Loss Of Appetite


elisabeth_icon.gif teo_icon.gif

Scene Title Loss Of Appetite
Synopsis A symptom of overexposure to sociopaths and pessimism-inducing bad shit. Old friends catch up on who's the latest murder, the raitonale for it, and find themselves sharing roughly the same corner despite everything.
Date November 2, 2009

Financial District — Deli

Not far from the NYPD headquarters.

Lunch break not infrequently takes Elisabeth to the Greek deli a little ways down the street from the station, though it's difficult to say whether today's visitor comes to see her because he remembers her habits or because some more immediate form of stalking was involved, a difference of little consequence either way.

Everything otherwise looks normal, deeply familiar, subscribing to the clockwork routine of the world that didn't bother to pause and adjust to the tragedy and pain that have staggered the policewoman's stride. Autumn sunlight slanting in through the plateglass, the huge hunk of pork pierced by its spike by the stove. Cheaply laminated photographs shawarmas and red paprikas decorating the price labels on the backlit plastic display overhead, and plastic beaded embroiders hanging lank above the thickly painted stone of the walls, the shawled woman behind the counter and her eyes startlingly pale against her swarthy skin, but always crescent-shaped with kindness.

The cadence of boots behind her is familiar, but she hasn't heard them recently enough to place the face or the name until Teo abruptly stops short at her shoulder, pale eyes swiveled at her, half a smile crooked on his face. A long navy-dark coat and black trousers leave him a little out of the college drudge archetype he normally subscribes to, but he's nondescript as far as the demographic of white young men between business casual and street casual trampling the Financial District go, one in the legions of interns, pencil-pushers, ingeniously-disguised terrorists. "You look better," he says.

Reaching up to take her lunch container from the woman behind the counter, Elisabeth smiles back at her. 'The usual' can be terribly comforting sometimes. Teodoro Laudani is the last person with whom she expects to turn around and come face to face. "Oh my GOD," the blonde chokes out in an stunned whisper, dropping the container to the floor — much to the dismay of the woman who handed it to her. There's a tsking click of tongue on teeth and the older woman bellows for someone from the back in a surprisingly robust voice easily heard over the hubbub. Liz's blue eyes are as big as saucers, and she apologizes profusely to Mama Stefanopolous, promising to return in a little while to retrieve a new plate and take care of the bill. Grabbing his arm as if afraid he's going to vanish, Elisabeth hustles Teo toward the door of the deli where they can walk outside. "Jesus fuckin' Christ, Teo. Where the hell have you been? What is happening??" There's a pause and she says sternly, "And you have some major explaining to do."

"I tried to turn myself in to the NYPD, but Sabra Dalton seems to've cock-blocked me after giving me the selective memory-wipe I asked for, which makes me want to shake a bitch. And it's fucking freezing out here, signorina," Teo answers, his teeth gritted unhappily against the nose-creasing sting of appallingly dry, frigid wind, funnelled down between the District's skyscrapers in an architectural chokehold. No, it's not that bad, he just resents the cold. Always.

Both his callused hands are already scrunched in his pockets, though, were even when the woman had seized him by the loop of his arm and frogmarched him back onto the sidewalk. He squints against the absurdity of the sunshine, off-blond brows furrowed. "It isn't too crowded inside." By which he means, there's a table or three far enough from the other patrons that her bubble tricks wouldn't hurt. "Can we go back?"

Elisabeth looks around and scowls. She looks far, far from pleased. But she turns on a heel and leads the way back toward one of those empty tables, catching the older woman's eye and shaking her head 'no' — she's not going to order yet. Taking over the table, Liz puts her back to the wall where she can see everything coming in and there's zero chance of someone sneaking up on her (again) and immediately shuts everything in the restaurant out of their little bubble of silence. "Did you try to turn yourself in for the murder of Minea Dahl?" she demands tightly. "Because I'm pretty goddamn sure that was never mentioned to anyone. What the fuck are you doing? You asked for a memory wipe? And then kidnapped my fucking therapist and held her HOSTAGE, hurt her, and waltzed into Homeland Security where Sabra fucking Dalton turned you away? Give me a coherent timeline on this, will you? Cuz right about now, I'm about a millimeter from cuffing your ass and taking you in myself." She pauses, anger and worry and hurt and all manner of other emotions chasing themselves across her face. "Dear God….. Why, Teo?"

There's a beat's silence, incredulity marking Teo's brow, offset by a twinge of guilt relevant or otherwise. "I couldn't turn myself in for the murder of Minea Dahl. I'd have to explain to them about the clandestine and frequently illegal research organization known as the Company, what they did to Phoenix, and—" he shears off into silence, doesn't move in the uncomfortable rectangled shape of the chair, his spine ramrod straight and shins stiffened, perpendicular to the floor, sentiment warring across his features. "If you're pissed off because I killed a colleague you liked and respected and scared the piss out of your psychotherapist, do that.

"But don't pretend that the net effect and universal scale of legality or morality has a single fucking thing to do with it. I'm sorry I took things from you that you cared about. I know…" The inadequacy of language to the self-immolating crescendo of catastrophe that has characterized Elisabeth Harrison's life lately sinks its weight on him, and Teo falls silent, mouth in a line. "You've lost enough," he finishes, gingerly, his voice lower than the scrape of chair legs on linoleum would have been if they weren't walled off by the woman's ability.

"I am pissed off because you killed a woman who has helped Phoenix on numerous occasions …. for what?" Elisabeth says in a soft, intense voice. "Because she turned over information we were stupid enough to hand her on a silver fucking platter? She was NEVER less than honest about where her loyalties were, Teo — she was ALWAYS up front about the fact that she'd keep her mouth shut as long as she wasn't asked a direct question, but otherwise she was going to obey her oath to protect and defend the Constitution to the best of her ability, and if they asked she would fucking tell what she knew. Even as far back as the goddamn Narrows, when Edward fucking Ray put all of our names on a goddamn slide show. But none of us are in jail yet, are we? And yeah… I fucking respected her for that, even if I didn't agree with the fact that she worked for them. You want the God's honest truth, Teo? If the choice becomes working for them or rotting in Moab? You better fucking believe I'll go to work for Len Denton in a heartbeat. Because you're right…. I have lost enough. You didn't even kill her in self defense or because she was actually on the wrong side of a battle we're fighting at this point; you just fucking …. murdered her in cold blood and watched her drown in her own blood."

There's a gulf of silence that seems to be freezing over on the surface, would have if it weren't for the light chop that denies crystallization any kind of foothold on the shifting liquid. He stares, pale eyes slightly bigger in his head than they otherwise ought to have been, some clunky science experiment chimeric hybrid of incredulity and struggling understanding on his face. "'She was never less than honest,'" he repeats. "'None of us are in jail yet.' Can you fucking hear yourself? Did a flower pot fall on your fucking head and wipe the last eight months from your fucking memory?

"I'm trying to give you a little bit of fucking credit, Harrison— either assuming you know Dahl never turned your information over to HomeSec, or Felix Ivanov's, or that you're ignorantly enjoying its benefits. In the meantime, the rest of us fucking hide like wood lice. She was the consummate professional, yes. Means she was treacherous. When she needed to be. And lucky as fuck that the American government is bureaucratically Down's Syndrome enough it didn't blow back on her or anybody else. How the fuck do you know why I killed her? You get a coroner's report and suddenly the whole fucking scenario replays in your head in technicolor high-def, plus reliable narrative overdub?

"She didn't face Moab, Liz. And she sure as fuck didn't cry like a little bitch at the prospect of being summarily executed in this timeline or any other.

"Jesus Christ, Elisabeth." It's fucking weird, how much ground she has left to stand on, but neither of them are making their arguments about the fundamental immorality of slaying. Not now. Last year, though, this conversation would have taken place at the Night Owl, after the bell had long since croaked to silence and the fleet of yellow buses had summarily evacuated. They wouldn't have really disagreed on the circumstances under which they would have committed murder then and, absurdly, they've yet to really disagree now, despite how drastically times have changed. "Dr. Sheridan told me I'dve made a great Company agent a month ago. I wouldn't give myself asspats over having that career option, if I were you."

"Bullshit," Elisabeth says softly. "I'm pretty goddamn sure she turned my information to someone back then. I'm pretty goddamn sure she turned over ALL the names she got from that briefing over to someone." Her tone is weary, and Liz rests one elbow on the table to absently rub at her head with no knowledge that this now-habitual motion runs her fingertips over the exact spot where the bullet entered her head and shattered her skull. "I don't have any asspats over that career options, you ass. It'd be a last resort to avoid dying in a hellhole," she says quietly. Then she looks at him with blue eyes shadowed by the pain of uncertainty. "What is it that you wanted? Did you want to be punished? You're trying to turn yourself in — why the hell would Dalton be blocking you from doing it? Have they isotoped you so they can track you?"

A bold brow arches high on Teo's forehead and he gives her a steady look, then, chin lowered and rhetorical question sharp in the contraction of his pupil. 'Pretty goddamn sure' is gut instinct and humility that don't corroborate what he has encoded in his poor mauled brain with delightfully factual finality from Ghost's memories of the Company's entire operation exposed. He doesn't press the point, though. 'Pretty goddamn sure'ties are rare and far few between for Elisabeth Harrison, and he isn't inclined to shit all over that as long as she knows where he rests on the subject.

"Dalton made creepy intimations that I was more useful out on the field, but she agreed to help me out in the end, so. Fuck." There's a wince of a grimace, the callused heel of his hand roughed up the line of his cheek, frustration and annoyance putting his features into sharply-defined lines and angles. "I didn't think she'd help me do all that. I'm not marked. Never lost consciousness. Yeah. Dying in a hellhole sounded like something I deserved. I think it's probably where Minea and I diverged: I expect people to want to nut me for the shit that I do."

Elisabeth studies him quietly and shakes her head. "Christ, Teo," she says on a heavy sigh. "At least you understand why some people might be pissed — though I realize that most of the people high on your list of important folks aren't going to care that you killed Min." But she does. The blonde officer keeps her eyes centered just slightly off his face. "You came looking for me…. why? What is it that you need that I can do?" Then she does shift those terribly haunted blue orbs to meet his gaze. "Aside from keeping my mouth shut about seeing you… which I will do for you." Because in spite of the line he's crossed, Sabra Dalton herself has turned him loose. And that little tidbit she will pass along.

Nice of her to invite herself into 'high on his list of important folks'— that's an adorable phrase, and evokes a smile for all of three seconds on Teo's face, but it fades quick when she asks her question and existential fatigue unrolls its bulky mass onto his shouldersm. That's nice of her. The offer of assistance in his nefarious tasks, keeping secrecy, though the latter doesn't mean anything more than the fact he'll be able to see her the next time he'd like to, and she has the time to spare among the other clutter and nightmares calendared in her diary. "Something's coming.

"I don't know exactly what. The Vanguard remnant, the ones who turned on Volken? Are talking about plans, reorganizing, recruiting." He doesn't specify how he lit on that latter agenda item, but it's only a small deductive hop for her to figure. "And everybody in our Venn diagram of associates knows that the loyalists are up to some psychotic shit with the nukes. I think they're related, and I want to know we're on— decent terms enough that I can come to you with intel if or when I get it."

"Not surprising," Elisabeth replies softly. She's quiet for a long time, and then she moves to stand up, leaning over to kiss on the cheek the silly Italian killer wearing the face of her friend. "Yes, Teodoro. We are on decent enough terms. I'll do what I can to get Denton off your ass, too, though I don't promise anything." As she moves to straighten up, she smiles with a faint bitterness. "If I can fucking work with and become buddies with Sylar in the future, and I can work with fucking Peter Petrelli — who killed my mother and thousands of others — and I can watch as Cat blows the brains out of the man who tortured me for days…. what on earth makes you think I'll turn my back on you for one cold-blooded murder of a friend?" She shakes her head a little bit. What has her worldview come to? Who is she? Elisabeth doesnt' even think she knows. "This world we live in … is insane. Be safe out there." She shoves her hands into her pockets and waves to Mama Stefanopolous, dropping money on the counter as she slips out the door to cover the lunch that she dropped and the one that Teo can take with him when he leaves if he'd like — her appetite is gone.

He doesn't particularly enjoy having that effect, but it's the story of his life: being one of the insane things that rub off on the world, as it were. Some kind of grim irony. "Ciao, Liz'beth." Momentary hesitation. "Remember your own advice, all right?" Teo inclines his head, a chin-chuck, the salutation a thug owes his favorite cop. His eyes hood when he sees the bright circles of quarters spin across the counter, his lunch paid for, double over, with tip. He closes his eyes, squeezes them, scores thumb and forefinger against them hard enough that an eyelash rips, rubs at the back of his neck, then the cheek she'd laid a kiss on.

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