Choosing Your Enemies


dantes_icon.gif eileen_icon.gif sylar_icon.gif teo_icon.gif

Scene Title Choosing Your Enemies
Date January 7, 2009

Central Park

Central Park has been, and remains, a key attraction in New York City, both for tourists and local residents. Though slightly smaller, approximately 100 acres at its southern end scarred by and still recovering from the explosion, the vast northern regions of the park remain intact.

An array of paths and tracks wind their way through stands of trees and swathes of grass, frequented by joggers, bikers, dog-walkers, and horsemen alike. Flowerbeds, tended gardens, and sheltered conservatories provide a wide array of colorful plants; the sheer size of the park, along with a designated wildlife sanctuary add a wide variety of fauna to the park's visitor list. Several ponds and lakes, as well as the massive Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis Reservoir, break up the expanses of green and growing things. There are roads, for those who prefer to drive through; numerous playgrounds for children dot the landscape.

Many are the people who come to the Park - painters, birdwatchers, musicians, and rock climbers. Others come for the shows; the New York Shakespeare Festival at the Delacorte Theater, the annual outdoor concert of the New York Philharmonic on the Great Lawn, the summer performances of the Metropolitan Opera, and many other smaller performing groups besides. They come to ice-skate on the rink, to ride on the Central Park Carousel, to view the many, many statues scattered about the park.

Some of the southern end of the park remains buried beneath rubble. Some of it still looks worn and torn, struggling to come back from the edge of destruction despite everything the crews of landscapers can do. The Wollman Rink has not been rebuilt; the Central Park Wildlife Center remains very much a work in progress, but is not wholly a loss. Someday, this portion of Central Park just might be restored fully to its prior state.

Morning over Central Park is white, despite that the sun has barely risen. It is because of all the snow. The snow reflects, diffuses light off everything it's cloyed into, wicked into the grain of trees, lining the boughs, shovelled onto the walkway edges and plugging up the drains. If you got in really close, Teo presumes, you'd be able to find teeny, tiny rainbows interlaced between the crystals too small for eyes as ordinary as his to distinguish. There's a man walking past their bench dragging a little red wagon with a transparent block on it, its interior furred with countless infinitessimal needles, and a small buzzsaw leaning on the wagon wall beside it. He has no idea where he had gotten that from. Hopes that there isn't a hole the size of an igloo brick missing from the skating ring, now. People might die.

They're supposed to prevent that sort of thing. Teo thinks. Blankly, he turns his head, glancing under weak and dappled sunlight, through to the morning traffic through the frost-rimed gate, down the other stretch of walkway. There aren't many people taking this bend this early but hopefully enough, and more still nearby enough. He's sitting atop a bench, his boot-shod feet planted on the wooden slats where you're supposed to plant your butt. Occasionally, he forgets his manners.

Dantes is lurking, looking gaunt, grim,and very much out of place. Like a destroying angel who's missed his bus. There's a textbook perfect vodka hangover perfecting its bladework behind his eyes, and the glare isn't helping. He's that awful shade of gray, and he's got his jaw clamped around yet another horrible American cigarette. In a black coat and jeans and boots, the only color about him is the red in the bloodshot eyes. His expression is that stoical mask overlaid upon some genuine physical misery, and he's permitted himself to slouch in his seat on the bench in a way that would've horrified his officer grandfather. He's put all his questions to Teo before, on the way here, as dawn grayed the eastern sky, and now he's there as backup, Walther in a pocket, head bowed.

A young woman rounds the corner, bundled up in a heavy winter coat with a splash of seafoam green around the neck where a colourful cashmere scarf peeks out from beneath her jacket's collar. Both Teo and Dantes will recognize Eileen Ruskin's slender frame, pale face and wild tangle of raven black hair at the mercy of the blustery breeze as she makes her way along the path and plods along at a leisurely pace, leather boots crunching in the snow and gravel. Her eyes soon find the bench where the two men are seated, though the expression on her face does not change except to grow marginally steelier when she spots the pair. Of course Teo didn't come alone — why would he, knowing that he might be walking straight into a trap laid by his most unpredictable and volatile enemies?

For the same reason, Eileen has opted to make her trip to, from and through Central Park with an escort of her own. It isn't that she doesn't trust Teo. Rather, she doesn't trust the people he calls his friends, and besides… there's someone she wants him to meet.

Apparently, she wants him to meet a rather pasty, gangly teenager. A boy who can't be older than Eileen herself keeps in step with her, pale in the New York winter morning and boots crunching on the snow still not swept aside. An oversized coat, the sort of thing someone might find and buy for themselves in a thrift store, hides most of whatever else he's wearing, wool at the collar and wrapped around him tightly, hands in grey fingerless gloves.

His hair is blonde, ruffling with the continual icy breeze that blows through. He looks much like the many faces of tragic New York, perhaps homeless and certainly a brawler, would be a good guess - an ugly bruise is on one pale jaw, a smattering of paler bruises up the side of his face. Any other injury goes covered. Drops of moisture cling to his coat, his hair, sparkling in the morning sun as they make their ways towards the two men.

He trusts neither to recognise his face. What he doesn't know is that he is not the only one with a false face. Sylar stays quiet, not about to offer a greeting as he studies to the two men they approach, glancing to Eileen as if to confirm that these are the ones they've come to talk to.

At least Teo's backup is hungover and looks like he'd sooner hit you with projectile vomit than bullets. He didn't bring Sylar, all things being fair, though justice might be a funny kind of thing to evoke in times like these. He sees Eileen as soon as she's there to be seen, his eyes sharpening to gauge her health by the tone of her skin. She doesn't look any more dead than she had the last time he saw her in the park, but she doesn't look anything approaching healthy, either. Nor her companion, whom he fails uttelry to recognize.

Though Sylar warrants an inquisitve, momentary glance, once the moment's over, Teo is getting up. Gripping the wood of the bench, kicking his feet up to throw himself off in one easy flex of his frame, more of a colt than a terrorist. "Buongiorno," once they're in range to hear. He inclines his head, indicates Edward with a gloved hand, apparently expecting the hungover man to introduce himself. Both Teo and Eileen would both appear to enjoy going to secret business meetings accompanied by beleaguered homeless people.

Two faces responsible for his 'death', as it were, and subsequent existence as something of a dybbuk. Dantes doesn't flinch, however. He's just a little tighter around the lips and eyes, glancing up only briefly at the pair of them. Teo's the one doing the talking, Ed's just there as a goon. "Morning," he says, in a positively sepulchral rasp, offering a little flick of the hand. No name offered, they're not going to need to address him.

"Good morning." Let it never be said that Eileen doesn't handwave common courtesies when she isn't being held prisoner, nursing a broken nose or obsessing over perceived wrongs. Her tone, though low, is also soft and cordial with no real heat behind it — she hasn't come here looking for an argument. Or a fight. She comes to a halt in front of the bench, pausing her silent assessment of Teo and his companion to slide a sidelong look Sylar's way. There's no real way of knowing what words she might attach to the dissolute glance she gives him, but it seems to imply that yes, these are the two they came all this way to meet with. "I'd like to keep this brief," she says to Teo, "if we could. It'd be best if we weren't seen together at all, but I thought that doing this in person would be more sincere."

Sylar is the odd one out in that he doesn't offer up a greeting. Call that playing the part of sullen teenage companion, but he also hasn't wandered out into the daylight, in a place such as this, for a long time. He's quiet with paranoia, despite his change of appearance, though not of the two men in front of him. Just of the unknown variables that being in a public place can bring. His attention, briefly, divides as he glances towards the hungover man, as if trying to decipher his role in today's little meeting. It's probably much like his own. His focus goes instead to Teo, as that's whom Eileen addresses. They set the pace of this, it seems, so for now he says nothing. Not asked for a name, he offers none.

If Teo would rather his goon have volunteered something in the way of identification, he doesn't show it. "You're right." He nods, for all counts. Adds, a little wryly, "It has that quality," he offers by way of agreement, never one to be difficulty. Doing this in person is more sincere. His gaze shifts focus, out of its close-up examination of her face to something more casual and just as harmless of intent, visible in the expansion of pupils against irises near-white in the brightening light of day. "I'm sorry about the theatrics.

"One week, I heard you were pissed off and giving us and your old associates the bird, no pun intended. The next, your people were sending operatives to find you medical treatment and you agreed to meet me. I wasn't sure what to think," though I'm dead came through his mind once or twice in an exasperated tone of voice, "so I figured I'd ask." His gaze shifts a few degrees to her blond companion's face, wondering if this would be the natural progression from that query. Dantes' presence seems relatively self-explanatory

Dantes is still a mute lump. No doubt the many friends previously captivated by his scintillating repartee would be shocked. Shocked. He slants a rather sardonic look at Teo, still face betraying nothing. But apparently something Teo's said has sparked his interest. He's weary, all but deliriously so, and only part of the way towards sober. Which means his thoughts, when they make it through the buzz-saw quality that a hangover gives, are in Russian - part of the reason he's so laconic is a lack of energy to work on reassembling it all into English. Clever, that, confronting a double agent to her face.

"As it turns out, there are people who care about me more than they care about inviting Volken's wrath into their homes," says Eileen, and leaves it at that. She doesn't want to talk about the deal Wu-Long made with Abby or why he had to make it any more than is absolutely necessary, especially with one of the key players standing right beside her. She owes Sylar as much as she owes the healer, if not a little bit more — not only for pulling her half-dead carcass out of the drainpipe, but also for coming to look for her in the first place. "Rickham drew a line in the sand," she continues. "Some crossed it around the same time I did, others are still holding out. The closer we come to the end of all this, the more of his men are becoming disenchanted with the entire operation. I wanted you to know that there are a few of them who intend to do something about it. More importantly, there might come a time when they need Phoenix's help." At this, she turns her head and lifts her chin, peering up at Sylar, somehow expectant.

It's unfortunate that Eileen says the two words 'Phoenix's help' just before she expects Sylar to speak, because it makes him pause with silent annoyance, tension visible around the eyes, the mouth. But they'd discussed this. He wouldn't be here otherwise. His chin lifts as he addresses Teo, tilting his head to let longer-than-usual hair shift out of his eyes and revealing a rather nasty bit of scarring at his temple, freshly and neatly stitched, but not particularly pleasant altogether. "Whatever Kazimir has planned next is as mysterious to us as it will be to you people," he says. Unknown to him, they have at least one dream girl who has a solid idea. "But he has operatives we don't know about. Didn't know about. He's been busy and— " He pauses, thoughtful, licking his lips once before continuing. "If we don't act first, it will fall on your shoulders." A twist of a smirk. "Some of us plan to act first. But you know what they say about the best laid plans."

Somewhere between their homes and that final tip of her chin, Teo's heart starts hitting the back of his ribs like a mallet. Louder, louder. Faster, harder. He doesn't take his eyes off the boy who's with her and, likely, with every palpitation of Teo's heart deafening in his ears, Sylar knows why, even if he doesn't necessarily know that Eileen had given Teo the names of those she loved well enough to ask protection for, faces and power descriptions to go with them, Ethan, even the Chinese soldier who had come for the healer. Of those, there's only one physical description, name, set of abilities that converge on this nameless man's face.

Sylar. Future king of the fucking world, according to one school of thought.

And something, ignobly, far, far less, according to another possibility. Whether this can be attributed to a practical level of courage or the limitations of his suspicion, however, Teo doesn't lose his shit. His features freeze over with caution, other sentiments no doubt occulted underneath. He manages not to let his train of thought derail entirely from the tracks the conversation is wheeling along, either. The corner of Teo's mouth stretches into a curl, thinking over the shrilling waste of adrenaline in his veins, and trying not to stare. "We want to kill him," he says, after a moment. "Volken. But he's been alive for more then a century and changed faces at least once."

"Gang aft agley, if I remember right," Dantes finally bothers to contribute to the conversation, though he still doesn't look directly at either of them. Teo's still in charge here - Dantes is literally the last person entitled to speak for any member of Phoenix in any capacity. He ashes into a puddle of meltwater, still nursing the cigarette. There's real interest kindled in the dark eyes, now. And to Sylar's sensitive ears, his heart is also racketing along with adrenaline.

Fast. Too fast, really. You've found another one, Gabriel, or something like. A speedster. "Is it that he takes life?" he's unable to keep himself from asking, though his tone remains offhand. "Like the stories of vampires?"

"The nature of his ability isn't your concern," Eileen tells Dantes in the same smooth tone that she greeted him with only a few moments ago. "There are only two people I know who are powerful enough to go after Kazimir, and one of them is still on his side." She's also dead, killed by one of her own grenades, but that isn't a detail Eileen is privy to yet. "I can't speak for the other. When Wu-Long approached Abby about fixing me, he made a deal with her. My life in exchange for a week of peace from Sylar. I'm asking you, Teo, as a personal favour… as long as their agreement is in effect, tell your people not to engage him on the street if they cross paths. It would be bad for us. For everyone. Please."

The racing heart beat easily audible to Sylar coming from the Italian means that Teo is now placed under such a sharply scrutinising gaze that it couldn't possibly come from a boy of nineteen, unless he were just naturally intense. To Teo's credit, it's really only that one rhythmic sound of a blood-pumping muscle that tells of anything off and so any assumptions Sylar can make are laced with doubt. But one corner of his mouth curls up in something like a half-smile as he meets Teo's eyes.

Then, he slants a look towards Dantes, and though there is still absolutely no recognition for his once prey, the heart beat isn't so ignorable as it races with the speed of something less than human, different to the rhythm from Teo's. Sylar does nothing, it's not so mysterious that an Evolved would be present, but it doesn't make the situation any less interesting. There is that familiar urge, the one that wells up inside and feels more and more ersatz every day, but more than that - wariness. He doesn't expect a fight. But fights have a habit of erupting whenever he is present.

Something, of course, Eileen is quick to negotiate against. Sylar manages not to glance towards her or really react at all save for purely studying the other two men as she states this instruction. Effectively makes his division from the Vanguard clear to people he would still consider his enemies. "If you want Kazimir dead," he says, "more than you want the glory of getting your hands dirty with either his or Sylar's blood, you'll listen. We're here to give you advice." A wolfish smile, something purely his even if painted on different features. "I hope for everyone's sakes that you can make your people follow it too."

A long exhalation clears fog out of Teo's lungs without managing to purge the fear out of his body. He manages not to hyperventilate or otherwise get giddy-headed. Honestly. It's not like he doesn't live with a guy who could kill him just by thinking about it a little too hard, and it's not like he doesn't give him ample reason to. Helena and Hana, also members of an ever-broadening category of ridiculously frightening people he associates with. He could rationalize all day: he doesn't trust Sylar any further than he could throw the moon. On the other end of that scale is the fact that Eileen's telling him a lot of things he already knows. Some of it that couldn't have been attributed to Abigail's tendency to talk.

"I'll tell them." For once, it doesn't sound like Teo would make it out in the form of a request — which might be a mistake, given there are others present, but he does this thing while meeting Eileen's eye steadily, his intonation the same, despite a hint of implied difficulty. He will have to hope that's forgivable. Given his druthers, he'd rather not have Wu-Long around anyone— "Only if he engages.

"You should know that some of your friends may be lying to you, signorina. A lie of omission if nothing else." He remembers to glance at Dantes, finally, belated assurance that he'll have some of his questions answered eventually. Probably not that encouraging, given the source, but Teo only has a second to spare before he's bearing up under Sylar's examination again, returning his attention to Eileen. "Some of them were in on Volken's recent action. Even the Company's shown concern.

"If anyone feels there are details to share right now, that would be cool." His word choice is facetious, his tone serious; there's something a touch quizzical about his expression, not the audacity of an idiot child taunting a serial killer, not exactly, but he's watching Sylar watch him almost as curiously — confusedly — as he's watching the space between the could-be shifter and the girl he's with.

Dantes accepts the rebuke without arguing - only flipping the cigarette over and ashing again, though it really doesn't need it. The Company. People've mentioned that name to him before, and he still doesn't quite understand it - it's only ever been a euphemism for those smokeblowers down at Langley. It's all more information than he's been given. Presumably Christian had this at his fingertips, and kept him out of the loop. He simply fixes his gaze on Sylar and Eileen expectantly. They're going to elucidate, right?

Details. What does Eileen have left worth sharing? "Everybody lies," she observes mildly, "if not to other people, then to themselves. There's only so much I can tell you without jeapordizing our chances of removing Kazimir from the equation, and given how freely some of your people share information with each other… I'm not sure that giving you everything we know is the best way to approach this. I want you to be able to trust me, Teo. I want to be able to trust you, too. It will be easier when this is all over, but right now we can't afford this finding its way back to the wrong people."

She places a hand on Sylar's arm, her touch so light he might not even feel it through his clothes. Just as it will be easier to trust each other after Kazimir is dead and buried, she won't feel nearly as nervous once she has his coat in her fingers. Futile gesture or not, she isn't sure she likes that smile spreading across his face. "Keep an eye out for a tall black man in leathers," she advises them. "Bald. Huge. He carries a knife and speaks with an accent, I don't know where from. No name, but he's close to Kazimir."

Eileen isn't spared Sylar's scrutiny either - however it is far less overt as he keeps his eyes forward. He listens. He notes her interaction with Teo. He keeps his thoughts and feelings of such things off his face, that smile having faded since Teo's confirmation, and faded more still at the request of information. His chin lifts a little at Eileen's semi-refusal and negotiating little tidbit, which is more than fine. The more people who could make this man dead, the happier Sylar will be. He, in turn, offers nothing. He hasn't received orders in something like a long time, save for a certain geneticist's kidnapping. The next step is his to make and until then, there's not much more to say. "Choosing your enemies will be more important than picking your friends," he says, in support of Eileen's argument in when it will be an easier time for trust. "If we receive more information of Kazimir's men, we'll give it to you. As much as we can. They're the new set of monsters."

"I believe you'dve told me if you knew about this." Teo isn't going to piss and moan about it, though; there's merely that statement, quiet, rueful — inevitably so. "You'll be happy to know I've figured out how to keep secrets since the last time we spoke. I want to trust you too." There's no sarcasm in that statement, despite that her earlier observation— that everybody lies— should have been construed as an admission of having done so. "Collecting Volken's head isn't about ending one life. It's about saving many more. I don't know why Sylar," he manages not to burst into hysterics, "Wu-Long, or any of the others joined him, and I'm glad to hear you believe they've chosen different.

"But if your friends aren't disenchanted with the entire operation, we're still…" He rifles his head for a phrase. Squints, haplessly. "At odds?" Nothing Teo particularly delights in, evidently. He studies Sylar's false face for a protracted moment, then nods. Information exchange is fine. In the meantime, he fails entirely to understand how a probable serial killer and beaten whelp of abuse appear to have somehow forged a bond stronger, perhaps more intimate than any he's experienced in over a decade. Fucking A. "I'll find out what we can give you. Who's the black man to you?

Eileen squeezes Sylar's arm somewhere between his elbow and wrist. You're more to the point than I am, she wants to say. Thank you.

What she does say is something quite different, and directed solely at Teo. "He tried to gut me." Sometimes the simplest approach is the best — if this doesn't answer Teo's question, she doesn't know what will.

It sums it up rather aptly, and at the memory now eternally burned into his brain, another set of unpleasant thoughts courtesy of the girl next to him, that tension returns around Sylar's eyes, brow furrowing. If he didn't already know what Kazimir had planned for him, he'd likely be looking over his shoulder, too, for this knife-wielding assassin. But he doesn't add that - Teo may understand that some have switched sides, but maybe the prospect of Sylar feeling threatened at the idea of a wolf in the sheep herd isn't such a bad one still. At the touch to his arm, he can only glance at Eileen, and it will be up to her to take reassurance from an expressionless glance and no other reaction, but she's rather used to his Sylarishness by now.

The black man's legacy makes Teo's eyebrows go up. He has no Sylarishness. Or Felixishness, for that matter. That bothers him and he isn't going to be subtle about it. "Okay." New set of monsters.

He can dig it. "I can't promise you that all of the other sharks swimming in the pool are going to hold fire if your paths cross," he says, finally. "Volken's pissed off a lot of people. The Company. Homeland Security, too. They've been talking to each other, and some of my people have made mistakes." His lips find an uncharacteristically white line when he says it. Doesn't look like he's going to elaborate; he's going off the hope that it's been dealt with, for now. "I believe I can get the crosshairs off a few of you," his gaze falls on Eileen. "But I get the sense that history works against others." Shifts to Sylar for a quaver-beat. "I'll keep you updated."

If it's reassurance Eileen is looking for, she takes it as subtly and quietly as it's given. Her hand falls away, drifting back to her side, and adopts a new home in her coat pocket. "That's all I can ask," she agrees with a small nod by way of informal farewell, starting to turn away.

The sun's rays are beginning to come out in full force, causing a thin layer of meltwater to form on the very surface of the snow. Later, when the clouds reestablish their dominion over the sky and temperatures plunge below freezing, this sheen will transform yet again into an invisible sheet of ice.

It's about time Eileen and Sylar were going, preferably before this temporary stint of semi-balmly weather draws more people out of their hiding places and into the open. You never know who might creep out of the woodwork on days like today.

Sylar calls it good there too. This was Eileen's meeting. In some ways, things have been repaired between them in the simple fact he was brought along for it, unlike last time, which was something of a clusterfuck. A last fleeting glance of acknowledgment is given to both men, barely a nod of goodbye and not a word, before he's the one lifting a hand to touch just below Eileen's shoulder, briefly, to usher/follow her away. No doubt, all four of them have some thinking to do before they meet again.

January 6th: The Creeper Stare Alert
January 7th: If the Light Fails
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