Children Of Ghosts


francois_icon.gif sarisa_icon.gif

Scene Title Children of Ghosts
Synopsis On a special assignment for Sarisa Kershner, Francois Allegre visits one last holdover of Kazimir's in eastern Russia…
Date December 29, 2009

It was in the kitchen of Ivan Spektor's home that he first saw her, a blonde woman in a leather jacket, black scarf wound around her face, pale eyes settled on the Frenchman as if he were some sort of strange species of animal. She watched him with scrutiny, uncertainty, fascination; not the kind reserved for Sylar, but the kind reserved specifically for Francois Allegre.

"Mister Allegre…" Sarisa had said as her first words to him, taking quiet steps forward towards him with brows furrowed and a look of disbelief painted across her face. She was, much in the way Abigail was, marveling at his very presence and her own physical proximity to him. She had taken off her gloves, tucked them in her jacket, and offered a hand out to him in greeting. "I'm— " that had been too informal, "My name is Sarisa Kershner," but she kept the introduction without title or station.

"I— " That time Sarisa had hesitated because her hand had met his. A wealth of knowledge and information, lifetimes worth, sinking in to her from their touch. There were only a handful of times in her professional career that Sarisa had reacted so strongly to the presence of another's memories and experiences; Her father and mother.

"I have something I'd like to ask of you."

When had Francois ever denied a woman with tears in her eyes?

USS George Washington

Four Days Later

It's a dry day, and the wind turns pages quicker than Francois can read. Eileen had given it back to him, the aged journal — obsolete, bitter, speaking not of black Russian forests or war torn Europe, but of deserts, of a blue eyed serial killing ghost, and a severe lack of destiny. With his elbows balanced against the railing of the gigantic ship, the wind blows clean off the ocean, a purity to it that Russian winter does not have. It tugs at hair and clothing and, evidently, journal pages. Precariously, Francois holds it over the churning sea below.

He's considered letting it tumble down into the choppy, icy waves, but isn't quite sure what the bigger vanity would be. He's waiting, too, as much as he'd made sure his idle slouch is out of the way of today's soldiers. Brings up a hand, scratches ruined ear, thumbs to the page he'd been reading.

Across the other side of the Russian continent, the city of Vladivostok is unlike Ryazan and eastern Russia, it is as far away from Europe as one can get, bordering China and Korea where it is perched upon the Atlantic Ocean. Amid these snowy streets in the dead of night, it is an old snow-hung iron gate that creaks to herald Francois arrival. Snow clings to the grayed bark of leafless trees flanking the shoveled path leading between drifts of otherwise undisturbed snow towards the front of a weathered old church.

Dim yellow lights burn on the inside of the building, warm unlike the bitter cold out this late at night. The sky is black overhead, black from clouds, black from the history that hangs over this city. Across the path, Francois sees the lights of the city proper in the distance, further away from this isolated hilltop church and its tiny cemetary. Up the grabite slab steps and beneath the icicle-rimmed awning at the front door, he is treated to the silence of a city fallen asleep and the sound of falling snow; subtle to hear amid the silence.

On those old red-painted wooden doors, a pair of tarnished copper door-knockers bear the visage of snarling wolves holding rings in their mouths. A very long time ago, a much different man stood on these very steps, with as much uncertainty in his heart as he stared at these very doors.

Vladivostok is a subtle truth of the Vanguard. A subtle secret, and it is here outside the snowy doors of this Russian Orthodox church that Francois Allegre comes face to face with the past; both his own and Kazimir Volken's.

Just as Kazimir himself had decades prior.

The night is full of black and white, like a dead television, snow flurries pinwheeling down from the black sky above as if someone were tossing it by the handfuls. It catches in crystals refusing to melt on his coat, in his hair, the loop of scarf that can't be tight enough. The icy, Ryazan winter aches to the bone and twinges the deformity of his left hand that had been Sasha's mark left behind, the tips of his fingers tingling and the bones fanning beneath skin and flesh aching fiercely. So it's with his right that he touches the copper, gloved fingertips brushing along exposed metal fangs gripping the rings.

By morning, the frost and ice already gathered there will make their own kinds of fangs, and he ruins the progress of icicles by rubbing his thumb along the ridged cold.

It won't be the first time he's retraced the steps of Kazimir Volken. Not by a long shot. He imagines it will be the last and isn't entirely certain as to how he's supposed to feel about such a thing. With a glance back to the iron gate, knowing he won't pass through it before he's completed this errand, he brings the copper door knock down with a sharp snap against the painted wood. A glance to the warm looking windows has Francois remembering himself, freeing his hair of ice with ruffling hands before fixing his scarf, tugging the dangling ends into his black woolen coat.

In a way the sound of footsteps interspersed between the rhythmic click of a steel-tipped something sends an all-too familiar jolt of worry down Francois' spine. But it is not the measured cadence of Kazimir Volken and his cane that stalks up behind Francois, something far less dangerous but equally as fearsome. Blonde hair in Francois periphery belongs to Agent Sarisa Kershner, and her casual approach comes with a hook of an umbrella over the railing, a steel-tipped umbrella she'd been doubly using as a cane.

"I'd heard your plane arrived this morning…" Sarisa says to the midday sun that breaks thorugh thick patchworks of clouds. Her eyes, distant as they are, focus instead on a black smudge on the horizon, what should be Madagascar, shrouded in distant rain.

"Everything I have to say to you is a question," Sairsa admits in reluctant tone, looking at the Frenchman with a side-long stare. "I'm not sure how to reconcile that. I'm not normally someone who asks questions. Typically, I have the answers."

At this late hour of night, it's a long while and a small wonder when someone finally does answer that snapping knock on those old doors. Then the locks on the other side are undone and the latch handle doors are opened just a crack, an old man stares quietly up through the space of the door. "«Church is closed, go home.»" Comes the terse greeting in Russian from the weathered and liver-spotted old man. It's only in a halting moment of disbelief that there is the sound of shattering glass, from a mug of tea that falls to the brickwork floor and smashes into dozens of thick earthenware shards.

The old man backs away from the door with an expression the man who has lived a dog's age has come to recognize — Francois should apparently remember this man — but age and time has not treated this hunchbacked hermit nearly as well as it has treated the once immortal Allegre. The icy wind of Vladivostok pushes one side of those double doors open more, giving Francois all the more the presence of some spectre from beyond the grave. He stares up, gray eyes wide, steam rising from the tea spilled on the bricks, seeping between the cracks like pieces of Francois' own memories.

"«God's grace,»" the old man rasps out, clutching at his cross as if that would ward Francois off, "«you look just like him.»" It is an uncanny resemblance to himself, Francois is assured.

A boot tracks back down a stone step, managing not to slip on slick and ice as Francois backs down a stair, his right hand out and splayed as if to reassure a skittish animal that he means no harm. He sends a guilty, green eyed glance down towards the shattered cutlery, and by the time he's lifting that look, he's studying the aged man before him, trying to see the shape of his face, place it with the storm tone of his eyes. Francois' shoulders twitch up in defense when a briskly icy wind chills through the area, pulls at him and wobbles his balance.

"«I don't mean any harm,»" he speaks, his Russian not as bad as most foreigners', if clearly not his native tongue. That a weathered old man has a clearer memory than he seems like a cruelty, considering he's the only one standing here unchanged. Frustration is shelved in favour of offering an uncertain smile. "«I was told that there was someone here who could answer my questions. If you have some time you can spare me, Father.»"

The title is a guess. Stands to reason, and it's always better to be safe than sorry. He swallows, once, though he's never had a trouble with lying. "«You recognise my grandfather?»"

He presses his journal closed at the sound of someone's voice, pages coming together like a prayer. Francois' back straightens, pushing the journal into his coat, tucking it away into a pocket and hiding his hands in the crook of his elbows as his arms come to fold. Sarisa mostly just gets his profile for now, chin as ever proudly hooked up and eyes hooded, although a smile gentles his expression. "Ah, then this is a nice change for me, right, for I am always the one with the questions. Only sometimes with a destination, even less armed, but always asking. But perhaps I will have some answers for you, oui?"

Francois turns, then, settling the small of his back against the railing as he steers green eyes to her blue, expectant, as if recalling how her's had flashed when he'd taken her hand. He certainly has a lotof history, and perhaps even more than that if he still had his gift and her's had sunk in just deep enough.

Folding her hands as she leans forward against the railing, Sarisa stares down at her gloved palms, brows furrowed and fingers folded together. In a way she is the perfect opposite of his posture and pose, her front offered to the sea where Francois has turned his back on it. She angles her jaw to the side, chewing on words unsaid, blue eyes shifting skew towards Francois. "No one knows where you came from…" she finally admits, less shame in admitting others' fault than her own. "You weren't on any roster, any list, any dossier or file I'd looked at. Yet, there you are, touching everything in the Spektor residence."

Sarisa's blue eyes drift from the horizon to regard Francois more closely. "I didn't even know you existed until I met with Catherine that first time, she mentioned your name, and then… a handshake is all it really took to figure out the rest." There's a furrow of the blonde's brows, "I was curious about you, but the day I came back to congratulate you all on a job well done, you were all over that residence. A table, a chair, a counterspace; pieces of your history scattered like dirty laundry all across the house…"

Leaning a bit more forward against the rail, Sarisa adds more to the wind than to Francois; "You look just like my grandfather."

"«Grand— »" The notion of Francois' lie seems to come hard to the old priest, and yet somehow the idea of an ageless man was easier to swallow. "«Grandfather,»" he breathes out in some mild relief. "«Yes, Yes I— You look so much like him. You must forgive me, things have been difficult as of late, the last few months have been very trying on me. Please, please come in from the cold, I will not have the grandson of Francois Allegre sitting out here in the cold because of some confused old man.»"

Moving back to the door and shoving the shards of the mug aside, the old priest pulls that side of the double doors open further. He makes a beckoning motion for Francois to come in, mindful of the shards of earthenwage mug broken underfoot. It's only once Francois is inside that the door is closed, revealing more of the foyer to him. The elaborate brickwork ismodest but artistically decorated, many small slabs of stone make up this modest sized church, with a very peculiar mural of a sunset hillside devoid of trees and vegetation, depicting a gnarled tree beneath which stands w olf, haunches raised and head lowered, fleeing flocks of sheep retreating down the hill from it. Against the tree, a shepherd's crook rests.

"«I apologize, for my earlier reaction. The hour is late and… and the mind, it plays tricks on men my age, yes?»" There's an awkward smile from the priest as he motions Francois towards one of the doorways that branch off from this foyer. "«Your grandfather, he was a soldier during the— the second world war, yes? You look much like him, I was but a boy when we met, but… those eyes. They are the eyes I have seen only in one other man aside from your grandfather. Very distinctive.»"

"Ah, oui. «He was.»" Francois works his fingers over the buttons of his coat, unfastening them to welcome in the warmth of shelter, scarf loosening, though he doesn't put any of these things aside, nor peel off his gloves, as he follows the old man through the church. He manages not to track in either dirt or slush, avoiding the spattered tea as he goes and as his profile is shown to the priest, the piece missing from his ear, a small, almost neat slice that's already scarred over as if it were an old addition, is plainer. Bone structure, voice, demeanor, all of these things aren't clues he can shed.

Not even over seventy, eighty years. "«Do not apologise, it is very late for me to come calling. I'll clean up after myself before I go,»" he adds with a gesture back towards the broken earthernware. "«Did you meet my grandfather here, Father? I admit, that I did not come here because of him.»"

"«Here? Oh God in heaven no…»" The old man says with a wave of his hand distractedly towards Francois before turning in through an arched and open doorway into a tiny living room in the back of the church. An old quilted fabric sofa rests opposite of the door, a knit blanket laid out over it, disrupted from where the old man had clearly gotten up. A pot-bellied wood stove burns in one corner of the room, opposite of a kerosene space heated near the coffee table. A tiny black and white television is propped up on a shelf across from the couch, still tuned in to the program the priest was watching before he got up.

"So do I." Francois rattles out a chuckle towards the wind, the sound scattered out, rueful. Apology in the next moment, weariness dragging his shoulders, and now he looks at her, studying her face as if there was anything in there for him to recognise in turn, before he can only lift his shoulder in a shrug. Somehow, the gesture is not uncaring, nor dismissing. There's a lot of history out there, and a lot of faces he should probably try to keep track of.

Soon, rain will reach them. The scent is heavy in the air, combatting salt, and above, the indistinct murky haze of descending water, like low cloud. Francois tilts his face to it. "I can tell you what I found in Vladivostok. But perhaps there is a debt I am owed. There are no files on me, that is true, and perhaps there should be. I went to Russia out of a sense of honour, but perhaps these days, I will need more than just that." He splays the fingers of his left hand, the disfigurement there, the slight quaver his fingers gain before relaxing. A minor wince, before he shakes his long sleeve back over it.

"I will need to exist, have employment, a name. My own, if I can help it. Taking a life is a small thing in war, but I am sure you and your government could manage granting one?"

"Owed…" Sarisa parrots the word with more of a sense of irony than Francois had intended it to have. The warm breeze coming off of the ocean toussled her hair, causes her tor aise one gloved hand to catch her bangs, push them away from her face to tuck behind one ear. "Your life is…" her eyes narrow, and when Sarisa turns to look at Francois, it's with a sense of mystique, as if she's trying to puzzle the man out and failing to even know what the picture will be at the end. "There are so many scientists who would give their lives to study you… study what you know, what you've seen and experienced. Scientists who would give everything — do anything — to understand the ability you once possessed, or— that once possessed you."

Looking down at her gloved hands, Sarisa rolls her forefingers and thumb together. "When I touched your hand, back in Russia, I saw glimpses of things — people, places — ancient things." Furrowing her brows, she is forced to look back to the mystery and ask him a simple question, without ever having really answered his, "How old are you?"

"«I was in Belgium during the war, a boy of seventeen years back then. I met your grandfather, he— »" The old priest turns, squinting behind the thick frames of his glasses, watching Francois carefully for a moment. "«He was your age, actually. French soldier, separated from his men I wagered. He had the look of a refugee, and my unit took him in. We were snowed down in the Ardennes, three feet of it. A miracle that your grandfather made it through the snow alive.»"

Distractedly waving a hand towards an equally ratty armchair near the space heater, the old priest comes ot take a seat on the sofa. "«He had said he was fleeing captivity from the Germans. He was happy to know he was only a few miles from an American camp, and had somehow not yet heard the war was almost over. I don't know how long he had been locked up… maybe it was the cold,»" The priest says as he settles down tiredly onto the sofa, "«maybe it was simply his first drink as a free man? But the hot tea he had that day— he drank it like it was his first drink.»"

Realizing the rudeness inherent in his rambling, the old man looks up with wide eyes. "«I apologize, I apologize, I forget myself. My name is Erich Rundstedt,»" he offers with a mild smile, and with something as simple as a name and a story, Francois is confronted with memories of heavy, wet snow falling on soldiers marching in bitter snow, the winter of 1945, and how he survived the Battle of the Bulge beside a young Russian solider fighting alongside the Americans against a German panzer offensive. "«What… brings you all the way out here, ah…»" He's plying for a name.

Now Francois veers his attention back out towards the ocean, restless in affront that he schools himself not to voice instantly, green eyes going up as if he could see above the rainy haze that is a distant Madagascar, and the mass of African land that extends beyond. "Seventy-six," he responds, words coming out clipped before he lifts his shoulders in a shrug of concession. "Or ninety-one, if we are to count the span of years between my being born and now, if not all that I have experienced personally. It is true, however, that my gift must be much older. I remember being given it, and I remember giving it away again."

The sound of boot falls has Francois glancing over his shoulder, but no one approaches. Three men in Navy garb walk on by without giving them a glance, all the cookie-cutter clean cut that the French Resistance was not. He waits for them to pass before speaking away, voice low. "What scientists would give makes no difference to me. The only thing they would need to understand is what they do not need to."

Huddling into the offered armchair, with a kind of weariness that is also to do with age, Francois eases his fingers to lace together despite the sharp pain that accompanies the action, or because of it. Draws him back into the present where the winter is just as cold and times aren't all that easier, but he won't be tormented twice over retaking memory lane. He peels off the black leather of his gloves, freeing them of their confines while it's still warm enough to do so. Warped knuckles, the seam of a scar, fingers that don't seem to sit right— these things seem both like injury and birth defect, half obscured by the tangle of fingers from his other hand.

"Francois," he chuckles out, finally lifting his gaze up to the old man as if from a reverie. "«I was named for him, as much as I never met him. In America, I'm called Francis. It is nice to meet you, Father Rundstedt. I,» ah…"

He shakes his head, briskly, cold in a way that has little to do with the winter outside and the warm within. But when he talks, his voice is more present, alert. "«I wanted to ask you about a man who had come here in his youth, a long time ago, or so I have heard. Kazimir Volken?»"

Francois' answer weighs on Sarisa, in the way she looks down at her gloved hand again, blue eyes narrowed. "I'm a psychometrist…" she didn't need to explain it, especially not there, or so awkwardly placed, but somehow perhaps she feels it's important to admit. "Skin contact, lets… me see people, their past, their lives, their secrets. It doesn't turn off, no matter what I do to someone, I feel their pasts constantly when I maintain contact. Sometimes I can filter it, manage it in something like a handshake without looking to be somewhere else. Most of the time, that works."

Turning around now, so that her back is resting up against the railing, Sarisa drapes her arms over the gray painted metal piping, looking at Francois side-long. "Most of the time, I see a few months or weeks back, maybe on the outside a year or two. With my family it's different, I could see my mother's past back to her childhood, my father's back to his. Blood relatives, it just… I don't know how it works that way, or why."

Sarisa's brows furrow, blue eyes settled on Francois. "I saw your past," she admits in a quiet tone of voice, "all the way back, and into what came before you, and before them. It— it got blurrier, the further back it went, but I saw years and lives that aren't seventy or ninety years." Then, with affirmation in the form of a steely expression she adds, "I can't. Not— normally. Not without being blood."

Exhaling a shaky breath, Sarisa wonders aloud, "and I saw the ability's past… glimpses and fragments. Like it was a part of me too… somewhere." The implication is obvious. "So…" Sarisa's eyes wander around the deck of the ship, then uncertainly find Francois' again. "So yes, I can. I can give you an identity…" there's some double meaning there, "it's only fair."

To know you're marked that deeply by something that it's as laced into your history as this— it's akin to the discovery of the two dash points at his neck, Francois unconsciously clasping his palm warm over the isotope marking while preoccupied with thought. Unnerving. Offensive, in a strange way, in that he certainly never asked for it, as much as it took him so long to give it away again. That hand falls away again and grips the railing, shoulders hunching up as if to brace against the oceanic wind cleaning cutting over the deck.

Studies her, again, as he had the first time, the way people regard mirrors when attempting to find themselves. A hand goes up, as if to push a lock of blonde behind her ear, before remembering both himself and her, and retracts the touch before it can begin. He gives her a crooked smile. "You might know me better than myself. I have to keep journals to remember my history." He steals in a breath, lets it out in steam that disperses in the brisk wind.

"You were right, by the way. Kazimir had gone to the church. Almost a month ago." That smile flattens into a grimmer line, arms hugging back around his torso, hands gripping his elbows. As much as her promise is what spurs his words on, the information winds into conversation naturally, as if such a bargain hadn't been a requirement. It probably isn't.

Fear and confusion play equal part on this old man's face. Staring at Francois now, much as he had when the former immortal was on his stoop, father Rundstedt is without words. It is by the mention of the name Kazimir Volken that he has taken on this frightful pallor, staring in the face of what Francois cannot know is some semblance of dramatic irony.

"«He came here,»" the priest states with all of the irregular cadence of a man freezing to death, even if he seems to not be quite that cold on the sofa and beneath his blanket. "«He— he came here looking for Father Petrovich. He passed away two winters ago, this— Volken, he did not know. He says he knew Boris' great grandfather…»" There is some similarity to the stories, and that much makes the old man hesitate.

"«Volken was here, here not more than a month ago. He said he had business in China, he— he spent some time at Boris' grave, then he asked me to take his confession.»" Stiffening, the old man's eyes narrow some.

Who are you?»" Whatever that confession contained, it has clearly tainted his preconceptions of the remainder of this meeting.

Francois' eyes narrow in a smile that doesn't really make it to his mouth, around when the priest is blanching in the same way he did to the name of Volken as he did to the appearance of Allegre. Smooths out, slowly, drains as Francois listens, back curved forward as opposed to tucking himself back into the incline of the comfortable, aged armchair, allowing nothing particularly telling to cross his face other than attention. Even in the face of the mistake of his phrasing and this new revelation, familiar features remain impassive.

Until that accusation, in some respects, the flicker of light from the stove steering his attention away before he meets the priest's sooty gaze. "Francois Allegre," he answers, before briskly adding, his chin raised, "«As I have said. I am only looking for information, Father, very important information.»

"«I would ask you what he told you.»"

That confirmation makes Sarisa bristle with anxiety, almost as much as the near otuch to her temple had. Blue eyes cast seaward, over the edge of the ship as she turns her body, hands gripping the railing, a disconcerted expression of worry lacing her features together into a tightness that does not relax away. "Was it Kazimir, or a man posing as Kazimir?" Sarisa's question isn't truly one Francois is fully armed to answer, not outside of gut instincts.

"Chesterfield knows that a man named Peter Petrelli is currently in possession of the same ability Kazimir Volken had, and she claims he is masquerading as Volken reborn to gain the confidence of the Vanguard, that he's not Kazimir, just a… a good actor." There's a furrow of Sarisa;s brows, her expression becoming more dour, more burdened by this uncertainty. "I want to trust her, but… I heard him talk, I— " Sarisa's eyes divert from the ocean, focusing up on Francois again. "Was it Kazimir, or a man pretending to be him that visited Vladivostok?"

There is a moment of uncertainty in the priest's eyes, where the topic of a man's confession is brought before the ghost of someone who so closely resembles a man he fought for his life with generations ago. "«You are asking me to betray his confidence,»" Father Rundstedt says with flagging conviction, staring across the small span of sofa to chair at Francois. The steely gaze he's adopted has less to say about fear and more to say about anxiety.

"«Would you ask me to betray that oath of secrecy, to this man, for you?»" What's interesting is the placement of loyalties, where any other priest would have said he could not, Father Rundstedt is instead asking can I? There is a disparity between his faith, and the faith that has been challenged in a world of strange happenings and stranger people; challenged by the sons of ghosts coming to his doorstep, and too many men with blue eyes.


Francois flows to his feet, sympathy and a kind of resolve in equal measures defining his rough Russian syllables, and slowly, without particular invasion, he moves to sit on the same couch as the old man, asymmetric hands out as if he might take Erich's, but they instead hover. "«Is it not true that men of faith are forced to break such a vow, when the owner of that confession might harm others?»" His smile becomes crooked, glancing off towards where the curtains conceal the winter's night outside. "«It is also true that I am not the authorities. That things may be different in your faith, that perhaps his confession held no such thing. But,» oui , «I would. And I am sorry.»"

Lines at his eyes deepen a little, unselfconscious about their proximity in that detail of so long ago is more readily available. But maybe scars change things, ones worn on both sides. He's less thin, too, less coltish and brash, wearing his age different than a former comrade does.

Father Rundstedt is less apologetic about this than Francois is, ironically. The old priest sinks down further in his seat the taller Francois rises, and his tired eyes focus on the glimmer of flame dancing in the slatted front of the old pot-bellied stove. "«Kazimir said that he wished to be forgiven for doing the Lord God's work in his own name, and that he has realized that he has put a blight on this world by his own hands that cannot be taken away with words, cannot be taken away with guns.»" Rundstedt's expression hangs down as he releases this burden, wrinkled fingers wringing together slowly.

"«He said that he would make amends for it, much as God made amends for the evils of the world. He said that a Flood was necessary, not only to give mankind a chance at another start, but to undo the evils that he has crafted with his own two hands. He has said that he prays for absolution and forgiveness for his crimes against man, and that he knows now that he was wrong. That there is time for change, but that change cannot come without a cost…»"

Francois pushes off from the railing, reeling back a couple of restless steps, hands burying into his pockets. Having more questions than answers is a burden. "There is a man back in America, who has my gift now. His friends say that sometimes, he would lose himself, and start speaking with my voice, my personality and my— " Words fail him, then, a small shudder making his posture tense as he casts his gaze back out into the ocean like a fishing line.

Presses on, hastily. "This actor of Volken returned to the same church you claim Volken sought when he was a youth. He confessed, and then, became lost. As if he did not know where he was. Spoke in English, as an American would, and fled." He swallows, once, dragging out his next words as if it were a physical task. "I bid the priest to tell me his confession. He asked for forgiveness, and said that he would undo his mistake, as God had undone His. With a flood, Special Agent Kershner."

Paling is a proper description for what Sarisa does, her head hanging and one of her hands coming to smooth over the tight line of her mouth. The black leather of her gloves contrasts sharply to the pallor of her skin. "Catherine says that Volken is the one who ordered Grigori captured and brought here to the carrier under sedation. She says that he's operating in Argentina without any real details as to what is happening and why…" Exhaling a shuddering breath, Sarisa looks down to her feet.

"We called off an aerial attack on Argentina because he communicated that the team was still alive and everything was going according to plan. Now I'm wondering if I missed an opportunity to…" Sarisa shakes her head, looking more vulnerable now in her indecision than she has over the course of this operation. "What you've figured out has me wondering who to trust now, if we should just— assume team Alpha is dead and clear-cut the mountain, or…" She can't officially ask for Francois' advice, but in a way, the expression Sarisa has is that of a woman years younger, looking for the sagely advice of a grandfather.

Looking down to his feet, the priest seems reluctant to elaborate on something, he's hiding something, and the hesitation in speaking it builds into tension, until finally he can retain that kernel of truth no longer. "«Then, he changed before my eyes. Not in face or clothing, but in demeanor. He was confused, did not know where he was or who I was, he did not speak Russian— he spoke like an American… Then he simply apologized and fled. I did not understand what he said to me. But it was in haste, whatever it was.»"

It's now that Francois' hands finish moving forward. Just as he had with Carlisle Dreyfus, he gently catches the younger man's hands in his own, somehow less conscious of his injury around the eyes of a stranger. Or at least one from this life. The clasp is only brief, and would so normally be accompanied with a flash of healing warmth, to heal for a time the symptoms of arthiritis and other trappings of age Francois has managed to skip, as a thank you gesture that is never really understood at such times. Nothing, now, but cold fingers and hard nails, a seam in flesh and some weakness before he retracts his hands once more.

"«Thank you, Erich,»" he says, once he's convinced his voice will come out without dryness or hesitation. "«For this, and— taking in my grandfather when he needed it. The time of the war was not a trusting time— and neither are these days.»"

Teo would probably be able to identify the way in which Francois express impulsive, vision-clouding anger. And that is through a steady restraint that stops him as still as the statue he'd become for a day, expression blank and posture that of a soldier. "That is so?" he asks, briskly, without particular question in his voice, and his green eyed gaze promptly scours the ship's deck as if willing Chesterfield into being as an outlet of some kind. She doesn't, so, he raises a hand to scrub over his face, distorted knuckles gone rosy in the chill.

"«These days are no different…»" Father Rundstedt says with a weary hesitation, looking up to Francois in that briefly painted moment of confusion when his hand is taken, but then only something more resembling contentment. "«…the war never stopped, it just changed its face.»" Looking down to Francois' hand, prolonging that grasp with a moment of adamant attention to the Frenchman. "«Francois…»" he murmurs quietly, tired and old eyes still clear enough to see plain as day, the expression in that man's eyes.

"I was never told of Volken. I didn't question where those orders come from. Putain, that is ridiculous," he mutters, showing his back to Sarisa as he paces down a length of railing, hands settling back in his pockets. When he turns back to her, her imploring look stops him short, rattles that younger man's indignance in favour of a weariness that can only be achieved by someone as old as he is. "I have faith that Erich met Kazimir Volken, and not a man masquerading as he. And that his confession was not a lie from either of them. If Argentina is your operation, Agent, than should not your people be the ones to communicate to you that 'everything is going according to plan'?"

"«Tell your grandfather,»" Erich begins expectantly, as if it were possibility, "«that we soldiers never stop fighting, even when the war is taken away from us. We haunt battlefields, no matter where we go, ghosts the lot of us.»" His lips downturn into a frown, hands slowly release Francois'. "«The war changes faces, and some of us… stay the same.»"

He approaches again, a few steps now, and Sarisa can see her own conflict reflected back at her. "The battlefield has changed but this is a war, Sarisa. The men involved in it do not change. I have not. Volken has not. I wasted many years believing the opposite — you do not have to inherit such a mistake."

Stiffening in her posture, Sarisa looks for her part to be mortified that she allowed herself to think that Catherine's judgment was clearer than her own. She covers her face with one hand, hisses out a sharp breath, then turns to look up at Francois with troubled blue eyes. "Then I need to authorize that air-strike," she states firmly, words spoken between clenched teeth. It takes all the psychometric agent can do to keep her composure, to keep from blaming Cat for all of this. But Catherine, as far as Sarisa knows, is just a dupe having fallen for some Houdinni-style trick. "This— Volken— under our noses the whole time."

Clenching her hands to fists, Sarisa leans off of the railing and takes a look back at Francois. "I doubted that you had this operation's best interests at heart when I found out you had been employed into it, a… guilt by association, with the likes of Chesterfield." The blonde's brows crease in a look of consternation. "I was wrong about you, Allegre. You… really are trustworthy, probably more than the rest of the people on this ship."

Tilting her chin up, leveling that blue stare at the once-immortal man, Sarisa turns her guarded stare back out over the water to the misty horizon. "I need to go call General Autumn and tell him we're green to include Argentina in the air-strike operation." As she leans off the railing, she forgets her umbrella, hooked there on the metal behind her. Too much on her mind now, for something so simple.

Francois' hands slip from Erich's, brow furrowed as he draws his gaze down towards his own, before beginning the slow ritual of tugging his gloves back over long fingers, knuckles covered, sleeves fixed as much as he's barely paying attention to his own actions. By the time he's steering a look back up to Erich, there's a kind smile in place, nodding once. "«I will, Father. Thank you.»" Which is really all that needs to be exchanged around the same time Francois is realizing that this place is stiflingly hot. Suffocatingly so.

At first, it looks like she remembers when she pauses mid-stride and turns around, but it's not to reclaim a lost parisol, rather to address Francois. "Thank you, Francois, for doing that favor for me." Sarisa's blue eyes narrow. "I think you may have saved a lot of lives."

Maybe that's just him. He makes sure he isn't rude, reassuring the old priest that he can see himself out, but finds he can't extract himself so easily, out of good conscience. First, Francois remakes the old man's tea. He'd been right about one thing. It had been the first warm drink Francois had had in a very long time.

It's probably good that he feels uneasy as opposed to relieved. He's never liked war, and he doesn't like this. Still, he nods to her words, studying more where he's rested his hand to the railing as her foot steps begin to carry her away — Sarisa being not the only one who has to work on reining in a Cat-directed temper. Lividness could almost distract Francois from this previous exchange, setting his jaw like steel beneath skin, before Sarisa forces him to recognise it once more.

Then, he cleans up the mess in the foyer, gloved hands delicate around the broken shards and papertowels soaking with it.

He picks up the umbrella, closes the distance between them and offers it back to her, handle jutting. "Thank you for sending me," he almost dismisses, a slight shake of his head and now, finally, a minor smile returns, at memories of a stove-hearth and cleaning up spilled tea, and ones that stretch back even further.

It's probably not as pressing as his intel beating a war drum in his heart, but seems it, at the time.

"I am glad to see all of this almost complete," he adds, lifting the umbrella up a fraction higher, and stepping back when the exchange is done. "May it die with Volken."

The lie finally drives him out into the bitter cold.

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