teo_icon.gif margaret_icon.gif

Scene Title Instrumental
Synopsis During this interlude, Teo faces the future analogue who accountably ruined everything under a new different set of circumstances, and punches him in the face. Unfortunately, Ghost is cleverly disguised as a little girl, and it doesn't really change anything, anyway. They both are what the title says. For getting the third back, if nothing else.
Date September 19, 2010

Roosevelt Island — The Den

Teo is looking at the patch of scarred bathroom tiles where the mirror used to be. Rusted nails protrude like grubs that died halfway through the burrowing process, deformed by orange oxidation. This moment is symbolic of something, or symbolic of a symbol, but he can't quite place word to it. He isn't sure what's been eating him lately, although he knows it isn't depression. He thinks very clearly when he's depressed, he knows, having spent some ten years coping with its sucking tide, after he killed the girl.

He thinks he knows.

It's easy to wonder if somehow the strainer had missed a few granules and threads of Ghost before. Left residue of the other-him clinging to the edges like so much spun sugar fluff and wasted sugar cloyed to the grilles inside the walls of a cotton candy machine. That, he thinks, would be the worst, or at least almost. Retracing the hybrid's footsteps is not doing much for his memory aside of remind him of its inadequacy. He and Francois were here a few months ago. Melissa had been a Ferry operator, then, and Delilah surreptitiously pregnant, wickedly ill.

An emptied soap dispenser, a clock inert around its unbeating heart o' quartz. Dust in thin layers, a loose lock of terrycloth torn loose on the broken-off stump left of the cabinet handle under the sink. There is absolutely nothing interesting in here, not overlooked by the DoEA, never mind left behind by them. His shoe presses down on a powder made of broken glass. He stops, glances down along the trajectory of his flashlight beam, peels his foot off the mound of shiny grounds and frowns at the neatness of the print that his sole left. A shadow falls over the periphery of his vision.

Teo is pointing a gun at it before its shape has constituted into a recognizable shape.

Topped by an unrecognizable face, but still. If history is any indication, Teo would sooner shoot another human being than a mad dog, and there are a couple other humans he would shoot sooner than others. It's a girl. Short, mouse-brown hair in a utilitarian ponytail, a waist so small he could circle with one arm with change at the fingers, narrow face with thin eyebrows, pretty in a way he wouldn't have appreciated when he was younger. She is wearing a windbreaker and jeans. Probably not DoEA, even if their suits would probably add up to a similar cost. "You," he says, staring. "I can't fucking believe it. How did you get a vagina?"

"Gillian Winters," the girl replies, and grins. The Ghost shines through her orthodontically even white teeth, an illusion that exists in sharp edges, crinkled eyes, the shagging of hair loosed out of her ponytail to dangle over her brow. "I like it when everything falls right into fucking place. We'll be able to interrogate this Institute agent, soon." She lifts one small hand, flattens it against her chest.

Teo, ever one for Captain Obscure, says, "That's really fucked up, man. You're a man. Man. What the fuck is wrong with you?" Useless words like that. He stumbles away and tries not to throw up from nerves. It is tremendously cynical, he thinks, to assume that Ghost would try anything after they were trapped in a supernatural intimacy of merged personality for months and then freed as a point of indisputable honor, but he can not help it. That time, by definition, belonged to someone else. The last thing he remembers was having been taken hostage in his own body, and dying there as Gabriel fought to keep some battered, half-melted scrap-metal fragment of him alive. He is too smart, too wary of ruining emotion with sentiment, a little too heartless, maybe, too self-loathing to blame everything that's ever gone awry on Ghost, but 'everything' is so much that even a little of it is a lot.


"I invited Deckard," the ghost adds, making a ridiculous moue with his girl-face, "but he won't help."


"No. I told him about his eyes— all the badass shit he could learn to do with them, and," Ghost's tone is like: Ungrateful bitch, and a scowl goes swaggering back onto her face. "And then, he tried to rape me."

Teo recoils slightly despite himself, then scowls angrily. "You've abducted a girl. You told him about a future he doesn't remember."

"It's salient."

"The bright future is over. It's gone, Caspar. You didn't even try to save it."

It is neither the truth in that declaration or the bitterness of it that stops the ghost short. Inevitably, it's the stupidity of it, and she's watching the hackling lift of his shoulders, reading the resentment, frittering granulated truth like confetti into the toxic miasma of her idea of how the world works. Teo knows what's coming even before she draws her tiny frame up to its full height, twists her mouth around a sneer. "You're pathetic," she observes. "Don't fucking take it out on me because nobody loves you anymore." (This just annoys him: he turns away.) (But she keeps talking, of course. Of course.) "Like fuck you actually care that Phoenix burned out right on schedule when everybody in it is still alive. Like fuck you believe every other sorry bastard shot out into this world was corrupted by nurture, and you're the only snowflake in the world who was born wrong. I know you. I was you.

"I know you can't even cut yourself off at the knees without looking for a crucifix of sufficient phallic height to hang yourself on. I call bullshit. Flint went serial-killer and Isabella tortured people, sure. Jesse left and our momma got shot. Life's a bitch. I failed to invent a pair of magical choochoo briefs that could transform Arthur Petrelli plus Sylar's ability into a good idea: too fucking bad. But I never took anybody's second chances away. Especially not yours. Stop bitching that some tool from the future didn't make your life a little easier, this time. You're still here in this God-forsaken city with a gun under your arm, and you're alone, because you fucking wan—"

He hits her. With his fist, first, and then his elbow, then anything that happens to be in reach. It is clearly the wrong thing to do, and he knows that because Ghost is letting him, and Ghost isn't like him; it's no exercise in masochism. Teo manages to stop after four or five hits, the last of which she blocks. He winds up with his bristly head planted on the wall, a cold and rolling ache inside of it whose origin he can not trace with any certainty to a self-induced concussion or some kind of mood-related hormone or vascular dilation problem.

She isn't hurt too bad. Bruised up. The girl trapped inside is probably screaming.

"Lei mi usa per la spaventare," he says. It isn't a question.

"Not because you're hitting her," she answers. "But because we're obviously crazy. I built the interrogation room on the same principle."

Teodoro is silent for a few seconds. He opens his eyes and sees wall, raises his head wearily. "You built," he says, "an excuse me?"

"It's about ambience. Up in the Frenchman's third floor, right now." Apparently satisfied her lip is intact enough, she stops licking it. "I don't want to have to actually do anything to her: it's not her fault she's an ignorant idealist." Ghost creases the girl's nose, wipes blood away from it. "It's never the ignorant idealists' fault. She doesn't know what the Institute is really like." If the air could have a darkness to it, this is it. "Just think of it this way: after we get him back, you can go. I'm almost completely sure we'll find my body, too, so you can worry less.

"Not that I would," the ghost adds, blankly.

Inescapably aware that he's telling the truth, Teo is silent for a few seconds. There must be invisible weights attached to his temples or something because his skull feels heavy and his neck hurts, corded taut to hold it upright. He tries to think about leaving. Maybe back to Western Europe, you know, with the Spanish moss that seems to cannibalize all the trees, cafe umbrellas big enough to cover whole tourist groups, the comical economic engines of chocolate or Venetian lace or sports cars. Francois might wa Felix might know a better part of Russia to explore than Ryazan, and Delilah owes him a guided tour of of Manchester. Eileen would know where in London to send him, if she knew he wanted to go. Leave. He remembers remembering going very far away to celebrate the war being won, but then, he also remembers Weezyanna and coming home to Georgia, too.

Mostly, he remembers (and this is new, not the indignation that he'd last spoken to the ghost with, not the plague that Gia's death had multiplied) (new; he's saved the world once or twice, but it takes this much to feel unexpected) (maybe he is really that vain) that none of this should have to be his to carry.

When Teo comes back to the present, he discovers familiarly that he still feels bad for hitting a girl in the face. Invariably. "The only thing I have to decide is whether you know what you're doing," he says. "And whether or not I hate you too much to help. You're not the only one who's doing something about this, and I know it, so don't try to sell me shit."

Ghost puts her hands up, palms out. Okay. Surrender, as emptily good-natured as the smile on a bobble-headed dashboard ornament. But then she says, "This is bad for you," and motions around the Den. What's left of it, gutted and overrun and abandoned, nothing now but derelict electrics, dust, and sandy glass, a box of things rejected as too insignificant to qualify as evidence heaped in a corner. Fallen lightbulbs popped on the floor like snails under jogging shoes.

"Pointless, you mean," Teo says.

"Bad for you," the ghost asserts.

"Not as bad for me as it is for you."

"No." Ghost blinks, too nonchalantly to have been anything but repressed surprise. "I guess not."

Teodoro takes out a hankerchief, which he has, because he hung around Delilah just a little bit, floating around in her wake like a bubble behind a dolphin's immersive laughter. Picking up dirty cups, washed plates, odd jobs, and errant hankerchiefs. He puts it to Ghost's nose. "What the fuck is her name, anyway?" When he pulls it away, the square of thin fabric comes loose roostertailed with red and a subtle tension goes out of the ghost's hold on the girl's neck.

She clears her throat. He clears her throat. Fucking whatever. "Her name is Margaret," she says, and lifts her chin away, twists her nose and mouth around to check that the canals are clear. They're better than they were, at least, though she has some unattractive swelling to look forward to.

"Mi dispiace, Margaret. I'm sorry you got caught up in all this. And that I hit you." He squishes the hankerchief into the Ghost's hand. "I'm going now. You're not invited," he adds, in an even kind of voice, light, but not funny. He should stay around, maybe get some ice for her face, but the ghost will take care of it. He knows this on top of every other monstrosity and dysfunction that is native to the disembodied creature's personality. He doesn't want to talk anymore. They're probably going to go and sulk about the same things, anyway. Of all the Teodoro Laudanis that came to New York City and failed, there could have been one that flew in, tired but irreplaceably young, on a day too smoggy to see the Statue of Liberty through the window and succeeded.

Unlikely, he thinks while he walks across the carpet. Maybe that's why he's still here.

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