Closer To Okay


hana_icon.gif teo_icon.gif

Scene Title Closer To Okay
Synopsis Teo asks Hana almost-existential questions and wants more assistance from his favorite technopath. What he asks for touches upon old and never-healed wounds, and despite all of Teo's well-meaning, it really isn't any more okay than it was before.
Date March 18, 2009

Primatech Paper Facility

He'd called ahead at around — dinner-time, on the boat ride over. Grabbed a bite at the Chinese place, avoided getting mugged despite the alleyway shortcuts he took. Twilight over Staten Island is a blank black canvas, a dense obfuscation of cloudcover blocking out all view of celestial bodies. What's left instead is a terrestrial star map of the throbbing gut of the Rookery and its electric light grid.

And that, too, diminishes, folds in on itself, recedes out of view as Teo turns corners and steps into more deserted territory. The ruin of the Primatech Paper Facility waves ivy at him, and he waves back— at the armored camera up in the crook of the doorway. The scattering of footfalls down the stair precedes him.

It's Teo arriving; forewarned, no need for being forearmed. Hana watches his approach with a distracted bit of attention; not watching in the sense most people use, with eyes and physical focus. Dressed in unremarkable sweats, the kind Teo has seen many a time before, the Israeli woman is currently in the exercise room, slowly acting out a practice kata. Less for the practice than for its own sake; eyes closed, she isn't watching anything but darkness.

It's a piece of Wireless' ever-active technopathic ability that watches the Sicilian approach, gauging location and distance, monitoring his steps until there is no longer any need for digital observation. Footsteps can be heard. "Hello, Teo," Hana greets.

"Buona sera, Hana." Teo pops his jacket buttons and unseals the zip in expedient motions, and the garment slides off two arms pointed backward onto the metal bench set against the wall. It's rote by now, customary, the process of getting ready for sessions.

He has a T-shirt on underneath his sweater and sweats on underneath his jeans — inconvenient if you're about to be crucified and drowned by a hydrokinetic, convenient in every other circumstance if you're as averse to the cold and wont to train as he is. That isn't the first thing, though. No. Before that, of course, there's stretching. His ankle joint cracks audibly as he steps across the floor, locating himself a square of bare floor to drop his butt on, grab his toes. And before he's nearly done with that, there's—

"If you think I should leave Gabriel alone, I will." And that's the tip of the berg.

She's certain she'll never be used to it — the sudden drop of words into silence like a stone into a pond, the pebble of a form and color entirely unexpected, incongruous with its surroundings. She has learned to take them in stride, at least most of the time. Hana doesn't let the first remark disturb her exercises.

"No, you won't," the technopath replies coolly, as casually as she might discuss some nonconsequential trivia. Except that Hana doesn't. Callused skin rasps on concrete as she shifts, turns around, glides into the next pose. "You don't know how to leave anything alone." The timbre of the woman's voice prevents the statement from being a reprimand, for all that Hana does speak from personal experience.

To be fair— if 'fair' has anything to do with it— it's a lot easier to 'leave things alone' in theory than in practice. It's a skill set that Teo coincidentally avoided cultivating throughout his childhood and whatever passes now for adulthood. No. Really.

Maybe it's wrong he expects she understands, an arrogant over-generalization of his personal experience over hers. Still, he's always thought of her that way too. However subtle her methods, stoic her demeanor, and however she prefers her solitude, the woman behind the curtain would not merely be sitting on her hands.

His face falls slightly and his head ducks that same fraction of an inch. His hands are on his foot by now, his torso extended parallel to his legs, so this instinctive, rueful twitch of motion winds up bending his nose on his shin.

He inhales his shin once, twice, thrice. Shifts his grip to his other foot, feels the bicep muscle there pull, stretching to twice its usual length. Hurts. Not as much as it used to. "There's other things," he says. After a moment, he lifts his eyes. Hana's stark silhouette traces trigonometrically flawless arcs in the half-lit air. "I don't know why I didn't talk to you about it. My aunt was part of the Vanguard."

The statements Teo makes are slightly incongruous; they don't fit with one another. With this place. With the woman they're spoken to. She can't ignore them, the words that strike a dissonant chord. More likely he won't admit, even to himself, why he didn't mention this detail to Hana — the reasoning ought to be plain as day.

Hana turns, her arms lowering, hands resting at her sides, fingers loosely curled. Teo's seen the quiet before the storm, and he's seen what is just quiet, the metallic stiffness of angles without explicit edge. Can recognize this for the latter, the threshold which the Sicilian seems always bound ad determined to push. "And you're telling me now… why, exactly?"

It's plain, but more complicated than that. She hasn't touched Eileen and she had known about Amato, about Sylar. They're still walking, unmolested by sniper fire or tip-offs to Homeland Security, and none of them had done him as many good turns, tactically or otherwise, as the woman whose secret he had guarded so fiercely.

The woman whose secrets he continues to, though that's only half of the corded strength gritting his teeth now. Shame becomes less obscure when he suffers the weight of Hana's scrutiny. Salvatore had been the first to say so, and he so frequently repeats it. He doesn't talk to people about anything. With Hana, his finest excuse is that it is not important; God knows he plagues her enough with what would otherwise be trivialities.

That isn't going to fly today.

Teo pulls his other foot in, folds his legs in front of himself, lotus position to origami symmetry, and tilts his stare up at her. His ordinarily steadfast regard wavers. Shame hangs off him like swathes of dead skin. "Be— because she's been taken. Government agency, maybe. It— I— she worked with the Vanguard and spied on Phoenix 'nd the Ferrymen for months because she was watching over me. Don't get me wr— I mean, she never gave Volken anything. I swear: she turned on him, like the others. She gave me the viral antidote. But she knows so fucking much, and—"

And I love her, he had meant to say. What words emerge instead are no less ludicrous in their banal simplicity, no less predictable, no less vulnerable, pathetically heavy with the knowledge that he might also have been deceived before. His jaw treads empty air. Stops. He swallows. "I'm sorry, Hana."

So much is complicated, even the seemingly simplest of emotions; Bennet is still walking, and Hana has more cause to orchestrate his death than anyone else's. She waits; waits for the words to come trickling out, more akin now to water than stone, both in their fractured burble and in the way they creep through chinks and cracks.

It's the tone that speaks to her. The way the words are spoken, reluctantly spiling forth; the shallow silences between them. She hears his words; the moment of resentful ire they evoke. Spied on Phoenix and the Ferrymen. And he…

…He knew.

But it's what Teo didn't explicitly say that the analyst, the woman, reads between the lines. It's the silences for which Hana's eyes close, in that moment her expression touched by ephemeral, complicated emotion.

Hana sighs.

"I'll find her, Laudani," the Israeli replies, turning away. Walking, restless, the seated Sicilian left behind by abrupt motion.

The unshaped air leaving Hana's lungs is as readable as it is uncharacteristic for her, in that to the best of Teo's recollections, she's always communicated with him in soupcons of verbalized information. Instruction, intelligence, recommendation, or her opinion when sought, emotions labelled and delivered with sanguine factuality and accentless grammar. She sighs at him.

Makes him feel foolish. Not for the first time; with any luck, not for the last.

His head bows. Gratitude makes his eyes itch and relief makes his face warm without color; something that isn't health. The unforseeable feeling that had twisted her features a moment before she had twisted to walk away had not gone unnoticed. "She's…" he coughs, once, a harsh spate of air that hurts his throat and sounds like a botched engine. "She manipulates insects, I believe. Telepathy, like Eileen.

"If she's being interr— interrogated or something," interrupted by a cough, "'M sure she'll fight back hard. But I don't know if… I don't know how much would be compromised if she couldn't. Her name is Lucrezia Bennati." Superfluous information. He volunteers it anyway — even if only to a illusorily empty room, knowing that is but an illusion, even as he pulls slowly upright. Finds his balance, stretches his arms behind him.

Did she sigh at him? Whatever thoughts, memories, informed the expulsion of wordless air remain locked behind Hana's lips. She isn't gone, just gone away, stopped just shy of actually walking through a door. The woman's silence isn't broken by words; it shapes them, subtle and quiet, little more than the sigh voiced before; they could be missed even in this nearly empty subterranean room. She's family.

Then it is broken, by stiff and angular words, by departing — never retreating — footsteps. "I said I'd find her." Not that either of them need the reminder.

Teo's self-absorption has already cost them enough. It is far below even him to fail to notice that his mentor's side of the equation has hit a calculatory snarl of some sort.

And it is an equation, isn't it? Despite that one side tends to look less than the other, it's really only less overwrought, both halves equal — whatever the fuck that means. The Sicilian's forehead goes into knots. His wrists pop audibly; he looks at her going, hears to leaving.

Teo follows, the drub-drub of her callused feet echoed by his, louder, poorer balanced in small but distinct units. He rubs a palm over the roof of his spikily-shorn head and piles into the hallway behind her. "Grazie," he says first. "Thank you." Second, because it is an easy one to answer in brief unless she chooses not to, and because he is dense, well-intentioned, and incapable of leaving pain alone: "Why?"

It isn't pain yet — but then Teo tags along, poking and prodding, making her remember that it never stopped being so. Not really — just in the way that old and familiar things can be shoved aside, most of the time. Hana spins, steps forward one forceful stride, fisted fingers crinkling the fabric of the Sicilian's loose shirt. "You always have to push, don't you?" Face to face, but without spitting or snarling; it's a defensive gesture that is probably doomed to eventual failure. Sooner or later.

The answer to that question is obvious enough that Teo doesn't answer it out loud. He halts instead, his shirt wrinkled with a starburst that holds its center in Hana's hand and its ends creased toward his shoulders. His pupils constrict to pinpricks, leaving the hard cut of her expression to shown back to her against emptied irises almost as white as mirrors.

Poking and prodding. Can't staunch a wound if you don't know where it is.

And any Hana bequeaths upon him now would be easy enough to recognize by their color.

"I'm sorry." Always sorry, always doing this regardless, and more. His Adam's apple bobs like a sick guppy, and he blinks in the half-light. "I thought you'd feel — it, even if I did… nothing."

"It," Hana echoes flatly. Somehow she manages to give the impression of looking down, even though he's taller than she. It rarely actually feels that way. "So, what. You can indulge your curiosity because you don't think it affects anything? That just makes it all okay?" Fire and fury, but it's the kind with which so many subtler emotions are concealed. It's the way she treats Bennet, or did before she outright pronounced death sentence and then never saw him again; it's a mood Teo's run up against before.

Experience suggests it's usually survivable.

The day Teo feels like the taller of the two would be a bad one, he knows: it implies that the woman would be feeling small. And what peril or sentiment could ask that from her? His denial is instantaneous, visible in the stubborn etch of his features even before he stumbles into words that blunder around his meaning. "It's supposed to affect—" His jaws set square. Loosen. He struggles with his own inarticulate tongue, explanation and maudlin rationalization for once eluding him. He is otherwise standing very, very still.

"I'd make it all okay, if I could."

She also stands very still, if tension that threatens to explode into motion at any instant is not mutually contradictory with the concept of stillness. Narrowed dark eyes regard Teo steadily; then Hana lets him go. His shirt released, she steps away. "Well, you can't. Nothing can." Hana turns her back upon the Sicilian, though she doesn't resume walking. Not yet.

"It was a long time ago," the Israeli woman adds, as if that explains everything. Salves everything.

It solves nothing.

To harbor a grudge is well within the parameters of Teo's— ethnicity, religion, whatever excuse is fashionable for him being the way he is. He's unhappy with himself, most of the time. That seems to be a little like being unhappy the way that seems to have scarred Hana. Figuratively.

Perhaps physically, also: those jagged ridges of keloid where broken skin and surprised flesh was sewn shut once, so often hidden away in the severe cut of her leather jacket and turtlenecks. He has seen scars like those before. Fucking IED, Alexander had said.

Teo would know, if only a little. After all, he used to build them. He straightens his shirt with a pull of long fingers, not because tidy symmetry is especially significant right now, but because whatever Hana is struggling to hold back behind her face and composure, it warrants the best facsimile of respect and dignity that he can offer it. "Yeah." He doesn't like saying that, but he knows. He's a mere man. Boy, some part of his mind corrects him, sneering faintly.

He looks down at white toes, up again. There's something terribly arrogant about him standing here, saying this. "I could settle for making it a little closer to okay." A beetle presumes to call lightning.

A little closer to okay. A little closer. She remains facing away from Teo, her expression concealed; he can't see that her eyes are closed, the way her guard drops, just for a moment, because in that moment there is almost a chance that it could become closer to okay.

It can't, of course. Not that easily; not for something that has been one of Hana's pivotal, defining moments; the event that set the course of her entire adult life. The one that sent her to the Mossad, that allowed Bennet beneath her skin, that inspires Hana's eternal hate for all things terrorist. Her hands remain at her sides, unmoving; she doesn't need them to trace the scars in her mind's eye. She knows them all too well.

"We took a bus once. From Tel Aviv to Jerusalem." Her heritage shows in the pronunciation of city names; a slip the Israeli woman would normally not allow. That, and — we. "Some Palestinian decided the bus made a good target for a suicide attack." The words are casual; the stiff, clipped statement, anything but.

Someday, Teo might understand a lot. Until then, he will have to settle for understanding a little. She lost somebody, one of the people she had been with. Must have. Family, inevitably. There must be some kind of an echo here. With him, his situation, his aunt, some faded, distorted frequency not unlike the one which has called her so far from Tel Aviv and Jerusalem, both. He doesn't say anything.

He remains facing her, though she gives him no evidence that her guard has dropped, that her eyes are closed, that she is circling around a moment that provides no chances, that brings her no ease. You could measure AUTOCAD geometry off the corners of her shoulders, Hana stands so straight.

Teo's fingers curl. "How long before you joined the Mossad?"

How long. Long enough for a girl mired in emotion to transmute it all into the desire for retribution. Too long. Hana gazes ahead without seeing the dim-lit corridor, the faded grays of the near wall and the dull darkness of distant rooms. "Eight years," she answers, before stillness, stretched beyond her limits, snaps at last. Halted forward motion is halted no longer, bare feet treading down a familiar path and taking the woman with them.

Once upon a time, Hana Gitelman had been a kid riding on a bus with grown-ups. Younger, even, than the thirty six. He does the math. Eight years. Once upon a time, Hana had been a kid.

She isn't anymore, of course, she's a woman, her body stretched over the lengthened proportions of an athletic woman, and legs bearing her away from him in long, ground-eating strides. There's some sort of grim irony in that number; he'd whiled away precisely that many years after Gianina died over his ridiculous stupidity and his brother's love for him before PARIAH found him.

Eight years is a long time. Enough time to invert the empty space of loss into a spearhead for purpose. To grow the fuck up, or so seems the cosmetic illusion cast over people who, in truth, have failed to move past a tragedy almost a decade old and don't expect the end of the decade to bring differently.

"Thank you," he repeats. Her hair seems to be waving at him: dismissal.

There is no answer, as the dark-haired woman disappears into darker shadows; no spoken word, no careless gesture. No sign that his response was heard or even that Hana recalls Teo's presence, left in her wake.

She does, of course. Even though there is now no lesson forthcoming; maybe later. Much later, when time enough has passed that she can be detached again. If Teo hasn't moved on by then, perhaps for a reason Wireless herself provides.

Acknowledgment is made not in person, but by impersonal medium; a text message sans author, left on the phone previously abandoned in a jacket pocket, a mere two lines long.

Ruth Meisner Blumenthal

Zahava Blumenthal Gitelman

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