hana_icon.gif teo_icon.gif

Scene Title Non-Believers
Synopsis All angels have metal wings. Belief, too, but not always ones you can assign to prayer or words at all.
Date March 29, 2009

Primatech Paper Facility — Gymnasium

Same Bat Cave, at the same Bat-time.

There's a bruise forming on Teo's shoulder where he landed wrong, but courtesy of Hana's style and logic of teaching, he's no worse off than that, and lung-burning fatigue, muscle-strain, and a drop or two of pus-diluted blood out of the one callus that had come off of the knuckle on his left forefinger. Krav is no gentleman's sport, but injury accomplishes nothing.

The hardest part is training stamina. Just— you know: to keep going. Most fights are done in a handful of minutes at most, less if you're doing it right, but consecutive battles take their toll physically and mentally— a toll that must be paid out of a capacity to afford it. Teo understands. Sore, but he understands. Well enough to leave the bulk of his distractions at the metaphorical door, or otherwise swirling down the drain with the dried blood washed off his fingertips.

Hours later, he has his eyelids down and his head on his knee, both legs stretched flat across the gymnasium's smooth-worn floor despite the fact that the insides of his track pants are uncomfortably sticky. Other times, there is no shame in letting them see you sweat.

When he speaks, his voice is even again already, no traitorous wobble of panting breath or slurred syllables. "Ever since I read about your mother, I've dreamed about angels that have metal wings." His tone is not particular, despite the inevitable cruelty of even just saying that much.

Tuesday is very soon, that's all. If Teo doesn't mention it now, he might never. The progress of their friendship has always been at the mercy of greater agendas and the ultimatums of worst case scenarios.

Hours since they left the gym floor; hours Hana has had to inure herself to Teo's presence yet again, laptop braced across her thighs more from habit than necessity, the split of information between computer and technopath letting her process it just a little more effectively. A great many digital trails are etched in the ether throughout a day; the late, dark hours when most people in her time zone are asleep provide a good opportunity for review. Making sure nothing of import or interest was overlooked in the inundated moments of the day.

Teo is always an interruption, yet somehow always manages to surprise with this fact. Hana lifts her gaze from the monitor, blinks the room into focus. Did he just…? He really did. Eyes closed, the Sicilian can't see the flicker of the Israel's abruptly averted gaze. Unadorned concrete is as neutral a view as it gets.

"That's the only kind there are." Her answer is clipped, in the manner that warns of fragile ground; loose scree and unexpected crevasses lie ahead. Except they aren't unexpected; this isn't a subject Teo could venture into and not know its significance. Not after all this time.

Hana can't pretend at calm, casual ease; not when any facades have been dropped already, in this place. She gives up the attempt after a few short moments, setting the laptop aside at the base of the wall and rising with swift grace to her feet.

Other leg, now. Teo releases one foot, grabs the other, skews his weight to rest on the other leg. Femoral biceps, tendons, gastrocnemius muscles pull thin, subtle mechanics of notches and hooks and ratchets reluctantly feeding him the length he requires. It's important to be able to walk out of here on his own power.

Hana can do a great many things, but whether she's willing to unload her protege out of a wheelbarrow is not a question of capability. He can feel his pulse beating out of his calf and into the floor. The floor was cold before. He can't even feel it now, the heat of exertion a metabolic furnace inside his skin, consuming food he's yet to eat. A half-empty water bottle winks at him out of a glistening drop.

None of these things are distractions.

She's right, of course. The people who assign white pinions and freely-shedded down to God's warriors forget that that's what they are.

"When I'm feeling spine—less," he muffles against his pant leg. A syllabic catch when he goes too far with his Achilles tendon, only brief. "I realize this whole thing's kind of crazy. 'Pparently I've barely known my own aunt for twenty-six years. Hel and Al, I've known for less than one. 'Nd still I've… what I'd do, what I've done— it doesn't make any sense." His nose bends against his shin as he twists his head around.

A blue eye slivers a look up at Hana's silhouette against the ceiling. "Helena believes in justice," he says, eventually.

She would've walked away… somewhere. Anywhere. Nowhere, in the end, because it's all still here. Is stopped now before taking even a single step, spinning on bare feet to stare at the Sicilian. He's right about one thing: he makes no sense. Hana spends one breath, two, in the search for words to answer his nonsense with; the ones that finally come are the easy ones, nothing premeditated, nothing that will do any other than dig the hole deeper. "You want to get to the point, Laudani?"

She'd left him at just about this point in the stretching exercises last time. Tried to, anyway. Turned around, beat a departure— never a retreat— through the gymnasium floor on feet hard-callused enough to broach far harsher terrain unshod. Teo remembers.

Mostly, Teo remembers following. Teo knows that this is bad terrain. Treacherous footing, no map, volatile chemistry threatening to combust if he puts his own, somewhat frailer extremities down on the wrong place. Probably there is not a good place. He is going to lose his feet.

Oh, well.

When he blinks, it looks like a flinch. "What do you believe in?"

What does she believe in? Dark eyes stare at Teo, hard as agate, if agate were a protective covering rather than a rock. Shell is a rather more fragile substance. Answers flash by in a succession more felt than consciously realized; Hana stopped thinking about this long ago. When all the mystery of the world was subsumed by purpose and need. The religion she was raised in was left behind along with youth, even if there are strictures still too strongly internalized to break; so much a part of her that the Israeli doesn't see them as such. Doesn't give them any thought, either.

There are no angels listening in the heavens; only mechanical constructs with what semblance of wings human engineers could devise. Simple, brute-force fire and fury; nothing divine in their ancestry at all. There was a time when Hana believed in justice, even if the brand she desired might be more aptly named vengeance; tracing the wandering path of her life, however, reveals one recurring theme. Justice has so far failed to believe in her.

"I don't."

Then she does turn, walk, leave, passing from gym into smaller break room, disappearing from sight behind a wall.

Teo gets up. He does it the hard way, as he's wont to do most things. Levers his torso upright, perpendicular to the floor, then swings his knees up over his head, somersaulting backward and onto the balls of his feet with a scuff of his hands on the floor. His weight sags over his knee, half-stumble, before he recovers his balance enough to look out of the doorway.

He follows.

Idiotically, he points out: "No one who does this shit does it without believing in anything." Teo's arm is going to cramp up into figure-eights, he can already tell. Still, this isn't the time to be finishing his routine. No; he's off the beaten track, now, discomfitted by the meltwater memory of clacking pinions and the sharply-defined reality of her back turned. Again. "This isn't just inertia." He isn't explaining very well, forgetting to define his terms. Vague all over. 'This.' Here—

Her back isn't turned when he enters the smaller room; she stands on the far side of the table, palms pressed against its edge. There's probably enough weight on them for her hands to protest it; Hana doesn't notice. Her expression twitches at his choice of expression, a spasm of facial muscle that doesn't entirely graduate to the level of tic.

Au contraire — isn't that exactly what 'this' is? Too much need to do anything else, but purpose splintered in all directions by the roles she plays for so many different people. Mentor, instructor, electronic spy, digital security agent. The lone wolf found herself absorbed into a pack and has too much integrity to just abandon it again for sake of pursuing her own solitary hunts.

Thinking about it leaches the coiling tension from her frame, leaves bitter ashes in ire's wake. Hana straightens only long enough to slide into a nearby chair, leaning her arms on the table mostly because it's conveniently close. "What do you think it is, Laudani?"

It is unutterably odd that Teodoro could tell you where to find tea in this room if you wanted some. He would be able to tell you that the water filter for the tap is working fine, and that the odd stain around the left side of the fusebox in the cabinet — that cabinet — does not indicate that those three switches don't work. He's been here a long time.

If only a few months, a briefer timespan by far than the one his friendships with the Moab prisoners are in. Long enough to find some sort of familiarity with a woman who wanted none. He fills the doorway with the stress-stiffened bulk of his frame, stares at her from over the furniture. He could tell you where Hana keeps her tea, but really, that's just tea.

Tea hasn't kept her here, doing 'this,' for so many years.

She isn't usually snide, but then again, Teo isn't usually so insensately angry that he lashes out with a rebuking ice-storm of lewdly insulting curses in the middle of a war committee or enough toxic psychological projection to shut up a terrorist who's had the stones to argue with Sylar himself, and a middle-aged murderer who makes a side business out of being unaffected by whatever else. Things are changing. He would rather not die in Utah not understanding even this much.

Regrettably, it looks like that's about to happen. The knit of his brow threatens to surrender to some pale shade of despair. "Do you ask because you think I'd know?"

Things change. And they stay the same. Hana looks across the table at him, gaze level. "No." He doesn't know, not yet, even if Teodoro Laudani is amply capable of guesses, educated or otherwise, that cut to bone. "I ask because your question suggests you think you do." It's not spoken snidely; there's no edge to the words. They're just… words. Inadequate, but nearly the only option. Tea doesn't seem to be in the plans at the moment.

"That suggestion is incorrect," Teo grinds out.

Here again: that stilted, overly-correct terminology that he retreats to when he's either working or got his armor on for other reasons. This conversation doesn't come easily to either of them, however wilfully Teo seems to poke and pry. She's right again. Of course. He is amply capable of guesses, but he doesn't know, and he knows she knows he can't. She doesn't have to be snide. Words alone can, apparently, cut.

He darts a blinked glance up at the fluorescent light. There is a dead moth silhouette by the striated plastic. Possibly even one of his aunt's, killed by urges as fundamental and as self-destructive as the one that took him here. "Then you don't," Teo decides, finally. Flatly. Either making peace with a lie or with a truth; he has no preference either way. He turns his feet first, head second. "I'm sorry."

Words do cut. They cut when they're meant to, and they cut when they're not; which situation this circumstance fits is really anyone's guess. Silence, on the other hand, absorbs such hits the way a pillow full of cotton balls might; stretching, mutes the scars left behind into something less jagged. Not smooth, but — less.

Chair feet scrape across concrete briefly, the sound as ungentle as their conversation. Hana's feet are quieter, though they have farther to go. Filtered water plinks with metallic notes into the kettle that used to be sitting by the sink. It's the kind with a built-in heating element — and wasn't part of the room's decor until after Teo happened along and decided to make Hana share.

As explanations of behavior go, neither 'coincidence' nor 'inertia' make for much existential contentment, and Teodoro is commonplace enough that existentialism wouldn't sit easy with his head anyway.

As such, he looks, sounds, probably feels more or less discontent as he finds the tea, first, in oddly alacritous motions and then tramples around the hallway.

Without conscious or sullen design, he is rather audible about the whole thing. Big feet. They don't quite echo, but the quietude that characterizes the rest of the facility projects that illusion anyway, of scuffing feet and deft hands. Putting mats back into a stack of carefully-aligned edges, snagging up the discarded water bottle, doubling the length of his arm muscles for a few minutes before he locates the towel flung over the edges of a bench and flips three light switches, segmenting the broad floor of the gym into a gray shade of darkness.

Teo never apologizes without meaning it. Nor is he ever surprised or disappointed by Hana's tendency not to verbally or emotionally accept or forgive. Nevertheless, something changes in the interval of his absence. His contrition is closer to the surface by the time he reappears, his bristly head perched on a round slope of shoulders. He sits at the table.

Hana doesn't apologize; words serve the austere woman as something more akin to a weapon, if less subtle than the ones Bennet employs. Words are not her mode of expression, by choice or intent, except when that expression is blunt and straightforward. Apologies are different. Complicated.

She listens to Teo put the gym in order, or some semblance of it; enough to tide the room over until they're out in it again. They always wind up there eventually. She stops the kettle before it can whistle, pours water into two cups with waiting teabags. By the time Teo returns, Hana can set one in front of him, then walk back around the table to sit in her own chair.

Complicated, she expresses in silence and action, rather than speech.

Austere, yes. Quiet, by default. Teo's never taken his mentor for simple, however; not the way he is or was, so he accepts this more gladly and with greater relief than any of the acerbic answers that had come before. He drinks tea. He's quiet about that, at least. Mouth to the rim, fingers around the handle, no spilling or theatrical gurgling. His mother managed to inculcate him certain protocols of behavior. Like—

"Thank you." Teo blinks down at the teabag steeping quietly at the bottom of the cup. The contents are too well mixed by now for visible eddies to emerge throughout the transparent volume of water. He grasps the small paper tab at the end, winds his finger through the thread.

She also drinks her tea; doesn't quite look at Teo until he speaks up. Her thoughts had drifted, but Hana fails to indicate where. Probably somewhere personal, given the prior conversation, and that's all the reason she needs not to say. The Israeli woman inclines her head, acknowledging the gratitude. She could say a lot of things. Doesn't voice any of them. Hana wraps both hands around her mug, picks it back up; sips at tea and regards the Sicilian across the table.

Today, silence reigns.

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