ghost2_icon.gif teo_icon.gif

Scene Title Shadowboxer
Synopsis Ghost practices Aikido while Teo adjusts his stance.
Date June 17, 2009

Staten Island — Some Dingy Safehouse

The floor is sterile though.

Inwardly, which the reader may take to mean privately, some part of Teo still doesn't think it should even be possible. This centricity of balance between bare feet, fine control, the litany of movement memorized down to the oblique crook of wrist that the ghost pauses to correct by a fractioned degree before dropping the stance, laying back into the initial coil of poise, starting over. Despite the colorful segments of history Teo already associates with it, the wolf-hilt sword turning pithy in Ghost's hand doesn't strike him as altogether significant because he is ignorant of the rest.

By now, he has pragmatically forsaken conventional tactics of warfare (cursing, scolding, opportunistically shooting himself in the head, you know) and they have also run out of the casual fare of conversation. What restaurants to eat at ('You will not put that in my mouth— Goddamn— '), the value of the dollar ('Impressively high!' the old man compared. 'I can't say the same about my salary.') whether or not they have anything in common ('We must have something in common,' the child said. 'I hate Ethan Holden?' 'I dunno, he probably wasn't so bad.' Killed conversation for half the fucking day.) and whether pigs have wings (iambic pentameter: timeless), and where Ghost learned to do that ('Hana.' 'Hana.' 'Hana.' 'Hana.' 'Salvatore. Ah— he hasn't taught you how to dance?').

Gradually, impressionism gives way to starkly articulated detail and flat reliefs, a portrait of a man.

('Name one thing you miss about Italy.' 'God, I haven't thought about Michele in— months.' 'Are you calling me a liar?' 'No, I see it now. Yeah.'

'I can think of all of… two people I could never bring myself to hurt, and she's one of them.')

Mind you, Teo hasn't forgiven him— not for a lot of things, but there is no one else to talk to and, sometimes, when they have these conversations, Ghost uses the word 'Sorry.' Mostly about forgetting, by which he means that I didn't give enough of a shit, like about Cardinal. No matter how horrible and unexpected the twists this chronology hurl against his stride ('If we get Delphine to Peter, and his empathic mim—' 'Uh,' Teo pauses, amazed. 'Hey? I don't know that she can raise the dead.' Another conversation killed; another three-hour silence.), for the ghost, this world is still a fucking dream come true. Dreams, by nature, do not feel real.

It is endearing and frustrating when you realize that Ghost is miraculously not unlike a veteran prematurely aged by war and habituated widowery, confined to dozing on a porch rocker with his thumbs limp over the button controls of a Nintendo gameboy. Teo keeps trying to remind him that when he wakes up he is going to feel like someone had dug a vertebrate out of the side of his neck with a fistful of car keys.

Romero is peculiarly iconic of their similarities and differences. They've fought about him a lot. What kind of person he is, what he's supposed to mean. They both remember talking to him about family. It has always been like, and it will always be as if Teo and Rommy had been raisd by different mothers. Romero's mother was a woman who loved being married in a household she loved with the ferocity with which she managed it, who had cultivated value and fulfillment in the socially constrained spaces adjacent her husband's office cubicle. Teo's mother was a woman who would never know the companionship of an equal or the dignity of self-sufficiency; she was the one waiting, underexposed and overachieved, still expecting salvation— not one who had been saved. Romero assumed the carping gossips merely envied Amadora because she was beautiful. Teodoro suspected that their father was correctly stricken by horror that she had cheated with the Australian tourist. This dichotomy is preserved the same.

However, Ghost is of firm belief: whereas Romero's single most conspicuous loss is allowed to weigh on the boy's soul as long as he cares for only the companionship of his right hand, that is not allowed to outweigh six billions lives saved. Every man ought to represent himself. Gianina is a shitty reason to do anything; she's been honored, and now she's gone. There are six billion people who need looking after, a great burden of heroism and civic responsibility to try that needs not be a misshapen cross. Also, Ghost has summarized in almost these exact words, he is a yellow-bellied bitch. Where the fuck did he go, when Volken came? Also, according to Ghost's stubbornness, Teo is the handsome brother.

Then he merely shrugs Teo when he points out that you're supposed to protect your family. Now they have moved onto other things. Mostly.

('Do you want to know about your son?' — and it is the younger Teo who rounds on him, instantly and helplessly disgusted. 'My son. My son? Bastard— what the fuck would you have to say about him?')

Bizarrely, Teo looks more like Romero than he had before the shift. He has kept his mother's eyes, lost the Finnish soapmilk underhue to his complexion and the blond. There is an old man Romero here in the mirror, pivoting on a heel, flipping toes toward the rusted rebar ceiling and jack-knifing upright again. Sweat clots down the groove between his shoulderblades, wicking in the twisted snarl of artificially clumped scar tissue there. Olllld man.

I guess we aren't that different, Teo says, eventually. We can agree on one thing.


Hana, too, I gather. Teo hasn't said a lot about Hana in the interim. He worries that she sees herself in Ghost without pausing to recognize and arm herself with what has always kept her above him, more honorable, better than. Even by 2009, Teodoro has survived many human weapons and familiarized himself with their cruel edges at variously uncomfortably bloody intimacy. It nags his brooding thoughts that she wouldn't believe him if he said so, out of everybody. Still, he can agree about this, with both of them, without having to make a desperate play of rationalization, or lying: Someone really has to stop Arthur.

Ghost stoops to snatch up the sheathe of the sword and slides the rapier back in, thirty inches of steel closed up in its lacquer-black repository. He slings it underhand back onto the floor, where it clacks down atop the canvassy pile of his windbreaker, a snick of zipper, metal weight and fabric sighing. Yeah. Hooking his torso down, he grips his feet. Lengthens calf muscles out like a stick of bubblegum creaked from teeth. You mentioned about getting your hands dirty. A beat. My hands, your hands, he shrugs his shoulders. For— something like the fifth, sixth time, he repeats: You shouldn't try to kill yourself.

I wasn't trying to kill myself. I was trying to prove a point.

Oh, really. What?

You could use my approval and a second opinion. Don't think I didn't notice— you go to Hana and Lucrezia for validation as if you're a four-year-old dangling off their apron strings whenever I have a fucking point.

Okay, Ghost says, which is a small concession, but a concession all the same.

You should see Helena.

And Samantha, if I can fucking find her again. Warn Deckard, check on Matt, finalize Fedor's wish list, drop the rest of the Fourteen a line, pick which Edward to lay my bet on, get back in touch with Minea. Or find another way to save the precincthouses— I know. I will, Ghost says, with a trace of put-upon grinding to him, now.

You're still a psychotic prick, even if I can almost understand why.

Ghost relaxes, fractionally. You're still all exasperated. Mostly, he squints at himself in the mirror. The figure reflected there does not stray from the outline of his physical motion; this isn't that kind of chicanery, no such divisions provided, nothing so comforting or fucking tidy, that I tool around as if there's nothing that can be done to me that hasn't been before. The ghost has been doing a little thinking, too. He doesn't press the point again— about Teo trying to kill himself. Not because he isn't, but because the translation of physical recklessness and infatuation with self-sacrifice, as often manifest violence as it is in a sweltering silence of frustration watching over his cohorts' injuries that he can not simply give them his health— this self-destructive streak is equally integral to either of them.

Teo admits, Yes. You haven't seen broken. Someday, I'll show you broken.

Perhaps then I will remember remorse, Ghost offers, archly.

I don't think you ever forgot. What did you do to Eileen?

Ghost picks up his water bottle and sluices water down his shoulder, opening and closing his fingers, drops of water springing off his nails. I think you've figured it out, he answers. ('Don't ask me who the other lucky one is,' the old man had sneered. 'You'll probably find out if you need to; you can pray now that you won't.') He scrapes damp heat off his skin with a hand and swallows the rest of the distilled contents before ditching the emptied plastic in the corner. He drags the webbing of his holster on over one strangely blank-skinned arm, and then the other, seals his jacket on, next. His fingers are sluggish on the zipper and his muscles feel ropey with heat inside the pull of his arms, but he is still sinuous as well-oiled clockwork as he knocks the cane up into the air with a kink of his toe.

Grudgingly, Teo says, That was Aikido, wasn't it? It's amazing. I always wanted to learn.

It's the sad thing, Ghost says, a little vainly. You're a smart kid. Monstrously so. You could do anything you want. Write, build, marry, piano, dance— well all right, you can't sing, but still. Instead, in what is generally regarded as 'a bad move', you decide to become me.

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