she murmurs, "I'm sorry I lied to you and for saying what I did."

This is probably the most arduous application of foodstuffs this kitchen has seen. Everything is good as new and cleaner than clean, stainless steel knives and dark granite counter surfaces all agleam with careful disuse. "I am paid to worry professionally," replied with approximately no purchase available for reprisal, he eventually produces a cigarette from the interior of his suit jacket and lights up with a pointed little flick of thumb to striker.

"How did you get here?" is the next question, interrogation performed politely and without hurry while she sees to the salad and he blows smoke out his nose, considering the door to the balcony and whether or not air circulation is worth the cold. He seems to be thinking about that last thing, too. The apology.

"Did you mean it?"

The cucumber sliced, the salad is done, and Tasha picks up the tongs to toss it before reaching into the grocery bags for an Italian dressing — balsamic vinagrette. Opening this, she douses the greens, then tosses again. "I took the subway, like people do," she says with a little smirk. "Not all of us can flit around the city through storm drains and air conditioning vents, you know." It's an attempt at humor, though it's very much something her mother would say.

The other question is harder. She turns to the stove, noticing the boiling water, and busies herself with tearing open the pasta container and dumping the noodles into the water. A quick stir of the meat sauce causes the rich scent to waft across the kitchen.

"No," she finally says, eyes down on the red sauce in the pot, before finally turning to look up at him. "I might have thought I did. But it wasn't fair of me, and I was wrong." There's an audible swallow, and her eyes glimmer with a threat of tears.

Dark eyes rolled dully ceilingwards at talk of storm drains and air conditioning vents (it does sound like something her mother would say), Vincent treads deeper into the kitchen without really getting any closer. The refrigerator hums nearby, stainless steel, sleek, massive, intimidating and empty. A really expensive metaphor.

"If you're sure," he says, finally, smoke drifting hazy in his wake with nowhere to fade to. It'll start pooling around fluorescent lights soon if he doesn't open a window. "It's okay if you did mean it. You're allowed to think things, you know. And to say them." It's in the Bill of Rights and everything. That he can look into the tear-glittery eyes of his daughter from behind V'd fingers and cigarette and have no outward response beyond a slightly uncomfortable feather on the edge of his observation probably says something about him.

"Yeah, well, I missed the Five Minute Hate or something that day, I guess, and had it all pent up or something. It was called off on account of the weather," Tasha quips. The fact that it's a jab at the very government he works for may or may not occur to him. Has he read that book? She doesn't even know. The last time they talked about books, she was reading Harry Potter or maybe Laura Ingalls Wilder books.

She watches the water boil around the pasta. He may notice she's not dressed like a neon factory exploded all over, but rather in jeans, her Doc Martens (now that it's warm enough not to get frostbite without snow boots), and a sweatshirt with her former college's logo emblazoned on the front. The clothing doesn't smell like smoke, though he may not notice that, smoking his cigarette as he is.

"I always forget how long for the noodles. You like them al dente or softer?" she glances up at him, brows knitting together for a moment before she glances at the clock on the microwave. "You don't mind if I crash for the night? It's past curfew now," she points out.

The fact that Vincent recognizes the reference is all in his lack of reaction, confusion or acknowledgement. He looks at her, compass to north without waver or diversion. Humor is especially absent. He doesn't think it's funny. He exhales slowly out the corner of his mouth. More smoke.

Then he turns to separate a little-used ash tray from its set on the cabinet nearby. Click, slide and clatter.

"Softer is fine. I can take the couch."

Ash tapped off the tray's edge, he's quick to plug his cigarette back into the side of his mouth, tie still knotted fussily neat at his throat and black cuffs clean. Clothes perpetually less tired than the rest of him, he vacates the kitchen to see about fresh sheets and an open window on foot rather than in a furl of umbral vapor.

"You don't have to take the couch. I'm displacing you," Tasha says, but he's already gone. A moment later, pasta is drained; the meal is brought out to the dining room table, which she sets quickly. It's really much too late for dinner, but it's more of a peace offering, and thus, a ceremony of sorts, and all ceremonies require blood sacrifice. In this case, of cow.

"Just so you know, I'm gonna get a job, and I'm gonna apply to school somewhere here in New York," she calls down the hallway. "If Mom didn't tell you already." She begins to spoon out two servings of everything, before sliding into her seat and spearing a cucumber with her fork.

'That's nice,' seems like an unnecessarily cruel thing to say under the circumstances, so. Vincent doesn't immediately say anything. At a distance there is some rustling in a linen closet, blankets flopped out onto the couch before he moves on into the bedroom to change the sheets out in there. He is dexterous enough to do so with a cigarette in his mouth without blackening holes into soft cotton. The far wall may not be so lucky if he keeps staring at it the way he is.

Pillows are last, one swapped out and the other dragged out with him to be swung onto the couch in passing. All in all he's back in the kitchen in time to offer a, "Glad to hear it," that's timely enough to be relevant but skeptical. His briefcase is cleared off the kitchen table — large enough to host two, though it's never had to try.

"I'll sleep on the couch," Tasha offers again, forking a tomato and bringing it to her mouth — it may or may not remind her of her childhood, that she still does the same thing: eats all the 'goodies' out of the salad first — the croutons, the tomatoes, the olives, the cucumbers, until all that is left is the rather boring lettuce, the bulk of which remains uneaten. "It's not like I have a job or something to get up to like you do."

She moves to the pasta itself, which tastes good if it lacks a little in technique and finesse. It's hard to mess up pasta, really, and the flavor is reminiscent of the family recipe, even if the onion bits are a touch too big to be consider diced. She chews slowly, uncertain of what to say next — he isn't making it easy on her. At this rate, it will be a very quiet, efficiently-eaten dinner.

"I already changed the sheets," countered firmly but otherwise without feeling, Vincent sets his briefcase aside, snuffs his cigarette out in the kitchen proper and takes up his seat opposite her, fork taken up and applied indiscriminately to salad. Silvery prongs turn through lettuce and tomato and olives alike, not taking the time to pick and choose. She's sleeping in the bed. Because he says so. And there are things he still has control over within the boundaries of his apartment, if apparently nowhere and nowhen else.

He isn't making it very easy, but he never has and probably never will. So it goes.

There's nothing of uncertainty in his silence or posture. He chews at a normal rate and glances at her occasionally to mark her silence before moving on to pasta, which is familiar. Familiar enough to earn an appreciative lift at his brows before he rolls fork tines back through it again, right hand and wrist etched with a thin scar to match the one near his temple on the same side. Clink.

It seems oddly dark in the rest of the apartment, deco track lighting minimal and off entirely in most places, TV murmuring muffled in the background. "Whatever happens," he says finally, voice quiet, "you do know that I love you." It should probably have a question mark. But it doesn't.

Though she never eats this late, Tasha eats, because it's easier to handle the silence. When it is at least broken by something other than the scrape or clink of fork or the crunch and chew of teeth on produce, she looks up, expressive brows knitting together. She reaches for her bottle of water and brings it to her lips, taking a long pull even as she nods her head. Yes.

"I'm sorry I lied," she adds. "I don't know if Mom told you — once the phones were working again, I called and told her kind of where I was. I just … I didn't know what to say that wouldn't have you showing up at the doorstep and I was just trying to protect the people that … the people that wouldn't want anyone to know where they are." The Ferry refugees. "I didn't know you were helping them and I thought if you showed up…" Tasha shrugs, staring at her food and shoving it around with her fork as she speaks. Her brows furrow together a bit more, and she looks up, dark eyes shimmering with that threat of tears once more. "I guess I misjudged you. I'm sorry. I'm sorry for a lot. Obviously I don't really even know what you do or who you are or what you care about… like, your philosophies or anything. I don't know you as an adult, and that's my fault, not yours."

She's sorry for lying. "But not," Vincent has a very pointed way of speaking sometimes, the difference between shooting a nail through one's hand with a nail gun and more deliberately turning a screw, "for fraternizing with domestic terrorists. Wine?" He loosens his tie and creaks his chair back from the table, already pushing to stand. "I think I'm going to have a glass."

"Are you sorry for fraternizing with domestic terrorists?" Tasha tosses back, arching a brow at Vincent before stabbing some lettuce with her fork and bringing it to her mouth to crunch. Apparently she does eat the lettuce and not just the more interesting vegetables, from time to time. "Does Praeger know you are in cahoots with them, in some way that no, I'm not entirely certain of or in the know of, in case you are wondering?"

As for his offer of wine, that gets another arch of her brow as she tilts her head to look up at him. "You do remember I'm only eighteen, right?" she asks. "But, if you're willing to contribute to the corruption of a minor, since it's not like I'm going to be driving or otherwise operating heavy machinery, sure, I'll have a glass."

"Is that what you saw?" An automatic sweep of Vincent's right hand deftly straightens out the flag of his suit coat when he turns for the kitchen. Evidently there's a bottle already open in the refrigerator, because he pulls that open first, then a cabinet to retrieve a pair of little-used glasses. "Fraternizing? Cahoots?"

Cork (with corkscrew intact) unplugged and bottle sniffed, dark eyes unfathomable, he pours carefully. Like he does most things. One glass and then two, both tipped off exactly at the middle. He even stoops slightly to make sure they're even before he replaces bottle to fridge, hardly a feather out of place. Save for the loose hang of his tie around his neck, perhaps. "Persons under the age of 21 in New York may in the privacy of their own home consume alcohol with the consent of a legal guardian."

He says so as he sets her glass before her. Then he retakes his seat.

"Even though 18 to 20 year olds don't need legal guardians for anything else? Silly laws," Tasha says, pushing away the less comfortable, harder-to-answer questions for a moment as she picks up the glass, bringing it to her nose to smell for a moment, before taking a sip. "Fraternizing may be the wrong word," she says after tasting the wine. "Cahoots, I am not sure. You're helping them, aren't you? Somehow? Aside from that crazy kid, no one tried to kill you," she points out. Magnes may be a few years older than her, but she still calls him a kid.

"Do you really think they're terrorists, or is that just the official label stamped on them by Uncle Sam? They seem to do good things. Rumor has it that it's no longer Ice Age the Sequel because of them." His part in that, she is still unsure of. She picks up the glass for a second sip, watching him with dark eyes that are a slightly-lighter mirror of his own.

It's decent stuff. Not particularly expensive. Grocery store bought. But it compliments dinner well enough and with any luck may distract from the fact that he has absolutely no intention of answering any questions about what he does or was doing. Or even acknowledging them really, outside of a mild look over the rim of his glass while he sips before he sets it aside.

"Unrelated kindness does not actually mitigate the evil that men do, contrary to whatever it is they preach. Nor is it an acceptable legal defense." Back to eating, he doesn't miss a beat. A living brochure.

"That doesn't answer the question," Tasha points out, picking up her fork and bringing another bite of pasta to her mouth. "You said last time they are dangerous people, but, really, who isn't? I think, if the last few years have taught me anything, it's that anyone can be dangerous. Some more than others, maybe, but judging people based on the fact they can be dangerous is a form of prejudice in and of itself, right? Like thinking all Evolved people are dangerous, which, yes, sure, just like all people are dangerous."

She frowns, having lost the train of thought she was trying to engineer.

"What do you believe, then? I said I was wrong about you but now you're trying to make it look like you weren't trying to help, so I don't know what you think or what you believe, except the law of course. Always the law." Tasha sets down her fork, pushing her plate slightly away, the meal only half finished. "I'd like to know."

While Tasha talks about people being dangerous — or more specifically, about Evolved people being dangerous — Vincent finally does slow down somewhat in his chewing, like he suspects she might be going somewhere with it. Somewhere else, at least.

He resumes normal operation once it's clear that she isn't or doesn't, jaw grinding away under its stylish allocation of deliberate stubble. More hair there than on his head, no doubt.

"I believe you are making a liability of yourself. I believe that you are not going to listen to me, and I believe it's only a matter of time before someone becomes aware of who you really are. If they haven't already." More wine and he sits back, threading his windsor the rest of the way loose so that he can flop silky pyrite and grey into his lap while he watches her. "Young people need to learn some things for themselves, I know, but you've picked one hell of a venue to experiment within, Natasha."

She asked, of course, and at least she got some honesty rather than brochure fodder, but she blinks at the directness of his words. One foot comes up on her chair, the knee a barrier of sorts as she leans back to listen to him. The word 'experiment' gets a chuckle and a shake of her head, before the wine glass is picked up again, sipped slowly and set back down to buy her time to think of a response.

"You're assuming a lot here. That I'm either a member or that I'm just experimenting or … I'm not sure how to answer, without making it seem worse or better in your eyes. Or do you simply just not want to know?" Tasha says quietly, her voice even as she watches him, eyes narrowed slightly, though not in anger — there is a contemplative expression on her face, the cogs in her mind visibly at work.

The chuckle earns a minute tilt of Vincent's head, inquiring as to what's funny without actually inquiring.

Because she's right. He doesn't want to know.

An even look and a slower sip of wine later, he glances aside to the kitchen and there's a quiet break that feels a lot like the end of the conversation whether she's ready for it or not.

"Thank you for dinner. It was good."

Well. That answers that question. Don't ask, don't tell. Somehow, she and her father have become an army of two.

The question is, are they fighting on the same side or opposites?

Tasha isn't sure. She nods, unfolding herself from the chair and picking up first her plate, then his. "I'll clean up. That way you can shower or whatever," she says quietly, heading into the kitchen with the dirty dishes, before glancing over her shoulder. "And whatever happens…"

"You do know I love you, too." Her words echoing his from earlier — despite their differences. Despite their similarities. If she didn't, it wouldn't be this damn hard.

As being made to do the dishes seems like relatively light punishment for potentially having thrown in with a terrorist organization, Vincent doesn't protest. Instead he sits where he is for a moment, watching the kitchen and the film of smoke still hazy at the ceiling.

"I know," he says eventually. Then he pushes to his feet, collecting briefcase and tie to take along with him to his bedroom. Maybe even into the bathroom, so long as there is at least one locked door between Her and It while he's distracted.

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