Nines, Zeroes, and Newspapers


mohinder_icon.gif tamara_icon.gif teo_icon.gif

Scene Title Nines, Zeroes, and Newspapers
Synopsis Tamara walks and talks with Teo, then snares Mohinder into the tail end of the conversation.
Date November 21, 2008

Little Italy

Late morning in Little Italy finds a relative crowd meandering down the sidewalks, peering in the windows, pausing to survey posted menus. Kids on skates and skateboards weave their way through the empty spaces, as do the occasional joggers and dogwalkers. Not to mention a few bike messengers who blaze through around gridlocked traffic, to round out the hazards of life as a pedestrian.

For the moment, Tamara isn't one of the moving crowd; the older teen stands against a streetlamp, her back to it and the sole of one shoe set against the base of the metal post in a comfortable, casual pose. She wears a plum-colored knit sweater with matching matte-purple buttons, blue jeans starting to fray at their bottom hems, and a pair of well-broken-in street shoes. Long, loose, and just a touch unkempt blonde hair has fallen forward to frame the girl's face, blue eyes studying the newspaper in her hands with a peculiar lack of interest. As if the paper itself were some mildly interesting but meaningless curiosity, and never mind the words printed on it. It does a poor job of holding her attention, Tamara's gaze occasionally flicking up to consider a passerby instead.

Sleeping at the library had been a good decision, economic with time and effort. Geography works that way, when you've been forcibly deprived of your personal transport; traveling half the vertical length of Manhattan Island to work takes less than traveling the whole thing.

Hilariously, however, Teo managed to fail to account for the unexpected luxury of not having to worry about getting accosted by his lonely, pathologically nostalgic, and loquacious landlord, traffic sabotage in Harlem, and the requisite amount of time after awakening that it normally takes him to walk off the cold and fungal feeling he'd just extricated himself from the grip of death. He'd sprung off his pallet like a daisy.

There's an extra hour before he has to go to work. He doesn't know what to do with it. Winds up in Little Italy, skulking past the Delicatessen to see if Romero's on-shift (he isn't) and checking if there's a cafe around here offering Espresso in his budget (just one) and perambulating the sidewalks under the obnoxious sunshine, hands in his hoodie pockets, a tiny gold crucifix going tinny-tasting in his teeth, pedestrians giving him a little bit of a berth if they've noticed him, tacitly ignoring him if they haven't.

There is a peeled scab reforming on his chin and the green-hemmed purple translucency of a bruise around his jaw in place of stubble. He isn't sure why he bothered shaving. He's crossing the street, ignoring a small rock in his shoe sort of by accident, having subconsciously, indiscriminately lumped it in with the rest of the physical discomfort that's of no consequence.

The top of the newspaper held just below the level of her eyes, Tamara looks over it at the people on the street, somewhat reminiscent of a child playing peek-a-boo. Except without the 'boo'. Cars drift past in molasses-slow hurry; after a moment, the girl disregards them, face turning a hair towards the buildings on her own side of the street. …Nope. Nothing really interesting there, either.

Staccato movements that border on the overly dramatic return the paper to its folded state, the befuddled looks of those few passers-by who notice met with a brilliantly cheerful smile. Tamara tucks the wad of newsprint under one arm and steps away from the streetlight — falling into step beside Teo as if the move had been choreographed and practiced. So much for the isolation of common, unspoken consent.

Mostly, Teo is keeping his mind turned outward. It's a good day for that. That dude over there has a baguette sandwich. A whole baguette. The sunlight picks out stuff: pigeon shit on windshields, sugar cookies behind plateglass, a street musician coloring up the air with the dieselly register of his voice and the moister stuff of his breath. He fails to make the distinctions that Tamara does, between interesting and not. Either because his interest is pretentious and insincere or because he's simple. Both, maybe.

He's surprised to see her. Well, he's surprised to see her again; hadn't given her much more thought after he shifted his eye away from the curve of her hip and convex of her waist breaking the rigid shape of the lamp post. Remembered that quote… how did it go? There are no straight lines in nature, and then he forgot. She warrants an articulate eye-blink and a sidelong glance. He avoids trampling a rotund Scotswoman.

Then, "I'll want to see their section 501 first." The IRS gives tax breaks to recognized charities. He trusts the government to do one thing right: be stingy as fuck.

Straight lines are not usually ascribed to Tamara either, though she does a good job of drawing one with her footsteps now, allowing for the deviations necessary to avoid undesirable collisions with other people. Or inanimate objects, the precog having decided that just walking over the bench is probably not the best idea at the moment. Some people's attention is not so much desired.

Teo's sidelong glance is somehow returned in kind without impairing the teenager's ability to dodge sidewalk hazards. Maybe she just got lucky. "You can do that," Tamara agrees, bobbing her head in an amiable nod. "It's a pointy number, though. Sharp edges and spikes. Your feet don't like those. I like nines. They're much more round." Earnest sincerity jarringly juxtaposed with the inanity of her statements. The girl's free hand brushes the long hair back away from her face, hooking blond strands behind each ear in turn. "You're right, though. Rocks don't bleed. No matter what you use on them."

She has his attention, at any rate. Had circumstances been different, he might have been as furtive and amiably avoidant as the next carefully self-involved New Yorker, but said circumstances chose instead to arrange themselves like cipher that doesn't happen to be available in any translation Teo knows how to read. By about the point she gets to liking nines, he's smiling, unsure what he's doing not running away from the madwoman or prankster.

He ought to start evading her gaze, murmuring genial, apologetic excuses, warily turning his collar up around his face and moving away from humiliation or danger, but now as ever, he ever overlooks either of those two injuries. He overloo— "Aw, fuck." Fluid association brings the realization to him on an errant eddy, stops him short with a scowl, momentarily forgetting the other thing as he leans an elbow on the bricking between a trinket store and a photomat, starts working his shoe off with a crooked finger.

A moment, and he's holding his shoe in one hand, beating it on the wall, annoyed. "I didn't say that," he points out. For no reason other than the fact that he hadn't. "I mean, they can't, but… that's better," he finishes, lamely. The rock, about the mass of a half-peanut, topples out and clatters to the sidewalk. It is matte black, a blue vein around the sharp end. He stares at it before her.

Teo's uncertain confusion earns him another sidelong glance from the girl, along with a bit of a smile that's both knowing and apologetic. It doesn't, however, do much to dampen her generally good cheer — because he isn't going to make those excuses and slide away. Not at this moment in time. Later? That's later's problem.

Tamara stops as her companion does, pivoting around on one foot to face him and planting the other down audibly on the concrete beside it. The newspaper crinkles beneath her arm as she swivels. Head tilted to one side, she watches the rock go tumbling out of the upheld shoe, blue eyes tracing its brief, clattering roll. "That's better," she states, the words emphasized by a single sharp nod — and followed by a thoughtful look. Hmm.

Leaning down, the girl scoops up the previously-offending pebble. Rolling it idly between her fingers, she wanders a little ways down the street, until she reaches one of the skinny deciduous trees planted to beautify the street. The stone is dropped on the dirt around its base, and Tamara seems more content with that. Teo's staring appears to have been completely disregarded; maybe she's used to it.

Fighting back the urge to announce to her and the world at large that she's got no way of knowing where his foot has been, Teo closes his trap and stuffs the appendage in question back into his shoe with a stumbling bump of his butt into the brick wall. The trinket shop clerk is giving him A Look at the back of his head, but he doesn't have eyes there, and the ones on the front are peering at Tamara.

Who's failed entirely to rip his face off with her teeth. The use of newspaper as a prop reminds him, somehow, of exactly that. A prop, costume piece.

"Hang on, signorina," he says, after a moment. Because he's across and down the sidewalk, his query momentarily confuses a pair of men passing between them, but they do the predictable thing and mind their own business. He approaches the tree; glances up at its boughs stricken by winter's approach. Jams his foot deeper into his shoe.

"Are you lost? Is there somewhere you have to be?" A hand on the bark. He scratches his chest with the other, only to remind himself it's been skinned raw; jolts the next remark out with a good-natured grimace. "Zeroes are rounder."

Addressed, Tamara looks back to Teo, an inquisitive tilt to her head as she regards the Sicilian. "Me?" She ducks around the other side of the tree and stuffs her hands into the pockets of her jeans. Momentarily distracted by the passing pair, the girl turns to watch them walk away.

"Too round. All slippery and slidey," she declares a few moments later, skipping around to Teo's side with a rustle of newspaper, then planting her feet and looking up at him. Quite a ways up. "There's no sides. Can't tell where it's been without sides." Tamara shakes her head, completely negating her previous efforts at containing that tangled hair. "You can see through them, but that doesn't do any good."

Teo's pale eyes click toward the two when the little girl talks to them, before clicking back underneath a brow furrowed, missing her four-step bob and weave by inches. Unsurprisingly, squinting does nothing to clarify matters or perspective, but his birthday was quite recent; confusion isn't especially strange to him. Having time to spend is. "You sound like my brother," he informs her, after a moment. "Or maybe if he went at numbers from a typographic aesthetic instead of functions and shit. Listening to either of you is like walking through an MC Escher drawing."

She sprouts from the pavement and rock-soil beside him and he tilts sideways an inch, never quite falls into a step away despite that her strandy halo oscillates startling close.

"I don't see how sides help," he admits, after a moment. "A zero's got a side. Just one, but there's one: that should count, geometrically. I think nines and zeroes would get equally lost. I think you might be lost," he adds, reinserting his hands into his pockets. From the oddly avian flit and swerve of her attention, he can't tell if she'd detected the rock in his shoe or if that had been— random, and if it hadn't, what… what that means. What?

Perhaps not surprisingly, Tamara looks about as confused by Teo's words as he by hers. Her brows draw together a bit, regarding him with a puzzled-but-game expression, and ultimately, it's the girl who takes the first step. If nothing else, he has somewhere to be. Eventually.

"The mirror thinks." It's a little unclear whether that's an actual statement, or the first half of an unfinished sentence. Tamara takes another step, continues walking, talking over her shoulder at Teo in a clear invitation for him to tag along. Or just an expectation that he will. "Am I?" She tips her head, considering the seemingly novel idea. "I'm not a zero," the teen decides. "So I can't be lost."

Romero was obsessed with zeroes. Or got to be. There was this proof he liked to cite— Teo's having a hard time remembering. He would think that her sudden departure along the sidewalk was an answer to his question, but that sounds unrealistically straightforward. He flattens his mouth, bemused at himself. Pulls his cellphone out of his pocket and glances downward, quick into the digital clock, to see that he has time before class. Teaching Latin, today. Unfortunate, because his grasp on simple English feels shakey today.

The phone doesn't go back into his pocket, yet. Flips upward, held out, even as he bobs along in her wake, hapless, blinking away the sunspots that lance his vision as soon as he's out from under the little tree's scraggly shelter. "I…" The cell's stubby antennae flips to and fro quizzically as he considers how to end that sentence, the other end between forefinger and thumb. "…could call someone. If you want. If you have someone to call and come get you, signorina. Nines can get lost.

"Or we could walk," he notes, because they appear to be doing exactly that, thus precluding the impossibility of that option. "Walking— to?" He looks ahead for a split-second before thinking better of it: wiser to keep an eye on her.

Tamara giggles at Teo's halting alternation between quizzical questions and baffled thoughts. A glance over one shoulder soon turns into a complete about-face, without so much as a hesitation in her steps. She's just walking backwards now — a nominally difficult endeavor that doesn't seem to faze the girl in the slightest. Even though she doesn't look backwards so much as once, she still manages to weave her way around a misplaced garbage can and two separate pedestrians walking in the opposite direction without incident.

"You could." It's an echo of the possibility, not a request that he do so. "So could I." Calling people isn't hard. The blonde teen smiles brightly as they walk down the Little Italy street, late-morning sunlight painting her hair quite yellow against a plum sweater.

Then those blue eyes narrow, and she glances down the street, expression thoughtful. "That's enough of that," Tamara muses aloud, the words directed to herself rather than to the Sicilian. She swivels back around to face forward, fingers flattening down that tangled blonde hair and shoving it back behind her ears into a relative containment that does nothing to make it more orderly. "Where were you going?" she asks conversationally of Teo.

"Bravissimo," Teo says, with a frown that fails entirely to be sincere. The same solar light that renders Tamara's hair in brilliant effervescence flashes off the screen of his cell even as he sticks it back in his pocket. "I see it's your prerogative to make fun. So, you're an ordinary girl after all." It's only as sexist as it isn't. He'd talked to Al about this the other way, disempowering the heteronormative dichotomies by bullshitting around them out loud. It's important, taking the power out of things that do not deserve it.

He follows. Not too close; there are plenty of those whose attention he would rather avoid, too, and even in a time when NYPD's departments are busy with political violence and the SCOUT program, there's always a reasonable chance an officer might take exception to a young man with a battered jaw, backpack, and too many layers of dishevelled clothes loitering in the wake of a golden lamb as such. They would make unlikely friends. "I was going to work. I teach at a high school.

"Though I'm not a real teacher yet," he notes, oddly self-conscious about the assertion where he's rarely self-conscious at all. "It's part of my training. I slept at a friend's place last night, so I miscalculated the travel time. It kind of threw off my whole fucking morning. What about you?" A cerulean eye shades down at the newspaper under her arm.

Mohinder is standing at an upcoming newsstand. He looks tired, like he hasn't been sleeping well. He's carefully perusing the different newspapers and periodicals. He glances around at people as they pass, content to take his time. He's currently selected several newspapers from around the world as well as several scientific and medical journals.

The teen's steps slow, and her demeanor shifts in a manner only Teo's been paying enough attention to notice — no one else on the street, after all, cares for much beyond not colliding with anyone else and getting where they're going. Unless they're window-shopping, in which case it's a simple enough matter to avoid the distracted consumers.

Her mannerisms become a little more muted, reserved. Blue eyes flick to the street ahead of them, watching, assessing. The change is slight, subtle, but she's become guarded in a way the Sicilian failed to trigger. Yet despite this distraction, attention directed elsewhere, Tamara still responds to his remarks. "That's okay. A little walking and you still get there. The morning eventually catches up. Time does that." She doesn't comment on where she's going — never mind that she herself is of an age to be among those students receiving their education this very moment.

The newsstand gets a thoughtful scrutiny, the girl's lips pressing together. Then she takes a step off her line of travel, followed by another, the newspaper that was previously a prop now deftly plucked from under her arm and offered to the browsing scientist. "D'you want this one too?" Tamara asks ingenuously.

She is of that demographic, it's true. Regrettably, Teo knows too many blonde young women her age who've foregone education in favor of… well, approaching strangers on the street about current events. Helena Dean comes most readily to mind. Abigail, in her time. They seem to approach their quarry with a little more furtive, steel, and purpose when they're doing their thing, though. Teo hears her answer without listening to it, trying to determine where her attention had strayed off to.

Quirks a smile for the comfort she offers, and stops on the other corner of the newsstand. His eyes shift casually across the magazine covers— Hey, look: Megan Fox — before swivelling back to the girl and the gentleman who has her interest and, unmistakably, her concern. He isn't following any specific progression of logic; you shouldn't trouble yourself asking.

Mohinder glances over at the teen, and regards the paper. He smiles and glances up at the teen, "I haven't gotten that one yet, even if it looks like I'm trying to collect the whole set." his accent is middle eastern and rich and velvety as dark chocolate. He takes out his billfold, "What would I owe you for your paper, Miss?" he asks.

"You wouldn't!" Tamara declares with a cheery smile. She steps around to the other side of Mohinder, still holding out the paper for him to take. "It did yours more good than mine." The teen looks past Mohinder at Teo, that guileless smile continuing to tug at her lips. "And it liked the company." Meaning all of Mohinder's other to-be-purchased documents, of course. Presumably.

Mohinder blinks, surprised. A random act of kindness in this day and time? Maybe things /are/ getting better after all. He accepts the paper, gratefully. "Well thank you very very much. Is there anything I can do to repay this act of kindness?" he asks, allowing himself a brief respite into his former, more naive and optimistic life.

Now, Teo is scratching his face under his eye with his pinkie and peering about discreetly. Yep. Megan Fox. He suppresses the urge to explain she's been like that for as long as he's known her because, you know, he's known her for less than… fifteen minutes, he's fairly certain. "I hope it bears good news," he offers, finally. Cranes his head to the left a few inches, glancing at the newsprint protruding from Mohinder's side with the curiosity of one who can't think of where else to point his eyes. He's a completely talentless terrorist, honestly. A belated half-beat later, he jerks his head upright; peers at Tamara with a playful touch of consternation on his face. He hopes he's not the 'it.'

Tamara shrugs easily at Teo's words. "Good, bad. It was all news." Mohinder, on the other hand, receives a look that slowly transforms from baffled to thoughtful — and in the end goes back again. "Mm." A beat. "Is it kind?" …Probably not the response Mohinder expected to get. Blue eyes flick past him again, and at the expression on Teo's face, the girl giggles, both hands coming up to cover her mouth. She shakes stray lengths of hair back away from her face, but it does absolutely no good at all.

Mohinder shrugs, thinking of the question. "Well, it could be construed as kind. One person's kindness is another's insult, I imagine. That said, even with the multitude of ways the gesture could be taken - I choose to see it as kind, and would like the opportunity to repay the act." he says simply. Apparently, the news stand guy is obviously used to Mohinder being around and speaking in a philosophical manner.

Perfectly ordinary girl. Yep. Oh, she laughs. Teo's indignation gutters like a candle, flares into a grin accompanied by a slight shake of his head. "Ragazza fantastica," he remarks. Fades to a momentary silence as the Indian man begins to speak instead and that, too, raises two eyebrows, a quizzical expression gradiating from the top of the Sicilian's face and downward. This would be what happens when you have time for it. "Buongiorno," he adds, after a moment, turning toward Mohinder in a fashion abrupt with the audacity of youth. He extends his right hand into the other man's space, offering a handshake. "This way, I'll be more polite than eavesdropping," he explains, blankly.

Tamara watches as Teo takes the step of saying hello to Mohinder, her giggles having trailed off into silence. Blue eyes flick to the scientist, and for just a moment, they might seem to darken — literally, the pupils dilating. But just as quickly, they return to normal. "If you want it, the opportunity may well find you." Then she smiles again, stepping around the Indian man to join Teo on the other side.

Tamara stands about a half-step away from the Sicilian, hands and elbows tucked in against her sides. She studies their hands, Mohinder's stack of papers, curiously. But then her scrutiny breaks off, and it's the street Tamara looks to.

Mohinder smiles and reaches out to take Teo's hand in greeting and introduction. "A pleasure to meet you, Siginor. Mohinder Suresh at your service." he smiles to Teo, then to Tamara, "Perhaps I could treat the two of you to lunch as a way of continuing the cycle of kindness." he then pauses and regards Tamara, "And you would be Miss…?"

Though Teo is normally not one to pass up free food, extenuating circumstances have it that he tragically must. He's about to elucidate on that when the little silver bells of recollection tinkle in his head: no alarm, nothing loud or bright, merely a knot in his brow and an 'o' for his mouth. Wait.

"'Suresh?' That name sounds familiar," he says, after a protracted moment. "A pleasure." His handclasp is cold: he doesn't take to this weather well, not after eight years, but firm as a football hooligan is wont to. He claps Mohinder on the elbow with his other hand and releases, jamming his hands back into the relative shelter of hoodie pockets. He torques his bruised and scabbed face around a grin, glances down his shoulder at Tamara in a silent seconding of the query.

Though there's more than one question there, lingering behind the Mediterranean blue of his regard.

Tamara gives Mohinder a long, pensive look. "I think it's not today." A frown begins to gather as he continues, its quality not disapproving but an expression of concentration. She takes a half-step back — then her gaze abruptly swivels to Teo, as if reminded of something. "Don't forget to go to work. Wouldn't do to be late." Another half-step back, the words and movement tacit answer to only one of those unspoken questions. Distanced from the men, Tamara scrubs at her face, the frown reappearing. Deepening. "T.." She has to fish for it — but she does find it. "Tamara."

Mohinder hmms, "I'm not sure where it would be from." he says a little bashfully. Of course he knows where it'd be from, but it's not like he's out actively seeking praise..or it's opposite. "I have given seminars from time to time at NYU, but that's the closest that I could imagine." he explains to Teo. He smiles to Tamara, "Pleasure to make your acquaintance, Tamara. If it is not today, then perhaps another day?"

The vortex of intellectual, practical, political, and Samaritan's curiosity in Teo's head is truncated with her reminder. Work. He had a place to be, and— she's all right, then. He'll take it as such, albeit hesitantly.

For the first time in some minutes, she looks like she actually has somewhere to be. "Lunch would've been great," he admits with a lugubrious sigh, though he hooks his mouth onto a grin the next moment. "I used to attend NYU. Maybe I heard of you there. I'm Teodoro Laudani, transferred to Columbia a little while ago." Years. Late bloomer, he knows.

"And I have a class to teach, myself. Enjoy your reading, signor Suresh.

"Tamara—" he usually has something to say. Some lightly tailored salutation or harmless flirt to offer in parting, but as he looks at the young woman standing thin, bird-eyed and sylph-like between the grain of the winter wind, he's deserted by ideas. Puffs his cheeks out: good-natured, comedic resignation. He swivels on a foot and starts away with a lifted hand of farewell. There's a shallow scrape darkening on the back of his wrist.

Pale blue eyes meet darker, and Teo's lack of parting remark is met with a slow, rueful smile. She waves at the departing Sicilian, then looks over to the scientist. "Maybe," Tamara agrees. "There's lots of days waiting." The girl turns on her heel, glances back over a shoulder at Suresh. "I hope you enjoy your reading," she says, the amazingly (to those who know Tam, none of whom are here) normal farewell voiced with only slight difficulty. And then she continues on, soon blending into the crowd.

It's fair to say a lot of the reading won't be enjoyable, well-wishing or no. Not with the way the city's been lately.

Mohinder smiles to Teo, "I will do so, and perhaps we can meet again to discuss days at NYU." he says, turning to Tamara "Thank you again, and yes - days will continue to fall like leaves from an autumn tree. I'm not sure if I'll actually like the news I hope I can take some solace from the scientific journals."

November 21st: Ignition
November 21st: Hunches and Speculations
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