Error Margin


teo_icon.gif elisabeth_icon.gif

Scene Title Error Margin
Synopsis Teo faces off with Liz over Deckard's arrest.
Date March 6, 2009

Old Dispensary

The old black Harley isn't visible from the outside and nor was its owner, but a quick audiokinetic sweep placed Teo down at the dock. He's walking. No real destination to him from the sound of it, moving back and forth, back and forth across the dock, old barnacled wood creaking underneath his weight as he restlessly roves.

His head has started growing out again since the last time they met: the buzzed flat of his head prickling out into rumpled spikes above the level of his jacket collar. A cigarette is almost spent, hanging between his lips and his face is mottled with an array of bruises, most of them merely ambient color, somebody's punch fading its starker contours off the line of his jaw. He flicks ash into the gray pitch and ruffle of surf, glances up at the clouded sky.

Joyless spectacle that it is to most, he nevertheless can't help but think — or remember, really — that it would be good weather for sailing, if you like to be able to see.

The Dispensary is a big place, but Elisabeth is getting far far too much practice these days with the skills Conrad spent so much time teaching her to refine. She heads around the building toward the docks, stepping onto the wooden structure carefully. Never quite sure if the thing is sound. She's wearing nondescript jeans and sneakers, topped by a black jacket into which she's got her hands shoved. It's still far too cold out here this almost-spring. "You rang?" she asks mildly, pitching her voice (not enhanced at all, just not shouting) to carry to the end of the dock as she joins him.

"You texted," Teo points out, glancing up. Her carefully nondescript frame falls into the peripheral of his vision and, for a moment, he seems inclined to keep her there until he finishes stomping across the pier one more time, but he doesn't. Winds up stopping short, turning his head, squaring her into the middle field of his vision, as politeness entails. His mouth is a line, his jaw two lines that meet at a sharp angle, his brows another stark line, shoulders squared between hard lines, all of him in restrained but obvious annoyance. "So you arrested Flint Deckard, eh?"

"Mmmm," Elisabeth replies calmly. "Yeah. Well… wasn't in the plan, but the bastard apparently wanted to be run in. Shit must have hit the fan in his life pretty damn hard if he's volunteering to be run in to get away from it." She watches Teo with a neutral expression. "I wanted to give you heads-up on it so you didn't hear it through the grapevine, but it didn't require a meet. What's up?"

The Sicilian's expression flattens. Sharpens again. Flattens, and Teodoro stares past her and into the gap between fenceboards for a moment. "That was a stupid thing to do. Mostly because he didn't do the shit that Homeland Security wanted him for, but partly because he was framed by the fucking Vanguard and his real alibi and witnesses involve outing Phoenix. Brian, at least. As if we don't all have enough fucking problems—"

The incipient crescendo to his voice aborts into a flat question. "What were you going to tell me over the phone?" Teo's head snatches to the left a fraction of an inch as if a fly had zoomed into his eye, but there was only a twitch there, a dry sting. Dragging the rim of his nails over it, he stares at Elisabeth through clear, faintly lucent blue eyes. It does not seem to do much for his temper or anything else, that she looks entirely at peace with the call she made.

Her body language tenses up, but Elisabeth bites her tongue. "I'm aware that some of what they want him for he hasn't done. And as I mentioned, it wasn't exactly in the plans to run him in, Teo. I *told* you that I needed to talk to him, I thought I made pretty clear that I was not interested in whatever the hell else he was into but I needed answers to the questions I have. If he hadn't opted to completely IGNORE the request, then we wouldn't have had to come looking for him. So don't blame me for the fact that he's a wanted man and that he didn't take the easy way and just TELL us what we wanted to know. Hell, if he'd told us what we needed last night, he wouldn't have gone to jail either — it was leverage, and that was it. Not my problem that he looked right at Felix and offered his fuckin' wrists to be cuffed." She shakes her head and sighs. "I'm doing what I can to scramble his paperwork around and keep him out of HomeSec's hands, but… I have no doubt that they're going to take him shortly. Since he's showing no signs of cooperating with me, my captain has no reason to keep him."

Breathe in, breathe out. Teo's breath sounds loud in his own ears; he has no idea what it must sound like to the policewoman. Depends on how closely she's listening, probably, and some part of him suspects she must not be listening very closely at all. Or she would hear herself. He stands there against the flat gray sky, trying to think through the haze of temper that's descended like a pall over his mind.

Whatever clarity he has to find, he isn't going to locate it looking at her. Still, he can't seem to take his eyes away. "A pimp cut his fucking eyeball out of his fucking skull because he went to find Abigail." It starts in a tense growl, a heap of syllables hammered down, flattened into some faltering semblence of neutrality. "He almost fucking died taking down Kazimir Volken's marine unit. What he got for turning on the Vanguard was a frame-job that puts him in jail unless he fucking lies to protect us — the same fucking people who apparently cost him an organ and his freedom.

"He has been fucked six ways past Sunday by law enforcement. Felix most of all.

"And you brought the Goddamn Russian with you, thinking that was going to make him talk? And then you throw him under the fucking bus? How fucking short-sighted can you be?" He isn't yelling. Not exactly. His voice is loud; carries over the lap and click of waves, threatens to shred in the wind.

OH, that about tears it for Liz. "One," she enumerates clearly and coldly, "How the *fuck* am I supposed to know *what* he did for Abigail, *or* what exactly his role was in taking down Volken? I'm not cleared to *know* that information because of what I do in my day life, Teo." Pure rage blazes to life, but she bites it back and keeps her voice very calm. "Two, I don't necessarily get to *pick* who I take where — Deckard got himself caught on fucking *TAPE* on a traffic camera last week at a fucking murder that I happened to catch. That Felix is also working. Which means when I say to him 'I have to go to Staten, I need to talk to Deckard and he's refusing to do it by phone,' he's probably going to go with me because he doesn't trust that I'm gonna walk back OFF this fucking rock if I go alone. And I didn't have a clue that Felix and Deckard had history that I should have taken into account there; I'd trust Felix any day of the week and three times on Sunday to cover my back — so he went.

"Three, fucked six ways past Sunday by law enforcement Deckard may have been, but when I come to you and tell you that I need to talk to someone and you tell me 'nope, too bad so sad,' guess what, Teo? I still have a fucking job to do, and I don't have the luxury of dodging it and dumping cases — unless of course you want that HomeSec bitch who's dogging my goddamn near every step lately to haul ME into the HomeSec dungeon never to be seen again too. And four… you know what? Fuck you and the horse you rode in on. I'm doing my level best to keep him out of HomeSec's hands, and I'll help wherever I can to get him the hell out of there, but you know what? At the end of the day, I'm doing the best I can with what I've got. You want a different outcome, the next time I tell you I need to talk to someone, make it happen. Then I won't step on your toes." She never raises her voice, she never yells at him, but she's absolutely livid, and she pivots on her heel to walk away.

"Don't you fucking turn away from me." Temper is a far less familiar note to Teo's voice than it is to the audiokinetic's, which is kind of like a joke on the fact that she could cave half a building in if she pushed her lungs hard enough. Not that she hasn't spoken a great deal already. He listened, of course; even when he's beaten in with enough rage to turn his face red, he'll listen. "Don't fucking weigh your pain against anybody else's on this island. You fucked up. Swallow your fucking pride and wrap your head around that fact.

"You're this close to putting yourself, the rest of Phoenix, and Deckard right into Homeland Security's fucking cells. You didn't tell me you were going to chase him down. You never fucking thought to give me your fucking questions. How did you think this was going to go? Any way this went?" His boots slam into the deck, ringing, following her with as much razor-edged heat as his voice. "You get Deckard's witness statement, bullshit something together about how, somehow, Elisabeth fucking Harrison is the only cop in New York City who can find Flint Deckard — 'cause that'll get them off your back, sure as bullshit. And now, what? You'd hunt him down on Staten Island, Tier 2 audiokinetic and the FBI's golden boy, get his statement, leave him alone?

"How would that fucking look any better? Why the Hell did your boss pick you to find him, Liz? Ever think of that? You fucking texted me. Once. 'A case' you needed a witness statement on. Those were your fucking words. And you say I don't tell you what you need to know? Jesus Christ.

"Do not throw your hands up in the air and say you did your fucking best, or that you're covering your ass. You threw shit at the fan, and now you're bitching because you have to fucking clean it up. Well lucky for you, bella, we have a plan for geting you out of HomeSec and reinventing your whole fucking life if we need to. Stubborn old Flint Deckard isn't quite so fucking lucky, is he?" Now he's shouting. Creaking toward hoarse, too, before a sharp cough clears the abraded walls of his throat. He hangs a sharp halt on the chainlink fence, fingers through the diamond-shaped holes between wire, stares at her.

Elisabeth turns back to him and barks out, "*I* didn't find him, Felix did. And all either of us had to say is 'we got a tip.' It's part of our job to cultivate informants, Teo, and it's not like Deckard's not a known quantity out here. Bribe enough people and HomeSec was also sure to find him sooner or later. Sure, I'll admit I fucked up — I fucked up YOUR plans by doing MY job. And maybe I've gone and fucked up his life, though quite frankly I think he'd already done a fair job of that on his own because not all the charges he's in for are fabricated. I wasn't planning on PUTTING his fucking statement into evidence, I just needed to KNOW what he knew so I could work from another angle if he *did* have anything helpful. My boss *didn't* pick me to find him, I went looking for him off the goddamned reservation because I needed to talk to him, and I didn't have any intention of arresting him. Which I think we told him about five times last night. And while I texted YOU once, I spoke to Cat on the phone twice and once in person, trying to get through to you that I needed to talk to him. Now yeah… maybe I should have just emailed you the questions I needed answers to, but I can't KNOW what will actually trigger something unless I can ask the questions myself, Teo. Are you a cop? Do you interrogate people on a regular basis? So far as I know, the answer is no. *I* needed to talk to him, *you* told me it wasn't going to happen."

She blows out a breath and says more calmly, "You know what? You're giving me shit about a situation you don't even begin to understand. You're living a double life, but you're not doing it in the viper's nest. And before you say it to me, you're right — I volunteered. And I could walk at any time and turn the whole damn lot of you over, or hell… just ignore your existance altogether and stop helping. I *don't* because I believe in what we're doing. And you're right that communication is a two-way street. I thought that my telling you 'I need to talk to him' was more than sufficient — when I tell you I actually *need* something from you, I'm not fucking around. If you can't help me get it, then I find a way to do it myself."

She shoves a hand into her hair, still angry but far less ready to kill him where he stands. "What do you want me to say? I fucked up? Sure, I did. I'll do it again, too, I'm sure. And I'm quite sure I'm going to step on your toes a few more times too, because I can't just steer cases the way I want them to go just because Phoenix wants them that way. So what do you want from me?" She looks at him, waiting for a straight answer.

First of all, he'd wanted her to admit that she fucked up. Now that she has, Teo isn't exactly over the moon with the prospect ahead. There is a lot of shit on the walls and he does not particularly crave the task of taking up a sponge and his own metaphorical bucket of soapy water. "I get people to cooperate on a regular basis, Liz. As far as you know, that's fucking true. Also, Felix is either an idiot, a malicious asshole, or both. Anybody would've done a better job having your back than he would have."

Which probably says something about the FBI agent and his relationship with Phoenix as of present. The Sicilian unhooks his fingers from the cold, oddly powdery metal, a scowl black all over his features. "If I tell you something isn't going to happen, you can feel free and ask me why. I know I'm not in the fucking viper's nest, but it's pretty fucking obvious to me that being right there doesn't always help your fucking perspective. I don't hold the cookie jar over your head because it's funny to see you stretch up on your toes. Or see some pathetic old one-eyed man go to fucking jail.

"I knew he wasn't going to talk to you, and if you pushed it—" the gesture of his hands, flipped up, describe generalized 'see current exhibit: clusterfuck' in the air.

"I want you to fucking tell me you're about to step on my toes so I can get my feet out of the fucking way next time. And I'd like you to find out if Deckard wants my help." Italian though he is, he's out of practice shouting. This mode of speech suits him better. Conversational. Teeth gritted and the stress still showing livewire, barely suppressed through his frame, but still a reasonable approximation of polite.

Raising a brow at him, Elisabeth shoots back, "Well, you did a stellar job getting HIM to cooperate, didn't you? And while we're on that subject, which is it that you actually want — the NYPD to do its job, or for me to bring it to you so you can do it for us?" She shakes her head. "Fine. I'll do what I can the next time I talk to him to see if he wants out. Quite honestly, he gave me every impression he did *not* want us to leave him on Staten. When we were about to just leave, he literally *told* us to take him in. So I make no promises about whether he wants your help, but I'll look into it."

"That's why I'm asking you to," Teo replies, the verb italicized with more emphasis than is strictly necessary though there's no real venom in it. He snaps his fingers, once, loud but refrains at least from hanging his hand up near her ear to do it; his own features remain starkly humorless despite the visible effort to maintain some semblence of practical calm. "When you want to drag cop shit to a career criminal who's an ally of Phoenix, you might want to consider bringing it to me so I can do it for you. Just in case he happens to be the man who fucking found your abducted ex-boyfriend for you.

"If you really want me to make up a general guideline, you can try this one on for size: use your fucking head." His jaws click shut the next moment, and his lips find a thin white line. He stares at the woman for a protracted moment, further anger and the common sense that he defaults to warring in the tangle of his brows. In the end, the latter seems to win out. "I seriously doubt he's going to talk to you before HomeSec or whomever the fuck gets him. If you really want more information on this fucking case, I can try and talk to him about that too."

That was probably not the thing to say to her. Elisabeth's face goes white in the darkness, and she manages — just barely — to hold back several scathing comments in reply. "I'm going back to Manhattan now. If you want to get his ass out, do it in the next day or so. I can hold off his transfer to central lockup one, maybe two more days, at most. I can also arrange to be the one transporting him, I'm pretty sure. Let me know when you want it done, and make it look damn good when you do it — including taking me out of the equation. If he *doesn't* want your help, I'll let you know." She turns on her heel once more and heads for the end of the dock. Then she stops and looks back, unable to keep the bitterness created by his infuriating castigation of her behind her teeth.

"Oh, and Teo? Don't ever bring up Sergei and Abby and who's doing what to help them again. And most especially not when you're moving faster on getting Deckard out of police custody faster than you're moving on getting our people out of this hellhole in spite of having any number of people in service who'd happily go in there and level the place and kill all the bastards who caused this. Right about now? I'm sure you have reasonable explanations and all kinds of reasons for doing it that way, but the fact that it's happening that way is enough to make me take a swing at you."

"Sweetheart, you can shut the fuck up. Given you put Deckard in police custody and I haven't made any fucking promises about getting him out." Incredulity is a rare color on Teo, Catholic boy that he is. "If you want Abigail and Trask to get out of this Hellhole alive, you might want to consider bringing that swing back to Staten Island on Wednesday night and using it on somebody who isn't trying to keep you and all yours alive.

"Felix isn't fucking invited, though, so if the idiot Russian and his clubfoot idea of justice is your deal-breaker, we can handle it without both of you. I'll bring it up whenever I fucking need to, Elisabeth. If you can't handle occasionally arresting a man you know has actually done a few decent things in his fucking life, you're in the wrong fucking line of work." Teo does, however, seem to take her decision to leave seriously. Raises an arm, cocks a hand at her.

Wave good-bye.

Elisabeth stops once more and looks at him. "Which is it? Do you want Deckard out or not? Because now you're changing your tune. It doesn't bother me a bit to have arrested him, he's a career criminal and it's my job. What *does* bother me is that if you'd listened when I asked you personally *and* through Cat to find a way for me to talk to him, this never would have happened. So now tell me — what. do. you. want? You want him out? I can give you a window within the next two days — I can't give you one beyond that, because HomeSec's likely to pull every string they have to get him. For what it's worth, the only reason I went ahead and brought him in is because he seemed far more scared of whatever the hell is after him on out here than he was of custody. So tell me what you fucking want, and I'll make it happen, one way or another. And if I can get here Wednesday without bringing Homeland down on our heads, I'll be here." He can count on it.

Exasperation etches equally unfamiliar lines across Teodoro's features, but they're faded now, shallower, either because he's running out of fuel (unlikely) or because a commensurate supply of guilt is adding up to counterbalance the scales (predictably). He closes his eyes, briefly. Cracks them open again. "That's why you're going to talk to him, signora. If he wants me to help him, I'll get him out. If he doesn't, I'll leave him to decide which Phoenix members he feels like telling his lawyer about. He's loyal enough not to talk to Homeland Security about us.

"I realize you don't care about what happens to him or what he could do to us, and that's fine. I do know that isn't your job.

"The truth about that is, I only got one text and no details, Liz. You want more help, you have to fucking ask for it. And I want you to do that, too." He stares at the woman squarely, his jaw twitching around the urge to ask a question he hasn't quite wrapped the language components of his brain around. He exhales through his nose; it sheets out, white.

There's a faint shrug. "A couple weeks ago, you ripped me a new ass for *not* doing my job. Now you're ripping me one *for* doing it. I've decided that I can't win either way — there is no making anyone happy, so I'm just doing what I can to get by," Elisabeth tells him tiredly. "I didn't even know Deckard was part of Phoenix or an ally or whatever — I've never even seen the guy before last night, nor heard his name. So you know, I thought he was someone you'd met, not that his arrest would piss you off beyond belief. But whatever. I'll talk to his stupid ass."

"All right. That makes sense." Teo's eyes flatten. Sharpen again, his pupils shortening into a healthy radius in the pale discs of iris. "Close as you were to Cat, you didn't do your reading. Means you didn't convince Felix, still means Felix should've known better. I'll rip him a new one for that.

"And I'm sorry I'm being an asshole," the words fall out of him like guts spilled out of a severed abdominal cavity. Ugly as that metaphor is he looks no more graceful or poetic doing it. Shadows under his eyes, scabs peeling loose under his sleeves, he looks almost if not quite as tired as she does, held together and animated by the same rancid tension that's pulling everybody apart.

"I could've asked you why you wanted to talk to him. There was too much going on, between assaults and negotiations and bullshit. I should've protected his stupid ass if I thought it needed protecting. Everybody's stupid asses. I'll do better." The first few words felt like pulling teeth to get out there, but as Teo intones his way through the sentences, he hits a rhythm, solid, regular, finds the weight of responsibility familiar enough to shoulder.

Elisabeth shakes her head. "There's no shortage of blame on this one. Seriously, Teo. I've been running ragged ever since Volken — I usually have a pretty good memory, but things are falling through the cracks. I'm working on it." She shrugs. "Felix and I both went there with the express intent of getting information, nothing more. I'm not even sure I know how he wound up in custody entirely. But I have to admit that it didn't hurt my feelings to bring him in, not for Homeland's sake, but because after making a complete mess of the situation in the harbor Monday, it was a nice little pat on the back for a job well done in my day life."

"'M sorry you had a rough Monday. I saw some of that shit on the news," Teo replies, nothing but sincerity on his features and recognizable principally because he looks sorry. Altogether more familiar to him than harsh demands of competence or caustic chastisements that insistently brook no argument. "Heard you lost a few men. That fucking sucks." However inadequate the words are, she knows that there's genuine empathy to go with it.

Conrad Wozniak bought this place on Phoenix's behalf. Repaired its floors, signed the checks. Teo runs his palm once over the roof of his head; closes his eyes, squeezes, opens them again. When clarity does return to him, visual and cognitive, he turns his mouth into a small smile. "Keep in touch, Liz."

There's a faint shrug. "It does… a whole ton of things about the last month have sucked, so it's pretty much par for the course. But it's rare that I fuck up my day job so bad," Elisabeth says quietly. "Anyway… I'll be here Wednesday if I'm certain that I'm not being watched or anything, okay? I don't want Homeland on our asses, and I sure as hell want a piece of taking down these fuckers." She smiles for him. "I will… you too." And then she really does leave this time, getting Anne to take her home so that it won't even be noticed that she was gone.

"Well yes, it's true, to err is human. But you, my dear, walk the limits, beyond which all is lost. Each of us have the grace of an err margin. Not all of us have the sense to know when we've crossed it."

— Unknown

March 6th: Learning The Code
March 6th: Phone Call
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