Disarmingly Charming


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Scene Title Disarmingly Charming
Synopsis Someone must be, because there is finally a Phoenix operative who isn't seriously considering ending this conversation with a bullet in Ghost's brain. They talk about Walter, but not that one, the Dancing Boar, but a whole lot of things go unsaid.
Date July 2, 2009

Village Renaissance BuildingFourth Floor Safehouse

The floors here on the fourth level of the Village Renaissance Building at 14 East 4th Street are of polished grey marble and the smooth walls are painted a cream color. Four corridors with four apartments each are found here, with stairwells at the front and back and elevators centrally placed in each corridor. The elevators have buttons for the first three floors visible, and control panels requiring both key and keycard to open.

The apartment doors, made from sturdy pine, are operated by keycards only on this floor. Like the second and third floors, they're numbered 401-416.

But that's where the similarity ends. This floor isn't for rental to the general public. It's a place reserved for temporary stays by whomever the person who lives on the top floor chooses to give sanctuary.

It's a safehouse of the Ferrymen, operated by a member of Phoenix, using the cover of musician's eccentricities to explain away the motley crew of folks who might come and go if anyone should ask.

Despite her morning being taken over by taking care of Gillian, and her afternoon being spent putting her own things in order(including a very strange note about Magnes enrolling in a Police Academy). Delilah has still found time to go upstairs to the safehouse and go through rather quickly to make sure the dwellings are all up to scratch. She is in one of the middle apartments, the door open at the front and the familiar cleaning cart idling just inside the bedroom with her. The redhead is delightfully Stepford today; a big white ribbon ties her hair back, and the dress she is wearing is a pale pink a-line number, dotted with patterns of butterflies. Her white heels match the white of that ribbon as well as the hem and collar of the dress. Disarmingly charming, right?

There is little noise on the floor, and the only sounds that she herself is making is the quiet rustle of bedsheets being put onto a mattress.

It's quiet where the safehouse is. Imperfectly so, thanks to the murmur of the season's first week of air-conditioning, but it is a soothing peace evertheless, the sort that doesn't strain the hearing or weigh on the spirits. Imperfectly quiet, but none of its flaws include the clumsy tread of foot on varnished wooden floor, or unnecessary friction between cloth and skin, no brush of shoulder on miscalculated architecture or furniture.

He's just there, abruptly. Behind her.

He — the man from the photographs Phoenix has been slinging back and forth like some silly game of softball, old soldier, temporal error, consummate stranger. Standing still, he blinks at Delilah from around the shoulder of a half-open door, panels of his coat falling slack, unbuttoned in front of him, a motorcycle helmet under arm.

With the good part of her shoulder facing the half-open door of the bedroom, there is zero visibility in terms of prying eyes. At first. The Ghost standing just behind the crook of the wood should be able to observe Delilah for a short time, at least; a plain view of her back as she pulls the pale green patterned sheets over the corner of the bed, finishing the first layer of a few. And just as sudden as she finishes this, she turns herself around to grab the next sheet from the tagalong cart.

Provided that he doesn't sink back behind the side of the door, she will see him, and quite obviously. She knows his face from those photographs, yes; she knows he has something to do with why they have to avoid Teo Laudani, but Delilah is not wholly privy as to why. When her gaze meets him, she almost freezes in place, arm still outstretched and her eyebrows lifting and an honestly surprised expression melting down over her features.

Brain says '?!'.

"Buona sera." The fluency is the same. The voice is different. Aged, like his face, none of the original make of Teodoro Laudani retained except perhaps for the pallor of his eyes. Sal's work had been thorough. He'd wanted people to take one look at Ghost and see him for the unknown quantity and perfect stranger that he is.

Of course, if Sal would've added boils, maybe blotted out one of his eyes, wrecked the muscles and nerves of his legs, perhaps, then they would know to run screaming. Instead, he's merely— older. Darker. Matches his choice of clothing better, certainly, but he certainly doesn't look like he has the blood and sexual trauma of teenaged girls and wicked men laid up in moral reproof at his door.

"They tell you anything yet?"

With that outstretched hand finding the edge of the cart, Delilah's brown eyes take in this stranger; that is what he is. Not even the voice- but the words, perhaps. But then again, Italy is a big place. He could be anyone, yet he is, for now, acting with resounding familiarity. "Tell me what, specifically?" Her tone suggests that she is still out of the entire loop, but the redhead does sound as if she knows this man is someone to avoid.

Rather than stand there with a confused face waiting for a real answer, the young woman's hand moves into the cart from the edge, grasping something in the crumple of used sheets and drawing it out in what could be a swifter motion. For her lack of practice with it, it's not a bad Draw of a commonplace shotgun, nor is her grip weak. The barrel, however, is duly aimed at the doorway rather than Ghost himself. Posturing, if anything.

The critics can fuck themselves. If Ghost were entirely heartless, the world might be up one dead Evolved right now.

No, he isn't reaching for a weapon, isn't turning his mind into one, isn't listening to the rancorous heat that scatters through the back of his mind's ear, doesn't even bother trying to check whether it's his own, Teo's, Gabriel's, or one of Sylar's dark passengers. Indeed— he actually turns up the corners of his mouth, and then puts up his hands. Palms out. I give up!

Not really. Close enough. "I'm Teo. One version thereof. Less of a patronizing tight-ass about the company you choose to keep, which may or may not be refreshing. I grow out of that in about four years."

Delilah narrows her eyes just enough to be noticeable, brows creasing above her nose. She has no real idea about this one's supposed heartlessness, and so such a lucky break goes whistling right over her head. Ah well.

"Excuse me?" Whether that is for the snipe about Teo being that sort of tight-ass or 'one-version thereof', it is hard to tell. But, the shotgun does lower in the direction of the floor. "You're not him, I've never seen you before in my life. I'm young, but not completely stupid."

"Yeah. Well. I had an accident with a projective shapeshifter. It's a whole clusterfuck—" this, Ghost adds an illustrative wave of one gloved hand to, which sort of demonstrates 'long story. Multisyllabic words. Awkward subject matter. Given my druthers, I druther not.'

His hands are the same, at least. Notched with tiny scars, round calluses trooping along the back of his knuckles, palms choppy from a lifetime of manual labor. Not that Delilah can see, all the way from there, but there is the faint trace of familiarity around the outline of his mannerisms, like a gingerbread man squirming inside his template. "I'm from the future.

"How are you doing?"

Projecta-whatsit, now? Delilah peers at him for the duration of that, head tilting just a little. She looks him over more closely even before he says the reasoning for his very presence. Delilah seems to pick something up only then, blinking softly at him and then up into his face. His eyes, mostly. The most familiar thing in his face.

How is she? What kind of question is that? "I'm …on my toes." Clearly. "For a lot of reasons. I'm …okay. Future? What?" Yeah, that's not getting through so easily. Lilah is new to all of this, remember- time travel and doppelgangers are new concepts.

There aren't any words smaller than that that Ghost can use, however, so he is left to stew in introspective silence for a few moments. Examining the gun from where he's standing. Big scary piece of machinery. Delilah holds it like she has intent to use it, however, which says something about the months she's had, and bespeaks the woman that the ghost remembers.

Soccer starts in July.

"Sorry I just blew in like this. I've been hanging out with Hana too long. Kind of stopped tracking a lot of things. No sense of social responsibility— trying it on feels like a fucking lie, these days. I can go." It doesn't occur to him, or seem to, that Delilah might rather keep the intruder for interrogation. It's the vanity or arrogance of a big cat in a savannah, that with which he seems to consider taking his leave, a glance over his shoulder, the shotgun's round maw barely included in his peripheral.

"Wait." The response comes fast, possibly without real thought put into it. The call is out of what is probably instinct, or more likely, intuition. The gun even goes straight down now, aimed carefully off to the side of her, hand holding it away from the trigger. She does take a step after him, but only one. "I'm just not -if you are some sort of other Teo, one that everyone else is telling me to stay away from- you're still a Teo, and our Teo is …missing. Or so that's been suggested to me. I haven't …seen him in weeks." Only a few ways to find out what is true and what is not.

Her grip tightens on the handle of the gun. "…What was my grandfather's name?" A stranger wouldn't know the answer to that. Both Teodoros would. But only with one may it cause any true accidental discomfort.

Accidental discomfort shouldn't feel like a flechette through the ribs, unerringly aimed at the critical parts of his being. Like. His metaphorical heart. Though his literal one twists painfully inside his ribs, muscle torquing inside muscle, a strange burn in his lung. His breathing becomes uncomfortably audible for a moment.

Hopefully not something that Delilah, plus shotgun or toxin superpowers, is about to mistake for a liar on the hot-seat or a telepathic plow-through Teo's memories in search of this absurdity of a detail. His mouth flattens slightly, not quite sour — perhaps even bitter, unwilling. Still, he's survived worse than this, and however vain or dramatic a Sicilian is wont to be about his heart, he isn't really going to pretend otherwise.

He grinds out two syllables: "Walter."

Delilah does not think in the same ways that some around her might; any suspicions at all would never go to a telepath, and as far as she is concerned, this is one bit of information that would be hard to fake. It is an absurd detail to her, but one that she knows Teo would be bound to remember, even if it took him a moment. And like now, it seems to, but not for the same reason. The gun at her side is lain horizontal over the top of the cart, made to lie there quietly just in case rather than at the ready.

That moment of audible breath and the flattened look of his lips does catch her attention. "The future- No kidding?" Lilah sounds nearly intrigued by this fact alone, observing Ghost's features closely, and with a degree of trepidation fitting the moment. It is a time traveler. And a clone of some sort, no less. It's all very bizarre to Dee, and that shows. She is quiet, but not meek. Simply soft. "How far ahead? How'd you even…" Get here?

Peculiarly, questions no one else had really felt merited an answer. Hana, perhaps because they were of no consequence to her practically, tactically. The others because they were too busy being up in arms or maintaining carefully paranoid interpersonal distances from him— for their safety, wholly understandable. Still, it lifts an eyebrow, straightens Ghost's shoulder slightly. Surprises him, to think— he hadn't prepared an answer to this particular line of questioning because he'd given up thinking anyone would.

Lying on the fly isn't rocket science or anything. God knows the ghost tells tall tales as often as he supplies more — or far less — palatable responses to questions, taunts, offers. Still, when he gets around to locating his voice— somewhere in the bottom of his stomach— it's the truth with which he does so, instant, automatic. "Ten years. I climbed my mind out of my body and hung around Je— Leonard's head for a few days, 'ported here in the same vortex.

"Spent a few weeks watching people before I tried Teo back on for size."

"What's the future like?" Suddenly, something clicks in her expression; nothing bad, for the most part just puzzle pieces slipping into place. Delilah looks at Ghost with a renewed interest, partially concern. The tiniest of gasps. "Projective shapeshifter- Sal? That's Teo's body? You stole your own body back? Is this why everyone is pissing mad?" The redhead is between bewildered and incredulous, waffling over wanting to be angry, and wanting to ask more questions. The result is a look of frustration, her voice in a similar state, but still rather subdued in volume.

It's not long before it turns into something distraught. "This is why I haven't seen him? You're possessing him? And now- your face-" Is not Teo. This is a mess, isn't it? "…you know you can't stay in there forever, right?" Lilah forms a question, but it is a tone of voice that suggests he had better not be planning on staying in there.

Ffffrwrgh yeesssss he knooows. Abruptly, the thirty-six-year-old soldier dons a scowl of rather petty peevishness for a brief moment, creasing his features around an expression that would be more at home on a round yellow sticker. Yes, mum. "I know," he answers. "I won't. I'll leave, I know, otherwise I am, in theory, as good as dead anyway.

"Too many people gunning for me. I'll clean up my fucking mess and get the fuck out, after all this. He can summon me back later, if he needs.

"Pinkie swear." Absurdly, he honestly does offer her one, now. Raises one leather-suited hand, his smallest finger curled out of the row of five, carried forward on a single stride, held out over the top of the cart at the girl. "They're mad about a lot of shit," he footnotes, blankly, almost an afterthought. "Me, too." In the future.

Delilah is stepping around the side of the cart when he does make that face, and she leans her forearm on the plastic edge. The getting a few steps closer is mostly so that she can look at him better. If he's going to be this for long- she won't forget anything about what he looks like. When she does see that face, Lilah tilts her head with a bit of admonishment, and a calm voice more at home in the Delilah ten-years-forward. "Don't make that face at me…"

And then- pinkie swear. He offers one, too, and her pursed little look softens quite a bit. "As long as you're not going to ruin him here- I was just concerned." Concerned that she'd never see the real!Teo ever again, frankly. Ghost knows her enough to guess the specifics. Her hand goes out to meet his, her finger hooking around the gloved one. Even though it is just one finger, it feels as if it is grasping onto his as best it can, reluctant to let go already. "I know. Me three. Just so long as you …bring him back in one piece?" Delilah has no place to make any demands of Ghost, but she does so anyway, very lightly.

"Yes," says possibly the least trustworthy source in the universe, according to the great and influential scholar commonly known as 'everyone.' "That's the plan. Sometimes the plan and what actually happens are similar." His pinkie folds a tiny circle around hers, squeezes neatly, warm as any show of teeth or stupid puppy face Teo has ever volunteered.

He can guess at the specifics. It took him awhile to realize that Delilah Trafford was, indeed, not trapped in a perennial state of being thirteen-years-old, total jailbait, and thus the requisite status of untouchable protectee, but he'd eventually arrived at clarity enough to realize she had never really thought of herself like that, not since he'd known her.

"So," he says, dropping his hand again. He glances down at the bristling array of detergents and mop handles available upon her many-wheeled steed. "I asked— I think I asked. How you doin'?"

Everyone else. Delilah takes her trust where she can get it, and honestly- she never had a reason to distrust Teo. Though of course, this is a bit different, but hey- it technically is still Teo! She has no reason to not take him for what he says. "See if you can keep 'similar' from becoming 'polar opposite'." Delilah knows better than to get a 'I'll try my best'. She looks for 'I'll do my best'.

"You did. I'm doing well." She smiles this time, far from mimicking her first answer. "I'm doing some good things, too. I think so, anyway." Lilah's fingers find their doubles and twine in front of her. "On a social issues level, I'm still displeased. Hopefully I get to do something about that." As always. "Despite there being some stuff going on that's way bigger than me, I think that this is the best I've been in a long time." Even as she says the past part, it dawns on her that this is the first time she has even thought about it that way. Oh, hey. Yeah, that's right, huh?

When life gives you lemons, and all that. Ghost turns up one corner of his mouth, but the lines deepen at the corners of his eyes, too, a faint steepening contracting the entirety of his face. The torsion of muscle on this face does not bear overmuch resemblence to the one he used to own, but there's at least one common element between them. He smiles like he means it, the way Mama Dora taught him to.

At least, for Delilah. "Isn't that something?" he asks. Mostly of himself. The Delilah he had known had never really gotten invested in Phoenix— mostly because the terrorist faction had run out of battles to fight by the time the possibility of membership had rolled around for her. "You're not like that in the future. You own a fine establishment for food and drink.

"Guess its name?"

"So I'm not in with the Burning Bird, am I?" The way he says the next statement makes her laugh, even though it probably shouldn't, and the grin stays on her face even after the sound fades. A fine establishment for food and drink? "I'd probably name something like that after the one that burned down when my house did. We went there for dinner a lot, I remember. Mum couldn't cook." Delilah's amusement turns to wistfulness, and she glances out of the window of the bedroom.

"That was the Dancing Boar. My gran liked the liver and onions." Ick. She even bites down on her tongue, making a universal face of 'gross', but keeping her eyes quite serious and on Ghost.

That's the one. Pig moving its trotters to music. He'd rolled his eyes as he stretched up on the ladder, bolted the sign to the door. Laughed, afterward, when she swatted him with a thing that left a faint bruise. Nothing serious. He's pale; bruises don't take much work to show.

"That's the one," Ghost acknowledges. His head lists slightly on the axis of his neck, considering, a pale eye tracking its way up her stature, trying to gauge her mood and disposition. With regards to her future; with regards to him. "Less with the burning bird, more with the jigging pork. I think you even keep that on the menu, but no one ever orders it. Somehow— I think this suits you more."

It was a rolling pin. She was baking pies that afternoon. As for her mood, she seems slightly more guarded than usual, though of course warming up. Likely because of who she is talking to- the fact that he is Teo and not Teo- is still processing. Part of her is repeating warnings, and another is saying that it's the same person. Just older. Maybe he really does know what he is doing.

Brown eyes move from the window over to Ghost, chancing some seconds of looking into his face, hands still knitted casually. "Do you really think so?" Or is he only saying that because she changed from the one he knew? There's a whole other Dee out there, somewhere. Isn't that weird? Still processing.

"Yes," Ghost answers, presently. "I really think so. Wher— when I come from, you still hide a lot, but only in order to get by. Here and now, you hide to fight another day, eh?" There's half a grin, crooked contrast to the show of even teeth framed in it. He clarifies again, despite that the words are the same that he had selected earlier: "Suits you. I—"

There's a twitch of motion, abrupt as the flat-razor realignment of a hawk's attention, eyes keen on something that probably isn't the half-lit dust motes sinking gently through the hallway's still air or the quiescence of tastefully-colored wallpaper. He exhales slowly. "Sorry," he says, swinging his head back around. "Thought I heard somebody."

Hide is such a tricky word. Not quite true, but not quite false either. So, in lieu of figuring out which it is, the redhead just nods once. Delilah watches the raptor-like attention shift, having refocused herself to watch him some more. The little things are Teo things she familiarizes with. That which Sal cannot change with a wave of his hand over flesh; manner and stance, gestures, that rapt alertness.

"You probably did. But up here nobody watches too closely, I find. People come and go, staying to themselves." If anyone, it was probably just someone staying in one of the many apartments shuffling about. "I swear, if I didn't check on them, I might never know some were even here." She smiles again, half-heartedly this time.

In this time and age, hiding is far more appropriate than it was where the ghost hearkens from. Not many people thought to sequester themselves away and out of sight of Arthur Petrelli and the stormy microcosm of his policy-making. Delilah had. Ghost had in no way objected whatsoever, even if, maybe, her life would have been easier otherwise.

Shit happens. To them, more than most people. "I probably did," Ghost acknowledges, at length, emptily. In fact, he had, but that's another area he prefers to leave ambiguous in most of his dealings in the present. He figures he's already disambiguinated enough about the nature of his Evolved ability, for most. "Think I'm gonna go, though. Stuff to do.

"But—" how to phrase this? It's been a month. There's a soccer game, if Tamara is right, and Tamara wouldn't have led him wrong; not about this. The future he left is still out there, somewhere he can't get back to.

He's missing out on a lot of shit, he knows. The slow spin of seasons. Another menu reprint, because they always see so much use; Delilah will be deciding between apricots and peaches for the sangria, based on market prices, helping Abigail with the next calendar barrage of birthdays, attending the commemoration of Officers Gabriel and Eileen Gray in a dress that has a dash of violet in with the black, less for her personal vanity than because she had cared, and the Grays had deserved a little bit of something beautiful.

She won't be expecting him back for a few months. He says, "It was good to see you."

She wishes that she could say the same. But she can't- because she doesn't know him. Not really. She could say it was nice to meet him, but that wouldn't feel right either. It's sad- and she finds him sad too, in some ways. Usually, a hug would be characteristic, but all that Delilah manages to actually get out is a soft smile that pushes her cheeks back. A real smile, obviously holding back the want to start spitting concern like an archerfish under a branch.

"…I'll do both of us a favor and not tell anyone you came. At least, not until it seems like the storm is passing."

"That's probably for the best." That is a dumb answer, but it is a true one. Ghost keeps his face blank for a few seconds, before the abrasion of eyelids on eyes, of blinking, puts some feeling back into the front of his head, enough that he works up the corner of his mouth. It's sad. He's sad. In some ways.

It's good that he's not about to be swatted out of his tree by the archerfish shenanigans. He lifts a hand at her but it falls away before breaking the invisible luminosity of the skin of her personal bubble without managing to articulately intimate what he'd been about to do. Instead, he inclines his head. Puts his hands in his pockets, grins, a little bit wolfish, a little but pup.

He turns away in the same conspicuous lack of noise in which he had arrived. "Don't work too hard, Lilah."

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