I Do Believe In String Theory


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Scene Title I Do Believe In String Theory
Synopsis I do, I do. Delilah tracks down her son's father. The theory of coming apocalypse doesn't hurt her as badly as he does, but it gets better in the end.
Date April 22, 2019

Ruins of Midtown

You've never seen anything so green.

Teo only has a few places that he visits when it is time to Brood(tm), and seeing as Delilah knows the foremost is too obvious of a place, has moved to the second best. Midtown, now the paradise that it is, is a place that everyone in the city enjoys. Even Ninjas.

Delilah has taken one of the less walked paths through the forest that is midtown, Spring sunlight dotting through the tree limbs and the early titter of baby birds in clusters above. She is wearing a navy blue dress under her jacket, with pale yellow polka dots all over it. Teo loves it when she wears polka dots. At her side is Walter, his sneakers scuffing at the dirt as he walks, and one hand clasped in his mother's as they go.

Despite the relative quiet in the midst of the city, it doesn't last for much longer. Delilah Trafford is here on a mission, and it is going to be a success. After keeping at the path for a short while, the woman stops with her son- who lets go of her hand and hops off to investigate what is under a big rock- and folds her arms over her stomach, eyes searching blindly through the green and brown. "TEO?!" Interrobang! The redhead yells, suddenly, spooking birds out of the tree above her head. "Teodoro Laudani!" She even uses his whole name- pronounced the Italian way, even if it sounds a bit rough in her accent.

If she hadn't yelled, he probably wouldn't have stopped. She was always going to yell though, of course, inevitably knowing that he'dve seen her coming through the sweep of her own eyes or Walter's lower set ones and would have attempted to add another few— hours? Days? Weeks, or months to the stretch of time between revelation and confrontation. The eddy of soundwaves carries through the mottled screen of leaves and around rough-hewn boles, over underbrush and litter.

Catches Teo mid-stride like an invisible lasso, though he manages not to trip on it and wind up in an upended hog-tie, except perhaps metaphorically. He's being painfully average now. Deadbeat dad, reduced to tiptoeing out of his abandoned offspring's peripheral vision, his hackles up and shoulders huddled around his ears. Exhaling long and silent, he turns around. Lets his feet break noise into the leaf litter, stems cracking, fronds bobbing away from the sweep of shins. He emerges black against the verdant canvas of green and brown.

"All right.

"Hi," he adds, itiotically. Stalls into a half-beat's silence, studying mother and child. It's astonishing, how forty-eight hours can completely change the meaning of a mental portrait in one's mind. He's seen the double blot of ginger countless times over four years, but they had always been friends; there'd always been more distance there. "Hello."

Walter's investigation of a nightcrawler between his fingers is put on hold, but he doesn't drop the creature as soon as Teo makes himself visible. The boy just keeps it in his palm, peering down at it and after a few long seconds- up at his father.

His mother stays silent for that same measure of time, eyes resting on the man coming out from behind the screen of midtown jungle. Lilah seems to be having trouble keeping her gaze in one place, however, expression ridden with guilt most of all. "Teo."

"I'm sorry."

"Don't be. He's an incredible kid." There's nothing rote about Teo's saying so, even if the reassurances are commonplace, store-bought, simple as the unequivocal love that any new parent would give of their offspring. Even if they have six toes and are short a dozen IQ points from average, a child as often or not would be construed as unequivocally perfect. Only, Walter isn't new to the Sicilian Ninja. Not fundamentally.

And he's been going over every encounter they've had since he first met the squalling rotund babe in his blanket swaddle, trying to find his own likeness somewhere in the starfish cling of short-fingered hands and the squeaking register of his complaints. Or else the fights, the loquacious demeanor, the warmth. And intelligence, somehow easier for Walter to tap than it had ever been for Teo, at that age.

And now he can't stop staring. The nightcrawler in the hand reminds him of the beach house, once. Lucrezia's grasp on his chin, the stern words: A man is judged by how he treats lesser creatures. "You've never wanted anything from me," he says, in a voice gentler than his choice of words. "'S that changed?"

Delilah twines her hands together in front of her dress, eyes glancing over their son nearby before they sit on Teo's features again. "I'm not sorry he's here. I'm sorry I didn't tell you." The redhead closes her eyes now, opening them with a deep breath and a soft voice. More than anything, she wants to be closer to him- but somehow she is scared to move- as if Teo were a stag in the woods to be spooked away with a crunch of a twig. Her own memories ironically join his, however. Going far back to when Walter was born- the first time Teo saw his son and never knew- the first time that Teo saw Walter take a step- the first time Walter said his father's name.

The boy is still standing over by the upturned rock with the nightcrawler, peering at Teo. A few silent seconds pass between father and son, and just like he could here him saying Lucrezia's own words, Walter crouches down to poke a hole in the dirt, which he directs the nightcrawler down into.

"Just a little bit." Delilah is as honest as she can be, taking a few cautious steps closer. "But nothing like money. You know me better than that." So what exactly is it that she wants?

He does know her better than that. He knows her so well that he isn't altogether surprised that she'd hid this from him; he knows her well enough to know that she knows him, too, and that the past ten years haven't been as kind or as fully recovered as most might otherwise allow themselves to believe. It's an era of brightness, but nothing's ever perfect.

With the sole exception, perhaps, of the ginger-topped child squatting to release his tiny carapaced friend back unto the forest floor.

Ten years in, and people still tend to hang back and expect Teo to bolt. Which— is perhaps not an entirely bad assumption to make; the panic procedures he had learned during his stint with Phoenix are often still applicable now. Get the fuck out, fight back, or self-destruct. It almost always boils down to three options. Occasionally, when it doesn't, he deigns to simply use his feet and walk closer. "We might not have a lot of time left," he says, quieter. "What could there be?"

Not much time left? Delilah tilts her head with earnest puzzlement, brows knitting. "What are you talking about? I just-" She lifts a palm to her forehead, brushing hair away from her forehead. "-I didn't want to tell you because it would do just this- make a mess of your life. I know how you're content, off fighting evil…" She laughs weakly, voice wavering.

"I don't want you to suddenly be a Father. I don't expect that. I just want you in his life a little bit more, now that you know…"

Walter has turned the rock back to its place, plopping himself down to sit on it and watch his parents talk. He is smart enough to know when to keep out of it.

"Precogs are beginning to get blank reads. What I said at the bar before my aunt decided to unload this bombshell," Teo reexplains, studying the russet roof of Walter's head. He's keenly aware that the boy is listening to every word, even if he's prudent enough not to insinuate contributions.

He doesn't want to say anything that would scare Walter; one faded vestige of protective nature, of painfully few that remain. There was an era of his life when Teodoro would have kept that news to himself. About the precogs. The apparent, brutal abbreviation of time's progression. He'dve shut up about that for the good of the majority. No need to fret. Evil will be fought off, and their lives would be permitted to keep their semblance of tidiness.

"The urge to be fatalistically avoidant is extremely tempting," Teo confesses, abruptly wry, glances up at the woman. He's only at arm's length now.

"Your aunt is the definition of bombshell." Delilah makes a tiny joke, but only to save herself some time to think about what Teo just said. Time travelers giving precogs white noise? That doesn't make sense when one believes in non-linear time. Regardless, she takes the news with a grain of salt, and fixes Teo with a small glare at his last words.

"But I don't think that's what you'll do, is it?" Not when Walter is sitting right there, digging his sneakers into the dirt around the rock and poking holes in the ground with his fingers.

"Blank reads or not, we are still here, right now." Stop talking about Time when there is a Present to deal with. Delilah's voice isn't as solid as it could be at this point.

Pallid eyes hood faintly, darkening the irises to something that could pass for sanguine if the expression behind them were a little livelier. Both pupils still sharp, fixed with hair-raising clarity on the shape of the seated by and the meek friction of his shoes. "Yes, we are. I'll do what I can." What that is remains momentarily unfathomable to the man standing over child and across from mother. It's been observed before, wryly remarked on: Teodoro Laudani doesn't have a nurturing bone in his body.

Which isn't to say he's incapable of kindness or generosity, or of learning, perceiving the strength in the young woman responsible for the vast majority of Walter's gifts; of the gift that he is. "Zoo or something.

"He should meet his grandparents. They'll hate me for not marrying you," he notes, and finally some other sentiment than stark restraint folds into his voice then; existential fatigue, regret partially contiguous with her own. That he hadn't known for so long. Maybe, if he'd known, things might be different. It's infinitely worse to think that they might not be.

The Zoo is better than You Scared Me Off. Delilah smiles enough to have it register on her face. It is a sad smile, but a signal of contentedness nonetheless. It stays long enough to see her expression turn negative, and her facial features screw up and close off, her throat letting out a muffled noise as she restrains herself visibly to little fruition. "Maybe I shoulda told you after all. God. I'm so stupid. "

Oh look, this made her cry. Nice job, Teo. Not that she is blaming you. The Fourth Wall is, you cluepon burning bastard.

Ywhasgsj oops. Big oops. Teo's eyes go enormous, real sentiment lancing through the pleasantly hazy patina of Teo's obsessive solitude and self-contained grief, vacuum-sealed, for some eight years. Cluepons— Teo snatches them out of the air like an idiot child trying to close his hands on so many pieces of falling confetti, on his way to cashing them at a dead run during which he keeps tripping over things.

Boy fucked up. "I'm sorry—

"I didn'—"

Denial is severed between Teo's teeth before it can spill over and wreak further havoc on the glade. He hazards a glance at Walter, half expecting the boy to leap to his feet and punch him in the stones for having upset his mother as such; it's precisely the sort of thing he would have done during his boyhood. Lacking that, he closes the space between himself and the young woman with a long stride, his arms carefully on the rise, hesitant to close around her polka dots, less out of fear of rejection than that of doing harm.

Walter does stand up, chin up and chest out- but there is no ball-punching today. He fixes Teo with a somewhat betrayed glower, though he is afraid to keep it there and the little ginger's raw, mother-protecting anger fades rather quickly when it is clear that neither of them are trying to make each other so sad.

Delilah, in the meantime, does not open her eyes again until Teo is right there in front of her, arms raising. Once her eyelids go up, the trickle around the tops of her cheeks seems to turn into a torrent. Two little dams falling down with cracking little sobs. Being so close, it is not much for Lilah to lean those few inches forward and plant her face into the space on Teodoro's chest- just below his shoulder, her head finding that curve of his neck with a disturbingly perfect fit.

Lines and curves intersect with curious symmetry. Teo's arms work on angles, as people's arms will; Delilah's waist is an hourglass convex, an arc. Still, they do fit disturbingly well, despite the lack of geometric logic.

Possibly, because people are more than geometry. He's sturdy against her, moreso now than he had been further years ago, but she's used to that. They both got older, though Deckard's flippancy and general observation has it that they only did so much growing up. From around the red roof of her head, he looks at Walter as Walter subsides. After that, he stops looking at Walter.

His cluepons now cashed in, he knows not to volunteer the sincere belief especially uninvited, that he'd be a terrible father, worse as a husband, that she'll find someone every inch as fucking awesome as she is and it'll be nightmarishly wonderful and him, desperately jealous until violent circumstance punks him out somewhere out there, someday. Every tear sent rolling round and bright down Delilah's face, every harsh syllable chopped out of her throat seems to be another exhibit of evidence of that.

Teo doesn't say anything that has words in it. Shapeless murmur, an intonation without written language. One part apology, one part reassurance, both halves wrapped up in the incontrovertible fact that, however inadequate, he is here.

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