Lost in the Crowd


francois_icon.gif odessa_icon.gif

Scene Title Lost in the Crowd
Synopsis Francois confronts Odessa and perhaps learns a bit more about her.
Date March 21, 2010

Greenwich Village

In a time that seems long ago, Greenwich Village was known for its bohemian vibe and culture, the supposed origin of the Beat movement, filled with apartment buildings, corner stores, pathways and even trees. There was a mix of upper class and lower, commercialism meeting a rich culture, and practically speaking, it was largely residential.

Now, it's a pale imitation of what it used to be. There is a sense of territory and foreboding, as if the streets aren't entirely safe to walk. It isn't taken care of, trash from past times and present littering the streets, cars that had been caught in the explosion lie like broken shells on the streets nearest the ground zero. Similarly, the buildings that took the brunt of the explosion are left in varying degrees of disarray. Some are entirely unusable, some have missing walls and partial roofs, and all of the abandoned complexes have been looted, home to squatters and poorer refugees.

As one walks through the Village, the damage becomes less and less obvious. There are stores and bars in service, and apartment buildings legitimately owned and run by landlords. People walk the streets a little freer, but like many places in this scarred city… anything can happen. Some of the damage done to buildings aren't all caused by the explosion from the past - bullet holes and bomb debris can be seen in some surfaces, and there is the distinct impression that Greenwich Village runs itself… whether people like it that way or not.

He was here just a moment ago.

It probably took some time until any corner of New York City was typical New York City, after 2006, but this angle of street running on into the western portion of Greenwich Village resembles something like it, between the newsprint stands, the milling crowd, roasted nuts stalls, and the push of taxicabs crowding the thin street. Snow makes a soft looking padding on the tops of long parked cards and melting in the gutters to create trickles of icy water in the juncture of street and sidewalk. To be honest, it looks a lot like how Francois left it the first time, only with cellphones and more people.

Always more people. Francois was just another one a moment ago, worn jeans and boots making nimble steps through the mid-afternoon press of New Yorkers, bundled into his lined woolen jacket zipped against the chill in the air, a tweed flat cap pulled down low and belongings kept in pockets rather than the extra addition of a bag. He likes to travel light, whether across countries and oceans or on simple errands. Right now, he's making a stop at home. Or was.

Odessa frowns as she looks up from the headline of the latest edition of the New York Times set on display at a newstand. What in the- He was there just a-

Blonde head swivels this way and that, blue eyes squinting to try and see through the crowds where her quarry may have gone off to. Red shoes scuff against snow as she bodily turns. Her similarly-shaded coat bows out awkwardly over a full black skirt, over a red petticoat, dripping lace hearts from its hem. Frustration is visible in the huff of breath issued from her nose, like an annoyed dragon resisting the urge to spew forth fire to vent.

He'd considered just leaving. Evading was instinctive, consisting of a detour into a coffeeshop, the mens' room, squirming through a high window and out into an alleyway that winds him a block out of view of the bloodhound on his scent, but from the way Odessa will see someone coming up from the left of her— Francois changed his mind. There's a graze on his left hand telling that he is not as suave as he likes to try to be, currently getting rubbed against his denim clad thigh once he's steered out from between a squeeze of a boutique and a bistro, and a patch of damp shows on the knee of his right leg.

Still, he has a smile for her as he catches her searching eye through the crowd, hand lifting to bend the cap at his brow a little in greeting. Sneaking up on her entirely might have been too ambitious, even if he may be better at hunting Vanguard than he is being hunted by Vanguard, and he has the scars to back this theory up.

"Bonjour, Joie. I like your skirt."

Odessa blinks several times at Francois after he's greeted her, surprise and confusion evident. How did he do that? He totally got the drop on her. That's not even fair! After a dumb moment, she thinks to respond, "Ah, merci. Ça va?" The flush in her cheeks has nothing to do with the chill in the air.

"Ça va." His hands push into the pockets of his jacket, bringing up his shoulders as people do in a showy response to how cold it is today, Francois steering a look down down the street from whence they came. He lifts his chin a little in a gesture, profile reading nothing save for a kind of mild interest in their conversation. "«I only noticed you two blocks from here, and it took me that long to lose you. Probably this would be more impressive before your confession.»"

And by the time he's looking back at her, there's more to read — if only because he's trying to study her, and that affectedly abashed smile is quick to dim. "Would you have given them my home?"

The spy has the good grace to look ashamed of herself, dipping her chin in tandem with a lowering of her gaze. Mascara-laden lashes brush against her rosy cheeks, and red glitter shadow sparkles on her lids. "Je suis vraiment desole." She's awfully sorry. "«Only if I had to. And I would have warned you first,»" Odessa admits. She tries to meet his gaze, but the attempt is fleeting at best.

Keeping her conversation in French makes it feel as though her betrayal is between them, and kept from those passing closely enough to overhear them. "Francois, je…" Lips press together and finally she lifts her head once more, focusing on a point around the Frenchman's cheekbones, rather than his eyes. "Je vous prie de me pardonner. Please, please forgive me."

Francois wrinkles his nose, which prints shadow tracks beneath his eyes, a hand up as if he could maybe wave Odessa's request into nothing, gaze shifting from attempting to catch her's to an invisible zigzag over her head. "Non, let's not. After all of this is over, we can begin discussions of forgiveness, oui? I would hate to give it too early. For now, perhaps we can walk. The way we came, if that is okay." Which has the dual effect of leading her away from where he doesn't want her, and gives them space and time to talk while doing so.

"The house is more expensive than some islands one can purchase off Central America. I would hate to have to ask for another one. Danger is one thing, but what an inconvenience also."

She shouldn't be surprised that she's been put into her place. She hadn't expected it to be done so mildly, however. The Vanguard has always been more fierce about their disapproval of Odessa's wayward actions. Harsher words. Harsher actions. This stings more. "I understand," she murmurs, dropping her attempts at keeping their conversation wholly in French.

"Is that so?" Odessa surely doesn't know the value of houses in New York City, or the value of islands in this mythical land of Central America that she knows very little about. "Could we stop for coffee first?" She tilts her head downward to indicate her attire. "I'm rather cold." Veering them toward a shop, rather than a stand-alone vendor that might offer a weak cup to accompany a foodstuff, she eyes Francois curiously. "What gave me away?"

Coffee, he can do, Francois veering as she does at a casual kind of stroll, hands going back into his pockets. "I look over my shoulder too much still," he says, a smile showing at the corners of his mouth as he regards the track of his feet against the slick pavement. "Especially now that I know Dreyfus is out for blood again. He has already gotten the jump on me once and it almost cost me my life. Instead, it only cost me fifteen years and a second chance, but at the mercy of someone else. It is a long story, but regardless, I am paranoid.

"And you stand out a little, mademoiselle." His right hands goes up, pushes index finger to his thumb with a gap between them. Un petit morceau. The hand drops. "How did you get into this anyway?"

"It's the red, isn't it?" Odessa's face scrunches up a bit at herself. Shouldn't have wore the red. She steps into the nearby Starbucks, holding the door for Francois, even if he tries to insist otherwise. She owes him, after all. She stares up at the expansive menu, at a bit of a loss as to what she should order. Hm.

Francois' query has her almost as puzzled as the list of macchiato and lattes. "The zipper isn't that hard to reach," Odessa teases, pretending for a moment that she thought he was referring to her dress. Terribly inappropriate of her, she realises a moment after she's finished speaking. "He told me your friends were responsible for the death of somebody I loved," she answers honestly this time. "I felt inclined to join his cause." It's deceptively simplistic, but not terribly far off. Delving further into the truth isn't something she wants to do where others may overhear.

Jokes about dresses gets a smile, chin tucking in as if maybe he were acting his physical age, or closer to it than the three quarters of a century he has on him. It fades once she responds in seriousness, head canting to the side. "Oui. There seems to be a lot of that going around."

Rather than approach the counter for his own drink, Francois hangs back a little, shadowing her until he follows her gaze upwards to the drink menus, green eyes scanning them with some amusement before rocking forward enough to get the tender's attention, a quick wave to secure it. "She would like a caffe Americano, ah," gestures loosely towards where the sizes display themselves in empty cups along the counter, "grande, merci. I hope we didn't, by the way. Kill anyone you loved."

That gets a doubletake from the woman at the cash register, and she in turns gets a bright smile from the Frenchman.

Colour Odessa impressed. Francois is apparently not only fluent in both French and English, but also Starbucks. She simply nods her head to the barista and smiles to confirm the order, but with one small change. "Make it a venti? Thanks." She turns back to her companion and points up at the menu with a bewildered expression, "I have no idea what any of those things are." She fishes in her pocket for a few wadded bills she received from Abigail in payment for helping out in the bar. "Did you want anything?" She's checking the price on the board, then counting out the closest approximation to the cost. "I've got twenty bucks," she says enticingly.

"And you didn't, by the way. Kill anyone I loved." Apparently. So Teo tells her.

"Ah. It pays to do your research." When it comes to who murdered who, rather than how to speak Starbuck, and Francois shakes his head at her offer, hand up to steal off his cap, other hand ruffling to smooth his hair. "Non, but thank you." Folding tweed over to stick it into a pocket, the Frenchman keeps his arms wrapped around himself as he moves with her down the queue, skimming a look over the pastries and cakes on display, or at least their opaque reflections in the clean glass.

Crowded though the place may be, he's less concerned about being overheard, especially with the clamour of private conversation and the disinterest of those who occasionally bump elbows with them. "You have found an ally with Abigail, at least."

"Thankfully," Odessa murmurs her agreement after paying for her impending coffee. She eyes something called lemon loaf behind the glass, considering for a moment adding it to her order. "I truly am sorry," she feels the need to reiterate. "Everything I could uncover on my own… Sometimes it is easy to convince someone that you're gone." There's a shrug. I did my research, thank you.

"«I am damaged,»" she admits in a small voice. "«I suppose it should be telling that the man I thought was dead was content to let me believe it, too. He wouldn't be the first.»" Perhaps he won't be the last. Odessa is well brooding by the time she receives her simple order, taking an appreciative sip before turning toward the door, but leaving that first step toward the bitter cold up to Francois.

Tempting though it may be to linger in here, between the warmth, the scent of coffee and baking things, the comfortable edges of chairs and sofas, Francois is the first in their duo to leave it behind. Holding open the door for her this time, he meets her gaze when she passes him by, briefly, troubled and vague uncertainty easily read. "«I believe you,»" he eventually says, once her red shoes have found pavement — and he means that generally. From being sorry, through to doing the research, and maybe even that she's damaged too.

"There is more, I think. About Abby's friendship with you. A third party involved who wants to see you alive, or that is the story. I want to know why she protects you so." There's a guarded suspicion in his words, as mildly delivered as his tone may be, ducking his head against the briskly cold wind that comes blowing down the narrow West Village street.

That draws Odessa's brows up to disappear beneath her blonde bangs, surprised. "I… may know who that is, but I don't know if he approached her. Or why he would have done so…" She shakes her head. Hiro Nakamura didn't swear Odessa to secrecy, and as far as she's aware, he's one of the few people that seems to care about keeping her alive as vehemently as Abigail Beauchamp does. "There's a man who can do something similar to what I can do," she explains as they walk back the way they originally came to this part of town.

"I don't know for sure, but… I don't think I can get the five-ten." There's no shortage of hestitation in how Odessa delivers that speculation. "He had me inject myself with something, and told me he was saving my life." Her lips draw out in a horizontal that dimples her cheeks. "I don't know what to make of it either. But if someone's pulling the strings with Abby, and told her to keep quiet about it? I'll bet you it was that guy."

Despite having asked, Francois is distracted, trying to work out exactly how many temporal manipulators they know and trying not to let a flood of heat and a strange kind of indignance flood up his face. Lifts a paw up to rub at an unshaven cheek, smoothing his off-angled fingers over his mouth as they meander down the stranger angles of these streets. "Merci," he thanks her. "I knew someone who could do as you do. With time. He saved me once, fifty years ago, by making all go frozen while we spoke. More years than that, in actuality. He is the one that saved me a second time, and it is how I'm here at all.

"Hiro Nakamura. I don't know if it is a name I could forget, even if he hadn't done such things for me."

Odessa nods her confirmation to Francois when he speaks the name. "I don't know what else I could tell you about that. I perhaps need to talk to Abby." The smile that touches her lips isn't directed at anyone, and it's sad. "I should have known that Abby wouldn't have actually befriended me because I'm someone she wants to like." She flashes that same sad smile to Francois now with a minute turn of her head, a momentary lapse in watching her route. "After I have helped to rid you of your Vanguard problem, I won't darken your doorsteps any longer."

"Ah, Joie," Francois says, with a rueful kind of grin cast her way. "Do not think she is capable of pretending a friendship for the sake of a secret. It is not in Abigail's nature — and after all, it was you who pretended first, oui? The French speaking was a little piece of brilliance on your end, by the way, I never did get to tell you so. It is the simple things that can hook someone in.

"Look— "

His hand goes out, touching her elbow. Francois has stopped walking, perhaps with the promise not to follow anymore. "I cannot sympathise with wanting to kill out of vengeance. That you can, makes us different people. My forgiveness might not be worth much to you and your apology is only so-so for me. But risking yourself to help us… it is good of you. We only want them to stop hurting people, that is all."

Odessa's lips twitch within that smile faintly at the compliment. A stroke of brilliance. The strong desire to cry is still evident in the woman's eyes. "It is different," she feels the need to explain, if just to hear herself say it. "When I pretend to offer friendship, you all still have each other when the ruse has ended. And I still have no one. It is unfair, what she's done. She doesn't care about me because of me. She cares about me for the sake of someone else telling her she should." She shrugs her shoulders, pretending she doesn't care in her gesture and in her tone, even if her eyes do still give her away. "It is no less than I deserve, I suppose."

Odessa breathes out a sigh visible in the air. She stares at her own breath and the way it disappears on the wind, carried off with blowing flecks of snow. "I will stop them," she affirms. "«Or I will die trying.»" Implying that, perhaps, that is something she deserves as well.

"If it was Hiro, I do not think he instructed her to be friends with you," Francois says, after a moment of blankness in sea-green eyes and thought making his brow crinkle. "But she is protecting you more fervently than she would try to protect myself, or Teo. You must see that this is outside of mere like and love, Joie — it is some higher purpose that she had to lie about. Only dismiss her motives if you do desire to have no one, when the ruse has ended. Like I said— we shall discuss forgiveness when the dust has settled."

He drops his hand from her arm, backing up a step, and tries not to imagine Abby's disapproval at the time manipulator's fate-words. He thinks about saying something like: there's been enough death this winter. Instead, he says: "Tell them you lost me in the crowd. Dreyfus would be able to sympathise."

With a crunch of boot against slick pavement, Francois moves to head homewards with a last, fleeting smile.

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