Quelle Surprise


francois_icon.gif teo3_icon.gif

Scene Title Quelle Surprise
Synopsis Teo shows up to that thing he signed up for. Better late than never.
Date January 8, 2009

USS George Washington

Salut, Teo.

The errand Kershner sent me on did not turn up very much, save for confirmation that the man who was pretending to be Kazimir is Kazimir. And so they almost abandoned the team in Argentina, thinking they must be dead. They are not, and the others are here again as well. They all know each other, I think— or it would seem that way.

I would say where we are headed but they might arrest me. But I don't think you would like it very much.

Ah, I will call back when I know you will be there. I do not like machines enough to have a conversation with one. Prends soin de toi, mon ami.

Marion Island has penguins, albatrosses, gulls, terns, and little stripey-billed puffins. Everybody seems to have a cultured taste for fresh sushi and wearing some variety of feathered tux.

It makes a Sicilian feel rather provincial and under-dressed, when he appears in the air over the Washington's deck with a firecracker bang of displaced air and startled energy. The ship's own penguins watch the spectacle in a bemused shade of quiet. Where there was nothing but the plain horizon of gray day sky, tarmac runway, railing and a peripheral handful of bored crewmen a moment before, there is suddenly a lanky man with a huge backpack and his face fixed in a scarred leer on one side, and a skinny red-haired woman with a familiar uniform and a pair of giant goggles strapped down over her face.

She hands her taller companion a bag made of crackling brown paper, and raps him on the shoulder. Speaks into the white plastic corkscrew of the radio unit coiled around her jaw, disapparates again with another thunderclap of preternatural energy. Teo's expression is confused for about three seconds, before his face is interrupted by a sudden vomit, stilting his first step forward and aborting his gesture of salutation at the gang of squinty parkas and approaching clipboards into a grasp on the ship's railing.

He's left with his legs stilted wide around a V, scruffy bearded head hung below his knees. The wind teases, bites at his ears above the fold of his own (eventually inadequate) coat, snatches little string-shapes into the mucus creeping out of the lopsided twist of his mouth, and nausea buzzes hollowly in his crown. Before he found his sea legs, he had known what motion sickness was, too. Ghost would die laughing at this regression. (But he'dve thrown up, too.) (Fucker.)

Upside-down, an Adelie penguin leans into his triangled frame of view blinking through eyes that look perpetually surprised.

Most of the people creating a semi-circle around the bowed Sicilian would probably be some percentage more helpful than Francois, but the Frenchman can rest assured he's more helpful than the penguins. Two birds of the King subspecies waddle and flap out of the pathway he cuts across the deck, the scattered mass of avian life here without regards to such rituals like feeding times, mating, migration, but then again, so are all of they, and the penguins have a better uniform besides.

Curiousity had him drifting a few steps, and then recognition carries him the rest of the way, boots thumping on the deck. "Teo?" He's not dressed unlike he was in Russia, a wool-lined jacket, jeans, a scarf tucked around his collar. Gloves, now, grey woolen, and both come to rest on Teo's curved shoulder when he sidles up a little closer, avoiding the mess.

Laughter, now, deeply sympathetic and pitying, as only Francois can. "I thought you liked boats," he tells the man's bowed back.

Mumblemumble. Vaffanculo, or a choppily rudimentary version thereof. Wlehghh. It says something about Teodoro's priorities, that he chooses to use the traveler's baggy as a napkin for his face post-dump instead of a receptacle for said dump, leaving the splotch on the deck for 'whomever' to clean up. The paper bag isn't a very good napkin, but Teo is thorough with it; by the time he's hooking himself onerously upright, his face is relatively clear, but rubbed a little raw, pink from where the grain of the material and his skin had disagreed.

"Surprise," is the second thing he says, apparently assured that Francois' ego will have chosen to ignore the first set of instructions. After his shoulders have straightened upright, Teodoro's face is anything but, all bristle and slime-bright teeth, the rictus of a laughing idiot child, his rueful private misery momentarily alleviated for Francois' sake. No, his stomach still doesn't feel very well, and he doesn't look forward to whatever the twittering officials over Francois' shoulder want him to do with their clipboards and handheld consoles, but the English aren't the only ones capable of a stiff upper-lip, and Francois does have that quality.

Francois Allegre can make fun of you and make you feel flattered for it, somehow. So. 'Surprise,' and he isn't sure whether he'd prefer Francois really was or not.

By the time Teo is upright, Francois is slipping his hands off his shoulder, backing up a couple of discreet steps, all blinking and cautiously watching the younger man to see if he's as well as his posture is trying to signify. His gaze hooks down towards the scar, deforming and widening Teo's smile, or maybe he's more looking at the growth of bristling beard he doesn't remember him having the last time he saw him. Francois hasn't really changed in the past fortnight, bite still missing from an ear and partially obscured too by a careless lock of hair.

"Oui, a surprise," he agrees, some accusation in his voice. Like maybe it shouldn't have happened, or shouldn't be a surprise at the very least, but relief is slipping into place too, a glance towards the clipboards with people attached, and getting used to ignoring the penguins. "Are you— ? No, you are not alright, should I send for a…" A doctor, and his mouth twists a little ruefully.

The boy is all too quick to detect accusation and guess at its cause with a sinking of private, wholly concealed worry, numbed down by growing cold and the press of other obligations. Somebody tosses a poofy-edged coat thing over his head, and he ducks his head either under the raspy squiggle of its zipper or Francois' stare on his bad side, he winds up trying to keep the garment from sliding to the ground with one hand and his teeth while he squirms out of his pack with the other and both arms.

Not to be rude. Teo shuffles out of range of his vomit, answers the essential basics of his identity in a fuzzy mumble and gives up his passport to an austere, skinny uniformed gentleman who frowns to discover his visa is expired as of five months ago, but says nothing of it. It's Teodoro Laudani, all right, warts and all. "I think I just need some food. And walk-around," he insists, under or over the other chattering fuss. This or that person should know that Laudani finally made it. He'll need a briefing. Some kind of briefing.

Teo nods and nods, Yes sirs here or there, but he isn't really paying attention to the officers, twisting to pull his pack on around the new mass of the coat distributed over his torso. Some kind of briefing.

That is code for 'later.' "How's your..?" Teo fuzzes a motion with his own hand, tips his ragged head at Francois' bandaged digits. "How's everything?"

As the wolves descend, Francois doesn't bother coming up with an excuse to linger, or otherwise not walk away, only stands stubbornly with his own special brand of patience as people get the details he needs, watching the horizon until Teo has words to spare in his direction. Both hands are tucked into the corners of his folded elbows, protection against the cold biting at his jacket, and he glances down towards the hand in question. "It aches," he admits. "The cold doesn't help. It will only get colder, you know?"

His head tips, invitation to walk-around, a hand going out to nudge his arm. "Everything," Francois repeats, tone of vice communicating either mild dismay at such a broad spectrum of thing, or the lack of which he's sure about. "It appears as if everything is going according to plan, or plans are made after the fact, it is hard to tell. Unfortunately, everything is probably going according to plan on the other side as well. Catherine and I have not gotten along since I discovered that our orders to take Grigori in alive came from Kazimir Volken." Not to be pettily tattle in the space of a few minutes — rather genuinely, he picks the things that are his priority, right or wrong, and perhaps he feels Teo deserves to know, even if it's a bullet point. He walks, hands hiding in his pockets, and continues studying the horizon. "She says no one is certain when in Antarctica the warhead is. Soon, they will be telling us what to do next. Or perhaps Volken will.

"I turned seventy-seven," Francois adds, as if the idea of it had only just occurred to him. "I suppose it is the first time it would mean anything, is that not so." He has questions too, mouth opening to ask them, shutting again, and instead glancing towards Teo to see if that registered.

"You almost killed my friends in Argentina," Teo says, in a register too much like agreement to be entirely without second meaning. You can't say 'You almost killed my friends in Argentina' without there being a few smudges, be it cruel sarcasm ringing around the term 'friends' or overt rage. Teo's annoyance is a small pleat of sardonicism. He almost kills his friends at home, sometimes. Extenuating circumstances. "But I guess if they were dead, Volken had a higher chance of staying that way, too."

That was the right kind of everything, insofar as everything's gone wrong.

He scores his knuckles along the underside of his jaw. Rasp, rasp. Sounds like a toothbrush going at some terribly disfigured teeth. A stray wind— bitterly cold already, Francois was right— slaps the loose ends of his pack straps against his legs. He waves salutation back at the American officers they are leaving behind. It probably looks like some kind of terribly European conspiracy, but maybe they will be grateful for the extra distance put between them and Italian vinagrette breath. Teo pulls his water bottle out of the side of his pack, unscrews the cap and palms water over his mouth.

Darkens a splatter down the front of his shirt, and starts a trickle out of the ripped opening of his mouth before he self-consciously thinks to wipe it on his sleeve. "Antarctica," he says. Growled by itself, the word manages to sound like a curse. "Seven—ty seven." It seems, for a moment, that all Teodoro is going to be capable of doing is repeating after Francois' choice of nouns at an occasionally staggered or halted tone of voice. Okay. "What's with all the fucking penguins?"

Francois trips over that first part, secretly, inasmuch as it's not a physical stumble. That he doesn't immediately recover either is made manifest in silence and not glancing at Teo anymore, walking like a phantom at his side. He's been a little like a phantom since boarding the carrier, anyway. Perhaps it was the trip to the church, or Sarisa, or that the two people he trusted better went to New York. Anyway. He doesn't respond to sarcasm, dry humour, whatever that was, tension setting in almost as fast as nausea had for Teo. His chin tucks down in defense against the wind, into the huddle of his scarf not unlike the aforementioned birds push their beaks into their feathers.

"They are here for the conversation," he suggests, abruptly lagging, steering behind Teo so as to step in between the Sicilian and the railing they follow. The switch comes with no explanation, or maybe it's the direction of the wind. "You are here, now. Why?" As if aware of his own brittle tone, he adds, "Who changed your mind?"

Wiping his hand on his shirt leaves a streaky handmark soon to fade in the weather, which is nearly as brittle and inhospitable as Francois' tone of voice then. He stops when the other man does, his hand hanging like uninspired flags at his sides, one wet and the other closed around the water bottle. Suddenly they're joking about talking to penguins. Maybe that was a bad thing to point out. Teo considers his earlier words for a moment, decides that it is probably so. Or maybe it's the face.

Or maybe sharing mess quarters and strategems with the twisted essence of a genocidal megalomaniac who'd nearly had him killed and broken so many times was taking its toll on Francois' conversational skills. He puts his hands in his pockets. He opens his mouth to answer about lives sacred, honor recoverable and relevant skill-sets, before he abruptly closes it again, a dark brow wriggling up out of configuration, still visible underneath the ragged swoop of his bangs. He can't tell what Francois wants to hear, or what he'd believe.

"Now, I have a face for war," he says, finally. Teo stuffs bottle into puffy jacket pocket to have something to do with his hands. "And friends. Doesn't seem fair to leave all of you to kill or die on ground-zero so I can get a few days' headstart seeking higher ground, or earn my freedom and acquittals for me, or disappear trying. We all knew what we signed up for." Even Team Bravo, he means. Eggs, cake. "I forgot— just because I didn't… literally sign anything."

His eyes go narrow with sympathy, words that hurt be damned. Especially honest ones, anyway. Francois nods once at this answer, settling his back against the railing with the choppy gun-metal ocean a vast distance below. This is more like a floating building than a boat, he determined around the time he discovered the place where they let you shoot guns for as long as you like. "I would have liked to think you'd have had a plan for our failure," he says, cheerily. "And a head start also. I will settle for Abigail having one."

Because doubtless she would, whether it be her choice or Teo's. Like he and Cat have already agreed on, they don't intend to fail anyway. "I am glad you are here," he admits, cleanly honest, with some amount of apology in his voice that implies he doesn't like it here, and so, this is selfish.

A hand raises, his good one, index finger curling and going horizontal so that he might very briefly catch it beneath Teo's chin and the scruff that's grown there, the touch skimming away again. Green eyes brighten a little, for all they'd dimmed a few moments ago. "Though, if you have a face for war, I cannot see it under there. Does it hurt?" 'It', in exchange for the Sicilian's prior ellipses regarding his hand.

"Well, fuck, okay." Teo creases his brow and pulls his eyes wide underneath their shadow. "Maybe it's a face for tropical war, and if you keep that up, I'll go find somebody to hit with a bottle in the Bahamas," Teo says, wiggling his chin, his jaw, side-to-side like it's just something facetious; the touch, the face thing, the ugliness and the whole thing with the scar and his teeth showing forever and when he doesn't drink water except just so it goes shooting out of his head all slimed up and ridging through his gums.

He'll need a huge beard. A huge one. After the war. Big bushy mangy portable barricade thing that won't make Frenchmen do befuddling token gestures of sympathy with their hands. — He'd wanted to say 'You,' of course, just to be silly, except maybe ostensibly so seriously some part of his brain with its meters and levers and switches perpetually balanced in unbalanced, lunatic precarious positions would flip over to believing it. God. "A little.

"It's like what you said with the ache and I guess what Skoll said about the cost? Or maybe it's in my head. I guess that would mean it's in your head. That would be rude. Non, I don't think that. Sucks, though.

"I'm glad you're glad," he finishes, ponderously, turning red where the beard's brackish blond of his jaw doesn't cover. Teodoro hikes his shoulders higher, his right arm already almost into his pocket to the elbow. He glances at the nearest penguin, sort of wondering what else this boat has. 'Sink' comes to mind, innovative as anything. He brought his own toothpaste and toothbrush, so.

Luckily for Teo, a blush does something to dethaw the both of them, the rush of heat redness brings with it slightly more literal than Francois' mood. It eases, keels into a sigh, a glance away, and the tension that had knotted his brow smoothing out as he absently grinds his unmutilated knuckles against it, arm falling back down again to hook his elbow on the railing. He realises somewhere along the way that he should ask about Abigail, or should have already, but— later. There's time for later. "We should both be in New York," he decides upon, somewhat impulsively.

"Not that we should not be here. A lot of other people were hurt too." But maybe they shouldn't on the boat either, which he doesn't say out loud, just halves a smile and looks at where their feet are standing apart from each other. "It would be nice to be home — it might be written down somewhere that the further you head towards Antarctica, the farther you are away from such a concept.

"You didn't bring anything to drink, did you?"

'Should's find themselves frequently offended 'round these parts. This boat, this part of sea, this company. "White rum." Teo looks down at where Francois is looking down, for a moment, before lifting his gaze again. "Thought about limes and sugar and fizzy water and shit, too, but that seemed—" A shrug of rue rolls through his shoulders. "Heavy.

"Inappropriate." Distractedly, he's thinking about whether or how to introduce Francois properly to the Argentinean team in the mess; wondering if the acknowledged awkwardness of that would excuse him manifesting freakish avoidance of social scenes. It's Kershner he doesn't trust. He'd say that, but he is distracted also by the shade of green of Francois' irises, which are exactly like some dewily overendowed metaphor for a man with very green eyes.

Perhaps mocking him, one of the nearby penguins begins to conduct a gawky dance with nothing but its shadow for its partner.

"So I ended up bringing three bottles instead." Just as heavy. No less inappropriate. There are an awful lot of people who were hurt, who shouldn't be here, too. Teo fans his arms out like he's blocking any potential grabs at the ruckstack strapped to his shoulders. "Restroom first," he requires, pushing his eyebrows up. "Mess. Does it operate between meals?"

Punchline to the query gets a smile, no particular response. What are they going to do with three bottles of white rum? Share it, mainly. Also the more obvious thing. "It does," Francois answers, pushing his weight off the railing with a quick rock of motion, a hand out to steal Teo's on its downswing, before God and the US Navy. He spares the younger man some embarrassment — no quick pecks and beyond, not the least of which due to what the disgruntled deckhand has to clean up some paces away before the penguins investigate and freak everyone the fuck out. But sure, his good hand can go out, steal Teo's, and turn him around.

"Come, Sicily, let's get you cleaned up," he invites, releasing hands again as he makes casual paces away from the railing. Penguins get out of the way, all hunched backs and flapping wings and feet. They do kind of mock you, don't they? "I will give you the grand tour, and then see about attending tomorrow's briefing with a hang over."

It's true. About. The sharing— is what Abigail had had in mind, of course. Of gifts. Bar. She has a whole bar. He asked for one but she pointed out… lots of people. End of the world, see, the soldiers deserve— hangovers. Teo nods.

His fingers also give a tiny, secretive flex in the curl of Francois' hand. He is a little sorry that they're numb already, not merely because he despises the cold, or even because he habitually covets warmth, but temperature aside that he would have liked to have had the details of round fingers and the palm still too stubborn to hold a scar available to his touch. The numbness at least lends him a comforting sense of invisibility. Anyway, his thoughts go pleasantly staccato while Francois puppeteers his change of course for him, and then he thumps his boots down in robotic obedience.

Teodoro'ss face is numb now, too, neutralizing both the vivid color of his unnamed embarrassment and Kozlow's souvenier. While Francois is right about the fact he's going to hate that, it's better than feeling his face all the time. In the moment he is permitted to forget about it, he remembers to smile a bit, under the scraggly bristle of his beard and acidic zest of his breath. Practically speaking, Francois' plan has merit too, of course. He puts his hands into his pockets.

Maybe there is a little bit of bias behind the question, a wilful favoritism, apportioning of blame, that Ghost would have sneeringly eschewed to blinker himself with and baby-Teo might have found vaguely discourteous. Teo asks it anyway, idle as a penguin awaiting its proper feeding: "Do you think I should trust Kershner?"

Francois is leading the way, so he doesn't stop. Does slow, glance over his shoulder, a catch of anxiety showing in green eyes, self-deprecating bemusement. "Kershner?" he repeats, needlessly, swinging his attention forward again. "You ask me?

"You should recall my track record in knowing who to trust. Volken, Kozlow. Holden. Anya, even. There are a few reasons I am glad you are here, right." He slows enough to fall into step with Teo. "Because I do not know, and you always seem to. You know some of these people as well, and those that are strangers to us both…" Francois shakes his head, watching more the undefined path before him than his companion. "As for Sarisa… I would like to trust her. Perhaps you should tell me why you ask."

A shrug seesaws through Teo's shoulders, creaking the canvas and sturdy stitches of his rucksack. Given the amount of disquiet he suffered over Holden and Anya, those examples do not seem to depict him in the most awesome of lights, but he supposes Francois is being wonderfully self-effacing. Aeronautical runway stripes pass them by and the blocky steel and thready satellites, antaennae, and other telecommunications throw diluted shadows down onto the two men as they near. "I don't know her, that's all.

"I have an uneasy relationship with the United States government and don't know how to quantify her position, which is two things that make a baby terrorist nervous. As far as the New York Times is concerned, she runs logistics and hands out emeritus Rolexes for FRONTLINE-01. During debrief oh-one, she did the clicky thing that changed slides on the Powerpoint. Plus title." Teo thumbs an imaginary clicky-thing. "But she seems to have real sway here: authority, access. I've never met her, myself," he observes, suddenly, brows hiking under the shaggy thatch of his fringe."

Assuring himself that Francois has his back turned, he takes a brief moment to coast his tongue over his exposed molars, thumbing his cheek. Egh. "Maybe she likes rum."

"I think she'd prefer gin, with vermouth." But Teo wasn't asking the Frenchman for his opinion regarding the woman's drink of choice, though it could come in handy. "I think we have little choice but to trust her," he says, after a few more moments of walking, head still ducked a little to sink his chin again into the warmth of his bundled scarf. "But given the choice, presented with the opportunity, I would say non. It does not seem like a wise decision to me, to trust these people. But you should meet her."

A sideways glance, then, before Francois thinks to add, "Do not shake her hand, if you can help such a thing. When she touched my palm, she knew me. She knew too much of me, and more than that, even — she thinks…" Nose wrinkles, brows tense. This is silly.

It is silly. He doesn't pursue that train of thought any further. "It is an ability of her's, and my instinct says that I would not wish her to know you like she can know people."

By the time Francois arrives at his final conclusion, Teo has crunched lugubriously onto the exact same one, and the exclamation points have begun to fade from his all-too-mobile face. That's disgruntling. So disgruntled is Sicily, in fact, that he doesn't remember to pursue that cognitus interruptus that Francois had aborted with ellipses.

He considers his seemingly unalterable course with a little more alarm now. He will go into that porthole door. He will clean himself up. He will bring rum and be obliged to share it with a woman who will make casual hand-brushings that he will be forced to respond by either squealing about his homosexuality (possibly made more believable by Francois' share of encounters), making fuss about Catholic personal bubbles (possibly made less believable by Francois' share of encounters) or hitting her face. After a moment's pause, he relaxes.

Yeah, that'll do. They can't shoot him for insubordination: he's a terrorist. He will say something earlier, probably; they won't be able to shoot him before he does that. They have other reasons to shoot him, which merely imply the gravity of the reasons they don't. He wonders who else's hand Sarisa has shaken, decides that is going to be a a considerable amount of data to tabulate and extrapolate alarming shit from.

It's difficult to track what still matters, in this pre-apocalyptic times. "Okay," Teo says, splitting the good side of his face with a crooked grin. He levers one boot up over the door's round-cornered frame, tips the other in. The ship had seemed perplexingly enormous from the outside. Inside, narrow hallspace only serves to exaggerate the concentric steel-hive kaleidoscope of limitless depth. "Grazie. I'll keep that in mind. Let the others know." A beat. "Nice scarf."

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