Smoke and Mirrors


helena_icon.gif teo_icon.gif

Scene Title Smoke And Mirrors
Synopsis Helena asks Teo an important question.
Date November 12, 2008

New York Public Library - Rooftop

Messages travel fast amongst the Phoenix crew - and with more reliability than a game of telephone, thankfully. Helena wants you, Teo - said the message. She's up on the roof, and when you're settled, please come see her.

And when he eventually settles and bothers to go, that's where he'll find her. It's autumn in New York, and yet she is in jeans and a t-shirt, perched with her arms around her knees, expression thoughtful. The closer he'll get, the warmer he'll find he is despite the autumn chill - Helena is never, ever cold unless she wants to be, and those around her don't need to suffer, either.

Teo scoots. Not the least reason is the weather; he was fast getting to the library, fast going through, and he's fast finding the weather witch, knowing she's likely cultivating a little bit of off-season heat around her immediate person even if she isn't remapping the barometric pressure over the entire city.

It's a miserable, stale oatmeal shade of gray as he comes out across the roof, hands jammed in his jeans' pockets and chin hunkered down in the collar of his jacket and sweater like an ill-tempered and half-shaven goblin atop a lumpy stack of boy-clothes; no doubt, it'll emerge once the heat sinks through the wind-chilled layers. He'd left his books and shit downstairs.

A verbal greeting precedes him, voice familiar by now. "Buona sera." 'Good evening.' They rarely meet at any other time of day. "Feeling territorial?" She looks like a dystopian and de-animized version of the Lion King, crouching over the ruinous abdominal cavity carved into her city.

"You mean of the roof? I like it under the sky, so yeah, I guess so. I miss the tenement, and my garden. Maybe I'll make another here." She looks around, shrugs. "If you sit down you can stay warm. I heard you brought Romero in. Thank you. I'll probably go talk to him later." That's not what she asked him out here for, though. "I was thinking of asking Conrad to take over figuring out security. What do you think?"

Long strides take him to the roof's edge, shoes rasping concrete in casually-timed paces that end just before Teo's likely to fall to his death. He cranes his head over the edge. "No, signorina, I meant the city. But that makes sense about the sky. Another garden would be nice. There are some things you can start planting in Winter, aren't there?" Blue eyes thin to a squint, focusing on a ragged edge of undefined plant growth in the distance.

He'd figured this wasn't what she meant to speak to him about. Nor his brother. He grunts his acknowledgment of her thank-you, offering half a smile over his shoulder. It's getting warmer, indeed. A moment, and he unzips the jacket at his throat. "I don't know him well, but from what you mentioned, he's made a reasonably long career out of getting into places people don't want him to be, so he sounds ideal."

"He was around as a contact when Cameron was alive." she says quietly. In a disjointed manner she adds, "Beans mostly, and some kinds of squash make good winter garden options." She cranes her head to look up at him. "I've been thinking hard about how to do all of this." she says. "It looks so easy for Bennet and Wireless. They're older, more experienced. Not that she'd thank me for calling her older or anything involving those first three letters." She gives the Sicilian a faint smile. "But the thing is, they're in it together. I mean, it's not just one or the other, it's both. I feel like a broken record, but I can't do this alone, and I've been waiting to see who could bring what I need to the table as a co-leader."

Warmer and warmer. Not the sort you build up after crawling underneath enough blankets, but outside-in, a breath of halcyon springtime against his cheeks, chasing away the condensed opacity of his breath into the raw column of Teo's throat. It's simultaneously soothing and strange, would be eerie if he didn't have a working understanding of how it works and who's conjuring it.

"I like squash." Breathing's easier now. Her smile is mirrored, in both its miniaturized proportions and unquelled sincerity. "Ho capito. I see. So Conrad's been around awhile. And not just in the sense he's an old bastard, eh? Are you sure?" It makes sense for reasons easy to number and obvious to recall. Security and leadership being equal priorities, old thief and young firebrand's complementary differences in experience, but— "You have a lot of talented comrades."

Helena grins. "Well, I'm sure we can manage squash." She indicates the ample space next to her, inviting him to sit. "Am I sure about what? Putting Conrad on security? Yeah, pretty much. But I wanted your thoughts. And I've been thinking." She taps a finger to her temple. "Blonde, but not that blonde, you know?" Her grin widens to reflect her jesting attitude about the remark. "I've come to count on you and Alex a lot. And Alex is a sweetheart, but he's…well, he's a darling, but he's kind of flaky sometimes. I mean, we've all got our junk, you know? But I don't see you getting caught up all the time in yours."

His eyes go to her hair. A skeptical noise, equally in jest; he fetches his shoulder back when he makes it, avoiding a girl-sized punch in the shoulder, in vain hope he isn't instead tossed off the roof by a breeze. Teo sobers the next moment, of course, the smile smoothing on his face. Solemnity dips briefly into a grimace: he's not as good at hearing criticism of Jesse Alexander Knight as others might be, but he spares her grumbling defense. He knows what she means. Be it post-traumatic stress disorder or his most recent vanishing, Alexander edges in under that definition of the term.

'Flaky.' "Yeah, well. I'm nonconfrontational that way. Ran all the way across the Pacif—" he stops, a quaver-beat after her meaning actually sinks in, or the implication. He blinks at her in the way he might waiting for Ashton Kutcher to leap out from behind, pupils dilating, as if preparing to knock the stupid hat off the punk's head. Punchline?

No punchline. "This group, it's supposed to be about freedom. Not only for those for whom these circumstances are being oppressed, but for everyone. That's part of why you're with us, isn't it? It's why we do what we do, and the fact that genetics factor into the reason for it is the dressing. People listen to you, Teo. They respect you, and I've come to count on you. I think between the two of us we can do a lot better than if I'm calling the shots myself. So if you need to think about what I'm asking," Helena pauses, licking her lips, "Please don't take too long. But I really need you. We need you, this way."

His fingers lace closed over the back of his neck, fingernails curling into his nape and biting deep, hard enough to make Teo blink. He isn't sure that's quite right. He's almost sure that isn't right, but Helena's never been one for dramatics or rash decisions, nor one to set herself up for disappointment, but there's a first time for everything. Picket-perfect teeth click once, twice, thrice.

He closes his eyes, squeezes them, reopens. "Your candidate's the one kid who's less experienced than you are, has no super powers, whose only — 'junk' you're aware of," Romero Laudani. They have the same eyes. " - just got himself membership into the club."

"Who's never been in a major Phoenix or PARIAH operation." Who's graduating; thought about going home to Italy; couldn't answer when indeed asked what he was here for less than a week ago. His head tilts to the right fractionally, looking at the girl until he can't. "I'm not fishing for praise, ragazza, just saying. That's a lot of shit to compensate for."

"People listen to you. A lot of leadership is smoke and mirrors. That's what Bennet said." And Helena takes Bennet's word as gospel. "But people do listen to you, you aren't afraid to disagree with me, but you also don't lose your shit if I don't follow your line of thought, and you have a way of bringing perspective when I do need to relent. If we're truely expecting to bring people an example of how Evolved and Non-Evolved can co-exist, wouldn't we be better for having a model of that ourselves?" She reaches out a hand, curves it around his wrist as she looks at him. "Do this for me," she says quietly, the 'please' there as well, though she adds in mock flippancy, "Until you die, or I find someone better."

Do they? Teo finds that thought inherently disturbing, given his penchant for cursing his head off and pissing off cannibals in his ill-conceived effort to distract said eater of sentient persons from PARIAH's less-than-united front.

The touch on his wrist elicits a glance upward, his callused hand balling nervously; it's her last line that coaxes a smile of something like agreement out of him, though it fades after a moment. She was doing good on her own, he thinks. Teo's aware that he has little of her passion and even less of her poise. Little blonde bit wearing her T-shirt and uncurtained windows into her soul.

"Until I die, or you find someone better," he agrees finally, grinning, lopsided. He tugs his arm, leaving the faint and fleeting impression of corrugated finger-bones where he'd broken them more than once, slipping past her palm, before he catches her hand. Just for a moment. Squeeze. "A'right, ragazza. I guess I should earn my squash and beans."

She's not doing fine, she thinks. She's faking it, and is waiting for the cracks to start showing. She's afraid. Helena squeezes back. "I hope you understand I have a vested interest in you not-dying." she tells him solemnly. Then, "Just so you know, Noah Bennet is going to talk to Eve. See if things can be smoothed out. Will you being in this position be too much for Romero to take?"

It surprises him that she asks, partly because she hadn't before. Teo is silent for a protracted moment, weighing the possibility. The next, there's a little ckrrr as he unseals his jacket further, letting his sweater show, a bar of green cotton. He talks about the other things first: "There are many things I don't understand, but that's not one of them," he assures her with a half of a grin. "That's good— about Noah.

"I think he'd get through to her," he says, with a tinge of regret that he couldn't, himself. "She's seemed a little lost since PARIAH, but he inspires in most people a lot of things she valued about the old family." Solidarity, action, experience. Mostly, he means, he's a lot like Cameron in the ways that matter. Then, "No. As long as his orders come from you, Romero will be fine.

"He wants this badly enough." There's no margin of uncertainty in Teo's tone or manner, no room for anything besides utter faith and commensurate regret.

Helena nods. "I thought he did." she admits. "And I hope that if something were to happen and I was unavailable, he'd handle it appropriately, but that way works and we'll work it until it doesn't." Leaning back, "Wireless is going to start training our people for proper missions, and Bennet is looking into the details of the experimental facilities for us. For now though, I want to focus on setting up a date for the miracle project, once I've squared your brother's participation.

Listening makes Teo shut up for a bit, his features reflecting the quiet. Nodding once about Romero's commitment, an uncomfortable shrug of one shoulder next: he's hoping things will change before something happens, and for the better. The corner of his mouth jerks upward.

"The prospect of training under Wireless kind of scares the piss out of me and reassures me at the same time. I'm not sure what that means." He breathes out, gives Bennet's research the acknowledgment of a smile. That's good. The longer they take, the longer those experiments go on, and he can't imagine that's comfortable for the experimentees. Miracles would be easier to think about, if it weren't for— "Rommy can move more than Jennifer's supplies.

"People. He could move Abby very expediently, if he had someone on his side to pull her through by hand. He doesn't even need to have people in his line-of-sight to open a tesseract under certain circumstances; he could be Grand Central Station for us. He wanted to talk to you about that."

Helena perks. "That would be awesome, but I also don't want to strain him. I have no idea of his capacity, and what he says and what might be true might not quite align because he wants to be useful. Do you have a lot of experience with his ability? I mean, do you know he can handle all that?" The prospect would be a huge bonus in their favor, possibly enough to give them a leg over PARIAH. Transport can be everything.

He remembers. It had been Teo's first concern though, granted, that had been back when the countdown was a more real concern, and the related security issues. Not that it isn't still on the table now, just. It had been the first thing he'd thought of, keeping them and theirs moving fast, keeping hid. Transport can be everything. "I don't know what kind of strain it takes on him now, but when we were children it was effortless.

"He maintained it all the time. Probably why I'm still alive," he remarks. That sentence catches in the middle, a brief hitch, gone in the blink of an eye. A gravelly cough. He twists his head to scratch his jaw on his shoulder. "It's something to run a few exercises with before we start to avoid major fuck-ups. I'm not sure about his limitations. It's promising, isn't it?" He likes that look on her. Energy, inspiration, her bright little head rambling through a thousand notions a moment. Three long fingers close on the wavy ends of her hair, give her a flip.

"It is." Helena has started to smile. Teo's been 'leadership' for all of five minutes, and already she's feeling better, even if technically her sense of betterment has more to do with the broadening of their arsenal of capabilities. "Alright, then." she says, her satisfaction evident. "Anything you want to talk about? I can keep us warm pretty indefinitely, so I'm not in a hurry, but I know you may have somewhere to go."

His big beezer ends up sniffing near her head a moment, the affection of a particularly ill-trained dog. "I have somewhere to go," Teo says, disbelievingly. As if she doesn't always have a dozen appointments to keep. Bennet for counsel, Wireless for training, Cat for assignments, Abby for reassurance or company, Claire for politics, schizotypal Peter for a diagnostic update.

"Abby's quit her job and moved into the library. I don't know if you heard: Colette threatened to out her if she didn't heal her cop friend. Southie's settled in okay.

"She and I bumped into some Evolved named 'Deckard' the other day— grave-robbing, he has something fucked up going on with his eyes. Supersense, probably. He was armed. It was spectacularly retarded. I've sent the Fed a message, see if he's calmed down; I didn't like the paranoid conclusions he jumped to, Wireless didn't like his black-and-white filter on the world. The combination isn't going to accomplish jack shit in this city. Wireless is making sure we aren't bugged anymore, and no one's caught any tails recently.

"I still can't find Alexander. I think that's it," he finishes in a tone of voice that's ground out the wrong parts of his throat, before he clears it with a cough. Squares his shoulders inside his jacket, unzipped. It's deliriously warm here now. Delirium, like most things symptomatic of illness, is best limited. "I guess I do have shit to do. Good talk, sola."

She grins and pushes to her feet. "I'll walk with you then, and you can return to your regularly scheduled freezing your ass off." Helena will indeed walking back into the library proper, and almost immediately she's pulled away as she's reminded by Monica about some issue that demands her immediate attention. The warmth, it creeps away, though her exit is more buoyant.

And Teo's buoyed along in that wake, his mouth bent around a smile that doesn't fade until she and Monica have pitter-pattered into the dusty recesses of the library, a Sicilian salutation on his lips. He scratches his fingers over his scalp, glances at the wood-blinkered window at the end of the hallway, then the light at the ceiling. It's buzzing. His throat moves; he quells the urge to find a toolkit, pushes his fists into his pockets; walks.

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