Fists of Earth


eileen_icon.gif teo3_icon.gif

Scene Title Fists of Earth
Synopsis Eileen and Teo reconnect after a long winter.
Date June 7, 2010

Old Dispensary

The Dispensary has many rooms, but only a small handful are in use, including the attic, the bedrooms on the second floor and the living area downstairs where the kitchen looks out over the cluster of furniture arranged in a half-moon around the hearth. Recently, Eileen has convinced Raith to take the boards off one of the doors to convert an old storage nook into a small war room wallpapered with maps of New York City, blueprints for the restoration of Bannerman's Arsenal on Pollepel Island and newspaper clippings that follow the Ferry's conflict with the government.

This is where the Englishwoman does most of her work, both personal and professional; sitting on top of a squat cardboard box stuffed with what Vanguard-related paperwork she's been able to recover or recreate is a manila folder with the words Commonwealth Institute of Scientific Research scrawled across it in sharp black handwriting, one corner of a glossy interview piece on Dr. Jean Luis pulled from Pause and peeking out under its bent lip. Next to that, an old shortwave radio tuned to a classical music station, all deep cellos and fluttering violins.

She smokes in here, too. That's what the ceramic ashtray is for. One hand pressed flat across her mouth to hide the expression behind it, the other flicking her thumb against the filter of a lit cigarette, she sits at a table large enough to fit four and peruses a long list of names, addresses and telephone numbers printed on flimsy white paper with wilted edges and smudged ink, well-worn by the same fingers that follow the line of her lips.

A familiar cadence of footfalls is coming up through the door, which means— that's either Teo scraping in with grit in his boots, attributing the hollow plastic 'thump' that had come through the dispensary some minutes earlier to the shovel and hosing job he'd been trying to do clearing off the dock, or Gabriel making somewhat more out of a subterfuge than there probably needs to be.

Teodoro primarily operates on two modes of self-transportation, when using his feet. Either running like a cat, Ghost's gift of ninja, or stomping around round-shouldered and swaggering like his legs aren't properly attached, baby-Teo's little hooligan's conceit. It's the latter that he's coming in on today.

"All work and no play," he says, peering around the door. He's leaning backward on the wall, bent over double to dig his toe into the top of his boot, unearth a stone that magically wedged itself in there. His teeth show briefly white, right up to the ruptured twist of scar tissue up his left cheek. "Makes… makes— there's some horror film I'm quoting. It's classic. I'm fuckin' classy. I am. Anything I can help with?"

Eileen's name is not Jack, and she's certainly not a boy. Whether or not dull is an apt descriptor for her depends on who you ask. She smiles behind her hand and snuffs out her cigarette, burned down to the joints of her knuckles, in the bottom of the ashtray where it joins the half dozen other crumpled butts she's gone through, but never fear: she has a spare tucked behind her ear the next time she needs a quick fix of cheap nicotine.

She could probably stand to try the patch again. Paler than the last time they saw one another — as though such a thing were even possible — she doesn't appear to have been getting much sleep. Rather than brush her hair when she climbed out of bed this morning, she twisted it into a loose bun at the back of her head, held in place with bobby pins that match the black of her cardigan she wears over a charcoal gray dress paired with long leggings and a white carnation pinned to her collar.

The flower is dead. Has been for at least a few days, judging by the brittle condition of its flaccid petals. "Not unless you know someone with the MPS," she murmurs between her fingers, sounding tired and hoarse. "It's good to see you."

"It's good to see you too," he answers. Teo's grin rearranges itself around a smaller smile, excluding that one fold of macabre tissue, and he straightens, tilts away from the wall that was holding him up by the rump. A rock rolls in his fingers, like he's considering dropping it right there in the hallway as an uncouth boy is wont to do, but perhaps it's the Englishwoman's presence, the proximity to her makeshift 'study.' He doesn't ditch random dirty rocks near her stuff.

Floorboards creak below him, despite that he's restrained his gait down to a functional walk instead of swaggering by now, as well. His eyes shift up to study her hair, then shift up, higher, nearer, to study his own. It's too long, really. Has been for months, grown out along with his beard like armor, an awkwardly obvious effort to fend off curious eyes from the other problems that exist on his face. It's weird, how dishevelment is comely until you're doing it on purpose. For a moment, it's like he might say something about that.

Instead, he drops into a squat next to her cardboard box. "I'm good at reading. It's one of Raith's favorite things to bitch about. Do you want any help with whatever you're doing?"

"He says he misses your bookish dismissiveness." Eileen leans back in her seat with a gentle creak of wood, chair legs shuddering. It's not a sturdy chair, but neither is she a particularly sturdy woman. They go well together.

Rubbing her knuckles along her jaw, her green eyes move between the rumpled sheet of paper, Teo and the rock in the Sicilian's hand before she makes her decision and taps two fingers against the paper's upper lefthand corner. "There's more to it than reading," she says, and coming from someone with a sober face like hers, it could be taken as a chastisement, but Teo has maybe known her long enough to listen for the note of apology in her voice. It's very heavy.

"I think my mother may've known Kazimir before I was born. There are some questions I'd like to ask her, but I've not had much luck tracking her down." She holds her hand out for his rock. "Six years is a long time and I'm out of Ruskins."

It's his rock, though. His rock. Teo's fingers close over it, go white around the corners, a parody of possessiveness. The next moment, he raises his arm. Drops the tiny hunk of— what is it, granite, some mineral-veined mix, into her palm. It is brown, mostly, but black lines run through it forking, thickening, and swerving at cracked-sharp angles, not unlike the side-effects of coming into physical contact with the very same dread King that Eileen is talking about. "My bookish dismissiveness," he repeats, absentmindedly.

He tries to remember if Ghost remembered anything about that, but if he did, it doesn't come back when invoked by nothing greater than a squint of effort. Perhaps a greater summoning ritual could be of use. Meditation facilitated by a dream manipulator, a memory manipulator prying the way through like an oar through the bayou. Bit pity, the former are dead and he's run out of commodified secrets for the latter. He wriggles slightly, shifting away from the uncomfortable cut and constriction of his jeans edge into his hip.

"Could call in a favor from the little girl Molly, maybe," Teo theorizes. "Her dad kind of owes me one. Long as ya mum isn't a telepath or Arthur Petrelli or some obscenely dangerous Evolved shit, they'd probably be all right with giving it the good college try. Assuming Matt doesn't have Abigail's hilarious little Kozlow scam pinned on me." He twists a brief scowl out of his scarred face, shakes his head as if to stave off further query.

Subject diversion. At least, for now. Before it's gone from him, drowned or eroded away under Kazimir's long shadow or the next thing Raith thinks they should blow up for great justice, or at least discernible profit margin. "Sorry I've been scarce. I had baby drama, and another kind. Yeah," his eyes narrow above a smile, rueful, obscurely apologetic on behalf of his entire sex, maybe, except not even he is that arrogant. "I knocked Delilah up."

"I'd heard," is the most neutral response Eileen can tailor.

She closes her hand around the rock, testing its weight in her palm as she curves her thumb along the edge and explores its texture. It's not the kind of stone she sometimes keeps in her pocket during the spring and summer months — smooth, oblong things with a flat surface perfect for skipping across the water. Puszczanie kaczek, her Polish grandmother used to call it — letting the ducks out — but Eileen prefers the name they have for it in Portugal.

Peixinho. Little fish. She likes the way the word feels in her mouth. It's much simpler, more natural than the ones she's rolling around against the inside of her cheek now, debating whether or not they're worth saying — and if they are, whether it's something she wants Teo to hear.

"It's a selfish choice," she settles on, eventually. "Keeping the baby. I can't say I wouldn't do the same."

The sheet of paper and its list of names, many of them crossed off, are momentarily forgotten, pushed aside with the ashtray and a porcelain mug that once had tea in it but has since been drained. His suggestions have not gone unheard, simply unacknowledged in the face of a bigger issue that she's had plenty of time to think about without drawing any firm conclusions. "Do you know if it's a boy or a girl?"

Coiled tension in the squat of his legs. His shoes creak, or maybe that's just his muscle against his leg, a dull reverberation buzzing through his inner-ear. He is looking at some of the papers in the box instead of looking at her. It's as if he thinks that taking some time before he says, "It wasn't my choice," makes it any less defensive, but Teo wouldn't be that stupid. It is what it is. Defensive, and that's no bitterness at her, either. Wading into the second trimester, and already the situation around the child is far too complicated.

"It's a boy. The ultrasound isn't very clear, but I know." He rolls his head back abruptly, like he's merely loosening up the muscle strings in his neck and shoulders, but that isn't it, really. Hooking rough fingers over the side of his nape, he starts to look back up at her but somehow the trajectory of his gaze winds up glancing off the wall, instead. "Just like the ghost's. His name is gonna be Walter. He'll have red hair and brown eyes, like Delilah, but he'll be the same kind of sharp as me. He'll be Evolved.

"It's either fate or biology. Doesn't make much of a difference to me." Teo's shoulders go up slightly, pushed into a shrug on either side of himself, huddling or indifferent or. Or, or. His throat moves slightly and his gaze makes station, next, at the stone in Eileen's hand. Little fish would remind him of Pisces, two fish swimming in opposite directions with their tails bound together. They'll wind up somewhere, but they're never going to fuckin' get anywhere. "I ever tell you about you?"

The corners of Eileen's mouth hook up around a smile less relaxed than the one she'd hidden when he first emerged into view. As she gives him his rock back, she takes his hand in hers, pushes the prize into his palm and folds his fingers around it like a clamshell swallowing a pearl. The thumb that had traced the rock's shape skims across the backs of his knuckles, touch fleeting but no less affectionate or chaste than a kiss pressed to the top of his scruffy blond head, fingers ruffling his too-long hair or any other number of tender gestures she might otherwise reserve on rare occasion for a loved one of either sex.

Which Teo still is, make no mistake. Whatever holds her back from all of the above has nothing to do with the distance the storm, her work, his life or the consequences attached to decisions they've both made has put squarely between them. Although this treatment lacks the extra dimension that her interactions with Gabriel have, the message is clear.

He's her friend. Also, she thinks Walter is a good, strong name for a boy, cherub-faced or not. It's very English, however, so maybe Eileen is a little bit biased. "It doesn't matter," she says gently, releasing his hand. "Any chance I had of becoming the woman in the ghost's future died with her. What happened at Pinehearst was the last fist of earth tossed onto that grave."

But she should still know. He has a duty toward that future, like has a duty toward this present. If not to safeguard, or even to improve upon it, then to remember; and he's already had so much forgotten. Teo has the rock in his palm and the aftermath of her thumb-brush affection tingling his knuckles like an endorphin-doused burn. So he tosses the rock, once. And scrubs the back of his hand on his forehead while he sighs, chugging, all big stupid boy bluster even when he's crouching at her feet, below her cardboard and stack-paper throne, a supplicant, perpetually doggish in a way that makes Frenchman giggle.

"Maybe," he says. "But mostly because Ghost killed her, to get Gabriel to change the past and save her, along with Phoenix, and his soul. Now—

"Now, Phoenix is all but dead, Ghost is effectively exorcised, and she thinks everything that could have come of that world is too. She should know she had been bearing his child, I think." His English is breaking. Mechanically. Component by grammatical component— he's talking to her and about her in third person, some reason, and he doesn't feel altogether well. Relaxation belongs to a previous chapter of interaction. Replaced by so much strange and mortifying fiction. "Sounds like you, doesn't it? In the best way, I mean," he says, a little hollowly, thinking of a rotted smile, thrashing feet. He squeezes the rock. "Killer mom."

The knowledge that there was once a future where Eileen felt secure enough to bring a child into her world should bring her some small measure of peace, and maybe it does. Her face doesn't contort with grief and there's no abrupt choking sound made at the back of her throat or a hitch in her breathing that Teo can observe. It does, however, change; an audible tremor rides along on the back of her next exhale, and as she purses her lips into a thin line, she reaches up to place the palm of one marble white hand on a cheek that should be flushed pink but has instead gone the colour of a corpse.

Her eyes are very damp.

It's not even about the baby. Not really. "Sometimes I think looking after the three of you is enough like having children," she says in a harsh whisper, voice gone guttural and rough with hint of breathy laughter trembling beneath it. Completely serious, then: "There's only one way this can end, Teo. For Walter, too."
Teo is already thinking about how he might have murdered her twice, and that there's still one of him and one of her, here, left in a vast and complicated world that might trick such ruthless cruelty into him again. He doesn't want to think about Walter right now. Not in those terms, anyway. The least she could do was begrudge him the child. Spite or denial would be easier to bear, as spite or denial always is for Teodoro Laudani when he's shot somebody or something. Even the coldest version of him preferred the heat of rage.

Well, now he's blotched red on his cheeks like she's gone white. Selfishly, he wonders if this is going to exorcise his ghosts. "Walter has to be born first," he roughs out, flattening his hands with the rock between them. "Which is as tall an order in the world Ray and Ghost and those other douchebags from the future shat out. If you would help me make sure that gets done.

"With Li's permission, 'f you like." There is an honest attempt at a smile, and an honest mmmmostly-failure too. Fuck the lady's privacy. Unless Eileen thinks not. "You can keep an eye from further places than I can, and more discreetly. I haven't made a lot of good things in this timeline," and he knows it might be strange hear those words from a friend you've known for years and in no world other or brighter than this one, "but I think this is the sound of you agreeing that this kid is gonna be one of them."

There's a saying about apples and the distance they tend to fall from trees that is either the closest or the furthest thing from the truth; Eileen has assured Gabriel that he isn't his father's son, and any child they might one day produce should hope that she isn't destined to become her mother. When it comes to Teodoro, Delilah and the seedling beginning to reach out its feelers in the womb for the first time, the Englishwoman is a little more optimistic on the subject of hereditary traits.

In short: if Walter is anything like him, then yes. This is the sound of Eileen's agreement. "I'll watch over your son with you," is her delicately-spoken promise. "And his mother."

"Grazie." And this would be the sound of Teodoro's gratitude, which exists despite his remorse, and his reservations, and anything else a Sicilian is wont to have going on at the time of any given confession. Confessions have that effect.

You either know how it is or you'd prefer not to. He gets around to looking up after a few seconds, eyes darting up pale as sharded glass underneath the strandy shadows of his hair. "Is there anything I can do for you?" Not talk to Parkman. He already talked about talking to Parkman; she'd nodded. He'd handed her the rock, too, generous enough to temporarily release his claim upon it, but perhaps a greater task, a domestic favor; some constructive excuse to stay within earshot, even if she'd be quiet with her esoteric questions and the conduct of research on them.

"I don't think of it like debt or shit like that." She wouldn't like shit like that. "I just haven't done a very good job of keeping my friends, lately."

Teo can rest assured that Eileen isn't going anywhere. Figuratively, anyway. There's always the chance that what happened to Lynette Rowan will happen to her, or like Ethan she'll be forced to separate herself from those she's closest to and sent far away from New York, either for her own safety or the safety of others. It won't be her choice if she shows him her back.

These are her thoughts, at least. She reaches down and brushes his bangs across his brow with the backs of her fingers, and while she comes close to grazing his skin in the process, they do not actually touch.

"The Ferry needs some form of central organization if it's going to survive what's coming," she says. "I've already spoken with Bennet and Harkness, and they've both agreed to back me, but I could use some additional support when we start making changes to the network's structure. Jensen's there. Gabriel and I tend not to discuss my work."

Keeping friends, like being kept by, and then earning one's keep. Somehow, he'd expected something different. More of a favor, maybe. This one seems designed not to demand too much. Or maybe he had expected less: it means something, that he's somewhere in the dregs of a pool that contain Noah Bennet and Scott Harkness, no matter how low her expectations might otherwise be. Anyway. Anyway. Teodoro Laudani doesn't even think about it in those terms, naturally. Only one monosyllable crosses his mind.

"'Course." His jaw twitches, three seconds later than the sift of her straight white piano-key fingers through his bangs. He clears his throat.. "I'll hang up the banners in the cafeteria, copymat any flyer you want. And talk to people about your pitch, when you come up with details. I do think you're right. There's a lot of resilience in decentralization, but we're going to need a solid backbone 's well as the ability to disassemble and scatter into the woodwork. Water's getting hotter.

"At some point, the conversations about real commitment are going to have to happen and it's hard to owe things to a mission that doesn't have a face and a big pair of cajones, si?" His voice is little lighter by the time he rounds off on that. A little.

"Grazie," Eileen says in imitation. Her hand falls away. "I haven't been feeling very well." Overworked. Tired. Sick. This could mean anything, and there's something deliberately vague about her choice of words that excludes the possibility of further elaboration except a tight, "Energy's going. I should see Francois." Constantine. Odessa. Megan. One of the advantage of working with a network like the Ferry is that she doesn't have to look very far for someone whose medical skills far exceed her own.

She picks up the sheet of paper and shuffles it haphazardly into a larger pile, which she then fastens at one corner with an oversized paperclip winking silver in the afternoon light. "It'll sound better from you than it will from me. To some people. Most."

He thinks the lady doth exaggerate too much. Kinda nice, though. Maybe she means because he's multilingual. "Maybe. Initially," Teo answers. "Then they'll see you put your money right where your mouth is, and variations on terminology won't matter for shit."

Finally, her near-touches are returned in one: a long hand encircled around her ankle, squeezing a firm grip before he appropriates her foot for wagging, bouncing the stolid heel of a tiny boot against the edge of the box once. The gesture is topped off by a kiss on her knee, scratched loose from the side of his mouth, the ragged hole scarred into it though that— like her fingers— never actually makes contact. She doesn't need drool on her pants, or at least, this is his executive interpretation. He thinks so. He gets up.

"I'm going to shock and irritate Raith by shoveling the driveway before we're drowned in slush," Teo says. Still looking a little raw, but scabbing over in coarse and mottled coagulation. "I'll tell Francois he should see you? He lifted some new skills off a psychic a few days ago. Be an honor to give you your first opinion."

When Teo rises, Eileen remains seated and reorganizing her paperwork one small stack at a time. There's more to do here and little point in offering to help with the drive; physical tasks requiring a strong back and arms don't really fall under her area of expertise. She lifts her chin to give him her attention.

"Please." Francois is her first choice. Constantine, her second. If the problem is serious enough that she feels compelled to seek out a third opinion, she has bigger things to worry about than being finicky about the order in which she consults professionals. "There's some potato bread and cabbage soup on the stove if you haven't stopped by the kitchen already. Eat something before you go."

Someone had forgotten to warn her about boys and food, or the maladjusted ones who arrogantly insist on being exception to the rule. The weather's better, though, judging from the natural light flashing off her paperclip, the deterioration of the environment just outside the garage bays, the slow-smoothing chop of the seas. Teo likes better weather. And he isn't completely irresponsible, so, God willing, or at least whichever totem appropriate to the inspiration of problematic young expatriates prone to rakish scars and a selective turnover rate where friends are concerned. Birds of a feather.

"I'll bring you some." He says this over his shoulder, gauging her with one last backward glance slivered over his shoulder, where she sits like a doll between old paper and shafts of light lifting dust off the floor. "And some fuckin' edamame or bricks of meat sauce." Teo steps out of sight. "That is fuck-all for protein, woman, if oh so tasty."

Eileen's hand goes back to where it was before Teo entered: cupped over her mouth. Not only does it prop up her chin when her elbow is resting on the edge of the table, it smothers any laughter that might be trying to escape as well, no matter how soft or thin.

The rhythm of his retreating footsteps reestablishes hers. Directs her focus back on the task laid out in front of her. "Fuck-all," she mutters into the palm of her hand. "Here's hoping you have the sense to bring me some coffee, too."

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