Does Not Want


alexander_icon.gif ben_icon.gif conrad_icon.gif helena_icon.gif romero_icon.gif samir_icon.gif teo_icon.gif

Scene Title Does Not Want
Synopsis Phoenix membership? Ben does not want. Fortunately, Samir does.
Date September 19, 2008

Piccoli's Delicatessen

Everything about Piccoli's is welcoming. There's a large, cheerful neon sign mounted on the roof, the interior is brightly lit and spotlessly clean, and the old-fashioned decor is more reminiscent of mother's kitchen than a successful business. Since the doors opened in 1946, Piccoli's has been best known for pastrami, hot dogs, corned beef, and salami. The wait can sometimes be a little long, but the prices are reasonable and the food is always worth it.

Romero apparently isn't on shift yet, but that's okay with Hel. She and Alex are at their regular table - since Alex has a job, and she may or may not still have a locker at Alley Cat, guess who's paying for dinner? Tonight for Hel it's the chicken parm sub, but it's always, always a Dr. Brown's cream. They're as much lounging for Romero to get his Italian ass (and the rest of himself) to work, but also because Ben left a message asking for another meeting. Which Helena seemed affable enough about, though made a point of dragging Alex. "Teo may meet up with us later." she tells the scruffy redheaded man. "I've got him handling a recruitment."

""Good, "Al says, simply. He's ordered a sandwich, but isn't giving it much attention. He's not hungry, for once, which is rather bizarre to say the least.

Ben steps into the deli looking somewhat more sore than yesterday. First day at work and all that. He has noodle legs, but he's still down to business. After a quick glance around, he heads for Helena and Alexander's table and hovers a hand by one of the chairs in mute query. He looks tired.

"You look like someone hit you with a tired stick." Helena says with sympathy. "Pull up a chair. Need caffeine? Alex is buying."

Alexander affirms, in that molasses slow drawl, "That's me, the moneybags in this little outfit." At least this time he's dressed in a suit, rather than the park and jeans look.

Ben pulls out a seat and drops down with a muffled grunt. "Can't drink coffee this late, I'll be up the whole night. Got work in the morning." He removes his knit hat and shoves it into his messenger bag, revealing a good case of hat head. He scratches the top of his head in a vague effort to correct this slash be less itchy. "But thanks."

Helena snorts a bit at Alexander calling himself Moneybags. "You live like a bum, though." she chides him, and looks to Ben. "So what is it we can do for you? We're here for a friend who works behind the counter anyway, but while we're waiting, we're at your disposal."

"What can I say, I'm cheap," Al returns, serenely, splaying both his hands on the tabletop, and nodding in agreement.
Ben drops his elbows to the table, squinting at the other two. "Escape routes. You have an entrance strategy, but do you have an exit and an alternate? And how are you going to conceal your identities?"

"The healing will occur during third shift." Helena says. "Security will be minimal. The healer will be accompanied by a teleporter, her guard will get out under his own power. Since one doesn't exactly go into or out of hospitals wearing a ski mask. Scrubs will be available. We may already have some help on the inside. If our teleporter goes on the whack for some reason, that's why she'll have her guard there, to get her out. All we're asking of you is to hang out in a hallway. I gather you think that compromises your personal security?"

Alexander is silent, for the moment, since Hel's doing the explaining.

Ben eyes Helena, closes his eyes briefly, opens them, and says - quietly - "I'm thinking about the security of everyone involved as well as my own. Are you going to give me attitude any time I ask questions?"

Into Piccoli's busts Conrad, just right out of the street. He scans the place briefly and makes right for the table with Helena and Alexander and some patsy he doesn't know yet. "Hey guys. Sorry I got a lil held up." He flips something out of his jacket (Florida Gator's jacket today) and fnaps it on the table right in front of Helena. "Special delivery from God." Then he sits down.

"Depends. Are you going to get your panties in a twist every time I answer? Ben, Conrad. Conrad, Ben." She picks up the note. "From God, huh?" She peruses. "Conny, do you mind making a bit more secure? So we don't have to hunch over like the dudes in the bar in Les Miz."

"Yup. From God herself." Conrad theatrically snaps his fingers and magically all the ambient noise of the bar, street, and everything is just gone. "No problem." he says. "Sound bubbles are awesome."

Ben looks to Conrad and nods, attempting to look less annoyed while greeting the man. Because he looks like Helena just annoyed him. "Panties in a twist," he repeats flatly. He takes another moment before continuing on without further comment on that remark. "Security cameras. What about those?"

Helena doesn't look like Ben annoyed her. Annoying Ben seems par for the course. She reads the note, looking pleased. "The Ferrymen will have one of their contacts, a nurse on shift. That should take care of the cameras. If not…we have a few days on the time-table." She looks to Conrad. "Talk to Romero and Abby and Teo about the security camera issue, would you?" She's totally down with delegating.

Alexander notes, quietly, "They don't likely have someone actively monitoring. They're likely recording to tape, and tape or disc can be gotten at and destroyed. Also, I can destroy a camera from a distance without making it apparent who I am,"

"Uh…love to, Hel, but…Hey." Con sends the hey toward Ben. "…but Abby says she's out. Or something. She's spewing some bullshit about leaving the group and all that, and hates my ass. Not that that's unusual. She's a bible beater. They're haters. But as far as Teo and Romero go, check." Somehow Conrad manages to slouch while sitting down, looking all relaxed.

"Yes, she's leaving the group." Helena confirms. "But she's still on this project, and she made that promise to me herself regardless of moving on. So we still have our go-to girl for this."

Ben glances between Helena and Conrad, expression speculative. To Alexander, he nods. "Okay." It's an easy agreement. The comment about someone backing out has him looking back from Conrad to Helena. "Pardon. Why's she leaving?"

Alexander grunts at Conrad's comment, and doesn't argue. Presumably that's why he's an ex-Baptist. "I'll go where I'm needed, but I can only cover one person," he adds, quietly.

Behind the counter, Romero finally shows up, clad in apron and hairnet — it's a uniform, for all that he hates it. Helena, however, is rather unmistakable, and the young sandwich-maker knows if she's here he should check in with her, so, for all that he just got here, he calls to the manager, "Boss, I'm goin' on break!" and wanders out from behind the counter (ripping off his hairnet), approaching her table.

"We might not need you to cover people so much as cameras." Helena observes. She considers a moment with regard to Ben's question - as far as she's concerned, it falls into the category of None Of Your Business. Perhaps surprisingly, she opts to answer. "Abby is of a particularly religious bent. She feels that whoever God puts in front of her to heal, she should. And while that's very noble, it creates a circumstance where there's a very good probability that one day she'll heal the wrong person and as a result be put in a bad position - and by extension, the group as well. The decision to part with a group was mutually agreed upon and she's still maintained as a contact." As Romero enters the sound bubble, she flashes a smile at him. "Romero, you know Alex, yeah? This is Conrad, he handles security. This is Ben. He's from Boston. He may or may not be on the hospital crew for miracle night, I think he's still deliberating." She looks back at Ben, smiles easily. "This is Romero. He'd be your transportation for the evening if all goes well."

"As for why she's leaving the group, I think 'God' told her to or someshit." Conrad puts 'God' in fingerquotes and adds plenty of sarcasm. "Anyway it's not like this is blood-in, blood-out. We don't roll like that. Hey Rome!" Con puts up a hand in greeting to Romero, all grins. Apparently the silence bubble isn't doing anything to hamper Romero communicating with them.

Romero nods to Conrad in return, and the others in turn. "Good to meet you all," he says, voice carrying the precision of a non-native speaker. "Alex I have met, yes. And transportation is, indeed, my specialty. What is going on here?" Possibly he's putting this too bluntly, but he's supposed to be working, and quite possibly his boss will stop glowering and actually do something about his slacking, so it's best to find out quickly.

The silence bubble is a little weird to get used to. "This is very Get Smart," Ben mutters before offering a vague smile Romero's way. "Hey."

Alexander muses to Helena, "Might be worth while having me go in and clear out the relevant paths before we start the whole thing in the hospital, then. They can't repair 'em that fast. Though it'd also set off warnings if someone were on top of it."

"At any rate, have we covered your questions?" Helena inquires to Ben, before looking to Romero. "Plotting, planning. Contemplating gellato." She looks to Alex. "Don't do it so quick they have time to replace them. The countdown starts Thursday, it zeroes at 9 AM on Saturday."

"Oh, glad you said something about Thursday, Helena. Because that guy snooping around about you and Abby? Someone's coming to kill him thursday. He thinks." Con just tosses that off casually. "I would've told you last night at Cat's place but it was a little too crowded.

"No, still have questions," Ben replies, blinking as he tries to follow the various threads of conversation. He holds one finger up. An index finger, thank you. "Countdown?"

"If you order gelato, my boss may find it in his heart not to fire me," says Romero, nodding his understanding. "The pistachio is excellent." His brows furrow. People getting killed? Not quite what he signed up for — though it sounds like it's possibly just some paranoid ranting on the part of somebody who's not even here. He decides it's better not to ask right now — just listen, and he'll figure it out. Eventually.

"Wait, what, who?" Al says, eloquently, blinking over at Conrad. "And I'll have the raspberry-chocolate," he adds, quickly. "That stuff is awesome."

"Is this good news or bad news?" Helena asks Conrad frankly. "He was snooping kind of heavy into us. I don't even know why he was doing it in the first place. He's a criminal himself, did he think it would be some kind of get out of jail free card?" She looks up at Romero. "Bite your tongue. Gimme the raspberry-chocolate, please." She bats her lashes at Romero. This is known to have an effect on the men of the Italian persuasion. It's been tested on Teo.

Ben winces faintly at something, rubbing his unbruised cheek with a weary air. Between the heavy bruising and the wrist brace, he looks like someone messed him up pretty good.

Romero might be displeased to discover that he has this much in common with his brother. Helena's lash-batting has the desired effect — he's quick, once he's gotten orders from everybody, to whisk off and retrieve gelato all around and quietly explain to his boss that this is simply a mandatory excursion — he'll be back as soon as possible, and meanwhile he'll get these people to spend as much as possible on gelato and sandwiches. Promise.

Helena looks back to Ben. "I think a lot of the regulars are starting to roll in for the night. If you stay, you can meet a lot of people, but if it's overwhelming, I understand. Was there any more to the Q and A?" She already knows about why he looks like he's taken a beat-down, so doesn't pursue the topic.

Ben sits with Helena, Conrad, and Alexander at a table; Conrad's doing a fun audio thing that masks their conversation. "There continues to be a lot of A," he tells Helena. "Countdown?"

A quick phonecall ahead had let Teo know that the rest of the family had holed up again at the delicatessen. Family only implies a little bit of blood, and whereas that gave him momentary pause, he figured, fuck it: if they couldn't coexist peacefully in a bustling restaurant together, the whole damn opera was doomed anyway.

Outside the shop's plateglass windows, a motorcycle rumbles up, a young man in front, a younger one sitting helmet-hatted behind. Teo slips off and into the square of yellow light cast from the inside. He's wind-tousled and cold-chapped, a tiny stain blotting his right knee with red and reasonably good-humor animating his features. "<Come on,>" he motions toward Samir. His Arabic is simple and imprecisely pronounced, stiffened by lexicon he'd learned strictly from the book, but his meaning clear with the motion of his arm. "<I will introduce you.>"

Samir pulls his helmet off as he slides off the motorcycle, and hesitates a moment on the sidewalk outside, looking squint-eyed through the windows at the people inside. Answers to Teo's earlier questions may have come easily, but there is hesitation now, uncertaintly claiming his expression. He schools it well enough, though, and stands up straighter, tucking his helmet beneath one arm and nodding. "<Okay.>" He says nothing further, but waits to follow Teo's lead.

Helena nods. "Part of the build up. We're going to broadcast a countdown without making clear what it's for. It'll set HomeSec in a scramble, but at the end, it what they expect is not what they get. No explosions, no violence - just miracles." A small shrug.

Alexander is seated with Helena and Ben and Conrad, waiting with evident impatience for gelato, since he's finished with the real meal. He's in one of his plain suits, as if heading off to a shift bouncing after all this.

"HomeSec will scramble and I'd guess there's gonna be pretty wide-spread panic," Ben says, leaning back in his seat a little, brow furrowed. "Is the countdown really necessary?"

Teo doesn't realize how cold his hand is until he closes it on the metal of the Delicatessen's door handle and finds it a few degrees warmer than his fingers. Grunting a curse under his breath, he pulls to grant Samir's egress, takes up the rear in the style of a host who recognizes nervousness in his guest's manner. Which he does, though Samir had hardly been an effusive and loquacious character on first encounter.

Teo waves once. A flare of fingers serves as a warning and a greeting to the Phoenix operatives clumped ahead, before he shows the younger man through the gaps between tables, two soft monosyllables of reassurance. He yanks the younger man up a chair before hauling one over of his own; sees Romero drift like a leaf behind the counter, only an instant's eye-contact before the brothers break it.

"Buona sera," he greets, customary. Nods salutation to Conrad, a smile for Helena, a — something at Alexander, and a quizzically blank expression at Ben. "This is Samir. May we speak freely?"

Samir is quiet, though his eyes are alert and curious. His gaze sweeps the room before looking over the others gathered at the table. His head tips in a nod of greeting, and his lips curve into a fleeting smile to Teo as he takes his seat. "Hello." The teenager is not particularly chatty.

"Yes." Helena says Ben with firm frankness. "HomeSec will be scrambling in all the wrong places, and when it zeroes, they're going to look like idiots. I don't think there's going to be widespread panic, either. We've already had a buzz going about who we are and what we do, people will be anticipating." She looks up at Teo, makes a vague gesture. "Conny's put a sound bubble up, it's safe. Hello, Samir." She gives him a smile. "Welcome aboard. It's good to see you again." She returns her gaze to Ben. "Look, this isn't an attack, nor is it a challenge to your right to ask questions, but I think you're overthinking things. We're not new at this, even if the symbol and name we're using is."

"She has a point. They're gonna be getting up in people's grills looking for weapons, bombs, guarding checkpoints. I was a cop after September 11th, I remember how it went," Al points out, between bites of gelato. "They just won't expect what they're gonna get."

Ben nods to Samir and Teo. "Uh. Hi," he greets; looking from Alexander to Helena, he shakes his head a little. "I am new to this and I do see lots of things going wrong. I probably am overthinking, yes." He just sounds tired again.

The dynamics of the group and its new additions play out before Teo's baby blues, and he narrows them fractionally, studying them as if they were words on a page and he had a cipher in hand. Doesn't actually scowl, though. He thinks better of that, with one of his erstwhile students at the table all new and nervous and shit.

It's a hectic time to join up. "We've taken precautions," he assures Ben, after a moment. "You aren't the only one who had doubts about the public countdown. But ours were less about whether or not we could pull it off with all the resources we have than the moral implications of starting a panic, when we're trying to separate ourselves from terrorists.

"Unfortunately, 'tis the season for loud fucking demonstrations. You don't do it, you don't get heard. That make sense?" He holds the other man's gaze for a moment, before a shrug moves through his shoulders, right through left. He's prepared to rationalize, soothe or argue further, as is needed; he tends to be stereotypically Italian in that way. The next moment, however, his gaze cuts to Helena. "What have I missed?"

"Sound bubble?" Samir tests the words out with a quizzical look. His head tilts slightly to one side, as if listening. "Countdown?" His expression tells of many questions. He looks sheepish, and bites his lip, leaning back in his chair and falling quiet again to listen.

"Conrad is an audiokinetic." Helena keeps the explanation for Samir short and sweet. "We've got a project we're working on. We're going to…give back to the city. Use our abilities in a display of good works. I realize it's not exactly on the offensive, but we want to start things off with something positive before we get into the projects that are going to be…well, dangerous. "

If we don't turn the public eye on it, it's all too likely it'll pass unnoticed," Al says, spooning up the last of the gelato in a few neat motions. "It's all about claiming credit ahead of time, in a positive way."

Helena notes for Teo, "Abby and Conrad met up. Abby sent me a note. She's still in, and the Ferrymen are going to tap their contacts, see about putting one of their people on the shift you guys will be on the ped ward during. Alex may be joining you to handle security cameras as well. Romero's going to have a busy night."

"You know I'm wary. I don't have to agree, either. All I wanted to do was offer my help if anyone got injured. You can trust me or not, it's just an offer. But I'm not taking part in something just to prove myself."
…says Ben.

Teo nods at Helena. Pauses a half-beat, racking his vocabulary for the word, before he half-turns toward Samir. "<Sound,>" he says, inclining his head toward the older man with the chin, at the other end of the table. "<His power is over sound. He's hiding us.>" While not the most fluent translation, he can only hope that it conveys his meaning adequately. Wincing at his verbal clumsiness, he watches Samir briefly, before glancing up at Helena. "I spoke to Abigail about the healing.

"I heard she was still in. She asked me to pick her patient. Grace was there. She offered St. John's Cathedral for our use on behalf of the Ferrymen, unless you have objections. We could get a room to use as Grand Central Station for Romero, or at least for Abby to stay in while she recovers. Grace also mentioned we'd probably have the unequivocal support of the dean or other organizers, if we approached them directly.

"I don't know if you want to risk the leak. But if the Ferrymen trust them…" He doesn't finish that sentence, mostly because he's grown out of unequivocally trusting anybody. Partly also because Benjamin just said something that struck him as unequivocally stupid. His head turns; he stares at the younger man for a protracted moment, openly wondering if he ought to verbalize his equivocation.

Blue eyes harden, then sharpen, intellectual curiosity mingled with frost at the other man's caustic word choice. "This project is voluntary. It's always been. I don't give a flying fuck where you fall on the line on this particular issue, but right now you sound like Phoenix is a hobby like fucking kayaking. Are you committed to the mission or just really fucking bored? Yes or no will work," he holds two hands up, slow: not trying to start a fight.

"Basically, I think it'd be better put as …if all you're willing to do is heal, just say so. We'll be grateful and happy to make use of your services, and understand if you just don't feel up to the more knife's edge situations," Al says, gently, trying for graciousness. "If you don't want to be out and about, there's still use for you."

"'Trust me or not' sounds really good coming out of your mouth, but you know full well the world doesn't work that way. The clinic I told you about is set up for our members and is in one of our hiding places. 'Trust me or not' doesn't cut it when it comes to compromising our safehouses. So if a little light look-out duty is too much for you to handle, then the burden of gaining our trust is on you, what do you think you should do to earn it?" Helena's trying to be patient, she really is. "We're not too good not to need your help, but we're not so stupid as to just lets you waltz in. So how do we compromise?"

Ben looks at Teo as the man speaks to him; something in his bright blue eyes goes cold, and there is a whitening of his knuckles. He takes in a sharp breath, clamps his teeth together, and seems to relax slightly as Alexander speaks. A nod to him, and then he's finally shaking his head at Helena. "What Alex said. I didn't ask to be in your clinic or anywhere near any of your safehouses. I never had a clinic. I do what I can with what I have." He eases his chair back from the table, taking great care, trying to conceal the tremble in his hands that is either fear or anger. By the look of his eyes, it's anger. "You have my number."

Whether ironic or merely unkind, the anger in Ben's face brings the beginnings of a smile to Teo's face. The Italian would take righteous rage at— Teo guesses— the questioning of his loyalties and principles over poorly-disguised peanut-gallery sullenness any day of the Goddamn week. His tall frame loosens fractionally; he lets his elbows fall to the top of the table, and glances at Helena, Alexander, and then a quick check at Samir again before he acknowledges Ben's salutation with a thumbs-up. "I'll call it if she won't," he answers sardonically. "Buona notte."

Al bites back a sigh, and then scribbles a number on a piece of scrap paper, which he slides over to Ben. "And now you have mine," he says, gently. "For what it's worth."

Helena shrugs. Apparently she's done with the whole issue. If they need him, they'll call. She's good with that. But the trust issue will remain.

Ben reaches into his bag, removing a small notepad and a pen. He writes down a number as well, passing it to Alex. "Thanks. That's mine. I don't want your safehouses. I don't want your supplies. I'm just offering myself as an option," he says, attempting to keep his voice even. "Good luck with your Miracles." He puts his pen and pad back into his bag, closes the flap, and backs off a step. Alex's paper is tucked into his pocket.

"The Americano has as much diplomatic talent as I do," Teo remarks, blunt as head trauma, as he leans his jaw on one still-cold fist. He watches Ben take his leave, his expression momentarily quiescent. As soon as the other man is beyond the radius of the so-named sound bubble, he glances back at Helena. He's unable to tell whether or not she's capable of focusing after that; he knows she's been slightly stressed out lately. He sincerely doubts she'll take the loss of one medical practitioner after the other easily. "What do you think about letting the deaconery of St. John's Cathedral in on the Miracles? Borrowing their rooms?"

Alexander pushes aside his empty dish. "Wait, you don't mean me, do you?" he wonders, tone oddly tentative.

"No," says Helena, musing as Ben walks out. "I think he means Boston." she indicates the departing ex med student. She looks to Alex. "Are you ready to trust him?" she asks. "With your life? Because he's offering his help, but he's not really giving us any reason to trust him. Maybe time will change that." She shrugs, and looks to Teo. "I think that'll be fine. We just need to make sure that it's still branded an act of Phoenix. As long as that stays on board, you can draft the Pope."

Ben makes his way to the exit, hands curled into fists.

Teo's head almost falls off his fist when the redhead gives him that query, bigger-eyed with surprise. Partly because it was unexpected given, you know. Boston. Partly because it was unimaginable given, you know.

"When I insult you, it's completely accidental," he says, after a moment, gruff with a sentiment that he can't find the right facial expression to go with. "I promise." He holds Alexander's gaze for all of two seconds, before straightening awkwardly on his seat. Hel warrants a nod, Samir a momentary glance, before his attention returns to the spare Americano in question. "Want a smoke before you go to work?" It would be absurd to add 'please,' or he would.

"I think….we'll test him as we go. I understand where he's coming from, and he is a gift horse we -will- look in the mouth. Not every sympathizer is gonna be a full time partisan fighter," Al says, already fishing his pack of cigarettes out of his jacket pocket. "What he does will be the real test," He heaves himself up. "SMoke before work sounds divine."

"I'll see Samir home." Helena supplies. "You two go have your 'smoke'." No nudge-nudge-wink-wing' in her tone. Nope. None at all.

Teo rises, clapping Samir gently on the shoulder as he goes. He's almost out beyond the radius of Conrad's protection before he thinks to pause, look back, give Helena a stare as if her head was suddenly replaced by a basketball-sized Rubik's cube, unable to determine if he… if she… Brow quizzically furrowed, he turns his head forward. Lopes away, hands in his pockets.

Alexander puts on an expression of almost saintly innocence, tips a nonexistent hat to Helena, and pads after.

Any additional notes fall to the bottom.

November 19th: What's The Worst That Could Happen?

Previously in this storyline…

Next in this storyline…

November 19th: This Way
Unless otherwise stated, the content of this page is licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 License