One Hard Lesson Left To Learn


joanna_icon.gif tasha_icon.gif vincent_icon.gif

Scene Title One Hard Lesson Left To Learn
Synopsis Two phonecalls and text messages later, a surprise lunch with a broken family.
Date August 2, 2010

Joanna's Office, District Attorney's Building.

Books! Desk! Chair!

It's a trap.

Of course, really, Vincent should have been very much aware of it but generally, Joanna's not one to pull such underhanded things like what she's done. Mind you, Tasha didn't know either. The only person other than Joanna who knows about the possibility of more than 2 people in the office is the chinese delivery guy who hasn't come yet. Food for four - though it's really only for three but Joanna wants leftovers and she might work late.

Sitting behind her desk, Hair back, silk blouse wilted in the heat from when she was outside and her jacket hanging up on a mahogany coat rack, it's a pretty good office, with an expensive desk and a couple hundred books. Pictures of her and Tasha, her and family, even somewhere, there's one of Vincent. Her computer screen has fish that swim across it while digital algae wave back and forth and she smiles at Vincent.

It's been a fucking long time since Joanna smiled like that.

Ages, actually. Vincent's suspicion is as quick to trigger as it is transparent; sudden onset alert deeply, deeply interred in the hood of his brows and a subtle lift at his chin. Right hand still poised on the office door he intended to close neatly after himself, he pauses partway through the process and looks. First at Joanna. Then to the window. The far wall.

Why is she smiling at him.

He looks a little like someone who isn't sure if they've walked in on the right business meeting, tie knotted sleek at his throat and dusky suit crisp at every crease. Slender scars, tired eye circles and dutifully maintained designer scruff aside, he is as immaculate as Joanna remembers him ever being. A beat passes in awkward silence before he hedges his conversational bets with a careful, "Hi."

"I ordered lunch. I hope your favourite hasn't changed much" A pen picked up from it's holder, a silver scrolled montblanc. "Just sit Vincent, you look like I rigged a thousand grenades in here and even thinking of changing to vapor might set it off. I wanted Lunch, I knew you were in the area" She knew he was in the area. That is some mighty fine bribing that she did.

Maybe she sweet talked Praeger into making sure he'd be in the area?

'When are they opening up registration for those who are non-evolved. So I can mark it into my calendar, get it over with. I want to avoid the horrid lines at the NYPD precinct, wherever I decide to go"

"It hasn't," says Vincent, still wary. He has to consciously decide to let the door go. It closes with a quiet click behind him, brass to brass while he sizes up the office again. No mysterious packages. No muffled giggling or rusting of nnseen fabric. No fear in Joanna's voice, posture, eye contact.

He sits. Slowly. Reluctantly across from Joanna, more suspicious of unwittingly springing something upon himself than he is deliberately rude. He did agree to come for lunch of his own volition, after all. He just, you know. Didn't expect her to smile about it quite so much.

"I'm not at liberty to disclose that information. As you well know. Dear."

a text message requesting her presence for lunch is something that Tasha would respond to even in the best of circumstances, but since her mother had told her she had seen herself die at their last luncheon, Tasha had immediately responded in the affirmative. She even decided to dress in some of the new clothes her mother had chosen for her during their last shopping trip. Whatever she can do to be the good daughter that once she was, she will try. Tasha wants to be able to put the guilt and regret of the past several months of lying behind hem.

The employees of the district attorney's office have known Tasha since she was a baby, so she doesn't have to stop and give her name or wait for them to call her mother. The secretaries and file clerks wave at her — they would only stop her if her mother was not in her office or if there was a client. So Tasha, dressed in a casual red sundress and flip flops, pulls open the door that her father had just let shut. "I hope the food's already here because I'm star—" she steps in, noticing her father, then turns to her mother, eyes narrowing slightly at the ambush. "Hi Dad," she says, then waits a beat.

"Please tell me this isn't an intervention or something…"

There's that fucking smile again and the trap door drops. "Close the door, come in. Food should be here real soon. It's been too long since we all had something to eat and I though that in light of things that have… come to light, we might enjoy whatever spare little bits of time we might have when we're not putting people in jail, arresting people or being.. you know" A terrorist.

There's a gesture to the other seat in her office. "have a seat beside your father dear"

"…Playing pattycake with a terrorist organization," Vincent is only too merciless happy to provide, having already panned a look over his shoulder at the door, registered Tasha's presence and turned himself back to stare blackly at Joanna. Left arm extended into a rest across the back of his seat, he reaches the right into his jacket, round about the region he typically stores his cigarettes.

A second (less formal) "Hi," is probably for Tasha while he pushes around in papery cardboard and extracts a single smoke.

The comment from Vincent earns an eyeroll from his teenage daughter, but she sighs, shutting the door before crossing the office to give first her mother a kiss on he cheek, and then, surprisingly, the same to her father before dropping into the seat beside him. She glances at the cigarette, arching a brow. "I'm pretty sure it's illegal to smoke in a governmental building," she tells him with faux-primness, "And you should really quit." Apparently, she has.

Her dark eyes flit to her mother's face and she raises her brows. "I'd have come anyway, you know," she says quietly. "You don't have to trick us. Or me, anyway." Maybe Vincent wouldn't have. The possibility that he'd be more willing to see his divorced wife than her is weighed somewhere in her head, before she pushes it aside as irrelevant.

"I didn't trick you" Joanna scoffs at that idea, pulling an ashtray from somewhere in the depths of her desk, and an aerosol container to neutralize the smell later. She's been known to accommodate Vincent in such ways before in her office. "You both came of your own volition, and have so far, stayed. It's not a trick unless there was malicious intent, of which, despite what your father may think of me at time, there was none"

There's a knock at the door and cash is plucked from an envelope on her desk, passed over to Tasha. "That's the food, pay the man would you? He can keep the rest as a tip"

"Really?" Is it? Illegal?

Cheekbone turned to the peck in a mild show of resistant discomfort, Vincent tries not to tighten up his jaw and fails, tension eventually diverted into a cynical twist at his brows and a Look for Tasha when he extracts a lighter as well. "I must be feeling fractious."

The lighter sparks true on his second attempt, cigarette tasted, puffed once and deposited against the ash tray's edge so that he can shuffle automatically back around for his wallet. Until Joanna's envelope comes into play. Then he settles tersely back, hot air in his lungs confined there for longer than it should be.

If the tension is noticed, Tasha manages not to let any emotions show, smirking just a touch at his comment and then standing, taking the money from her mother and heading to the door. The transaction is made, money for take-out food, and Tasha can be heard murmuring, "No change, thanks," from her spot in the doorway. A moment later, the door is closed again and she brings the bags to the desk.

Any ritual of shared meals amongst the three of them has been long forgotten by Tasha. She has her rituals with her mother, and very few with her father. Joanna and she would probably simply each grab a box, each eating until they get bored then exchanging it — my cashew chicken for your broccoli beef? without really needing to discuss it. But a third party complicates things. Small things, little moments like this, remind her how broken her little family is.

She simply steps away from the food, sitting once more with her hands in her lap, letting her mother handle it.

Tasha's cashew Chicken - once it's located - is passed over, chopsticks laid across the top and shoved to that edge of the desk. Vincent's meal comes next, same deal and then her own. It seems that at least this portion of the meal will proceed as planned though there's plates included too, styrofoam in nature and available should vincent not wish to carry on like his ex-wife and daughter.

"Your father has kindly offered, come the week of November in which the undesirable events occur, to pull some agents and keep them on me the entire week to prevent anything from happening to me." Hoping that maybe this might put Tasha at ease and Vincent can answer any questions. "Does he need to do the same for you?"

Nostrils flared in irritation or at the scent of food on the cheap, Vincent breathes smoke at a draconic twist and snare before reaching to take up his box of pepper steak. No plate.

He's quiet while he does his thing, chopsticks turned deftly over in his right hand once he's set a napkin out in his lap and glanced a little too intently at his daughter. Does he?

A team of agents on her, when what Tasha is doing that week is probably related to the Ferry and the Ferry's efforts to keep whatever many of them saw happening on the 10th from happening? She takes the pint of food and the chopsticks, wary eyes looking from mother to father. "That's good," she finally manages to say. "He can keep you safe, then. I was going to … maybe ask you about that," she nods to her father. "I don't think it's all going to happen, not anymore, but anything that will keep you out of danger is … good."

She swallows. That doesn't answer the question. Tasha glances down, eyes focusing on the flap of cardboard and slipping it out of the slot to open her little box of food. "I don't think so," she says with a shake of her head, downcast eyes. "I wasn't hurt in my vision. Nothing for agents to protect me from."

sticks dig into the box, pulling forth chicken to be nibbled, not gorged on. Maybe in the days of university, when she and Vincent lived on little money and chinese was a treat to be consumed over law books and shiney badges with NYPD numbers emblazoned across them instead of DoEA badges and law briefs.

"What happened in yours? So we may at least… perhaps prepare on our end of things?" She's not expecting that Tasha will actually tell them what she saw.

"For that matter, Vincent, what did you see?"

Like Joanna, Vincent takes his peppersteak slow, chopsticks prodded pickily past vegetables in search of more tender stuff. More on the same page that they are than a first look would suggest, he declines to pry after what Tasha's vision might have entailed — or whether or not his ex knows more about it than she's letting on.

"I didn't have one," muffled by the food he has in his mouth, Vincent resolves to finish chewing before he has to say anything else. Particularly anything else that entails elaboration, which he does not look like he is all that interested in.

Unlike her father, Tasha can't claim not to have had one. She's admitted it already, and they knew she was in Staten Island when the visions hit. She looks at her father, eyes narrowing slightly. If he was at the DoEA building in Brooklyn, it's a toss-up. He might have had one, he might not have. Glancing at Joanna, she sighs. No more lies, but half truths will have to do.

"I was running and the city was on fire. It was pretty bad. Like, riots or, I don't know. I was scared and I was trying to catch up to Colette and … she was hurt. It cut out just as I caught up to her, so I don't know — I don't know how bad," Tasha murmurs, her voice quiet before she looks up again. She still hasn't had a bite of her food, her chopsticks just held loosely on top of the box.

Turning to Vincent, her brows knit together. "Is your work trying to figure out what causes it? Not the visions…" She knows what caused those. "The riots. The fires."

So tasha hadn't lied in that aspect at least. In any aspect regarding her vision. There's a casual raise of eyebrows - in as much as they'll actually go up thanks to botulism that gets shot all up in that part of her face quite regularly. It helps scare the shit out of jurors and help with the serious look.

Thank god at least, she doesn't look like Sela Ward.

"Maybe, you should come stay with me that week. You, and Colette, come stay at the condo that week. I wasn't part of your vision, you were part of mine in name only" There's a gesture in the air with the chopsticks. "We can make a big deal out of it, give your fathers agents some good exercise."

"The Department of Evolved Affairs is not specifically concerned with the prevention of potentially harmful predicted events so much as we are prevention of another potentially harmful prediction," says Vincent, all his p's very pointed in their places. "We know that at least one evolved ability was involved in the flash. And — a few other relevant details," a vague turn of one chopstick indicates he has no intention of going into them, "but non-evolved-specific national security rests in the hands of agencies designed to that end."

With eyebrows that still run the full gamut of cynical expressionn, Vincent manages to give his daughter a look that's nothing short of slanted as he clips at another sliver of beef. "Why?"

"M-maybe, I mean, I'll see what she says. I don't know, because…" Tasha stammers a little. Because of Tamara. Because of the Ferry. Because she might be needed. "I'll talk to her, though. If she doesn't want to, I can still come stay with you, probably. I mean, classes will be in session and all, and I'm not going to drop out this time."

Her eyes turn to her father and she tilts her head. "At least two," she says, pointedly in her own way without any p's. Gillian is missing. Joseph was taken. She knows the two are connected. "And what do you mean, why? If it's something that the government does that causes riots and fires and that kind of thing, shouldn't they rethink doing it? What ever it may be?"

Here they go, one talking about something that both of them know, that terroristtm stuff. Likely. Maybe. Possibly. "Government isn't responsible for riots. It's the people who are upset with the government that incite riots and ramp people up till there is a mob mentality and everything spills over. I'd feel more better if you stayed with me, during that week too. It's not like it'll be easy for you to get to Parson's from Staten Island." Her chopsticks poke at her own food, sussing out a chunk of chicken to bite into.

Pepper steak tremors in the prong-ed chopstick grip Vincent has on it, but the way he's looking at Tasha now is far worse than whatever his hands are up to. Glare corrosive as crude oil and nearly as black, he acknowledges her suggestion of the ~possiblity~ with a did you really just warning downward and sideways tip of his sandpapery jaw. Which is clenched, by the way.

He stays staring even once Joanna's voice has filled the gap, hardly blinking, steak suspended in a drippy, glistening wad until he sets it back down into its box, chopsticks and all. The same hand scuffs at his brow and he sits back a hair, ire finally raking away from 50% of his own DNA in search of something else in the office to distract himself with momentarily.

"Staten Island — I don't stay on Staten anymore. That was just for the winter, and sometimes some errands," Tasha says with a glance at her mother and then her eyes widening slightly at her father, though not in fear. There's something smug about it, but the satisfaction only lasts a moment before the graveness of the situation returns, and she sighs, glancing down at her food, still not touched.

"Okay. I'll tell Colette I'm staying with you that week," she says, her voice filled with more resolve as she turns back to Joanna, dark eyes peering up. "We're not going to let it happen, what you saw. I promise." Her voice is fierce, her expression serious. "And … it wasn't necessarily that kind of riot, Mom, that people saw. It might have been a raid. The violence wasn't necessarily caused by a mob." But by the police. By FRONTLINE. By the people who are supposed to be protecting, not hurting. "That's all I'm asking… is if the Department is going to consider the possibility that something the government is doing causes these events, and maybe to rethink that plan of action."

Vincent, Joanna is going to let you field this one, oh yes she is, as evidenced by the fascination she seems to hold on this speck of bean in her chicken. He is, the government representative, in this room after all.

The gust of breath that finally breaks frustration through the clamped front of Vincent's incisors nearly sounds like a laugh for the milisecond it lasts. There's a crinkle at the corner of his eyes to match, irritation crisp on humor's leading edge. Food set carefully over onto the near edge of Joanna's desk, he takes another beat or two of Private Time before he finally looks back over at Tasha, black eyes tracing hard over the scar that winds thin across the back of his hand in the interim.

"My Office considers every possibility," is a very to-the-point kind of answer. Bleak. Level. Flat, even. Vincent could say something else, and he looks like he has the potential to, but he never really gets close. Two seconds is enough time for him to think better of it, and after a few more, he leans forward to push stiffly to his feet.

"Ah, shit," Tasha says as he stands. "Sit down, please, Dad? Mom wants us to have a normal meal like … like family," and her voice cracks just a little even as she tries to be mature, to make a little bit of a bridge to her father, mostly on the behalf of her mother, because her mother thinks she's going to die soon. "Please. I'm sorry." These three words are whispered, and she glances at her mother, apology in her eyes as she knows she is to blame for this one.

Her hand reaches out to touch the back of his, fingers then curling around his wrist, tugging him gently downward, her eyes lifting in a pleading look. "I'm sorry. I'll be good. I'll talk about baseball or the weather or something, just… don't go."

Some things, are maybe not meant to be, and this little family of three, long ago, was broken, before Tasha even came on the scene in truth. Joanna's box of food is put down, eased onto the lip of her desk, a glance to Tasha, Vincent, then back to Tasha. "We should go on a cruise, before you start school. I have vacation, you can bring Colette with you. Not the dog though, don't think they allow animals. That way your father can have a week of knowing you're not… whatever it is that you end up doing"

There's a gesture to Vincent, that he's free to leave, no offesnse taken if he does. That it's been more than five minutes or that he stayed, it was a victory in and of itself.

"No," says Vincent, the full 5'8" of him going a little smudgy around the edges when he turns towards the grip Tasha has on him at the same time as he literally falls away from it. Vapor trails blackly after the stir of her fingers only to rejoin the rest of the source once he's lifted that same hand into an index-finger-not-quite-point to aim it at her. Her.

"No." Jab. "You're not. You're sorry about the consequences. Never the cause. And not enough to stop."

He's not really tall enough to loom, but there's a quiet, stony severity to the distinct cut of his countenance and the square of his shoulders braced beneath it. And the point. Because he's still pointing. "You have at least one hard lesson left to learn. And you'd better hope we're both still around and able enough to help dig you out when you do."

There, slowly, accusation and point fall away. He keeps looking at her, though, right hand braced at his hip while he considers the office and reaches blandly for his still-lit cigarette. A drag and a quiet, "Good to see you, Jo," later, he does the asshole thing and vanishes in a churn of smoke that (some may argue) is slightly melodramatic.

The teen's mouth literally drops, speechless as his words cut through her as if she were made of vapor and not him. Her mouth finally shuts and her chin lifts as eyes narrow. One step forward and two steps back, any sort of understanding she'd thought they had managed in their last conversation has dissipated along with his churning hurricane of smoke.

Tasha's eyes do not meet her mother's face as she stares first at the space where her father just stood, and then she reaches to put her pint of food, untouched on the desk. She is quiet for another few seconds, clearly stunned and hurt, before she stands. "You have work to do," she murmurs, her voice thick as she tries to keep back the tears, the room swimming through the flood. "I should go."

"Victor" A polite nod, looking away when he turns into vapor before she sits through the awkward silence that Tasha eventually breaks.

"You can always come home Tasha. But your father is right, you have a lesson to learn in all this. We won't hold your hand, and when you do fall" There's no if " We will let you. Till you ask for help" Till the teenager comes to her senses. "You're legal age now, for things like voting. For us not being thrown in jail for your actions. Take your food with you. There's a bag there. If you need anything, call"

The youngest of the little broken family of three is too tired and too hurt to argue with her mother, not wanting to spend what Joanna probably perceives as her last few months arguing, though Tasha is determined her mother will live past November. She simply nods, grabbing the bag to put her food in, then looping the handles around her hand. Her free hand goes up to push her hair out of her face, then try to swipe her eyes surreptitiously with her back turned to Joanna before facing her once more.

"I'll talk to Colette about the cruise, and that week," she says, her voice flat, not the earnest fierceness of just moments before in her debate with her father. She steps closer to hug her mother with her free hand, giving another kiss on the cheek and a light head butt. "Talk to you later."

Unlike her father, she has to use the door and walk away.

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