francois_icon.gif teo_icon.gif walter_icon.gif

Scene Title Five
Synopsis With decision-making power taken away from him, Walter decides to go first — as Walters do.
Date April 10, 2011

West Village: Maison d'Allegre

Curfew blankets the city in silence, if you're in the nicer parts of it, and Greenwich Village is a grey area. This particular street does well, and so, no one is out when they shouldn't be, and even during the day, traffic just isn't something that happens when it comes to the West's narrow, off-kilter streets. There is a lamp on in the living area, casting tentative illumination through the shut curtains, and the kitchen is a pocket of shadows and second-hand light, but goes brighter with the swing open of refridgerator when Francois opens it to contemplate the tall glass bottles shelved at the bottom of the door.

He's been waking up at weird hours lately.

Less of a fitful conscience or even strange dreams— he has had none since the last one— and more about the constant ache of broken ribs and his own pitiful constitution when it comes to pain. He moves slow and with caution, when he decides against the wine, because he isn't being complicated enough to go mixing alcohol with powerful pain relief. It's water, that fills the glass, plucked from where they were left to dry— which is bad, if you don't want your wine glass to streak, but it's also okay because these aren't the ~good~ set— and allowed to wash down the white pills, easier to come by when he had a job.

Silence feels like a heaviness, coming from upstairs. Francois feels apologetic too much, and he will be apologetic again if he woke anyone up, and it was his fault for opening the trap when there was a perfectly good telekinetic to do it for him in a matter of seconds. He stands with his back to the wider space, zenfully staring out the window and into the backyard, dressed in sleep clothes — cotton pants, a T-shirt not quite thin enough to show up the tattoo at his back even when pulled taut across his shoulders in his slouch. Glass hanging loose in his hand.

He'll deal with the staircase in a bit. Once the drugs kick in.

The way abilities work is technically an exact science, but it's one that's still in the process of being studied by some of the world's greatest and most progressive minds, and Walter Trafford does not even come close to qualifying for this category. In fact, if the world's greatest and most progressive minds were all located in, oh let's say Taipei, Taiwan, then Walter's point of origin would be Asuncion, Paraguay.

This is relevant because Taipei, Taiwan and Asuncion, Paraguay are the two cities farthest apart from one another on the earth's surface, and Walter is only capable of drawing this comparison because Ingrid Ryans once told him it was so (maybe it isn't). 12,186 miles, she'd said. Can you make that in one jump?

He told her he could. The truth is, the way abilities work is not an exact science to him, and he cannot cross the distance between the Queens apartment he's been squatting in and Francois' brownstone in the West Village without bungling it.

He blames Calvin. And Astor. But mostly Calvin. Teleportation goes so much smoother when he's focusing on where he's supposed to be end up and not his emotions, which is why he snaps into existence two feet to the left of his projected destination and knocks the lamp off its side table.

He at least has the grace to catch it when it falls. "Ffffuck!"

Which is great for Walter. When something breaks, it's only indirectly his fault.

The wine glass shatters conveniently into the sink when Francois starts and a spasm of pain ripples across bruised skin, that hand flying instead to the source of the ache even as he's twisting to see where that voice just came from, because he's rather sure he would have heard Teo, or even Felix, but the edge and grain of the younger man yonder evokes thoughts of the Sicilian more than the Russian. But it's neither, in any case, and Francois' hand slides to where a gun would have been had he been armed.

He isn't. Attention on intruder, it takes a few seconds in the light twisted weird in Walter's hands for him to recognise the other man for who he is, and even longer than that for him to let down his guard remotely. "Do you know," he says, after a second, "what time it is?" Never mind that Francois is awake. He has prickling awareness for those that aren't.

"Late," Walter tries, placing the lamp back down on the table, though he does not relinquish his hold on it until he's sure it won't wobble and the cord is tucked away behind one of the table's legs, which he manages with the toe of his foot. "Or— early."

He does not wear a watch and he's too far away to see what the kitchen clock has to say on the subject without squinting. Francois probably deserves some sort of verbal apology for the intrusion, but the most Walter's mood allows for is a ducked head and hands slowly lifted off his property. He wears not his usual pair of faded denim jeans, but a pair of navy blue sweatpants and wifebeater. No leather jacket either — only a sweater that does not go even remotely with the sweatpants, which means it was likely pulled on in haste.

He isn't wearing shoes, either. "I needed t'see you.

"And Teo. About a thing."

Francois steps aside so that the kitchen counter is not in between them, hedging towards the better lit space of the living room, and the interstitial kind of dining area that is only one by name, with the table covered in things too often for anyone to have a proper sit down dinner. He is not an impressive sight at this hour, but his posture is pretty good, always has been, and he doesn't clutch at injury, or show it on his face either.

"He is asleep," is probably a little defensive, when speaking to the guy who installed you back into your preferred year, and not even the one, some might argue, that is even yours to begin with. It is late, though, and this is his home, and it's had invaders before. A green-eyed gaze skates over the perculiarity to Reynard's posture, and then his bare feet.

His own carry him a little further into the room, some mix of friendliness and the need to own the territory. "You're hurt again. I can help, a little."

Walter does not feel the need to explain the injury, or to deny it; what he apparently feels the need to do is peel out of his sweater, tangled in his wifebeater, then sink down onto the sofa. The weather outside this time of year is still relatively cool, especially at night, but sweater plasters red-orange hair to his temples and brow, several inches longer than it was a few months ago, uncut and a little unkempt. A few more months and it will be long enough for him to pull back into a ponytail.

There is a bandage — the square kind — taped to to his shoulder. The upper lefthand corner has lost some of its adhesive strength, and he has to press the heel of his hand to keep it in place. Stab wound. Gunshot wound. In Reynard's line of work, they're equally likely. "S'important," he manages.

"Is it about what you did for me?"

The question delivered like that bandage getting yanked off the wound, a little hasty and dreading what it might uncover — although Francois doesn't do that. He is slower going, patient, sliding a medical kit from somewhere handy enough — not as extensive as the closet upstairs, wherein emergency surgery could even be performed, but the basics and the trimmings, enough to clean and redress a wound. A metal box that is set down upon wooden coffee table, and on the latter thing, Francois sits as well. He is tired, but.

You know. He also doesn't get into Reynard's space without permission beyond where he's chosen to perch, focusing instead on opening the medical kit, and cleaning his hands with anti-bacterial wipes.

"Sort've." Walter rubs his thumb-knuckle under his nose, then leans back into the sofa cushions, both his bare feet flat on the floor. His hand falls into his lap, resting against the inside of his thigh and he lets out a thin, stilling breath to calm himself so he can find his head. He's not sure where it is.

If it was firmly on his shoulders, he wouldn't have come here. He tucks in his chin and tugs at the bandage rather than yank it, pulling the tape off skin a little bit at a time. "I maybe lied a little. About why." He gives the bandage a small sniff of disdain and examines the blood caked to the other side. The wound isn't fresh — it's a day or two old at least, and while Walter might have been smart enough to take his antibiotics this time, he should have gotten stitches put in much sooner.

It isn't too late. What matters most is that he's been keeping it clean. "If you knew the world was gonna end," he says, "and you could only save five other people, who'd they be?"

The lamp is reached for, tugged closer, Francois holding his breath for the time it takes to adjust the light enough so that it splashes illumination over the wound becoming exposed. Makes fresh and old blood both bead and glitter like encrusting jewels, still a little raw. Francois' eyes as critical and sharp as a scalpel, assessing cleanliness, but it's not his job to tell anyone off even if there was anything to get mad about.

"That needs to be closed," he says over the question, "and it will scar." Fair warning. He rubs his face with his wrist, regretting drug, his choice against coffee.

Tablets of painkiller are extracted from the kit, still in their foil, and set down where the other man can reach. "Crunch it," isn't particularly doctorly, but it's what Francois recommends before he actually gives Reynard's question the light of day, making eye contact for the first time since he sat down. Hesitating. "Some would have to choose their family over people qualified to fixing the world," he says, allowing for a gentle, half-smile, finally shedding initial severity. He's been too severe. Lately. "I am fortunate that one group is also the other."

Walter scoops up the tablet in his hand, dragging them off the table with his fingers, and clumsily extracts them from the foil. The amount of noise this makes is a whisper in comparison to their voices, but to Walter sounds like thunder somehow. He's worried about waking Teo.

He looks down at the tablets in the palm of his hand, then, rather than maintain eye contact with Francois any longer. This is supposed to make him feel less guilty, not more. "So Teo," he says. "That's one." Or three, depending on how you want to look at things. For the sake of his hypothetical scenario, Walter does not complicate them more than they already are. "What about Delilah?"

On the same page — Walter does not have to say or three for Francois to think it, a cynical c'est la vie raise of an eyebrow while he allows the redhead time to do as instructed and time for the drug to do as it's intended. And the hypothetical scenario creates vague discomfort, mind wandering unwillingly towards his little circle of friends, which some days seems to expand to loop around the world twice, and other times, contained to one man. Eye contact made again, at that name.

He might— nay, would have said Abigail. Eileen. Two women who once saved him before the world could end. Delilah, however, and there are buses that don't count infants as people for fares. These thoughts, eclipsed by the fact that Reynard makes the suggestion. "You said it was important," he says, after some silence, voice taking back on that crisp, defensive formality to it. "Unless the world really is ending."

Ironically, quiet at first and louder as he comes closer, Teo comes banging down the stairs. He looks exhausted, half-frozen, a red tip to his nose, banged up, windblown, and cheerful for all that, his eyes bright in their pits and none of his hair lying at proper angles. His coat is zipped up all the way to his chin like a tot stuffed into an anorak halfway up to his starfish hands, but then, he's never liked the cold, little as he allowed it to get in the way of his habits.

That Walter remembers, anyway. Francois is perhaps better-acquainted with his more homebodied, solitary creature who has arguments and sex with him semi-regularly, watches him from the bed with his hand on his mouth between those intervals, cooks a lot of beef and reads anything with sex and substance, magically generates a thin trickle of income from the Internet through some inscrutable methodology he'd half-assed explaining once, and only really steals outside when it's terribly cold or dangerously dark, inevitably alone, and generally without warning, and even then, only typically the garden or the roof.

The roof. "Oy," he calls out, stopping suddenly, maybe a little guiltily. He cranes his head through the narrow trajectory of doorways. "You're up. What—

"—the fuck is going on? Did something happen?" The jacket is open to his chest rather suddenly, barely a scratch of zipper to hear. No gun out, but then, it's probably only a matter of split seconds and rampaging paranoia. Something that both of the two in the kitchen would be familiar enough with.

Well, on the bright side Walter doesn't have to worry about waking Teo up anymore. "It's important t'me," he tells Francois, voice very terse all of a sudden, quiet and although it had been quiet before, the quality is different. Hoarse rather than soft. If he could stick out a leg and trip his father's paranoia before it can get to rampaging, he would.

What he settles for instead is a crooked, drunken kind of smile even though he hasn't been drinking at all, deceptively relaxed because his back is abruptly rod-stiff. Whether or not the world is ending is a matter of perception and depends entirely on who you ask, and Walter doesn't mean to be melodramatic, but—

"I was just asking Francois a few questions, innocent-like. Right, Francois?"

There isn't any guilt in Francois' posture, or paranoia, possibly the most relaxed guy here but then, that isn't much of an accomplishment. Twisting just enough not to hurt anything by also to try and get windswept, outdoorsy Teo in his sight, a hand goes up, turns in a shrug-like gesture as if to maybe en-milden Reynard's strange if not dishonest choice of response, but that's about it as he feels moved to add, in a gentler, slightly sleepy rasp on top of his natural one:

"About Delilah."

Storms can be sensed before they arrive, even apart from an overcast sky. You can usually tell if a hazy dome is going to remain still or start kicking things around, the implication of electricity in the air, the change around you too enormous to see, only taste. Francois feels a bit like that now, but it could just be the percocet, and sleep deprivation. Sharper than that, though, a puzzle piece gone missing.

"I was not aware you were acquainted," he says, to fill the space in with some words, gaze dropping from either man towards the med kit of which he's only extracted some bandaging (which sits beside him) and some drugs (which Walter has).

"I haven't seen Li in awhile." Teo doesn't try to bust a cap in anybody's ass! He puts his hand back down at his side, instead, and proceeds into the kitchen. 'Li' is his nickname for Delilah. It's not the most creative nickname ever, but maybe the third or fourth. He stops by the counter and cranes his head to study Walter's injury, his face clouding over like a thunderstorm, sordid and morbid conclusions being drawn, but he stops short of loud questions or shaking the redhead while he's under the doctor's needle and thread.

That would be rude or something. "Did you like the answers?" seems like a safe answer enough. Stepping aside, his sneakers take him to the refrigerator, squeaking once when he stoops into the opened box of light to grabbbb. Beer. Walter seems like a beer person. "Not to fuckin' pry or anything." He gestures with the bottle, makes an offer out of it. Some ale, for which it seems a little early in the season but there are worse things than buying Summer tokens of welcome.

"They were evasive," Walter says of Francois' answers, and he closes his fist around the painkillers. He will put them in his mouth soon enough as instructed. Right now, steeling himself requires all of his concentration; he will show the others that he's a team player in spite of what Calvin said.

Especially in spite of what Calvin said. But most especially on his own terms. Sitting here on the sofa is like some sort of nightmare he knows he can wake up from at any time but wills himself to keep eyes closed and maintain the dream even if it isn't a dream at all.

Or at least it had better not be, Jasmine.

"I asked him— if he knew the world was gonna end and he could only save five people, who'd he save?" Knuckles bulge and go white. "Not to fuckin' pry or anything. What about you?"

"Stay still."

Francois has evidently decided to neatly side-step whatever game the clearly pain addled young man is trying to play. Which is only a decision he makes when he is tempted to rise to the debate about his evasive fucking answers. He doesn't need to, he imagines, assure Teo of his shortlisted security in the event of such a thing. He can instead shoot a look at the beer bottle being offered in tandem with painkiller, but he doesn't swipe it away with a paw. There are only admonishing eyebrows, and then bandaging to dab away the excess drip of blood.

He would poke needles through skin and draw it closed with string, however, if Walter would take his medicine. Instead, Francois makes the motions to get ready to do so, and be it on his own ginger head if he chooses to endure. And for all that Frenchman isn't playing anymore, he is listening.

Teo sticks to taking only the one bottle out of the refrigerator, then, at least momentarily under the disguise of: planning to drink it all by himself. "That one," he points a forefinger around the neck of the bottle at Francois. The next one starts to come quick and easy enough: "My pa…"

— but he doesn't finish. His eyebrows go up, then level again philosophically. They aren't my parents. "My son, his mother." It doesn't have the stink of obligation to it, but something abstracted and a little faraway. "The other Teo. The younger one, I mean, except he'd probably shoot himself in the head to get out of it, so— Abigail. I'm not sure of the last. It'd be like Noah's fuckin' Ark, wouldn't it? Except that I forgot to pack people in pairs, and I think, in the end, I'm too much of a romantic to break any up.

"Flint or Hana, I guess. Old habits." Whether 'old habits' refers to the last name, or the last two, or the last three, or everybody up to teh Frenchmen who had topped the chart is undisclosed. Teo bangs the beer-cap off using the edge of the counter and the thick-skinned heel of one hand.

Walter has his own list, and fair is fair — this is a little like the game of you show me yours and I'll show you mine that he used to play with the other children when he was a boy, only very adult and not in the sense that he might usually apply to the word. "Hard t'justify taking your parents when they've already lived their lives," he says, "but this is supposed t'be hypothetical, right? You don't gotta justify anything. It comes from the heart."

His fist thumps against his chest to emphasize his point. "My daughter," he starts, "Lucrezia. Her mother, Junko Rasmussen." That's two, and he holds up the appropriate number of fingers to keep track as he goes. "My mother, Delilah Russell Trafford, Dee t'her friends. Teodoro Laudani, my father. His partner, Francois Allegre — even if I liked Francis Allen better until me'n my mouth were big enough to say the other one right. What'm up to, Dad?"

He ticks off his fingers again. One, two, three, four, five. Onetwothreefourfive. "Shoot. That's all, isn't it? 'Cept for my own spot." Astor can have it, he decides. Does not vocalize that final decision. He's taking his painkillers now.

By then, Francois is holding stuff from the suture kit — the needle holding hemostat, poised and glinting, the coil of black nylon that comes with the needle hooked on — and staring at it while Reynard lists off his chosen names. Nails clipped down to clean blunt ends, fingers unscarred despite the hurt they've been through and taken away, and chemical cleanliness making skin a little shiny. They hold the tools loosely, so his knuckles aren't bloodless, but his circulation kind of feels like it's doing something weird anyway, brain-wise. Those are the wrong names, after all, that he's hearing it.

Or Reynard is making a joke. Special option C is that he's not lying. Bristling defense, misplaced anger rises and rouses him suddenly around when the guy in front of him calls his ~partner~ Dad, and though green is a fairly mild colour, the stare Francois cuts him could possibly slice metal. Despite the crunch of painkiller, he doesn't tend to injury right away.

Teo goes a bit tunnel-visiony for a moment. He does not notice the peripheral flare of green over there, or the fact that he can't feel the second section of either of his fingers o the tip of his thumb anymore because he's holding a rather chilly beer. He stares at Walter.

"Teodoro Laudani and Dee's son is much younger than you are," he answers. "Would you still give them so many slots despite that? It'd be pretty unfortunate if you were hypothetically mistaken." He twists his arm up suddenly and puts the bottle of drink on the counter, glass clicking tile, and hand flexing to reestablish feeling for some seconds afterward. His cultured skepticism is belied by the fact he hasn't blinked for a long time and regards Walter with fixed interest even though his hair sticks up a little behind one ear.

"Well I'm not," says Walter, and although the desire to smash this next bit between air quotes is strong, he somehow manages to refrain and rests both his hands on his legs instead. "Hypothetically mistaken."

He is very pointedly refusing to meet Francois' stare. What it can do to metal it can do to flesh, and this is painful enough without being cut down by the eyes of someone he holds in the highest esteem. There aren't many. "D'you think I volunteered t'help you find Francois just because I didn't have anything better t'do with my time other'n sit around with my thumb up my ass?" Anger crackles electric beneath his tone. Sparks out. He can't maintain righteous indignation for very long at all.

"I'm not fucking with you. I'm telling the truth."

Cutting stare is keeling off into analysis and study, as it inevitably would in such a situation. The lie would lie in things that Walter has no ability to lie about, such as the slopes and planes of his face, or thoughts behind his eyes — even Francois has difficulty with that latter part, and he's a wonderful liar. Ask anyone.

The anger, at least, sounds quite real. "Walter," he tries, rather than the Francified name with which he identifies the younger man sitting opposite, and he finally breaks his study— finding nothing particularly incriminating there— to look for Teo, to see how far his creduility has progressed even if it might not do anything to Francois'. He's still holding doctor tools, but has forgotten, for now, the broken skin where a bullet bit into Walter's shoulder.

Teo's eyelids shutter once. Twice. He's looking Walter over again, and it's not like when he'd first stepped through into the kitchen and looked over bloody bullet or talked around either its acquisition or how that could possibly (alarmingly) relate to Delilah. Nor is it like the one time he patted dust or wood splinters or whatever off the younger man while they fought over a smashed box upstairs. He tries to do what Francois does; find the tracery of lineage in straight nose, wide jaw, elements that are more unmistakably him or Delilah's than any coincidence of chromosomes could be.

All the practical, intellectual explanations in the world can't deny that the story is terribly compelling. Or that Walter's stare, about as blue in the irises as his own, is compelling as well. "I thought you volunteered to get Francois back because he's a valuable asset to your allies," he answers, eventually. "I think that might still be true— only now phrases like 'valuable asset' and 'your allies' have a whole other fucked up weight, if you came back all this time to—"

There's a drifting quality to the quiet that splices itself in then. Teodoro sways backward then jerks forward again, as if unable to quite make up his mind what he wants to do with proximity with this young man, this inconceivable amalgamation of flesh, power, and funny red hair whose analogue he hasn't spent more hours than the constituent sum of a week with. It's so fucking weird. Walter, in this timeline, is small and pudgy still, and the miracles he accomplishes daily involve wobbling his arms and legs around in space, not forward and backward through time.

So many questions, only a handful of them already implied, and the answers could take hours.

Might as well start, really, with: "Why is your accent so weird?"

Walter isn't sure how many seconds elapse between Teodoro's question and the answer he eventually finds for it, which is probably embarrassing for a temporal manipulator, but less so that he doesn't have to admit it. He looks at his father. Looks at Francois, his other father. Back at Teo again.

"It isn't," comes out as a soft bark, defensive and a little bit irritated. Confused, too, an unspoken is it? hanging fat and heavy in the very pregnant pause that follows.

As a boy of nine or ten, he once overheard Eileen telling Delilah that his diction was lazy, but—

He clumsily rises to his feet. His face is very red. "You don't believe me, do you? Either of you."

Francois is on his feet in the same moment, nylon dropped back into the kit, and hemostats absently tangled with his fingers. "That depends on your point of view. We could be foolish for believing you. But then, you would be dead for lying.

"Your shoulder," he reminds him on the tail of this point, distracted worry and misplaced annoyance abruptly knifing through his demeanor, empty hand going out to maybe urge Walter to sit down but he also doesn't— touch the other man, like maybe he'd blip back out of time and into the next millennium if he died. He is weirded, but he's made of time travel too, and concerns himself more with its fragile state than whether something is true or possible or—

No, never mind. It's weird as fuck. Not just because Walter is all tall now, but that he is important in the blue eyed stare he keeps getting.

Teo doesn't reach out with his hands but there's a lift to his head, an inkling of movement-toward that fails to resolve into anything physically definitive but does frame the remark: "We do. M— I'm. I'm willing to entertain the possibility." Teo doesn't know how to talk to girls or to skittish offspring from the future, maybe. He splays his hands suddenly, beseechingly, and then glances at Francois with half a mind to ask over/around Walter whether the drugs have convenient side-effects like tranquilization, but doesn't.

The strangeness of Francois' affect keeps his stare for an instant too long, lingering, worried, but then he looks at Walter again. Walter. Not Renard. 'Renard' is a pretty cool name, he reflects. He'dve picked a cool alias too, if he got to go traipsing through time. ('The ghost' is a little kitschy, but you know; same continuum.)

"It bothers me," he says, louder, possibly in an attempt to even out the shakey start they're off to, like applying a rolling pin to a misshapen dough confection. "It bothers me that I don't think you'd be here copping bullets and lying until the truth if you were— fucking. Happy."

Instinct and habit would have Walter placing himself back down on the sofa again at Francois' gesture, it comes from a hand that he's been taught to obey, but he stiffens against it, jaw going hard with the effort of resisting the pull of these memories. It's why he's kept the most distance from his mother, and why he turned a silent, judgmental eye on some of the others. Adel and Kincaid especially.

He remembers, too, why he voted no. "It wasn't my decision," he says, and he isn't talking about this conversation. Coming here, he means. "I've been able t'do what I can do longer'n I haven't. Sat in the back of the church at Paolo and Amadora's wedding. Gianina Santoro's funeral.

"Once, coffee with Michele. Spent two months in 1925 trying t'track an old soldier who might've been an Allegre, might've not, but you know what I never did? I never fucking interfered."

"And now?"

The words comes embarrassingly faint, because Francois is believing him, because Teo is believing him. The time traveler is also not sitting down as silently asked, and it's not like they can— fucking— pen him in. Walter appeared and almost broke his lamp through missing. The hairs at the back of his neck prickling at the idea of this youth jumping all over the time stream, darting in and out and viewing the things first hand that parents usually have the priveledge of framing in their own way.

Backing up a step in the hope that giving Walter space might encourage him not to leap out of time at will, Francois keeps Teo's profile in peropheral vision as well. "You rescued me. That is interference, non? And I would always be grateful for it," is swift reassurance, as lame as he feels the words are, his tone one of reminder for the boy.

Notions of paradox and black canvases flash around inside Teo's head like photos in a carousel. He straightens, shoulders squared and spine rigid underneath his clothes. The name-dropping has an effect. Whether that effect was the intended effect, he doesn't know; the non-interference clause skews ungainlily with his understanding of this situation, everything this approach could have meant. "What?" his question laps up on the tail of Francois' remarks, which are truthful, and probably deserve more gravitas than Sicilian interruptions leave room for but he can't help it. "Did we tell you to tell us—"

He aborts like a pilot twisting himself around donuts in the cockpit. Collision course. He can recognize the stubbornness in Walter's face as if it was his own. He was all right at following instructions, back when he talked to people, but once he has his own ideas about anything, getting him to behave otherwise is often a contrary task for everybody involved. "It's too late," probably sounds wrong. Francois said it better. He means, "It's too late to not have changed anything. But if you could stay, and tell us— even why you told us—

"I mean, is there some shi— " It seems terribly inappropriate, suddenly, to swear around his own offspring. "Is there something you want us to do? Do you need help?" There's a haphazard urgency to his questions, eyes gone unnaturally bright in the half-light of the kitchen. Walter must be at least twenty years old. Knows him, knows Francois. Is Evolved, yet lives, breathes, knows what's happened, or at least one crucial incarnation of what could. "Or need— besides.

"Your shoulder, and you should— stay for your shoulder, if… if—" The words jam up, lodge up like choking, as awkwardly as frinkle ever was. He puts out a hand.

Walter had almost forgotten his shoulder. That's the numbing power of adrenaline pumped through his body by a thundering heart. What he meant to say is that he hadn't fucking interfered until he'd been asked, but it came out wrong as everything tends to when he opens his mouth, which is more often than he should. He doesn't have to eavesdrop on conversations between his parents and their friends to know that.

Plenty of people have told him to his face.

The additional foot or so of space that Francois provides gives him room to breathe, though the colour does not fade from his face and suddenly there's a strange sort of caginess about his demeanor that wasn't there before. Benji maybe should have specified how much to tell them — or, maybe more accurately, what not to. Teodoro's question about whether or not he and Francois sent him causes him to tense.

"I have all the help I need, thanks," is meant to be the same brand of reassurance that Francois offered, and this time he realizes it's coming out wrong even while he's speaking the words. Later, he'll wonder why he didn't stop.

But this is now. "You're still alive," he amends, then. "Where I come from." Blue eyes tick again in Francois' direction. "Mostly. Don't worry.

"I just did what I came here to."

Neither of the men left in the room have to blink for Walter to be gone. He simply is.

There's a clatter of stuff as Francois tosses the now useless hemostats into the medkit, jaw tensing as it does when he is Troubled, and he turns away from the space that Walter had been occupying now that he isn't. Not dressed for the outdoors, his feet are bare as well, and more or less soundless as he wanders a few steps towards Teo after a few static seconds have passed. It's not like they can, after all, physically chase down the Sicilian's wayward son, bleeding from the shoulder to trail though he is.

"You scared him away," is spoken to break the tension rather than accuse, and Francois' searching gaze over Teo's features is the same appraisal Walter had gotten when he had first appeared — are you okay? A hand goes out for Teo's wrist, Frenchman giving a small, breathy chuckle.

"If he is like you— " And he is, a bit. "— then we will see him again."

"Do you think so?" The question is neither rhetorical nor especially optimistic-sounding. Teo looks at his companion and there is something haunting the corners of his eyes, making the edges deeper. For an instant, he does look dangerously near fraught, in a distracted sort of way, like half of why remains unarticulated when he'd been on the cusp of saying about it.

Before Walter left, that is. Now there are only a few cubic feet of empty air cooling where he'd stood then left, sudden as a cat.

Then, inanely, "He's still alive. How old do you think he is?" His hand falls through empty air and connects with Francois' hip. "I think twenty-four. Maybe a little older. Maybe a little younger. He already has a fuckin' kid. You know, they called Ghost's future the bright one, and Walter never came back for us then, but his eyes were brown there, and he wasn't. He wasn't mine, of course.

"You know what? I swear, he fucking reminds me of." Quiet strains for an instant, and he looks up for a moment, the lines of his features severe in the kitchen light, until they soften, and are very close to Francois' cheek. Laying a kiss there. "I like it when you have faith in me. I'm going to bed."

"Me too," is spoken in a tone of fancy that coincidence, Francois giving Teo an easy smile, and willing to leave his doctor shit on the table in favour of following closely on the heels of the Sicilian. He is worried, but he is not fraught. There are things he can be happy about, but he will keep those words to himself for now.

He nudges up to stand close to Teo, winding an arm around waist beneath his jacket so that they can walk like that for upstairs. He can smell the rain and the wind on Teo, and it's not unpleasant, if vaguely worrying for a few moments before he lets the issue go for tonight. If it's an issue at all, the little times alone spent at strange hours. He would rather talk about Walter Trafford, or at least allow for sleep on those thoughts. The percocet has kicked in, too, and he feels a lot better.

A lot, despite the word mostly, that gnaws at his demeanor like a mouse in the wall. "And oui," he responds, to the question that wasn't rhetorical, "I do."

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