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Scene Title Champions
Synopsis Ghost takes Helena to the Formula. Or they manage to proceed a few sidewalks into transit, at least, before an unexpected phonecall from the expected patron brings a mixture of disappointment, reassurance, and food for thought.
Date July 17, 2009

Betwee Greenwich Village and Somewhere Else

In transit.

By bringing Helena to the Formula, Ghost had apparently intended a seemingly undirected perambulation through the Western part of New York City in the afternoon. Clouds clot the sky with gray cotton and a slow wind picks at the black edges of his clothes as he leads the way, traversing sidewalks and crosswalks and boardwalks— no, excuse that, no boardwalks— through the asphalt twists and iron turns that constitute the city's viscera.

Between orange warning stripes and color-coded lights, Washington Square Park stands out in a spiny bristle of green relief. Ghost's tread is steady, his conversation sporadic but unhurried. It takes him a few minutes to remember to asl Helena, over his shoulder, brow lifted quizzically good-humored. "So— how are you?"

"Um." Helena has her green Keep On The Grass trucker cap on and her sunglasses, usually used to provide additional concealment, are hooked into one of the belt loops of her jeans. "I generally," she pauses, musing on whether Ghost really wants to hear the laundry list, and deciding on not, offers instead a wry but still genuine smile. "Well, you know. I've been better. But I've also been a whole lot worse."

There is an extra layer of distance behind the projection of Ghost's easy smile, there, that indicates he noticed the instant's hesitation and guessed to its origin. If he'd really wanted to have all the linens aired out in his face, he doesn't press the point. Generalities work well enough on a casual basis, and this afternoon expedition is certainly, cleverly concealed as casual.

"I don't know if the latter is encouraging or just really, really fucked up."

Hooking a loose arc around the blocky shade of a hotdog stand, Ghost pauses to glance at the shade of mustard in its bottle, almost comments on it— something saucey, maybe rude, but he's interrupted by an abrupt slice of ringtone out of his pocket. Blinking, the ghost glances down. Tugs his cellphone up and open. "Afternoon."

The voice on the phone is young, but not young — the timbre without the tone. There's a distracted air to the clearly feminine speaker, which is in its own way as recognizable as her voice. "Was it? I suppose so. Do you really think you'd thought this through?" Bit of a tongue twister to say, or to follow for that matter, which tends to happen when Tamara's trying too hard to be clear.

"I didn't. You know me— I leave the bigger picture out to somebody else, these days.

"Blinkers on. Deaf and dumb to the cries of the innocent, a spinning tunnel vision of rage, pain," Ghost sheds a wink in Hel's direction even as they clop and scratch onto the park's broad path. "I'm passing along the request on Lena's behalf. She wants it for her boy or for some other means, I'm not sure.

"I guess, if I still had it, I'dve said no." That is likely enough to sink any residual misnomers about the subject about which Ghost is conversing. He skews his course off the path and onto the lawn, loping up onto the grassy incline on even stride, every inch of him relaxed, belying his deliberate pace away from the clumps of late afternoon revellers. "Should I put you on speaker?"

Helena's brows lift a touch. Well, it shouldn't surprise her that Teo didn't have it anymore, but obviously she was not expecting Tamara. Perhaps she should have, but then Tamara's a bit like the Spanish Inquisition in that way. She follows Teo up the knoll, but doesn't offer comment; there's little point until such time as Tamara offers to speak to both of them, or Ghost can give her his attention, which for the moment, she doesn't require.

Helena's brows lift a touch. Well, it shouldn't surprise her that Teo didn't have it anymore, but obviously she was not expecting him to have placed it another's keeping entirely. She follows Teo up the knoll, but doesn't offer comment; there's little point until such time as the person on the other line offers to speak to both of them, or Ghost can give her his attention, which for the moment, she doesn't require.

"If you wanted. It was fair — I could hear her." There's no background noise coming from Tamara's end of the phone call, not even the sounds of evening traffic or another voice. The sybil herself falls quiet then, waiting for Ghost to follow through.

Under the ragged-edged shade of a tree, the ghost pokes the small left button on the tiny device's interface. In a moment, the quality of sound changes over the line from the sybil's end, and her voice resonates clearly, crisply up from the perforated plastic of the flip-phone's mouthpiece. Ghost glances up, over the roof of Helena's head, checking their proximity with a lackadaisical sweep of eyes, and one quicker, sharper circuit of psychic inquest.

"You're calling," he observes of the phone, lightly. "That's a bad sign for Lena's case."

Sound, then; the rasping edge of breath, not labored, but definitely harsher than it should rightly be. "Ghost." Not Teo; she usually calls him Teo regardless of any semantics. "I— " Can't look back for it. But he would answer for her, and she would hear that. "Tamara," the girl supplies a moment later, tone detached, as if she gives the name no weight. "There was one on the table," she continues. "There is a reason the others come off. One was risk enough — when you load the dice, load them your way."

"I think she's talking about chance," Ghost volunteers, after a weighty pause, an outward stoop to his brow giving him a quizzical cast across the unfamiliarity of facial features.

She's also talking about the deliberate absence of his name, the truth and quiddity of his identity as it should be, but he isn't going to note that aloud, never mind betray whether or not it disconcerts him. It's irrelevant for now. For now—

"The risk," he adds, as if that might serve clarification, though there's a pause, then, a sharpening around the pallid points of his eyes. "Are we going to get out of the castle okay, Tamara? Is Peter?"

You know, all the episodes of Firefly in the entire series is not going enable Helena to understand Tamara in 2009. "He's been memory altered and manipulated somehow to think he's supposed to be helping his father." Helena says. "He's also paralyzed. If he comes around to being more inclined to help than it may be we could bring him into the thick of things, rather than hope Delphine will still be alive when all's said and done. And if we can't, it would be good to have in the event that Arthur attempts a power-grab on any one of us."

"There were threads you could see, and threads you could not imagine," the sybil replies, a hint of weariness creeping into her tone. "There was one already there. The other cannot help. Cannot. If the owl fell through then these were here after." Tamara says after; that implies they should get out, at least, though 'okay' may have gotten lost somewhere in interpretation.

Yellow knifes down through the frond of tree boughs and leaves above the ghost's head, pokes him in the eye, but that probably isn't what he's scowling about. His lashes throw a fan-shaped shadow down the incline of his cheek and he raises a hand to his own jaw, drags blunt fingernails, rasping, along the bristle of incipient stubble. "Well.

"That's like 'okay.'" Always one to be helpful. He slants a look up, sidelong at Helena's face, something pensive behind the pale of his eyes. "Peter's going to get his ability back. There's going to be a time." He's either paraphrasing Ecclesiastes or subscribing to a secularized but no less potent sense of Fate.

Possibly not good enough. Probably. He half expects Helena to slap.

"So I'm supposed to just lay back and let it happen when it happens?" Helena counters. "You came all the way here to fight fate, but you expect me to just nod, smile, and accept?"

No reply from the phone. Faintly aggravating; Ghost had said, he'd said he doesn't like having to worry about stuff other than who to kill, fuck, talk to today or tomorrow to get done what he wants to do.

Defending Fate or its permutations is somebody else's hobby. Nevertheless, he finds his voice somewhere in the grit of his teeth, flat, every note as starkly obstinate as the weather witch's, though fortunately he spares Helena any childish defensiveness. "I expect you to fight smart. Girl says getting a dose back isn't the way to do it, fuck knows whether because Pete's still going to be fucked out of his gourd or someone else is going to have ways and means.

"You use the weapons put in your hands and the situation as it changes. This alliance is one of both. Use it. Think laterally.

"And slap me upside the head if you need to," there's a baton's spin of a forefinger through empty air near his own face, a dark stoop of an eyebrow, "but it needs to be out of your system by the time you're done."

"I don't need to hit you." Helena says tersely. But the situation is what it is - they have what she rightfully stole, and she's not going to get it back until Tamara and Ghost deem it to be time. Helena hates to be the puppy, begging for her kibbles n' bits, but there's nothing she can do about it. "I'm doing the best that I can." she says, trying to keep the frustration and fear out of her tone. She looks away, a silent revocation of her request which brought her here to this phone call in the first place. "As long as you're here, Tamara - do you have any advice?" Not that Helena will understand it, of course."

Tamara's answer, if it can be called that, is something incoherent; not quite in focus, the phone seems to have caught the sound only obliquely. There's a slight pause, followed by a harsh rattling clatter, as though the phone collided undesirably with the ground; and a moment later nothing at all but disconnected line.

"Fuck." This time, Ghost's annoyance seems to be neither particularly ambient like the toxic stuff that characterizes his every other mood nor directed with brutal, scathing force at anyone present. He glares down at the phone in the wake of Tamara's silence, concern etching nigh unfamiliar lines in the tan of his voice.

He doesn't elaborate. Not without being asked, anyway. Clack, and he folds the phone shut between palm and long fingers. "Girl's is a difficult ability to live with. Almost gave me an aneurysm once, looking in."

Helena stares at the phone like it's a snake that might bite her. "That is…not encouraging." she states flatly. Her eyes flick up to him. "You've been working with Hana. I mean, where you were from, you did. Right?"

The phone is shunted into his pocket on the blunt of his thumb, leaving his hands conspicuously empty, a seeming of heartless. "Since you died," he says, striaghtforwardly. "Give a few months of staggering around with puke in my hair and digging through Humanis First! and Pinehearst's garbage. With Hana, sometimes the Mossad.

"It was encouraging," he says. Contradicts her, technically, but there is sincerity in his insistence, the coolest, most tactical approximation of optimism. His eyes rest on the girl's fair face for a long moment, cool, sterile, inert as wayward chips of stone flung off loose by the process of separation.

He pushes his hands deeper into his pockets, wrists plowing up against the hemmed fabric and turns back for the city. "More specific questions next time, that's all."

"I don't see how." Helena says, and picks up her feet when he starts lifting his own. "I'm trying to figure out how to keep Arthur distracted. Keep out of reach, assault his senses more than his person, but that too. But how do you strategize against someone who can move superfast, split into several, and shunt his abilities in any combination to any of those several? I don't see how we can adapt fast enough."

A long forefinger and thumb splays, wishboned under the crook of his chin, a parodied exaggeration of thoughtfulness which is like being facetious, but not quite. He curls his forefinger briefly. Drops his hand. "You have a few advantages," he says. "You know more about him than he does about us.

"His vulnerabilities— what few of them there are, you can exploit. Thunderclaps against his hearing, the dupes' psychic feedback between deaths. Gillian's his match for speed and power, by my understanding of her baby brother's talent, and we've both seen her like manage to murder an incarnation of Arthur Petrelli before.

"You're also wisely proceeding off the humble assumption this is going to be a challenge. He's never paid Phoenix the proper respect. Feint. Aim for his head. Get in quick, leave the same way.

"You're all going to have to think fast on your feet, either way." Generalities. Ghost doesn't know for sure how reassuring any of that is, but every word is wrought with facile simplicity, something like certainty. Hana is often the same way— and just as reckless, pitching herself off the lip of a fire-belching freighter, leading Agent Carmichael and a dozen cohorts through Midtown. "Vanguard, Cardinal, Deckard and I should probably go in first. Give you more to work with, though we should probably determine ideal entry points first."

His shoulders square above his pocketed hands. "Every precog we know infers Phoenix is going to live to bleed on the altar of the next big prophesy over. Don't panic."

"Panic is different from fear." Helena observes thoughtfully. "I'm not panicking, but I am afraid. People listen to me, and doing this could end up some few dead. Because they followed me. I - " she stops, shakes her head. "Sorry. I'm babbling, and it's pretty much self-indulgent crap." Despite being sore about the issue of the Formula, Teo's advice seems to have given her some kind of structure to her thoughts she previously lacked.

Chronology tends to help with that sort of thing, even for those deeply, existentially temporally confused like the ghost tends to come off. "I'm glad you're not panicking. Fear is good. You've always had to carry that around," he observes, blankly. "The possibility of getting people killed.

"I'm glad I don't have to anymore." He turns his head toward the park's quiescent gates, the bustle and squeak of traffic sifting beyond it. "I'd be the least qualified man on Earth to bitch at somebody about their self-indulgent crap," Ghost points out. He doesn't do either of them disservice by mentioning that he bitches plenty, anyway.

Helena studies him sidelong as they walk. "Speaking of self-indulgent crap," she says, not bothering to soften what she's about to say, "Sonny's become something of a problem. I mean, what he did to you - and yeah, I know, what you did to him - but the thing is, I don't know how much to trust him anymore. Anytime a decision is made that he doesn't like, he goes and does what he wants anyway. I don't think we can have that."

"I'd talk to him," Ghost suggests, after a short-lived, razor-edged silence, like something broken off and jammed in there, forcing a gap into the flesh of what had been and what is now. "I used to have a small problem with doing whatever the fuck I wanted. I'd just accept the consequences, afterward. And roll around in my elevated rank like a pig in shit.

"He's mad and bitter as fuck, but that can be channeled into constructive things. I'm being self referential." The last line is delivered in a stage whisper, a token twist of humor to his mouth that fades too quick, into a twitch of a scowl, worried. Somewhere out there, Tamara's collapsed with a precognitive migraine.

Jesus fuck, he hopes she put the Formula somewhere safe. Also, of course, that she's going to be all right. Upon these two things rests a considerable proportion of the Fate of mankind. "You're probably right, though. He has his own bullshit to wallow around in."

"Are you sure that won't make it worse?" Helena asks plainly. "Because you're the epicenter of his personal hurricane." She looks away as they walk. "Gillian knows." she says suddenly. "I told her about the future with her and Peter, and she's in love with this Peter, and he doesn't know me anymore." The way she tumbles from topic to topic may seem bad, but somehow, in her head, everything has a natural progression.

There's a grunt, something halfway between apology and retraction. "I'd— I'm going to talk to him," he says, "but I meant you should."

Even if she hadn't segued, it's reasonably likely that Ghost would have had nothing to add on the subject of his estranged lover. His sledgehammer lack of tact where the young shapeshifter is involved only gets worse with Sal's reciprocal and proportionally insensitive temper and, frequently, it seems that the greatest mercy that the ghost can offer the other man is excusing the man from any mention whatsoever.

To Gillian, then. And Peter, Helena. The slope of Ghost's cheeks hollow slightly, where he sucks in a sigh, expels it. "Takes a lot fucking more than love," he says, blankly, as if appropos of nothing.

"I can try. But he doesn't see me as much of anything but a mouthy kid." Not a complaint, just an observance; she knows she's more than that. To him, "You used to be my champion when it came to Peter. Are you still?"

An expression that is neither mirth nor skepticism lifts Ghost's brows, ladders a few lines of artificially-induced age. "Explain yourself, ask him to do the same. If you can't see eye-to-eye on shit, obviously it's time for somebody to fuck off, but it would probably be a good idea to make sure it is that time. Clarity's hard to come by." Observation, complaint. The ghost would be nothing without his biases, and he knows it.

The grin he slanted down at the weather witch now is crooked. Steam blows up through the subway vent below, obfuscating the illegible scrawl of his shrug. "I'm not much of a champion. Why?" His attention flickers through the massed trickle of pedestrians, past the soldiers hollering at the checkpoint at the curb on the street adjacent. Too far away to warrant real attention. "Need one?"

Helena nods in acknowledgment of his advice on how to deal with Sonny, tucks it away in her mental drawer for bearing out on a later date when she can face Ghost's - Teo's moptopped erstwhile ex-lover. Silent for a while, "I don't know." she says quietly. "It's not anything I can make a choice about, really. It depends on Peter, and he's hardly in a position to do so. This is hardly the time to do so. And I know how it works: the one who demands, loses. He and I have sort of been Fate's bitch, you know? I don't want it to be a sign. I want him back ans safe and him."

"At least you know that you know he's worth waiting for." It is probably Ghost's other synthetically induced super-power, turning reassurance inside-out, squeezing all the warmth out of it, lanced through with needles, crushed flat out on the page to show its mess of flesh and organs laid out for clear and articulate examination but only in a state of sterile, imploded death. "Arthur isn't going to keep you two apart, if anything does.

"What do you love about him?" Ghost's turn to trip and stumble over a sequitur non-sequitur, this time, clumsily burdened with the realization that these aren't conversations that they ever had, Phoenix's co-leaders, or the comrades they remained even after the burning bird had ceded its agenda and battle to ashes. "His honor? Courage? Protecting him?"

"Protecting him?" She laughs a little at that, but not bitterly. "He can't even be protected from himself." Though he wears a different face, it feels on some level, like Teo, which is why she does not resist her urge to curl her hand on his arm, as if they were some Edwardian pair in a park, him the gentleman, her the lady. "I always thought he had such hope. All these dreams to make things better. He wanted - he wants to be a hero. I thought we could build things, he and I."

This, no doubt, is what Sal hates most of all about Ghost: the illusion he somehow manages to cast over even the most intimately acquainted and perceptive of his old friends. Of course, the alternative— the possibility that this is the truth— is worse by far. Sometimes even the ghost thinks so. The distinction between himself and his earlier analogue is clear to few so much as it is to the two Sicilians who share this skull, themselves.

Still, he carries this casual intimacy with aplomb. Hooks his arm, tugs forward, retracing the course of neatly paved sidewalks they way they had come. "He could still. You could, still. That isn't gone from him now. It's a Petrelli thing, to die trying.

"Jesse isn't much of a dreamer," he adds, flatter then, like soda left out too long, unenthusiastic in that curiously fond sort of way.

"He loves you. Loves Teo." Helena replies. "And he is someone who I believe with all my heart and soul deserves to be loved properly." Whatever properly is. Peter, as he is now, doesn't love me at all. I'm nobody to him, just some member of PARIAH. Gillian told me the things he said, and how she wouldn't let herself give in to the lie, even though she wanted it. When we get him out, I'm afraid - what if he doesn't - " she can't finish, her expression shutting down, watching their feet as they walk. "The way we're parted so often, when I feel small in the dark, that's when I wonder if it isn't another thing that Fate is telling me to lay down and accept."

There's an articulate grunt of sympathy out of the ghost for that. Yeah, fucking— seriously. Except, you know. At least when Helena got shuffled off to prison, Peter was already there! Technically, she'd been joining him, rather than hurling futile forces against the gates, beaten back by choppers bristling snipers, a dozen intervening rivers and tundras of bad luck, tactical inadequacies, and appalling personal differences—

If he were a few degrees pettier, he might point out that his pain is way more gigantic than her pain— he doesn't even have a body of his own. "It wouldn't make you feel any better to consider the dividing factors other than Fate, so I won't talk about them. I'm sorry he's broken your heart," Ghost says, canting her a glance. "I wish you weren't afraid. Grief isn't a lot of fucking fun."

"He breaks my heart on a regular basis." Helena admits. "I suppose it's terribly unhealthy." Which doesn't stop feelings from being feelings. "But fear isn't grief, and I'm not in mourning. I refuse to be in mourning, unless something dies between us. Maybe it will, maybe it won't, but I won't cry over death that hasn't happened yet, even if I might fear it." She looks up at him. "Do you want your old face back?" Again, a seeming non-sequitor.

Teo's face is never a non-sequitur. It's right there, and everything, somewhat reduced in its glory but well worth looking at, taking note of, is significant— "Yes. That's what I'm going to talk to Sal about. Though I suppose I could just try Delphine, I'm not sure how her ability might interact with the one hundred and thirty-seven or so times this body's undergone healing and other crucial adjustments."

Like the fact that the ghost and Gabriel are enhoused in it at all. Were that reversed— he doesn't know what would happen. They might implode, vanish, incinerate like a dreary skein of mist under intrusion of sunlight. He adds, "You never really cry at all."

"I want him to give your face back too." Helena admits, adding, "I'd prefer it you didn't implode or explode or fall to pieces or something, though. When you leave, will Teo's body still carry an Evolved blueprint?" And only then does she address his observation.

"When we first got to the future, after I found out how things were, and all of that coming after being locked up and tortured and - " she breaks that off. "I cried. I cried so hard I shook and I couldn't control myself or process or do anything, I just cried, and when I was done, I was dry and I haven't cried since."

Ghost nods once, slowly. Sometimes you run out of crying. He is man enough to be able to admit to being acquainted with this truth, concept, and experience. "Don't think you're incapable of it, now," he says, in a parody of warning, "or it'll sneak up on you when you least fucking expect it. Be bad for morale.

"Or maybe not," he theorizes, lazily, listing them away from a collision course with a fire hydrant and the bellicose little newspaper dispenser standing soldierly beside it. "There was that woman president." He gaps a pause into their conversation, easy, natural as anything, as a gentleman in a brown overcoat brushes by close enough to have heard otherwise. Adds: "He'll just be Teo. As ever."

"It wasn't Palin, right?" is Helena's reflexive reply. "Cat might make a good president someday. I'm sure I'm not cut out for it at all."

There's a brief show of teeth. "You don't say that out of deference to this country's standards," Ghost answers, ever one for immaculate courtesy to his host country. Not really. Assholes. "Cat would, until Washington rusted the brightness out of her."

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