Half Pain


elisabeth_icon.gif teo_icon.gif

Scene Title Half Pain
Synopsis Teo offers Elisabeth the red pill, the blue pill, and a shoulder to cry on. In return, he gets a new teacher volunteer for Colette and blowjob pointers a refreshingly personal conversation.
Date February 4, 2009

Dorchester Towers: Elisabeth's Apartment

This is a pretty standard two-bedroom apartment, although the occupant has gone to some effort to make it her own. Although the carpet is the ubiquitous beige, the walls are painted a soft rose-gray mauve shade, giving the main living space warmth. A dark gray sectional sofa sits in the living room facing an entertainment center that contains a state-of-the-art stereo system and a less upscale television setup. A coffee table sits in the curve of the sectional, and floor lamps bracket the ends of the furniture. The dining area hosts a four-seater square oak table and chairs, with the table generally host to a slew of mail and papers. An oak sideboard against the wall has candles on either end of it and a glass bowl with a fake arrangement of flowers. A small wine rack sits next to the sideboard, home to no more than nine bottles. The kitchen is small, but functional, painted a soft yellow color with a transparent blue glass backsplash. Off the living room are two bedrooms, one of which has the door closed and the other appears to be a home office. Its walls are a soft shade of green, and it contains a desk with a high-end computer setup and a bookcase stocked with textbooks.

Given the insanity of shifts this week, it's actually relatively simple for Liz to get a couple hours off in the middle of the day to head home. After all, every cop on the force has been catching a couple hours here, a couple hours there, etc. The call from Teo to arrange a time to meet up? Easy as pie. By the time he knocks on the front door, she's managed to change clothes, grab a shower, and even throw together some food and more of the always-available coffee. Cat's right, she's gonna have to have an IV of the stuff soon. When she opens the door, Liz looks kinda rough. But her smile on seeing Teo's face is absolutely brilliant. Only after she closes the door does she draw the man into a tight hug. "Jesus Christ, it's good to see you in one piece," she tells him quietly.

Though not advertised, it had been a somewhat more involved process than that, getting over here. Bug sweep, staring at the walls and side roads a lot, resisting the urge to spook at shadows. By the time he actually arrives at Elisabeth's door, Teo looks practically normal, however. Cold gives his skin color, but everything gives him color. He looks belligerently normal, give or take a few subtle differences in the line of his nose from the sheer output of healing Abby gave him and his hair's all buzzed off. Head surgery. It happens to the best of us.


There's an almost imperceptible wheeze and windmilling of hands underneath Liz's arms when he's swept up. It gives way to Teo's firm half of the embrace the next moment, a kiss pressed to the woman's cheek through a downy lattice of yellow curls. "Buongiorno. It's good to see you too."

Elisabeth buries her face against his chilly neck, holding him very tightly. The silence bubble, barely noticeable to him given the size of it… she's getting better. It encompasses the entire living and kitchen space. It takes her long moments to let him go again, and when she does, those blue eyes have a sheen of tears that she doesn't let fall. "Come in, come in," she tells him softly, reluctant to let go. "I've got soup warming on the stove — nice thick potato soup. And coffee. Come eat." Because it's what she does when she doesn't know what else to do… she feeds people.

And how people love to be fed. Men in their mid-twenties, anyway, recently risen from the dead. Teo's reaction is unequivocal and instantaneous. He grins. Hugely. It bends lines into his face and shifts his ears up a quarter of an inch on either side of his cropped skull. The extent of the null field that fetches out around them is noted without comment. For now, anyway. Filed away in a small but unforgettable repository of segues-into-talking-about-Conrad Wozniak. His smile fades slightly at the thought.

"I would fucking love to eat," he states. Attaches verbal caption to the expression that tugs on the edge of her face from contact. He pulls away as carefully as his friendship with Abby has taught him. At the length of his arms, he studies her a moment before loosing his hands, proceeds to follow and ditch his shoes. "It's bizarre how we're always meeting at crossroads."

That elicits a laugh from her. In truth, she put the soup on as a comfort food — she loves thick soups herself. But it's also because she knows Teo doesn't get enough homecooked stuff. Gesturing him to the breakfast bar, where small bowls of shredded cheese, scallions, and sour cream sit in front of empty soup bowls with a basket of warm bread, Elisabeth heads to the stove to bring the hot pan to the trivet on the breakfast bar so she can dish up the meal. "It's not so odd," she tells him softly. "Given the nature of what we've been doing, it makes perfect sense. I have my job, you have yours, and we don't intersect as much as we used to. How're you holding up?" she asks him. Because you know this isn't going to be just a casual social visit.

"I'm pretty good," Teo answers, casting a look through the apartment — casual, canvassing — even as he lopes after the woman into her handsome little kitchen. "I think I'm beginning to understand why, too. I think it's religious in nature, so it's a little weird to talk about. Or I'm just bad at finding words. I think I will later. I think I should be more unhappy than I am right now, with everything that's happening, but I'm alive, so…"

Yes: he's just bad at finding the words. Dropping his jacket across the shoulders of a chair, he then slings his long limbs into sitting, keeps his hands off the table, refrains from sprawling in all directions despite habit. "And you?"

Elisabeth puts soup into bowls, ladling out massive portions into the bowls sitting there waiting for the two of them before setting the pan down and coming around to sit next to him. "Everything else sort of pales in significance when it comes to the being alive part. Been there," she admits. Jessica did nearly kill her, after all. "I'm glad that you're doing all right in spite of it all." She smiles for him, her blue eyes taking in the fact that he really is okay. It's a hopeful sign that maybe others of the missing are alive and okay too. Picking up her spoon, she stirs her steaming soup absently. "I'm doing okay," she tells him quickly. "Mostly just worried about compromising the lot of you, so… I'm assuming Cat told you about my request, right? To keep my contact with everyone low-key, but keep me in the loop?"

It's inherently selfish, Teo identifies, but he figures that's why it feels like the best approximation of the truth. It's good to be alive. It's shit to think about who may not be. His mouth finds a more severe line, at odds with the lazier sag of his shoulders, hunkering down in the chair he had padded with his jacket. "Si. Cat told me.

"About that, though." He takes up his spoon but doesn't, you know, plow right in until his hostess does so first. "You watched the Matrix, right? That movie with the PVC and the computers?" Sometimes, Teo actually does sound like a foreigner when he speaks English. Knowing this, he glances down, momentarily, sheepish. Up again. "I'm really bad at phrasing pop culture references." Apparently. "But I mean about that scene, the red pill or the blue pill. This is that moment.

And probably not the last time I'm ever going to ask you this, so you can take your time thinking about it. Identity is fluid. Faces can be changed, papers can be forged, and you have more than one career option.

"How important is it to you, being Elisabeth Harrison, SCOUT officer?"

Elisabeth tenses, visibly. "Why?" she asks softly, her eyes searching his face. "What's going on?"

"Nothing you haven't heard about." Teo peers at himself reflected upside-down in the concave of his spoon, then back at Elisabeth. "Parkman's sniffing around. Some other HomeSec fuckers have taken our people. We're hiding under cover of chaos and crapping plans together. To find Sergei, to bring Hel and the others home. I want to know if you want to keep living your double life — for now, or if you want to come in. New name, new face, new place, or all of the above.

"I want to know how important you think it is to be a cop in Manhattan right now." His voice is even, gaze steady. It's a lot to ask.

Elisabeth is very quiet for a long time, setting her spoon down without bothering to take a bite. The soup's too hot yet anyway, and her appetite is suddenly gone. "Right now? I think you need me exactly where I am." She rubs her forehead. "With Norton gone," her voice chokes, "I think my position may be more important than ever to you. But it's also going to be pretty dicey. I don't have a clue if Parkman can be trusted — I *think* maybe he could be. Given that he's now working in my squad room, he could have turned me in or hauled me in for questioning about the operation last Wednesday at any time. He saw me in the library, we talked there… and he hasn't done a damn thing about it. Even after everything. So… I'm inclined at this moment to try to work with it. I'm better placed than anyone to make sure if you need an evac code, you get it." She swallows hard. "Will the offer remain open? If I need to disappear?"

The longer they play cat and mouse with Matt Parkman and the specter legions of the Federal agency backing the telepath, the more Teo begins to wonder when they're going to have to remind the putty tat that Phoenix ain't a rodent but a self-immolating bird of considerable mythology and only about as much purity of intent as maniacally destructive power. Which isn't to flatter their ragtag band of kids overmuch, or to forget the value of being underestimated. It's only a little sooner and different than Noah Bennet had indicated, the war on Homeland Security.

Teo remembers to stop frowning in time to reply: "Of course. I'll ask again, but you let me know if things change sooner than that. Bottom line, I guess, you're a good cop, signora. We're all pretty fucking lucky to have you where you are."

Relaxing a little, Liz forces a faint smile for him. "You'd be better off with Norton back where he needs to be," she tells him quietly. "Parkman can't read him… but you'll have to make do with me." She looks down at her bowl and gestures to Teo's. "Eat, eat!" she encourages him gently. "I'll get the coffee."

While she pours, she glances at him and says softly, "I didn't know about the test kits they're rolling out when Cat asked me Saturday. They sprang it on us this morning about the time it hit the news." She nibbles her lip, setting the pot down to bring him a cup. "I don't know what to tell you to tell everyone. If they go in voluntarily, HomeSec is still not asking a lot of questions, that I know of. The testing is lightweight. I don't know what they're going to do to people brought in by the mandatory run."

Eating, eating. Pausing only to thank her for the coffee, a grin shown with white teeth exposed as soon as he makes sure he didn't leave potato wedged into his gums or anything disgusting like that. Thus occupied, Teo is spared having to scowl or throw things when the damn test is mentioned. "We'll look for him," he reassures her, quiet with sincerity. "We'll find him." Unless, maybe, he's dead and washed out into the Pacific and his proteins denatured beyond the scope of DNA testing, he thinks but doesn't say.

You'd have to be stupider than he is, to think that emphasizing the limitations of their influence and sphere of effect right now would be a good idea. He casts his gaze down into the thickness of soup, and divvies up a piece of bread between his fingers. "Mostly, I think I'm going to tell everybody to not get arrested by the police."

Elisabeth grins, her smile transforming her concern into something milder. "Yeah, well… that's kind of a given." She pauses, her expression immediately shuttering, and says quietly, "He went into the river, Teo." Her throat is tight again. "He hasn't washed up, there's no record in a hospital, a morgue, or a police report anywhere in 50 square miles." What does he think she's been doing in her "spare" time. "I can't even file a missing persons report. If he's alive, someone's taken him in on the down-low…. but the probability is that he's dead. He was fully loaded down in gear when he went in, and probably injured besides." She stops talking, moving back to put her coffeepot back on its warming pad. Her jaw clenches tightly and she finally forces out, "Obviously, we'll keep our ears to the ground for *all* the missing ones." She is forcing the emotional reaction back as she turns. "But right now… it's all I can do to cope with the fact that both of them are gone, one definitely dead and one presumably so. Just… keep looking without talking to me about that part, okay? I can't afford to be a complete train wreck at work, I'd have to explain why I can't function," she tells him softly, looking up at the ceiling to make those stupid tears QUIT showing up when she thinks about either of the guys.

If this feeling had a noise it would be the groan of wood sinking into quagmire. Some things, no ship was built to sail. There's a lump of bread rounding out Teo's cheek. It rolls up and down in his teeth for a moment as he chews, quashing down the rising level of secondhand despair in his stomach. There is a rattle of chair pushed back, and then socked feet thumping out across the kitchen tiles.

A hesitant hand closes on her shoulder, long fingers parallel to the seam of her sleeve, struggling to settle on the line between obtrusive and reassuring. A long time ago, he resolved not to get into other people's business unless he was specifically making it his own. That line, like many of the others, gets fainter, blurrier, wider every day, more of a shadow now than a demarcation, though he has no idea what is casting it.

"He was strong as a fucking ox when I sent him in.

"I worked it out with Abigail and some Haitian the Company sent. With his training and all he has invested in staying alive, Trask's—" The name feels so fucking strange to say, though Teodoro has known about it for awhile now. Tried to pretend, in Serghei's interest. "Trask's chances of surviving were better than anybody else's on that bridge. I'll tell you when we get something. Swear."

Teo's kindness is her undoing. She's held it together for a week — through personally killing a bunch of people and then having to brazen her way past William's 'gimme your badge' moment, through the initial bad news about Trask, through the confirmation of Conrad's death, through Cat checking in on her, through Harvard's moods on the job, through Darius's concerned looks, through the news that in fact Homeland Security's going to be dogging her footsteps regularly, through all the worst of humanity that she sees on the streets during every 16- or 18- or 20-hour shift she's pulled for a week. She can't sleep for reliving the fight she saw and the ones she didn't see but can only imagine.

The shaking in her body is palpable to his hand, and Elisabeth looks up at him. "Yeah…. this is the part where I totally lose it. Sorry. So, uhm…." The tears start and she can't stop them; she chokes out the rest. "Eat, okay? I'll be back when I can… can…" She can't force any more words past the lump lodged in her throat. Oh, lord… the horror. She totally implodes in front of his very eyes; her arms go around her middle and she bends double as if trying to hold herself together.

When she can… can… can't. Some part of Teo watches her break with a selfish sort of horror, convinced that empathy is going to be the fatal conduit that shatters the weird calm that's held his center firm despite the trouble for the days since he came back to life. He doesn't want to lose it. He isn't going to lose it the way she's losing it, he knows, but in the end it doesn't matter, he's aware. She's here. He's here.

Conrad Wozniak and Norton Trask are very much not.

Unless obstinacy or greater objection keep her from him, Liz finds himself pulled back into the circle of his arms. Hugged. Fiercely. This time without the chicken-wing squawk and flutter with which Teo had accepted intimacy at the door. He hugs her quaking shoulders with strength that seems designed to make them still, despite the inevitability is that he can't, that shared pain isn't half pain, and her shaking is going to make him start too, if only subtly, before she manages to stop.

"'M not sorry yet," he mumbles, gruffly. Strange words from Teodoro Laudani, who is pathologically sorry about everything. The wrong ones, maybe. Conrad's gone, and he's sure as shit sorry about that, but he knows what he means even if he can't articulate it right. For Norton, Helena, Brian, Alexander, there's nothing to grieve. Not yet.

Later she'll be utterly humiliated that she lost it like this in front of him. Cuz God knows, poor Teo's got enough on his plate and Elisabeth will be sorry that he got stuck dealing with this on top of it. Blame it on severe sleep deprivation on top of everything else. She doesn't even have it in her to walk away from the comfort he offers, instead turning into the hug to just sob uncontrollably. It comes in waves, too, where it seems to taper off and she seems just about to pull away from him and then it convulses her again, to the point that by the time it lets up, she's wrung completely out, the two of them are sitting in a crazy heap on the floor (and she's got no clue how they landed there, really), and she's resting against Teo in a tangle of arms.

"Oh God," she murmurs finally, forcing herself to move, to sit upright in the middle of the kitchen floor. Her face is splotchy, red, thoroughly puffy, and definitely NOT anything that might be considered even remotely attractive at the moment. She reaches up with shaking hands to wipe her face and her swollen eyes, absently realizing it's been at least half an hour since the last time she noticed the time. She can't quite meet his eyes now, murmuring, "I kind of knew that was coming…. I didn't mean to dump it on you, though." She pushes her messy hair back and looks at him. "Not like you're not freaking out enough about Helena and Alex and the rest all on your own, you don't need me adding to the stress of that," she says quietly. "I'm sorry."

Despite that Liz is a very self-sufficient police officer, she has some extra help pushing her hair back, a ginger finger that apparently doesn't mean to have insinuated itself, how carefully he jerks back when she finds her voice again. Like many maladjusted young men who join terrorist cells, Teodoro Laudani has an arguably overendowed sense of his own capacity to accidentally hurt things. He's trying to make himself soft for a little bit. Hands, expression, force, motion. It sort of works. Sort of.

His feet squirm inside their socks, adjusting the awkward splay of round ankle bones against cold kitchen tile. "It's fine. I'm not—

"I wasn't freaking out that much," he says. His expression lapses into rueful, almost as blatant as verbal admission: he's freaking out more now, but it's okay. There's a cycle to things. He's had shrinks in his head before. He glances down to see tears tracked down his sleeves. "'M glad you feel like— well, maybe you couldn't help it. But dumping on me. I'm glad to — be here for that." Spectacularly awkward, yes, but only because he means it.

Elisabeth offers him one of those smiles that women give when they fully realize they've absolutely freaked someone out by being a *girl* about something when that's not really the way the other person looks at them. She's gentle with him, though, leaning back against the cabinetry while still sitting next to him. She lacks the energy to get up at the moment. "You gonna freak out on me now cuz I got you all wet?" She forces a weary smile for him. "Cuz you know…. I'd understand." She sighs heavily. "There's so damned much we all never talk about, trying to stay out of each other's way."

"It's practical." When Teo uses the word practical, it sounds a lot like the terminology of necessary, only with one or two notes wasted on wist. It's practical to give Pila away to somebody who has the time to look after her, though the tiny heart locked up inside her blue-feathered body is his heart. It was practical to move out of his roommates' place, and it's practical to keep no home anywhere now. It is almost always practical to keep one's distance. "Not talking about things, I mean. Not freaking out about getting wet.

"I'm okay with that. I used to be a sailor." Broke a few hearts, too, but he doesn't mention that because it isn't relevant. That's not something you get better at with practice. "I'm always too nervous about giving names to say anything to anybody. Even my family. Especially my family." The half of it in the Vanguard, the half of it which left Manhattan. It sounds like an apology. It is.

"Fuck practicality," Elisabeth says mildly. Leaning her head back against the cabinet, she looks at him. "Life's too short, Teo. Sometimes you have to give just a little, you know? Hell, getting involved in this in the first place wasn't practical. It was the right thing, and we all know the risks. Maybe before last week, the risks were more… abstract to us all. But I think anyone who chooses to stick it out now understands." She lets a long, slow breath out.

"So tell me," she says as she pushes herself to her feet, offering him a hand up. "While you eat, that is," she adds with a small smile, "what kinds of things you want to know from me besides the obvious. I mean, I'll be passing whatever intel *I* think is useful, but what is there anything in particular you're looking for that I need to know about?" She looks far more … at peace than she was when he walked in, at least. If far more tired, if that's even humanly possible."

The princess of Sicily will take the offered assistance to regain his footing, because he is a fragile blossom and— no. Teo doesn't mind the help. Staggers upright with a stiffness in his right ankle that probably can't be attributed to comatose atrophication. He further allows himself to be herded back to the table, installing himself in his chair. Between this and the other thing, he forgot some of his manners.

Lazy from runoff fatigue, his elbows end up splayed across the wood, broad shoulders hunkering down in a hangdog slouch over the lip of his soup bowl. "I don't know. I think I've forgotten how to do friend shit with you and the rest of Phoenix. Al and I started going our separate ways…" he trails off into consternation, his brow furrowing with unambiguous discontent. He pulls a mental lever, switches his train of thought to a different track; blinks again, down into his bowl.

If you're gonna go for it, go feet first. "Which one of them were you falling in love with?" The subtlety of a hammer. Teo throws half his piece of bread at her, over-hand.

Elisabeth smirks gently as she bats the piece of bread away from her head, almost laughing if not quite. Then she leans to pick it up off the floor and leave it on the counter while bringing the pot over to top off his soup with the still-warm soup from the pan. "Conrad's not the kind of guy you fall for," she tells Teo, amusement in her expression. "He's the kind you play with." She sits down with him, helping herself to a piece of bread that didn't land on the floor. "He was a complete jerk about a lot of things, but he was a good teacher. I had…. fun with him."

"Trask is….. my best friend, and a perfect stranger all at the same time," she tells him softly as she nibbles at the bread. Maybe he'll eat if she does. "I thought I knew him… and then the Phoenix thing happened. And then I thought I knew him again…. and he went and showed me yet another whole different side again." She grins a little. "I tried to change into what I *thought* he wanted, back when you and I first met and started talking. That went very poorly, as I'm sure you remember — about the time I was ready to consider looking Phoenix up. So I … stopped. Went back to being the person I was before I turned into a turtle, hiding in my shell and pretending I was just 'normal.' Went back to being a cop. He said it was the first time he'd seen me happy in a long time. I didn't even know I *was* unhappy until I went back and remembered how much I *like* being a cop."

She pauses and then looks at Teo, the fine lines etched around her eyes thrown into stark relief by the puffiness and shadows around them. "He kept telling me he loved me just the way I am, and I kept disbelieving him cuz well…. I'm kinda fucked up in a lot of ways." She grins a little. "'swhy I stick to bad boys a lot. They don't want anything more than sex from me, and I don't have to get all emotionally attached and hurt."

Okay. "The idea of the Chin being categorized as a bad boy…" Teo's eyes go crescent-shaped with laughter, but not the loud kind. He dunks bread in potato stew, takes another bite. A second, and the bread is completely gone. It just might be the idea of the man so much older than himself being referred to under the term boy strikes him as dissonant and therefore fucking hilarious. "I guess he was that.

"Not a bad man, but—" Okay. He can't bring himself to say it, but the term is there. "I mean, I knew a friend of his— Flint Deckard? He's good at reading people. Said deep down at heart, Conrad was like a fourteen-year-old boy who read too many comic books, and wanted to be just like them. I think he was right. I asked Conrad to teach this little unregistered Evolved girl how to use her talent, even though she's the daughter of a SCOUT cop.

"I knew he could cut right through it if she gave him bullshit, but he'd take care of her otherwise. Demsky," answering the yet-unasked question. "Judah Demsky's kid.

"Think I know what you mean." His voice slows and his complexion begins to turn distinctly rose around the edges. Teo's Catholic enough to be sometimes the prude. When he's talking about things rather than doing them with his hands, anyway. "About screwing around, no strings. I went through like two fucking decades nobody minding if I did, then it's only since I turned terrorist suddenly people say their feelings are hurt. How the fuck does that make any sense?"

Liz actually takes a bite of her soup, and then chokes a little, looking wide-eyed. "Demsky's kid is… Evo? And unregistered?" she demands softly. "Oh fuck. Talk about your small world." She looks thoughtful and says quietly, "If she needs someone to help her out, now that Con's gone…. pass her my name." She smiles a little. "He taught me pretty damn well… pretty sure he'd kick my ass if I didn't make sure his other student or students were okay." She shrugs, laughing at Deckard's description of Con. She can't help it. It sort of fits, in a sad kind of way. "Guess he sort of got his wish, huh? Died the hero." And somehow, that makes it a little better.

As to the latter question, Liz merely shakes her head and is forced to chuckle, her expression finally easing into one less tormented with the storm of tears that passed. "I have not a single fucking clue," she tells him mildly. "It's another of the same kind of question — you know, like how come a guy can be your very best friend, know every AWFUL thing about you *including* the fact that you're likely to not be exactly monogamous all the time and still tell you he loves you anyway?" She rolls her eyes, still swollen as they are, theatrically. "I think we will never, ever understand guys," she tease-commisserates gently.

If Teo's careful omission of gender pronouns hadn't already given him away entirely, the visible effort it takes not to wilt into his chair now confirms it. Boys are stupid. Teo is no exception. Probably do the world a lot of good if there were less of them around. "At least Norton told you that," he answers, at length. "And you know where he stands. Even if you don't get all of why. You'll have to figure that shit out, anyway. I said, right?" That they're getting him back.

So that he can struggle through romance or sex drama with his polyamorous sound manipulator hostage-negotiator action star girlfriend-not-fiancee and give Matt a big psychic fuck you. That's why they're getting Norton Trask back. "I'll bring you up to Colette. I think it's going to take her some time to get over Conrad, when— someone gets to telling her, but then… If she still needs training, I guess she'd need you."

Offering him a faint grin, Elisabeth reaches out and rubs his arm gently. "'sokay, Teo… I won't tell if you don't want me to. For what it's worth, I don't much care which way you swing or if it's both ways. In the grand scheme of things, especially in light of this week? What the fuck's it matter as long as you're okay with yourself?" And she forces a small smile for him when he says he's sure they'll find Norton. "If he's alive, he'll find his way back. He promised," she says softly. "But I got too much shit to handle right now to be breakin' down at work all the time. Too many questions'll come up. So for now… just tell me if you find something and we'll leave it there."

Taking several bites, her appetite still shit but at least getting some calories into her body, Liz nods to him. "No one'll replace him, but if she needs the help, I'll do what I can. For a *lot* of reasons, not the least of which is that the girl needs to lay as low as possible. If Demsky's willing to hide her abilities…." She pauses as something seems to occur to her. A faint 'fuck' expression crosses her face an she merely shakes her head silently. "Anyway… if Demsky's hiding her, he may also be of some minor help to us down the way. Never know." Yeah… it sucks that she's thinking of using that link if we need it, but you know what? It's all about survival right now.

Survival one thing. Living with honor is another. The practical creature and the good Catholic boy occasionally have a difficult time coexisting in the small space of Teo's skull.

Fucking up with his love life aside, there are an infinite number of tactical errors and moral potholes to stumble into or edge around. He stares at the negotiator for a protracted moment, the color fading back to fair in his complexion. "Maybe. But that's a whole other shit-storm, using a girl to get to men who already are obliged by character or duty or whatever-the-fuck to do the right thing. I don't think she's told anyone she's getting help right now, and I want to keep it that way.

"Colette isn't leverage until I say so," he concludes, shrugging a shoulder that in no way implies uncertainty. "If I ever do. And I don't think I will. The day I can't find anything better than a kid to motivate people is the day people aren't fucking worth fighting for." And that's why he fights. Personally. For people. Vengeance and principle can fuck themselves up the baggy weave of their existential arses.

Teo softens the finality of his words with a crooked grin, abashed. Anyway. Anyway. Desperate times call for desperate measures, not stupid ones. He hasn't been desperate enough to forge a new friendship in awhile, so they're here now. potato soup, bread, scallions and sauce. There are other things to talk about. The weather, Demoiselle Sagnier featuring in an album to raise support for peace with the Evolved, Jimmy Fairfield's foster situation, how to give good head, all those absurd careers you were going to pursue when you grew up, the real live superheroes you met instead.

Lots of things.

February 4th: Family Friends
February 4th: Time's Up
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