Nothing's Changed


joanna_icon.gif tasha_icon.gif vincent_icon.gif

Scene Title Nothing's Changed
Synopsis Wireless' help in connecting Tasha to her parents doesn't lessen their worry or bring them closer together.
Date May 8, 2010

Back in the laundry room of the Lighthouse, this time sitting on the floor, Tasha watches as her phone, otherwise dead to the world, signals that it is «connecting» to Vincent's satellite phone number — the one he gave her in case of just this kind of emergency. At least she knows that she has Eileen's blessing in calling him — that she's not endangering anyone in the house or the Ferry by doing so, and that her conscience in regard to the group she's dedicated herself to is clean — even if she hasn't been honest with her parents on the other line.

The connection made, the phone rings and she brings the cell to her ear to wait, her breath held, for someone on the other end to pick up. His line will not show a number, or at least not a real number, and any attempts to trace the call will be futile, the word 'seeking…' repeating over and over on the display with never a final product to show for it.

Vincent should be at the office.

The office.

That's where he should be.

But he isn't.

Some gas line or — something — froze on the fucking helicopter this morning after they tried to wait out higher winds, so he's been trapped in his suite at the Corinthian all day and presumably his ex-wife with him. Forced to tolerate or otherwise escape irritable pacing that eventually wound down into a resigned drink, a smoke and occasionally some methodical clicking at his laptop (and its briefcase full of networking equipment that probably cost more than it would to rent this room for a month) after updates.

Too closed off even to show his own ill-settled restlessness now that he's ground through the initial strain, his only real concession to the setback beyond a slightly elevated blood alcohol level is that his tie's been pulled loose around his neck while he sits and stares at the blank television and smokes. Eyes dark, stubbly jaw set. He's still in his suit.

He's always in a suit.

Even Joanna must be beginning to think so. As much as she's been around, she probably hasn't seen him out of one.

He's not all that swift to react when the sat phone buzzes — hard plastic and the exaggerated antenna extracted from the seat cushion at his side with a faintly inebriated bumble while he squints at the number (unknown) and thumbs along to connect anyway. "Lazzaro."

Joanna thinks that only when he's not sleeping is he in a suit. There's a possibility that he showers in it. She's been in the suite as well, taking advantage of the power and down time to catch up on briefs, write a few and otherwise attempt to stay in the good graces of Vincent and his boss while residing in the suite with them.

When she's not worrying about her daughter

Or monitoring Vincent's alcohol intake with a raised manicured brow.

So when the phone gives off it's buzzing, there's a glance over reading glasses to the device, fingers paused in their own tapping over her own laptop and pays attention just enough to discern whether this is a business call or someone with the tip. The flyers were not her idea.

Tasha takes a deep breath when her father answers. She wasn't really expecting him but a lackey, maybe, or someone else to answer, though she's not sure why. He's always been the 'do it yourself' sort of worker, doesn't trust lackeys to do his job for him, even for something as simple as answering his phone. She takes a deep breath, now wishing she had taken Colette's offer to have the other girl sit and hold her hand while she spoke to her parents.

"Dad," she says, then unnecessarily adds, "It's me, Tasha." Like he has so many kids. She promised herself she'd be civil, instead of laying into him about the flyers, and she starts that way. "Are you okay? Where are you? Have you talked to Mom? Is she okay? I'm fine. I'm warm and safe. There's no reason to worry." Breathe.

Cigarette snuffed out with a cough that avoids being spent into the receiver only by grace of him having the forethought to muffle it into his shoulder, Vincent pushes to his feet. He nearly trips over the foot rest in his haste to immediately the room for the table his computer glows open on, actually.

"Tasha," isn't quite sharp enough to sound like a reprimand across the line, static a crackle and pop that seems unlikely to abate while he looks to Joanna and attempts to plug the phone into the computer and talk at the same time. He's around 95% successful, getting the plug in on the second try. "Your mother's fine. Where are you?"

Tasha's name falling from the lips of her ex, the reading glasses are immediatly pulled off her face and she's rising from her couch, drifting unconsciously towards Vincent and the phone with a questioning look on her face. Whatever it is, it's answered soon enough when he asks where she is. It is Tasha on the phone, and she wraps her arms around her middle, watching the man's face, listening to at least his side of the conversation.

Her head leaning against the wall behind her, Tasha closes her eyes, tears springing to them at just the sound of her father's voice on the line. It's not warm or welcoming, not that she thought it would be. But he's all right and her mother's all right, and that's welcome news.

"I'm safe. I don't know the address. I'm on some guy's satellite phone — you can't call me back on this line, if it came across, so don't bother." It's a lie, of course, that it's a satellite phone, but true enough that he won't be able to call her back. "I'm at some shelter outside of the city. My friends, their apartment doesn't have heat so we're here, but it's just some building, I don't know." Lies, lies, lies.

"Look, I can't talk long. I'm safe, all right? When this snow ends… if it ever ends…" her voice chokes a little, and she closes her eyes to the tears that start to spill over onto her cheeks. "I'll be okay." The last is a whisper.

Evidently only aware of Joanna's nearness after he's already taka'd out an entry on whatever tracing program he has up and running, Vincent eyes her a moment. Sizing her up like a scorpion on his shoe before he pecks 'r' to record anyway and toggles the setting to speaker phone so that he can set it on the table between them.

"We're both at the Corinthian in a penthouse suite — she's right here, if you want to talk to her." There's a merry, melodic tinkle from the kitchen, metal on metal, maybe something stirring, and between that and a touch of booze Vincent is pushed off the rails for a few precious seconds before he can shake it off and look down again, eyes black. The line isn't tracing. "Look — sweetheart — all I need is a town name, or an address. Raymond owes me a few favors. More than a few. I could take the chopper out tomorrow."

"He can take a helicopter and come and get you Tasha. I'd feel much better if you were with us. The weather is brutal right now and you're only eighteen and I don't know the names of whomever it is that you're staying with. I'm glad you're okay, I'm downright relieved that you are. We've been so worried." Joanna calls out, stopping to near the phone, one arm still wrapped around her waist, the other curled up into a fist and supporting her chin. "We can come and get you, it won't be a problem"

The word sweetheart takes Tasha by surprise — it's been so long since there's been any terms of affection — her fault for pushing him away, as much as his for letting her, she knows. She covers the phone for a moment and takes a deep breath that's close to a sob. Lifting it to her ear she shakes her head, before she realizes the futility of that motion.

"I don't… I don't know. I gotta go…" The time frame that Wireless gave her is almost up. "Tell Mom I love her," Tasha says softly, then, thinking perhaps on the good things Colette emphasized earlier, she whispers, softer yet, "I love you, Dad. I gotta go." She doesn't push end yet, hanging on for another few seconds.

"Tasha." …Okay. Now it sounds more like a reprimand. Lazzaro's temper flares across the line at her scattered denial of detail. Avoidance, brushing off, excuses and vaguaries. This is not what the truth sounds like. She can feel it like heat through the line.

He knows.

Something, if not everything, warning suspicion all consuming as the connection veers towards a premature close. "Don't do this."

Joanna's privy to the boot black fix of his glare on the computer screen and the way tension is in the stiff fix of his posture and stare rather than a physical clench of muscle and bone. It's a weird kind of anger, more dark clouds on the horizon than lightning or even thunder. She's seen it before.

'Tasha! How can you not know!" Joanna's voice is the one to turn harsh, jaw tightening from the adult side of the conversation. "Please, let us know, so we can come at least see for ourselves. Just tell us where you are. You know your father is going to scour the city and outside it to find you, save yourself some embarrassment Tasha, save him some stress and myself some stress. Just at least let us know where. Please Tasha"

Tasha's hand rakes through her hair as she hears the sharp voices on the other side of the line. Her eyes squeeze shut, and anger wells up along with the pain. She swallows and glances at the time on her watch — a minute left in her window of time. She's sure Wireless is listening in and would extend it if she needed it, but she doesn't want to anger someone helping her.

"I'm fine. Don't worry. Just pretend I'm back in Boston and nothing's changed, all right? Nothing's different just because I'm closer. I can take care of myself. And if I can't —" she breathes in deeply, knowing she will regret the words once they leave her lips, "it's not like you would know unless I told you. Or until the tuition check got returned."

She pushes end and buries her face in her arms, with a sob.

If there's any kind of automatic or otherwise visceral reaction on Vincent's end, it's virtually impossible to detect.

The line goes dead and he switches the phone off without looking at Joanna. The tracing program too. Then he scuffs the flat of his scarred hand up over the side of his face, ridges and calluses against the grain.

He stands like that for a while. Probably less time than it seems like, what with the awkward silence only occasionally supplemented by the sounds of Praeger playing chef in the kitchen.

"Sorry," seems like a weird thing to say, maybe. But he says it to Joanna and then turns to walk flatly away.

Pursed lips are white around the edges, staring at the sat phone, dead connection and the unusable trace. It's not often that she is actually upset with Tasha. But right now, she very much is. The two have open communication, they can discuss anything and yet the last words she says.

"Not your fault"

Those words don't fall from her own lips too often with regards to Vincent. She turns away too, head off to the bathroom since bedrooms are taken. "Happy mothers day to me."

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