My Brother


ghost2_icon.gif libby_icon.gif

Scene Title My Brother
Synopsis It is time for Tyler Case's sister to come out of hiding.
Date July 13, 2009

Upper East Side — Apartment Complex

Not too fancy.

There's something about stalking the dead that seems like second nature to Teodoro Laudani.

There's something about pretending to be dead that seems like second nature to Elisabeth Case.

They are not mutually exclusive ideals.

Three stories above the streets of New York's upper ease side, blinds are drawn and lights turned off, save for a few dusty old desk lamps that shed yellowed illumination across a cluttered apartment. Littered with newspapers, magazines and take-out menus, the residence of Detective Ezra Grimes is something that hardly ever sees use by the owner himself, but rather by the ward he has taken in, one that — to the rest of the world — is a dead woman.

It it not be said that Ezra Grimes was unfriendly to the recently deceased.

Being dead, in legal terms, has its advantages to Elisabeth Case. Now knowing she is irrecoverably separated from her brother, she has done her best to try and take up an angle of the Detective's life who houses her, one of platonic companionship and reluctant friendship. While he works double-time on NYPD's homicide detail, she sits at home, watching the world go by on the plasma screen television flanked by a stack of old pizza boxes.

Neither she, nor Ezra, are particularly good at housekeeping. It's a life more ordinary than she ever thought she'd have, but when her alternative was poverty on the streets, these last few months have been like heaven to her, a heaven without her only flesh and blood relative who was whisked away by faceless authority figures.

Clicking the channel from music videos to global news, Libby's sigh is one that crosses a wide berth of emotional boundaries and winds right back up on the cusp of clinical depression.

Believe it or not, the cusp of clinical depression is a better alternative than a lot of places. In clinical depression, for example. Outside of this apartment— out on the street, in a Homeland Security operated cell. Ghost has expended a great deal of thought toward the worse alternatives, which is something that he does when he's told he has to get somebody to cooperate; he's a nice guy like that.

A few hours of alternating psychic debates and introspection later, he decided, maybe, it would be better to take a different tact.

There's a rap on the door, knuckles against the marred brushpaint of old wood, largely unprecedented for the Sicilian's housecalls of the past few weeks. Through the peephole, his face shows in a thumb-smudged, distorted convex, a ragged rule of dark hair, washed out eyes, the posture of lean shoulders showing some figment of uncertainty through the translucency of fatigued self-discipline. He isn't holding a gun.

The volume of the television turns down to a murmured din, followed by the creak of old wood floors as Libby approaches from the other side of the door. Rising up onto her toes, she peers out through the peephole, fingertips splayed out on the door's surface, causing it to gently protest from the subtle addition of weight. "What?" It's not the most friendly of muffled greetings from the other side of the door, but at least she didn't say hello with a bullet.

The front of Ghost's shirt states that he doesn't know how to speak Chinese. The swivel of his eye indicates that he knows he's being looked at, he knows, and through where, but there's no preternatural perspicacity implied by the size of his pupil when he looks into the tiny glass portal.

Belies the glimpse he gets of her small hand on the wood grain, the strain of her balance distributed tenuously across her toes and the smell of air-conditioning and take-out oils seeping quietly through the walls. Despite having glanced over her dossier, she's shorter than he thought she would be.

"Buona sera," he says, unthinkingly, before he volunteers what he has, after a great deal of thought, personally identified as the least convincing pitch in the history of unappealing enticements. Tentatively, then. "Your brother needs your help."

"Listen, I don't give a damn about you, but I've going to solve this case, one way or another, and the fewer bodies there are at the end the better. I need your help. So does he."

Words spoken to Libby at her own grave by Detective Grimes ring in her ears, resonating with the tone the ghost on the other side of the door uses. She backpedals, awkwardly, away from the thin apartment door marked with 309 and covers her mouth with one hand. She's quiet, the apartment is quiet, safe for the distant voices on the television. No one was supposed to know about her, about her brother, about anything.

"Who— who the hell are you?" She should be running, Libby should be in full sprint for the fire escape, but fear and uncertainty have her anchored in place like a deer in the headlights of an oncoming car. Her right hand over her mouth trembles, dark eyes darting around the shadowed corners of a too-dim apartment, only to focus back on the pair of low shadows trailing across the floor that represent feet on the other side of a closed door.

Still no bullets. Good sign, by the measure of most; as is the absence of pattering retreat in the stagnant air of the hallway. "Enemy of his enemy," Ghost answers, easily. "That's kind of like a friend. Look—" the words hyphenate themselves with self-incredulity, but he forges on ahead after a moment, a frown flattening his mouth, grim the way he always used to get when he was being terribly serious about something.

This is terribly serious. Edward had thrown the word 'genocide' around, and the last time he did that, it almost happened. "Someone's manipulating him into doing this terrible shit. Someone who's got to know you're alive, but is keeping it from him. If blood means anything to you, lady, in any sense of the word— you've got to help." There's a quaver-beat's silence, awkward size and fit, clumsy fingers bumbling the proper thing to fill it.


There's a long, heavy period of silence from the other side of the door, save for that too-quiet murmur of a television in the background. When the chain on the door rattles and the deadbolt clicks, it's an awkward way of saying you have my attention, but a forward one. The door slides ajar, brown eyes reflecting the fluorescent light of the hallway, framed by dark auburn ringlets of hair and a distrustingly lowered brow. Behind her, it's dark, except for the glow of the television.

"Who?" Her voice is tight, strained, "Who's— why?" She looks up and down either end of the hall, not quite welcoming the stranger in to Ezra's apartmentr. "What the fuck are you talking about?"

Baby-steps. Small bites. Or Ghost could peer through the slot shown of her face illuminated by the bar of light stained out of the hallway, "A man named Doctor Edward Ray exploited an Evolved who can manipulate time in order to come back from the future to change the present. With genocide, using your brother. I'm from the future too.

"If you don't believe me, I can help you invest your money in European sports gambling— I've made a killing so far, let me tell you." He isn't joking. Except, you know, he must be joking; even he seems to know he must be joking, from the uncomfortable squint of his left eye, squeezing it smaller than the right. Dimly, he remembers being good at this.

"What did Grimes tell you?"

"You— have a horrible sense of humor." True, but he's not joking about half of the things Libby thinks he is. "What the fuck do you mwan what did Grimes tell me?" She presses the door partly closed, only one eye now staring cyclopean out through the narrow opening of the door, watching Teo's motions, watching the way his diffuse shadow is cast irregularly against the floor. Her fingers on one hand curl around the edge of the door, bone-white against the darkly stained door's scuffed surface.

"He— my brother was abducted by the government." True, in part at least. "He's— how do you know my— how do you know who I am?" Paranoia is something Ghost is intimately familiar with, and that quaver-beat of silence between her change of tones indicates a gradual switch to it from radional thought. "Who the fuck— my brother's //gone!"

History, how you repeat yourself.

Yes. No. Sort of. More true later. Ghost's fingers wrap around a fist and chug restlessly at his side, either for wont of a weapon or merely for something to do, fidgeting with invisible excesses of nervous energy. No one's coming; he keeps having to remind himself of that. Still, he's visiting the abode of a cop, a woman— legally dead— who doesn't trust him, and—

This conversation doesn't seem to be going particularly well.

The cusp of genocide is worse than the cusp of depression, also. "He's out," Ghost grates through his teeth. "He's— Doctor Ray got him out. Out of the holding facility. I know who you are because there are people trying to stop the man manipulating your brother, and we've put a lot of work and talent into this. The details don't really matter, I guess.

"I know this is really fucked up and confusing, but think of it this way. The police are looking for him again. They know he's loose, there's an arrest warrant I have a copy of." He reaches for the lapel of his jacket now, slow as you'd move around a skittish horse, fingers marching the zipper-toothed hem. "And the shit he's wanted for, you… you have to know he wouldn't do this because he thought it was a good idea.

"You know him better than anyone else." There isn't exactly manifest conviction behind these next words. It's almost a question, the unspoken 'because' tucked in here, "He's your brother."

Libby's coal-black eyes flick back into the apartment, considering the phone out of sight from the door, then dart back to Ghost. Swallowing dryly, she lets the door open enough for both of her eyes to be seen again, shoulders rigid, back tensed, fingers practically clawing at the wood frame of the door like a cat that does not want to go to the vet. "You… want to help him?" She doesn't buy it, doesn't believe much of anythying, but he hasn't kicked down the door yet, he could, and he hasn't. Why not?

"Does— what do you want— " her to do? The question is ridiculous, and she cuts herself off in realizing it. Backing away from the door, she jerks her head in a quick nod after checking the hall one more time. "Just— just come inside."

She backpedals, moving to a crouch by the door to pick up shoes, then back up a bit further with them hooked in the fingers of one hand. "Tell me what the fuck is going on, where— where's my brother? Why hasn't— what's he gotten himself into?"

Tadaa. Arrest warrant, no gun, snagged out of Ghost's jacket between fingers and thumb, dense layers of paper dented by the impression of paper and the edges of the pocket that he'd jammed it into. Not that she's asking for proof, exactly. She's asking for an explanation. Automatically, he glances up above the frame of the door in search of shotgun traps that inevitably don't exist.

Stepping through, his eyes rove the assembly of discarded cartons, chopsticks here, the simple furniture of a bachelor pad, plain walls, the television still warm at the other wall of the living room. "Your brother's hiding out somewhere with Doctor Ray and a slew of the latest Evolved criminals that hit the news. Niles Wight, 'Robin Hood.' Probably stuck somewhere in the spiderthread plan to destroy a biochem corporation and existing government powers— I'm not really sure what the whole picture is."

It's an admission of weakness passed off as disdain. Possibly not the most prudent attitude to take toward it, but one that the ghost has become increasingly susceptible to, over the intervening decade. "But I think he's going to get himself fucking killed. Or more other people fucking killed.

"Do you want to see him?" Pale eyes snap back toward the girl's face. His own changes when he sees hers; goes strangely guarded at what's there, bastion of concern and familial affection on her face.

"Yes." She answers without really thinking. That comes next, followed by a quick wave of her hands as she backpedals away from Ghost. "No— " it's a conflicted retraction, "I— I don't know. He— what am I— " her words keep jumbling, because this situation is like sitting inside a barrel rolling down a hill. Knowing which way is up is very hard.

Staring at Ghost as if he were his literal namesake, Libby's dark eyes seem to cloud in their focus, growing distant. She tenses up, arms wrapping around herself, fingers coiling in the thin fabric of her shirt. "If he's… If Ty's with— with criminals and— the news said that Niles guy's a— he— " she looks away, towards the quiet television, then stumbles further in to the apartment, one foot awkwardly kicking over a man's boot that flops to one side lifelessly.

"What the fuck am I supposed to do? Who— who the fuck are you and why do you give two shits about my brother? How the hell do I know— I— how the hell am I supposed to trust you? Just— just go on your goddamned words?" She wants to, desperately, but common sense is a bitch.

By the measure of a paranoid asshole who trusts no one, and would much sooner run off and do shit first, get yelled at later, Ghost thinks that is a pretty good question. Good enough to give him pause, his brows finding an uncomfortable knit on the top center of his face. That, in and of itself, might lend his proposal somewhat greater credibility— there's no smooth line, hook, sinker.

Eeeeithhherrrr that, or he's just— you know. Failing extravagantly. "They're lying to him," he answers, finally, with the sort of difficulty that catches on the inside of one's voicebox with tiny barbed hooks and drags lines of raw in over the surface of what should have been an otherwise simple progression of verb, noun. "They — the people who're causing all that crazy fucking bullshit are lying to him. He's being led to believe he can change the shape of things to come by doing what Doctor Edward Ray asks of him. I think— that's all he really has. He can't remember who he's supposed to be— all he can focus on is what he doesn't want to become anymore."

Inwardly, he's hackling at his own choice of words. Reminds him a little of somebody he knows, and he suspects that, for once, the association can not be so easily dismissed as a projection habit of feckless vanity.

"If you want to know the truth," Ghost admits, finally, "I don't. I give a fuck about a few of the people he's on the verge of getting killed. You don't have to trust me. You just have to trust him."

She's silent for too long, stare distant, posture stiff and body still. Were it not for the television continuing to play in the background, it would seem as though Hiro Nakamura had decided to press pause on the conversation. Jerking her shoulder up into a half shrug, Libby exhales a growling sigh and hangs her head. Her teeth bite into her lower lip, draw it between them until it finally pops free. When her brows lower, eyes flick back towards Ghost and her voice rises again, it's with both determination and frustration.

"Take me to my brother." Fright and uncertainty is replaced by steely resolution, and as Libby makes her way towards the small closet by the apartment door, her dark eyes settle directly on Ghost again. This time, however, they aren't brown or any shade of black. Her irises are orange, a hot and scintilating shade that wavers between different shades of fiery coloration. "If you're trying to fuck with me," Ghost can see the wallpaper behind her distorted by a heat mirage, "I'm at my wit's end." Her eyes cool, the distortion fades, "So don't."

Okay. Edward hadn't given the ghost the heads-up on that little trinket fact— it would have been no consequence she was merely Evolved, but the ghost has dealt with enough women and mutant women to tell the signs of a sympathetic nervous response, of defensive instinct, survival mechanisms touch-triggered. The thing that lights her eyes isn't it. Not exactly.

Here, what we have is a threat. Of attack, a wickedly effective defense.

Thanks bunches, Edward! You're the worst best friend ever. "Little problem with that," he says, measuring a fraction of an inch between one gloved forefinger and thumb. He sets them together, scissors them apart, a quick gesture, as if he's flicking stray lint away. "I don't know where he is right now— but I do know who can find out." He puts his hands down. They're still empty. Of knives, guns, gifts.

Warily, he studies her eyes; not their color. His shoulders are up, locked in the oblique turn of his torso. There are probably junkyard dogs that are friendlier than this, when they circle, smell air, hold themselves on the narrow line between posturing and merely moving.

"What do you know about Phoenix?"

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