Simple Soldiers


f_elisabeth_icon.gif f_teo_icon.gif

Scene Title Simple Soldiers
Synopsis The war is over, but the ghosts have returned. There's a lot of shit to talk about.
Date April 14, 2019

Dorchester Towers — Elisabeth's Apartment

Elisabeth's apartment these days is one of the more spacious ones in Dorchester Towers. Up on the fifth floor, a three bedroom, two bath affair that she bought when she sold her smaller one a couple of floors down after Cam was born. The living room is larger, painted in a soft slate blue with dark chocolate leather furniture on the beige carpeting. A piano sits to one side, where Cam spends much of his spare time. In truth, it's where he is at the moment. And Elisabeth has it muted because…. well, it would make the neighbors nuts if they knew how much the child REALLY practices.

When she opens the door to Teo, she smiles at the Italian with affection. "You made it," she says to him, offering a huge hug.

Confirmation is due: a white-toothed grin that takes up half of Teo's face and shifts his ears up half an inch on either side of his close-shaven head. He closes his arms around her waist, contracts them so tightly her breath puffs out dandelion in his ear and her feet lift a few inches above the level of the pastel-perfect floor.

Exchanging hugs with Teo these days is like sharing a bed with a falling train which happens to be capable of surprising restraint. "Surprises me every time to see you're still here," he says, popping his grasp loose. "Can't imagine living in the same building for more than two years."

There's a laugh as she squeezes him in return and then lets him into the apartment. Cam hasn't noticed his arrival yet, and she has time to say to him, "Eh, what's the point in moving? I don't need anything as big as a brownstone, though my dad keeps trying to give me his. This suits me and the boy just fine," she tells Teo.

And then the whirlwind that is seven-year-old Cameron Harrison blasts past his mother and hurls himself into his godfather's arms. "TEO!!!!!"

The boy is caught. Held up like a paper airplane to the wind. He gets heavier every time Teodoro comes to see him, the second major revelation hot on the heels of realizing that the tiny pink nub of an infant could actually recognize him between visits. It was the strangest thing. Third, last, and most recently, he's come to find that parting is getting harder.

"You were sounding fu— really good in there," he says. Teo manages to actually not glance around furtively at the truncated curse word. He allows the flail and squirm of Cam's feet and hands to determine whether or not the boy is kept up on his hip or if he's too grown up for that shit by now. "What was that piece called?"

Oh, he's definitely too grown up to remain up there — he hugs Teo very very tightly and allows himself to get thrown in the air, and then he's running off at the mouth, telling his uncle Teo all about the past months without even taking a breath. Including the fact that he's playing Pachelbel's Canon. And that he's been playing at the part, and that Abby's son Joseph annoyed him by flinging sand in his eyes the last time they played, and all sorts of things. Finally, Liz steps in and laughs, "Give him time to breathe, bambino." She shoos her wayward son back to his piano, promising, "He'll be here a little while. C'mon, Teo, let's get you a drink, something to eat?"

"Beer, please?" Teo stoops to doff his shoes before putting his hands in his pockets, watches the room exhale the boy with a subtle mingling of relief and disappointment knotted in his stomach. He is always nervous with kids around. He likes them, though. He tends to be worried he'll break something.

Teo pads after his hostess with a half a smile on his face. "I guess Joseph doesn't really take after his Madre. Cam, on the other hand. Bet that was you, wasn't it?" Teo's thumbs curl on the edges of his pockets. "First one across the monkey bars, making all the boys cry."

There's a soft laugh as she watches Cam head back for his piano and adjusts the sound bubble around her son so that the music is loud enough to be heard but not interrupt the conversation — so that Teo can appreciate his godson's talent while she grabs him a beer and settles him at the breakfast bar, handing the chilled bottle to him. She's not much of a beer drinker, but she brought in a six-pack just for Teo when he texted that he was on his way. "They're boys," she tells him with a philosophical shrug. "They do what they do. God, it's so good to see you, Teo. How're you holding up with all this? Have you seen everyone yet?"

The cap fits into the edges of his teeth, cracks open with a gassy croak and a scrape of enamel that would have had anybody in the employ of the dental industry wilting in sympathy.

Spitting the ruined discuss of metal into his palm, Teo wipes condensation off on the inside of his arm. He likes the Pachelbel Canon. Probably more that Cameron's playing it, but it's a pretty piece in and of itself, even to a man who barely knows jack and shit about music. Makes him smile a little. Or that might be Liz. "You too, caro.

"I'm all right. I've seen… Jesse, Helena, and some kid named Django. Heard about a few of the others. My aunt, your boy. The Bishop bitch. Handful of loose change out of the Moab clusterfuck, huh?" His eyes and mouth both go thin around a smile that fails to be entirely sincere anyway. Teo hadn't liked failing back then and never will, though it isn't the sort of thing that haunts anybody anymore; there have been darker specters since.

"Cat's talking about getting them home," he says, knocking bath a long swallow of beer.

There's a nod. "Yeah… she's putting out feelers on it. Based on everything I've heard so far — and Cat's not told me much about having any luck — I don't think we've HAD any luck. And we'll have to find out if we can get a telepath to wipe them or something before they go back too…. because sending some of them back with knowledge from here, like where Phoenix's safehouses are, compromises everything back in 2009." She smiles a little. "And I have to work out how to tell Cam about my boy."

"Bishop and Django, maybe." Teo cranes his head to locate the trash can in the corner. Pitches his right arm, overhand, sends the bottle cap glittering on a mathematically flawless arc over and into the rim, neat as if drawn by a swoop of compass.

He sighs, loud, shoulders drooping under the force of the gust. "I'm beginning to think it's better that Helena and the rest of the hero troupe— coincidentally including my aunt— go home with their knowledge base intact.

"The truth is, it's already started going wrong. Hasn't it? People got outta Moab. That wasn't supposed to happen. Small divergence so far, maybe, but it's going to need more work engineering this outcome. Safehouses can be ripped down and moved. It's the war that needs puppeteering." Teo's quiet, a protracted moment, turning his own choice of words over in his head. Scowls the next, rubbing his knuckles into his forehead.

A smile is only another second or two coming. "'This is your daddy' could work. Or you could try rocket science."

There's a thoughtful pause as he points out that people got out of Moab in their run and that things have already changed. Elisabeth says quietly, "Them getting out of Moab could still work for them, if they're smart enough to go public with the torture and the 'arrested without a lawyer' and the whole stopping a worldwide threat issues. But…. maybe you're right. Maybe they ought to keep their knowledge." She smiles a bit. "It's why I leave things like that to you and Cat. I'm just a soldier in this. Or I used to be."

Elisabeth sips from the cup of tea she left cooling on the counter when she opened the door — it's cold now, but no big. "Yeah… Felix says I should tell him, so I've got plans to talk to him and then have Norton come over in a couple of days." She shrugs. "It's…. definitely complicated. I'm somewhat out of the freedom fighter mindset. But you tell me what you want and need, and I'm still there, Teo."

"The day I understand what I did to warrant all that trust is the day my head concussively explodes from ego," Teo decides, glancing down to check how low the level of his beer has fallen. About half. His features go blank first, slowly, and then bleak second. "I'll let you know. Or Helena and Cat will. I'm somewhat out of the group organizer mindset, these days. Hana and Eve did only a very small unit make."

If one fraught with no shortage of drama, as Elisabeth knows.

"Trask is going to love him." He lifts his eyes across the wall, listens to the notes from the piano filter in through the acoustics of the apartment. Presently, he finally acknowledges the elephant in the room, however grudgingly. "I don't really want them to leave."

There's a snerk from her as she considers the 'very small unit' he refers to. She knows the drama that comes with such things. But when he gets serious, so does Elisabeth. Very quietly, she says, "I don't even know what I want. Part of me…. wants them to go back as soon as humanly possible, because so much of what we have is predicated on the events they were part of. And some of that is selfish too…." She bites her lower lip and admits to the man who held her through more crying jags than she can count. "I dealt with it. I …. grieved, and I hurt, and finally when Cam was born he brought some light with him. And I don't…. want to have to get close to him again, revisit those emotions." She shrugs a little. "And part of me is screaming that it is so far beyond unfair that they should have to go back, KNOWING the circumstances of their deaths here…. and that part's proud of them for not shirking it…. but it also wonders just how much even COMING here has changed that possibility for them. It could very well be that just their presence here, and what they learned here, will destroy any possibility of this future for their own timeline." She looks at him and says softly, "And my son could have his father. And I could… have him back."

Pressure in the grip around the bottleneck makes Teo's knuckles white and the skin between them blotched red as a tear-stricken face. The next moment, his hand relaxes fractionally. It isn't emotional tension that channeled into the gesture, merely an experimental application of strength— halted long before he ran any real risk of imploding blood and glass on her floor, of course.

"It wasn't Phoenix that predicated its own fame, you'll have to remember. The Petrellis, Goodman, the Company. Sure, we saved the fucking world, but we aren't the ones who changed it; we kept people alive and preserved status quo long enough for Pinehearst to come in.

"It's that fame that painted the target on them, in the end," Teo says, his eyes empty, his mouth a line thinner than a molecular razor. His face is eerily hollowed out between the edges of his bones, gaunt under the grindstone of thinking. "The only value in them going back is if they have their memories. For them to… steer history, if need be.

"Make sure what needs to happen does happen." He fades to quiet for a protracted moment. Motions abruptly with his hand at the dining table. This conversation is making him tired: it would be better to sit. "I don't think I got over it yet. Guess this could be an opportunity for closure." The latter, he says without real conviction. Teo has been short on that for a few years, now.

"Wish I had some better responses for you, Teo," Liz says softly, moving to kiss his temple lightly when he sits down. "If they actually escaped Moab in their time, I'm not sure how they're going to steer history, but … if anyone can figure that out — which events are pivotal, I mean — it'd be Cat. Or maybe the statisticians at Pinehearst."

Which is precisely why Teo is of opinion that they shouldn't go, but he's biting down on that for now. He knows that there's nothing natural about this. Any of this. Pieces have been taken out of their rightful place, and little real good can come from simply retreating.

That there's another Teodoro out there who wants his boy back, too, and wars to be fought by Phoenix's other heavy-hitter. The first being Elisabeth, who kisses his forehead. "That makes sense," he agrees, half the frustration sieved out of his voice. That which remains is almost aesthetic, merely for color and texture. These days, when Teo is really irritated, there are dead terrorists to show for it. "You have anything going on besides them? Work or shit?"

"Aw, I have plenty of crap coming down. Mostly training classes coming up, but I've got a kidnapping that may actually have me out of town for a couple of days if it turns out the way I think it will. Parental kidnapping, not stranger, I think. Couple other cases that are stalled." Elisabeth smiles faintly. "I'm enjoying it a lot still. It's funny… never thought I'd get into the training, but I really like it." There's a faint smirk. "Conrad Wozniak would laugh his ass off if he could see me now."

Wouldn't he just? Teo's eyes thin slightly, amused. "I miss the chin too. He could do fucking everything." He looks down briefly at his beer for a moment, his thumb tracing a dark trail of transparency through the condensation. His feet shift underneath the table, sole pressing to sole for a brief moment before discomfort kicks in at his ankle. "You always kicked as much ass teaching as you did doing cop stuff.

"Makes sense on some level you'd find a way to do both, keep in touch with old friends, keep in touch with really old friends, and be a mom."

"Not even sure why I even thought of him…. haven't in years," Elisabeth admits. She shrugs slightly. She actually knows why she thought of him — the return of so many dead friends. When Teo actually says what she's thinking aloud, that Elisabeth's waffling back and forth from cop to teacher to both would have made Conrad laugh, she grins. And then she blushes. "You make me sound like Superwoman or something. I'm not."

Disagreement knits Teo's brow. "Sure you are," he says, tilting his beer back from a long draft. "With the last qualification, 'specially." The meniscus rocks back inside the glass, hits the opposite wall of it with an audible clink of contact. His right knee skews off, outward, at a lazily oblique angle.

"Would you like a hand with any of your stalled cases?" he inquires, studying the woman's face. Motherhood and Abby have kept her young. Her mother's blood too, he thinks; he's seen some of the old photographs. "I know the exhibits aren't completely admissible if Hana or I help, but if there's anything we can do…" There's a brief show of teeth. "We can do a lot."

The smile that graces her face is entirely her mother's. Elisabeth replies mildly, "You know, if you're sticking around, the help would be much appreciated. I don't need admissible right now, I need a damn LEAD. And the touch clairvoyant they've had working the case has gotten absolutely nothing so far. I'm actually just about to have Rebecca Nakano come in and check out one case for me — the parents say certain things happened a certain way, but I think they're lying. And I've got one police corruption case on my desk, along with a massive fraud investigation that's just taking months."

"Gimme photocopies and I'll check it out," Teodoro offers, the image of courtesy. "If you have a specific angle you have suspicions weighed on, we could see about startling a little panic into them and see what shakes loose. Conversations they have behind closed doors or private lines or…" He waves a long-fingered hand once, dismissing away the array of other possibilities. "I'll be here for at least a couple more weeks. Haven't even seen Abigail and Delilah yet."

Which is a little like flattery, or bespeaks some other fear or hesitation besides. One he elaborates on in tone, if not diction. "Or Eve. Or Sonny," and his counterfeit romance. His eyes hood briefly with sincere consternation, before the expression gives way to an abrupt spate of grimaced good nature. He rises, sets the emptied beer bottle down on the table. Their respective love lives have never been simple, but somehow, Teo tended to end up with the larger trainwreck behind.

"Come on. I've had some liquid courage in me, I think it's time to see if little Wolfgang will deign to let me duet 'chopsticks' with him."

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