On The Restorative Properties Of Gossip


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Scene Title On The Restorative Properties Of Gossip
Synopsis Teo comes to Mrs. Hadley with some booboos. There is cake and gossip, and already, that has his HP bar halfway back up again.
Date August 18, 2009

Piece Of Cake Bakery

The front room of the bakery is a long and narrow one. A great glass window covers the wall facing the street, so that anyone outside can see in. The door is glass as well; on bright days the shop is filled to the brim with sunshine. Drop lamps abovehead help at night, casting a warmer and softer light. Classic black and white tiling collects smudges more often than not on the floor and walls. In the back is a hallway which leads further to the kitchen, a small bathroom for customers to use, and a set of creaky stairs that go up to the second floor. The entire building is warm, and the air is redolent with the scents of pastry both savory and sweet, cookies, muffins, chocolate and fruit, bread and more.

A long, waist-high counter is on the left after stepping inside. The top is flat so purchases can be set down, and baked goods of all sorts are on display inside. Down at the far end is the cash register: leaving means walking past all the tempting wares all over again. Though it isn't particularly fancy, a coffee machine next to the register has a sign that reads "Donations": the cups and plain coffee are free, but change dropped inside goes to local charities. Three small bistro tables sit along the right wall; it's a tight fit, but three (or four if they're close friends) people can sit at each to enjoy a bite before going on their way. A bell above the door jangles merrily whenever it's opened.

The radio isn't something that Teo spends much time listening to. Police scanners, bug feed, the drone of water against shore motorcycle engine chugging. He is looking the device perched on the counter-top a little speculatively as he comes in, a nostalgic squint around eyes. He looks now much as he had the first time the woman had met him: buzzcut, moving a little stiffly around the pallor of fading anemia, dressed in the shabbied decency of a starving college student.

"Buongiorno— or good day," he catches himself peculiarly concerned about rudeness, here, where he so rarely ever construes dropping token Italian around English-speakers as such. Something about the elderly. Something about the woman Flint Deckard offers piggyback rides to. Or some vague hope that those pastries are within his budget, because they smell really good. "Do you have a moment, ma'am, please?"At nearly 4 in the afternoon, the bakery is now in a lull. The people who came for lunch are gone, and the folks who'll come for dinner haven't arrived quite yet. In that bit of space, Mrs. Hadley is cleaning up. She's got NPR turned on so she can hum along with. Unfortunately, the old biddy couldn't carry a tune in a bucket, and ain't that the truth. Still, she's enthusiastic about it, so that has to count for something, right?

"Why hello there, dear!" Mrs. Hadley pauses with plates in each hand to offer the incoming Teo a broad smile. "Welcome to the Piece of Cake!" She picks up her bustling course towards the aisle behind the counter then. "Of course, of course, you come right in. What can I do for you today? Maybe a bit of lemon cheese danish? Oh!" Her brows lift. "Or the double-chocolate fudge to death cake? I can get a glass of milk too!"

Actually, he got his forearm done like a fish by a terrorist, but— "Yes please," Teo's saying, instantly, with a show of teeth nearly broad enough to permanently crack his face in half. "I like— both of those. I haven't died of chocolate in a long while." He picks up his feet and begins to move after the woman's smaller, somewhat less enervated shape, something more timid about the shuffle of his shoes than the hangdog bachelor of arts in ninja that had skulked in moments ago. Not tremendously nonchalantly, he asks: "What's Flint's favorite?"

The old woman nods off towards one of the little bistro tables. "You just have a seat and I'll bring it right over," she assures. "Flint, he likes anything with a bit of sugar in it that he can scarf down in a hurry," Mrs. Hadley informs with a wry flash of a grin. "And then pretend he didn't eat it at all or like it, thank you very much." She sets the plates in a tub full of soapy water, then bobbles on down the aisle to start pulling deserts out of the display case. A rattle-babble escapes all the while she works. "Now, what have you been up to, dear? You look like you got run over by a truck, and obviously we'll need to fatten you up with a little meat on your bones before I start shopping you around to all the young ladies in the neighborhood." She peeks up over the edge of the counter, a brow arched. "Or the young men! You young people will do your own thing, after all!" Down she goes again to keep working. "Regardless, some plump in your cheeks is the first step."

"I got into a fight." Either skeptical or seriously considering these words that was spoken to him, Teo is pinching fingers into the flesh of his own cheek, pulling it away from bone. He glances at himself in the mirror with a slight furrow in his brow. Privately, he begins to wonder if that is it; he's thought he's been looking rather weird ever since Gabriel 'Sylar' Gray went and rampaged through his brain, but couldn't quite put his finger on it. Possibly! He'd look better fat.

Probably not. Still, it's with due optimism that he cranes his head back around to look at the woman from across the bakery, and a belated smile that doesn't falter when she includes the possibility he likes men. Learn and grow, learn and grow.

"I think I'm going to save my, uh, vanity for myself a little while. I'm at that stage of my life." His hands say very little when they gesture through the air like so, but it seems to suffice in lieu of an extended explanation, Teo thinks. Alternatively, 'that stage of my life' is a distinct sexual preference for balloon animals. "Flint has a girlfriend now, though, if you'll believe that. I think our mutual friends would make cracks about the stars being out of alignment or some sh— thing, but I'm really happy for him."

Her eyes widen at him from across the room. "Does he now!" Oh, but Mrs. Hadley looks like she just got the bestest birthday present in the history of all birthday presents ever, hearing that bit of gossip. "You'll have to tell me all about her!" When she comes bobbling over, there's a pair of desserts on a plate in one hand: one danish, one slice of dark brown cake; and a glass of milk in the other. "Fights are really not the best way to settle a problem dear, but I'm sure you've heard that before, so I won't go on and on about it anymore than that."

Target acquired. Target locked. Firmly seated, except for the part where his posture is cobra-poised to strike, Teo's eyeballs are burning a hole into the side of that cake, which isn't particularly constructive, given he wants to eat it, butttt all the more reason to start nomming as soon as the plates touch the table and the nice lady gives the nice signal. "I know everyone says this," he says, walking blunt fingers around on the cleanswept top of the table, "but the other guy really did start it."

A little juvenile, true, but he's being perfectly honest, at least. He tilts his head up to make eye-contact when the subject of conversation makes natural progress, however: Abigail Beauchamp is a subject of conversation that deserves the dignity of eye-contact. "Old roommate of mine. She's from Louisiana. Works with the rustlers, too, so you might have met her before. Really sweet. Grown up a lot after coming up here, but she's still one of the sweetest people I know. Always has her backbone and her sense of honor located in the proper place— and she's gorgeous."

"From Louisiana…" Mrs. Hadley repeats that bit to herself, then eyes Teo. "Do you mean Abigail?" The plate is shoved across to him so he can vulture onto the desserts, with the glass set lightly within reach. "If that's who you mean, I think I might just die laughing!" She leans over a little to assure quickly, "Not at them together! At the idea of those two falling in love when they've been so bad about fighting the idea for so long." A wave of her hand dismisses his excuse; as she said, she doesn't go on and on about it, despite her obvious (and admittedly very mild) disapproval about fighting.

From Louisiana. Of course he means Abigail, and it registers immediately on his face, despite that his face is, by then, somewhat occupied with being stuffed with chocolate death. He doesn't quite chipmunk his cheeks, but he comes dangerously close, for a young man who might be twenty six, thirty six, or sixty two years old, however you want to slice it. He tries to talk at one point, but thinks the better of it; puts it off until a swerve of milk through the teeth has cleared his palate enough for words.


She arches a sharp brow at him at that question. "How could anyone in the entire world dislike Abigail Beauchamp?" Mrs. Hadley asks that like he's just suggested that maybe the moon isn't made of green cheese after all, or that Santa Claus doesn't exist. A click of her tongue against the roof of her mouth is a chiding sound. "Of course I like her! I admit, it's a little hard to imagine the two of them together, but good for her! I'm sure she chased him long and hard, and he protested all the way."

"You really know Flint Deckard," Teo says, his nose crinkling slightly above the symmetrical center of his nose. His fork carves away another moist crescent-shaped chunk off the motherland. He winds up flattening the teeth of the implement through it, forcing thin, even slices of chocolate breading up between them like miniature slices of toast surging up at a majestic pace, at ready.

And then he eats it. "We've only been friends for… eight months, now?" There's a lift at the end of the statement, turning it into a question as he does the mental arithmetic. "I guess he and Abigail aren't the first you'd match, looking at 'em but they're a lot alike underneath, I think." He sections off more cake, contemplative between ravenous bites. "Way off the end of the behavioral bell curve, in a lot of ways, sometimes, but only with the good kind of crazy."

"He came in and out of the bakery when he was younger," Mrs. Hadley explains cheerfully. "Causing all sorts of trouble and then racing on out to find some more. It doesn't look like he's changed much since then!" She beams at the continued devouring of the cake, obviously pleased as punch at the rate it's going down. "Well, I'll be sure to congratulate the both of them when I see them next." A nod agrees with herself on this point.

In fairly impressive order, Teo has vacuumed all the pastries up. Citrusy-cheesy, chocolate in layers, punctuated by milk and the repeated mumble of thanks in assorted languages. Soon there's only a few crumbs left latched onto the smooth round plane of the plate, and even those are being picked up by the blunt of his fingertip. He's thinking about Deckard a little, while he eats.

And the food. Abigail, Mrs. Hadley's relationship with either. There's no particular conclusion to be drawn from it, but it's reasonably nice to think about. "So—" he manages to get the milk moustache off his face with a forefinger before turning red about it. "Mind me asking how much I owe you, before I pinch and beg for further favors, signora?"

"Oh, the cake is $5.50 a slice, and the danish, that's $2.05," Mrs. Hadley rattles out easily. "Are you a student, dear? There's a discount for students, it'll take 10 off the total." She arches a brow at him, then asks with a shake of her head, "What other favors?" She doesn't sound upset, only amused all over again. "I might have to ask for the worst payment of all. That you come back and visit just for company sometime."

Teo makes a little face. He isn't even sure why, really. Embarrassment. The money's not bad, of course, and the prospect of company is wonderful. Company for company's sake is rare, though, and that's probably it; one of those easily remedied things that— aren't. He has the good grace to wipe the wrinkles of his nose, the next moment, try on a sheepish expression. It fits all too well.

"I w's wondering if you would fix my arm," he says, straightforwardly, hooking a pinkie into the cuff of his other sleeve. Elasticized cotton is peeled back, carefully, both for the soreness and a little care to keep it below the level of the window. The sweater's ribbed texture splays away from the thin skin and bulk of muscle up the dorsal midline of his forearm. Stitching glares out, next, black thread in stark, ridged relief, swelling thickening the column of flesh underneath.

The wound goes straight through to the underside, though the rip is shorter, there, and the stitches. "I was a student up 'til about winter last year."

She leans over a little to peer at the revealed damage. "Oh /my/." Mrs. Hadley extends a hand in a gimme-gimme gesture at his own. "Of course, dear. Now, were you listening when I told your friend what it would be like for him?" A pause, then she allows, "And if you'd prefer to have some privacy, we can go on upstairs to my little apartment instead."

"I think it'll be all right. No one's watching." There's a squint of pale eyes to go with that assertion, a smile: certainty that underlines the fact that Teo hasn't exactly been looking over his shoulder, through the windows, neither making a show of lookout or real effort to conceal his doing so. He blinks, glances down briefly at the injured limb. "Long as I'm not going to totally pass the fu— pass out like Leonard did right there, anyway. I remember the side-effects," he reassures, belatedly.

At that, she nods. Mrs. Hadley reaches out to take his hand into both of hers. "You probably won't," she reassures. "He was just very tired. So we'll just sit here and chat for a little while, and when we're done, you'll feel fit as a fiddle." Her grin is an easy thing, relaxed and cheerful even now. "You do realize I've heard those words before, right? Why, I've even let a few of them out in my day! You're not going to scorch my ears just by using them yourself."

Abigail Beauchamp works at a bar and she doesn't like it when he swears. For whatever reason, the comparison makes him smile, Cheshire without teeth. "Cussing, free cake," he says in the tone of listing items off— which he is, "fat kids and playing matchmaker for queers.

"You're a pretty hip lady, aren't you, ma'am?" His hand sits quiescent between the older woman's, callused palm and scar-roughed knuckles curled tenderly in on themselves. "Mind me asking how long you've been with the boat? You didn't know Flint could do what he does back when you first met him, did you?" In other words, even if if Deckard had been a project, he hadn't been part of the Ferry's.

"Since a bit after the explosion," Mrs. Hadley explains with a slight nod. "I hardly know anyone who doesn't come to me for help, dear. I can't help people without gifts, so I try not to make it too obvious. I don't want to have to face someone coming to me for help that I can't give." Fingers drift in absent circles against those scars, tiny spirals of faint pressure. "I'm registered, you know? It's the law, and I do try to follow it for myself. I'm not going to be pushy at everyone else around me about it, but that's how I chose to live." The connection to /self/ grows with each passing moment of her hands against his. What's it like, to sink into skin, to go deeper into one's own body than ever before? To fill up skin until there's no room for the damage, no room for the hurts and scars and bumps and bruises? To watch it all heal right then in there, fast-forward, shoved up and out and gone? That's what it is, this healing. The old biddy sinks in on herself a little to match, wrinkles deepening, lids lowering just a touch. It's not painfully obvious, but it's clear enough that this is draining her some.

Nor is she as young and, ergo, inherently vivacious a healer as Abigail Beauchamp is. Watching the toll it takes on her is worse than watching what used to happen to Abby, and even that had made Teo prickle and squirm and jolt away from her affectionate stealth efforts. He isn't quite listening as she speaks, concern graven in the knit of his brow and the tightening closure of his fingers, as if he is subconsciously considering drawing away.

Not that he will. He remembers what she'd said before, over Leo's stumpy corpus, about the waste of energy it'd be if the process were interrupted halfway. After ten or eleven seconds, he remembers to blink. Or maybe it's the feel of the healing that startles his eyelids into a twitch of action, the wheeling and clicking of cells reknitting, energy redirected, a subdermal burn and kinesthetic pull against the tethers of stitched thread. "Do you think it's right, most of the time these days?" he asks. "The law?"

Her voice is a little breathy around the edges, but it's solid at the core. "I worry, dear. That Act, the one that made a military unit? Do you know it says it can /draft/? That's a draft after the fact, one with no end! I heard that on the radio and I was ready to spit nails!" Mrs. Hadley's own hand tightens when he starts to move in that direction, though she relaxes again once he stops tugging, however lightly. "But in the end, I have to think the government is here to help us. To help the country. Even if they get it wrong sometimes, the long run works out." The thread slides right on out, shoved by healing flesh until it slithers down onto the table. The scars on his hand fade as well, everything about him returning to tip-top factory-direct ship-shape shape. Last to flow in is a rush of energy: a full week of sleeping for 8 hours a night and getting up to exercise wouldn't feel quite this vim. And in return, his power lies sleeping. It's not /gone/, not hidden away. Just… weary, like she looks, and needful of some time to recover from so much strenuous effort in so short a timeframe.

The young man's eyes drop fractionally, not in denial but in wordless agreement. Two conversations about justice and its purveyors in two days. That's setting some sort of record, even for a young man as inclined to traumatically existential experiences as Teo is. What Mrs. Hadley has to say is a little different to what young Officer Varlane had, no doubt an earmark of their vast differences in age and experience, but perhaps what's more surprising is their similarities.

You make mistakes. Good intentions count for something. "I should have come later," he says, abrupt with blinking realization, remorse making discomfiture visible in his broad-shouldered frame. "You still have hours to go before the shop closes, don't you?"

She pulls her hands away and smiles at him. It's tired, but it goes all the way through, up into her eyes. "I'll be right as rain in an hour or so, dear. I have Brian here, and Flint if he comes in on time, to help me out." Mrs. Hadley shakes her head and reassures, "You weren't nearly so bad off as some I've helped out. I had a boy come in with his skull cracked open by a baseball bat, once. It took nearly a week to recover from that."

"You're" amazing, but the word doesn't get out of his mouth before Teo finds out the extent to which she does amaze. Looking back over his forearm, he realizes that he can't see the hydrokinetic scar that used to bridge the point of his elbow.

There are others. He isn't about to strip down and examine himself in the window glass now, of course— recent fugitive, no need to add public indecency to the count, but there's a solid sense that what she did for Leonard's twisted weals of IED keepsakes has been done to him. God knows what his tattoos look like. There's an audible click when he closes his mouth. Flattens his shirt with a palm, and glances out the window, blinking in nonchalance a little tooooo studied to convince anybody who might have actually been studying him with suspicion. It's fortunate that no one had been.

"Poor kid," he says, eventually. And then he's grinning. Abruptly, ridiculously hugely; he hasn't had a proper night's sleep in almost a month, now. She gave him more than his complexion back.

"That smile, right there." Mrs. Hadley informs on a pleased sigh. "That smile, that's why it's worth it." She sinks forward a little, elbow on the table and chin in her palm while she watches him. "I'd sleep for a month to see more young people smile like that. Everything's so serious these days, everyone's so busy saving the world. What's the point if you can't smile after you're done?"

Little does Teo know that he's gotten his full alertness back, all of his vigor and verve, just in time to enjoy the scintillating technicolor magnitude of the misery that tonight's national news will invoke in him.

Oh, well. It's the one blessing about little-does-he-know; he doesn't have to know about all that, now. Teodoro has to twist his mouth past a brief grimace to get it to do anything other than have its ends bent up around that ludicrous rictus like an overturned tortoise. The ache clicks out of his jaw and, after a moment, he answers: "We plant trees for those born later."

Her own smile broadens at that. "Isn't that the sweetest thing I've ever heard! You didn't come up with it, did you?" It's a tease of a question, and accompanied by a hand going patpatpat to his arm. Mrs. Hadley sits back then, trying to relax. "Now, you owe me seven fifty-five for the desserts, and off you go, dear."

"More of a reader than a writer," Teo admits, wryly. The corners of his eyes are sharp around a smile that lasts despite that he's succeeded in getting his face to operate around conversation. "Some guy called Herbert wrote it." He digs out his wallet with a sidle and squirm in the chair, pulls out the precise quantity of bills and coins for the total. "I'll get the dishes and cup into the sink, if you don't mind me poking around behind the scenes long enough to do that."

She clicks her tongue lightly, a thoughtful sound, then allows, "If you're going to do that, you might as well get yourself a cookie for the trouble," Mrs. Hadley suggests. "The oatmeal raisin are very good today! I'm teaching Brian how to make them up."

As he scoops up the cutlery and fails entirely to deny interest in cookies, the Sicilian tugs his mouth downward, in a furtive token mischief. "What are you teaching Flint to make?" The nonchalance here is, deliberately, a little too studied to pass for natural. The more things to rib Deckard about. You know. Well; Mrs. Hadley knows, but surely also that it's all harmlessly in fun.

"Change," Mrs. Hadley answers dryly. "Without insulting every customer who comes through the door. Brian's happier in the kitchen anyway." She waves him off towards the counter and the aisle behind it. "Just make sure to use the little slip of parchment paper so you don't get cooties all over everyone else's cookies, dear."

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