francois_icon.gif teo_icon.gif

Scene Title Lateral
Synopsis Francois calls Teo with updates: Hana Gitelman is missing, but the kids are alright.
Date April 25, 2019


It's going to snow in April. Late April.

At least, it will in Rochester, but maybe those rolling dark clouds that carry the smell of ice will continue their path to New York City, too. Likely only overnight and likely only very briefly, but Francois regards the sky with suspicion all the same as he finishes his cigarette on the rooftop of the Bunker. Dressed warmly. Spring is terrible. Baby birds tossed from their homes in fitful gusts, dying small and naked and pink on city sidewalks. Allergies and insects. A schizophrenic sky.

He leans against the balcony ledge, dropping his focus down to the river as he blindly reaches for his phone, procuring it from a backpocket. Normally, he thinks through carefully what he wants to say before he calls someone, a slightly old fashioned habit, but today he does not, when perhaps he should. If he does, he runs the risk of not calling at all.

Switching it to speaker, Francois lets the wheedling sound of the dial tone ring out, ashing out the remains of his cigarette.

On the second ring, Teodoro picks up.

"Bon soir," Teo says. There's noise in the background— the kitchen hood fan going, brrrzzzz. The loud clack clack of Teo moving some dials around; presumably a stove. Food. "Francois?" His voice is loud, slightly distorted because of it. He is moving somewhere, the background receding. Thump thump, big Teo feet traveling carelessly across the house. Emily must not yet be in bed. He doesn't sound tense, exactly, but his voice has a vivre to it that is prepared to scale all emotional heights. "Is everything okay?"

It's right after Teo delivers his question, that the background noise cuts out. He went outside. He splays his socks on the brick, which is cold enough to feel damp through the fabric, and he glances up at the sky, observing the threat of snow. He should probably check the weather, ever, but it falls out of habit when work is intermittent.

"I have news."

Is what Francois says. Everything is not okay but nothing is on fire, is how he tries to pitch his tone, calm and serious. The balcony of the Bunker is, by contrast, a quiet experience, save for the occasional flutter of wind that ruffles the speaker, sends static down the line. He listens to the ambiance that had surrounded Teo's phone, and can imagine the domestic kitchen scene, painted in his mind in yellow light and rose tint.

He fidgets with his crumpled cigarette butt. "It can wait for you, if you're busy."

Teo packs his head down between his shoulders again, like a penguin. He zooms his gaze around like a paranoiac. What is happening. "No, I want to know," he says.

There's a faint edge of annoyance to his voice, but instead of wielding the esoteric, weird, phantasmic blades of their recent arguments and the infinite complexity thereof, Teo sounds grumpy. In a familiar and ordinary way. Like he would have after having been woken in the middle of the night by, Are you asleep? or going for the last bagel in the box, only to be stopped by, Did you want to eat this one? Mundane feelings, with the genuine patience to match. Teo doesn't think he's being spied on. He is no longer important enough to be spied on. No lie, it's reassuring.

Teo leans his hunched back backward against the house for 0.13 seconds, only to spike himself off the wall again the next instant. Cold. "Tell me."

"Epstein's declared Hana as AWOL," Francois says, and he does so at a brisk clip, not because he is heartless or that he has no skin in this game, as Teo would say, but because he knows the way hearts can lurch towards the worst when news starts with someone's name, especially someone who was all but missing, especially someone you love. "She was on a mission overseas and encountered— "

Here, he stalls out, feeling all at once too uninformed for this, with too little knowledge about how superpowers work anymore, and for all that he has worked under Gitelman for some time, trusts her decisions well, and respects her capabilities, their orbits have always maintained a professional rotation — he does not know how she suffers. But he wants to speak precisely, in selfish part to minimise the questions he can't answer.

"She was exposed to something that imprisoned her and damaged her through her ability."

Francois pauses, allowing this to sink in, watching the river through hooded eyes, and then says, "We've attempted to make contact, but she is keeping her distance."

Somewhere in New York City, Teo stops feeling his feet and it has nothing to do with the temperature. He doesn't move for awhile, breathing too quietly for the receiver to pick up.

"How do you know she's alive?" Teodoro asks, finally. He predicts a highly technical, nearly tedious, if not actually boring answer. By the time Ghost left the equivalent of this year in his own timeline, he had become intimately acquainted with the mechanics of Hana's ability, its incredible range and scope, the subtle and infinite functions and processes that run for Hana as naturally as the autonomic nervous function systems of breathing, blinking.

And thus: the highly technical, tedious, boring answer will be reassuring to Teo. Hana has had reasons at different times in her life, for staying away.

A technical, tedious, boring answer would probably be nice. Francois is not sure he even has that. He gives it his best effort.

"Because although she is not answering, we are able to send to Wireless," he says. "If we were not, if she were 'offline'— " Well. That could portend things other than 'dead', certainly, but it wouldn't be great. Regardless, something in the world is receiving. "Avi shared with me his communications with— with someone, a technopath she is working with, perhaps. She does not show sign of interest in working with Wolfhound any longer."

Francois pauses, and wishes, a little, he had those transcripts in front of him now. Just the view — oddly, unseasonably wintry. "We are considering it an indefinite hiatus, at best. I know nothing I can say will be very satisfying, for you. It's bullshit for us as well." There, a small flicker of something. Frustration, the kind borne of worry, and very little information to operate from. "But I thought you should know, anyway."

Teo thinks about that for a moment longer, in silence, and his thoughts fail to resolve into anything even remotely resembling a plan. It's been a minute since he talked to her, her to him. He had been deferring to the numerous and important responsibilities she was no doubt juggling with finesse. He scrubs his fingers through his hair, winds up with his knuckles pushed in between his eyebrows. Eyes shut, squeezed so tight that after he reopens them, the skin around them is bloodless white then pink.

He is not very good at friendship lately.

"Thank you for telling me," Teo says, in absence of anything else to say; but it’s sincerely meant. "I guess I'll. Fucking. Pray."

"Praying to Wireless may get you listened to," and Francois is being a little wry, with that phrasing, but likewise: sincere. He adds, "I don't know, perhaps she would answer a friend and not a colleague. If I learn anything more…"

Dotdotdot. They will have another phonecall. It may be better or worse than this one.

He isn't taking this very personally, as much as this does not feel purely professional either — but he is certainly surrounded by people who might. In the meanwhile, there's a multi-million dollar company just sitting here, and he should just say this next thing. He clears his throat, just a little. "Epstein has asked me to partner with him as a part of command, in the meanwhile. Perhaps while the cat is away, the mice can— restructure their organisation in anticipation of renewed vision.

"We are shifting some operations to New York City." And Francois pauses there, rotating his back to the river and leaning against the ledge instead. Wishes, a little, this conversation were in person, but he has had that wish a great many times about a great many conversations over the course of several years. So.

Teo focuses his mind. Tries to. Pay attention to the updates to the other situations, adjacent to Hana's disappearance. It's difficult; he keeps wanting to go back to the meticulous details of Wireless, ask about this third party hacker, maybe. Their handle. Maybe it's someone he knows from the other world. Maybe the ghost met them.

Maybe —


Teo winces the moment he hears his own voice, the blank note of it. It's not intentional. He hastens to add to it, exhaling slowly in the cold dark. "Congratulations. That— it sounds like a promotion. You and Epstein work well together, right?" This is a normal thing to say. Wolfhound is a complex operation. "And now we have two non-SLC-Expressives running the operation. That's good strategy." A half-formed thought that Teo doesn't think to finish, recounting to himself what Francois just said. New York City. New York City. He's in New York City. Right. "Which activities are gonna move here?"

In spite of inner ennui around not having this conversation in person: at least Francois can wince in the privacy of his own company as Teo course-corrects, flatters, stumbles. It's fine. He faults, more, the situation than Teo himself. Mostly. "We will now," he says, and it is anyone's guess as to whether he means that they have yet to test themselves with sustained proximity, or. They will just have to figure it out. "With the dismantling of our team structure, it is a little lateral. The promotion, I mean.

"But we have a long-term contract beginning in June," he says. Francois tries to speak carefully, but not sound like he is being careful. Announcing the news of Hana Gitelman's disappearance does not exactly beget optimism on a personal scale, but he is at least hoping not to get off on entirely the wrong foot, here. "For the State of New York. We'll be providing SWAT support to the police department. New branch office. Until we have any other new contracts, it is likely we'll be spending more time in the city than not."

Is that enough? Maybe it's enough. Francois is pacing, idly, a meandering wander.

You know SWAT stands for 'Special Weapons and Tactics?' Teo thinks to say, but he restrains himself, and it is for once not very difficult. Distracted. He stuffs his free hand into his armpit, willing himself to get warmer. Sometimes agitation is enough to heat up his blood, but apparently he's not upset enough. Next fight, maybe.

Special Weapons and Tactics definitely have to fill out a lot of paperwork.

Which would be: Francois' new desk job.


And Teo isn't sure why he cares less tonight, that it might not be, after all. His brain is tired about Hana, and in the long weeks earlier than that, exhausted by the final vestiges of effort to exert any influence on Francois' career. Acceptance, surrender, whatever. He decides not to ask what Hana's latest assignment had been prior to her disappearance, her last communique, whether or not anyone else has gone AWOL since the supposed shift to less combat-focused missions and operations, what factors that might have affected Hana may be what Francois faces in the course of leadership upcoming. It seems like something he will be told about later, as more information arises.

"You'll see me more when you’re off work," is what Teo decides to say, finally. Friendly, generous enough in a way that Liz would not have encouraged him to be, in absence of true and deeply felt reconciliation.

The real question, though, as long as they're on the subject of Francois' employment: "But law enforcement seems a li'l different from what you joined Wolfhound for. You happy about this contract?"


There are worse responses.

Francois'd been prepared to talk some about paperwork. Because that really has been a thing, especially with regard to patching over damaged relationships with Gitelman's disappearance and Epstein's way of talking to people. He even has a desk. But he will also have guns and his phone beeping him to tell him to suit up at any given hour of the day while on call. So he is a little relieved that Teo lets him off the hook.

Or that is what it feels like. He keeps pacing. "I am," he says. "The younger ones will need to forge a path for themselves, eventually. I think this will give them something secure, viable. When they eventually leave the den, they'll have something marketable to bring with them. Some already have.

"And I am content with it, oui," because he knows that's what Teo is asking. "It'll be different." A beat. "I'll be happy to be closer."

"'Leave the den,'" Teo says. "Wolf metaphor, huh? That's nice."

Teo also thinks about how the pack was the kind of family Hana had wanted. Ghost had not been enough, in part because she had been chiefly, almost entirely responsible for putting him back together, and a broken thing, no matter how much it adores you or how well you've taught it to fight, isn't the same as a family of carnivores. Sometimes he feels sad for his counterpart, but man, fuck that.

At a distance, the whole thing still looks — cute, anyway. Teo appreciates it. And they run better than Phoenix ever had. "Is there anything else? I'm freezing my nuts off outside," is mild enough, not impatient. From a practical perspective: "I don't want Emily to overhear."

"Non," Francois says, and wonders when if ever they will finish a conversation in a manner that doesn't leave him feeling a little wanting of something. It is as annoying for him as anyone else. "Thanks for picking up, I'll text you soon."

And he certainly doesn't want to fight today. Tries not to look too closely at this thing about Emily, but it does compel him to want to get the fuck off the phone for whatever reason. "Stay warm — je t'aime."

Francois lets his hand drop, phone falling away with it to hang up, rather than allow for any chance of hesitation.

"Good luck with Avi," Teo ends up saying to a dead line, after the doodoodoo of the line disconnecting. Cellphones now, there are no dial tones; only silence.

Great. Teodoro is not entirely unappreciative, although he thinks he would have said it back. He typed it back weeks ago already, probably before he was ready, and it had not mattered then. Teo would bet money that he could have said it now, timely. Meant it enough. He will never have trouble meaning it 'enough,' as if love is a scale that operates on a numerical scale, from least to most. As if it doesn't have dimensions as complex and convoluted as the strings that Hiro Nakamura needs to diagram the breadth and width of his travels.

He remembers when Francois first signed up with Wolfhound, they'd had to do all this paperwork. Next of kin had been easy; advanced directives, less so. When your spouse signs up for a job like that, the questions are numerous and detailed. Comas including percentage brain death, paraplegia versus quadriplegia versus dependency on respiratory machines, single versus multiple amputations and prosthetics, pain chronicity, restorative cosmetic surgery, blindness, deafness, life-sustaining therapy, chemical exposures likely to prohibit organ donation, where the money will go, the physical assets, contagions, vehicular collision, the extent to which SLC-E healing might help, and what it would mean if an SLC-E ability was responsible in the first place. Teo wonders if they will have to go through that again, with the SWAT. He doubts it would be as hard, the second time.

Teodoro wonders if someone had gone through that with Hana, for her. You'd think by now, missing people would be easy.

"You're welcome," Teo adds to the quiet. He peels the phone off his ear and goes back inside.

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