Statistical Outliers


eileen_icon.gif teo_icon.gif walter_icon.gif

Scene Title Statistical Outliers
Synopsis Teodoro receives an unexpected house guest and sets out on a mission.
Date November 30, 2010

West Village: Maison d'Allegre

Sometimes you don't need an ability to know that you aren't alone.

When Teodoro sets foot in Maison d'Allegre, he can feel it electric in the hairs on the back of his neck and squirming under his skin. Small things are not as he left them. The angle of furniture, for instance. The exact arrangement of objects left unattended on the kitchen counter. Food in the fridge: missing. And in small amounts not expected to be missed.

The new locks installed post-riot are untouched and the new windows, shimmering and pristine, all in one piece. Somewhere in the brownstone, a floorboard creaks and a mouse making a nest in the wall pauses, its cheeks swollen and round with stolen insulation. Its ears twitch and swivel. Ultimately snap away when it decides that the warm body moving around upstairs isn't a threat.

Whether or not the mouse shares the opinion with the man in the entryway is a matter that's up for debate.

Not very much of it, mind you. Since his teens, Teodoro Laudani has been an unspeakably paranoid animal, his brother's keeper, and the safekeeper of his brother's particular secrets, and the situation's only worsened since the years he started acquainting himself with mutant terrorists. At the foyer, he sideswipes pale eyes through the living and then he has his gun out, two-handed. On the stairs, he's skipping over the ones he knows tend to whine nails embedded in wood. Sending out his mind's eye brings his shoulders up, tension from mixed stimuli; his ability doesn't sit with him quite as well as it does its original owner, however complicated one's definition of that phrase may be.

He slows when he reaches the landing. His stride elongates, sinew and tendon between the contraction of long-limbed musculature. Panther-like. While he's never made particular point to predate on the manageably low-level of rodent infestiation the house keeps, Teo's stride by itself is likely reason enough for the mouse to take skittering flight into the wooden-and-stone bowels of the old structure. He is not the most prepossessing ninja a stranger's ever met below this roof, in scuffed jeans and a coat with a finer brand name ironically than the treatment it's survived should have warranted, but Teo's always been hard on his things. He cranes his head into the hallway.

The door to Francois' room hangs open, a sliver of light leaking out into the hall. Above the sound of tiny mouse claws clicking frantic across hardwood, something snaps, splinters, and a quiet, "Fffuck," comes from the bedroom's dimly-lit interior. Someone shakes out their hand and toes at broken pieces of wood that have fluttered to the floor like too-heavy feathers sloughed off a bird. Through his own eyes, Teodoro will see a back in the space between door edge and frame, worn black leather stretched between a pair of broad shoulders, sunburned neck peppered with freckles and a head of red-gold hair that makes strange spiral shapes at the intruder's nape, plastered to his skin by a fine sheen of sweat.

He probably reeks of someone who knows he's not supposed to be here. A pistol sticks out from the waistband of his jeans.

Someones who aren't supposed to be here are tolerable to an extent. Someones who come in here and eat his food, move the chairs around, and flip through their mail are, to some extent, tolerable as well. Ones who come in here and break shit, though, that verges squarely into intolerable, even before the fact slides into stinging-glazed focus in the pounding front of his head, that that's Francois' shit he's breaking, as if the riot and roughly Magnes-shaped patch on his floor hadn't been fucking ridiculous enough.

Always one for melodramatics, his heartbeat does something weird. Tangles, untangles around the acoustics of his ribcage. He brings his face up close to the door, and the line of light through it constricts to a point of reflection on the surface of his eye.

At least, Teodoro takes out a knife before firing. The knife, that is. Overarm, flipped out callused finger over elbow, flexor contracting fluidly over extensor and the equally sinuous recoil, sending that tongue of razor-edged steel arcing out, flickering reflective steel against light dead at the column of thigh muscle. The trigger's pulling back on his pistol the next moment, plugging greater velocity than that of a falling body into—

—the wall past the redhead's red head. More overkill than a warning shot, but that word might better be conserved for just short of 200 pounds of Teo rampaging over the floor to pounce.

A sharp intake of breath and a pained squeal later, a box pried open with the flat of a knife not unlike the one embedded in the stranger's leg is clattering to the floor at a volume loud enough to compete with the gunshot that punches through the wall a moment later, spraying him with the largest pieces of plaster and paint. The rest of it explodes outward in a dusty white cloud that coats his skin and hair.

A large hand drops to seize the knife's handle, maybe wrench it out of his thigh, but this is a mistake as much as breaking into the house was, and blue eyes widen, showing their whites in the moment before impact. He's taller than Teodoro. Heavier, too, and Walter probably has the Trafford side of his family to thank for that.

Bloodied fingers catch the front of his father's coat in an attempt to wrest control of their combined momentum and put him beneath him. "Hey, man," he chokes out, either as some sort of a warning, a plea or both. "Hey, hey, hey! Wait!"

There's something oddly disorganized about the scrabble of Teo's elbow and fingers finding purchase on his, uh, well— kid— but he doesn't know that. He's too occupied with trying to seize the man and hit him in the face to be particularly apt at securing his position in the tangle, and it merely incenses him further, the crunch and splintering of wood pieces under his hip when he goes rolling onto the floorboards, and then his back. Overturned, he looks pretty mad. Flashing eyes, teeth showing, a dog's kind of pissed despite that his configuration is better suited to an unhappy turtle's.

He doesn't recognize Walter, of course. Probably should, or at least something about him, the sanguine color of his hair or his complexion, maybe the fact that he is talking too stupidly much— all characteristics that could be attributed with hilarious surety to parentage. Instead, the Sicilian curls and torques his spine, sends his head spiking up. Slams his forehead into the younger man's nose, and yells, not especially cogently, to the vast majority of residents of Manhattan, rioters and real estate agents alike: "Fottuta ladro."

"Nnn," says Walter. Nnn. Blood leaves his broken nose in a flood and paints the lower half of his face red. It thoroughly soaks the material of his wifebeater, too, and this effect wouldn't be quite as dramatic if the fabric wasn't white.

Or rather: if the fabric didn't used to be white. Although Teo has no way of knowing, just like he has no way of knowing that the man straddling his middle is his son, this isn't the first time that Walter has received such an injury, and when he brings his arm up to his face, eyes pinched shut, there's familiarity in the hiss that escapes through his teeth, the kind of sound someone makes when they realize they've just stubbed their toe without having to look down.

"'m not," he insists as soon as he's able, and he punctuates this by slamming the heel of his free hand into the middle of Teo's head and pushing it back down to the floor. "'leen sent me. Rus'n."

Whack. Teo's head was already beginning to ring when the younger man assigned a hand to it, and the collision of palm to face does not do a great deal to quiet the din chambered inside the Sicilian's skull. Fuck ow. Fucking bastard. "Stronzo," is what this translates to in Italian, but there's less heat in it than his accusations had had earlier. He heard 'Leen,' and everybody this side of the Ferry's lines in the sand knows who that is, even with Walter's rather addled 'accent.'

Concession comes in the form of a groan, bunched up vowels and consonants, and then a knee pushed up into the redhead's hip. Move, fatass. It's none too friendly, but it isn't a gun, and the one pistol in the equation assents to have its safety clicked off. Still leaves open the possibility of beating the ever-loving shit out of somebody with the grip of it, but that possibility seems somewhat diminished by the fact that Teo straightens himself out with hands on the floor, and starts to comb together pieces of broken wood between them. Tries, much like a child pouring over a thousand-piece puzzle, to find corners, opting for the bigger, more recognizable shapes first.

Walter is less interested in the pieces of broken box than he is the journal it contained, which he scrapes off the floor at the same time he's easing himself off of Teo, face buried in his arm. The damage could be worse. Some glue will allow him to tack back on the largest of the pieces that flaked off when Walter pried it open with his knife by attacking its hinges, but if there was ever any hope of repairing it to the point Francois will not notice upon his return— it's lost.

He notices only after he's flipping the thing open that his fingers leave ugly red smears on the paper. Wipes off his hand on the inside of his thigh, denim streaked a darker shade than his top has become. Spatters of blood on the leather of his jacket go unnoticed for now and can be dabbed clean later. He's well past the age when it's still acceptable to ask his mother to kiss every bump and bruise better, and while he theoretically could, he suspects that such a request from this incarnation would earn him a blue and black mouth.

"«I have a letter,»" he tries, in Italian. "«But I opened it. I'm sorry.»"

Or maybe Delilah would. And find it endearing. Hopefully not, you know, anything more than that.

"I'm going to kill you if you don't give me that fucking thing," Teodoro informs the younger man brightly, reaching over with long fingers held expectantly open. He doesn't actually abort the reach to go for the letter instead, but there's a concession in the sidelong swipe of pale eyes, looking over Walter's leather-jacketed frame, blood-soaked wifebeater, this show of thuggy masculinity. Not that his Columbia hoodie or metro matte-blacks were any better, back when he was dumb-puppy frinkle or the ghost, but you know.

That was a long time ago. "«You can read the fucking letter out loud. Just give me that. What the fuck does Eileen want with his shit, anyway?»" He's the only person who's supposed to go rifling through Francois' personal effects. Teo retains enough of a sense of shame to keep the edge out of his voice, or at least real keenness away from that edge, whereas otherwise, he'd probably be talking like he plans to kill with it. It takes him four or five or thirty seconds to realize that their conversation has continued, unabated, in Italian.

It sinks in, distinctly, visibly, dawning on his face, though it doesn't sink his hand off its expectant trajectory.

"«It's long,»" says Walter, and at first he holds the journal like he's going to elevate it out of Teodoro's reach, but something— something causes him to relent, surrender the dense collection of worn pages pressed between two leather covers to its rightful owner, or the closest approximation thereof. His hand freed, he reaches into his coat pocket, retrieves a paper envelope with Teodoro's name scrawled across the front in Eileen's handwriting. Clean. Black ink.

The top edge of the envelope is torn, sliced open with the same blade that popped the box's lid. In stilted English now, words carefully enunciated around the blood filling his mouth: "She's worried about your friend. Thinks maybe that journal's got something t'do with it. You weren't here so— so I was gonna bring it t'her. That's all."

Teo doesn't look at the journal. He stuffs it under his arm instead, without looking: too obsessed, momentarily, with having it back in his possession to care particularly about the details of its scuffiness or redness and Christ the box is in so many shards already, a little organic mess to paper doesn't seem that big a deal compared to that. He does go for the letter once the calfskinned tome is safely ensconced at his side, accepting the letter, pulling it out of its paper sleeve, flipping it open to read. Hard to concentrate, though, with stupid ESL there (he has no right to these thoughts) (but that's never stopped him) gurgling like a landed fish.

"And what, leave me a fucking 'While You Were Out' note stuck to the biggest piece of fucking wood?" Teo gets to his feet and gestures sharply with a hand. The gun one, coincidentally, but the safety's on and a shard of polished timber juts sharply crowding his palm. "Come on. Bathroom's in there and there's a first-aid kit under the sink." Ironically, the last person in need of it had been the Frenchman in question, but that's probably a story that wasn't whispered over Walter's crib's edge.

Lanky, graceless, Walter shoves himself to his feet after he untangles his limbs, using the handle on the closet door to assist in dragging his body upright. Getting to that point is more of a challenge than staying that way. On the way to the bathroom, his shoulder rocks against the door frame but that is all.

He snaps on a light. A moment later, the knife in his thigh pops out, producing a nasal whine at the back of his throat that he cuts abruptly short. Metal tinkles against porcelain; there's a flash of silver and the weapon ends up in the bottom of the sink. Normally, he'd be taking off his pants, twisting around and hiking a leg up onto the counter to assess the damage in the mirror but.

You know. He'll ask somebody else to do that later. It's not far from here to—

"Look," he says. "'m just trying to help."

The contents of the letter support Walter's story. Long is maybe a relative term. Concise paragraphs detail her concern about Francois' absence and a trip to France that she, the old soldier and one Daphne Millbrook took together shortly before his disappearance. Will Teo please locate his journal and come visit her so they can discuss if there's anything to be done? Sincerely yours, Her Harried Signature.

"Yeah, I guess you were." The signature is familiar. Teodoro can remember seeing it on other brief missives, a Post-It or two, and the same long-pinioned swipe of ink polishing off assessment reports at pediatrics in '18. He follows the laddered writing with a long forefinger, and a furrow moves into his brow, smoothes it again. He believes that, which cuts out about half the static and skree of emotional discomfiture inside his head, and the rest may be safely accounted for and ignored as post-adrenal hum. He gets up too. Lanky, graceless, but something easy about it, like he's done this a million times before. Gotten knocked on his ass, picked his parts up again.

He leaves the other pieces. The small ones. Not before a sweep of fingers under the bed reassures him they aren't hiding, but apart from that.

Teo comes toward the bathroom, brow in a furrow. In the mirror, under the glare of ceiling light, his beard looks even thicker than the thing that had reared up under Walter's eyes when Teo had hit him with his face. "We can head out as soon as you've fixed your leg." A beat. Quizzically, his eyebrows at characteristically overstated asymmetry. Walter's stated of in-pantsedness is apparently rather embarrassing to his family for reasons somewhat greater than hopping around without them. "Do you know how to fix your leg?"

"They've got an infirmary. Where she's at." Squinting at his face's reflection in the mirror, Walter moves as if to touch the tips of his fingers to the side of nose. Stops short, thinks better of it (like he maybe should have thought better of this whole excursion), and spins out a yard's worth of toilet paper from the roll. He winds a fourth of it around his hand. "Nurse Young'll hook me up with some stitches. If not—"

He gives a vague, non-commital roll of his shoulders. I have other options, is what it means. "You mind," he says, then, and it's followed by a short pause during which he reflects on how he could have made this change of subject less abrupt. Ultimately he decides that what's done is done. "You mind if I ask you a question? A personal one?"

In part, Teo is ignoring him. Moving past to grab the fat square of gauze and tape, flipping the toilet seat down with deftly hooked fingers. Giving an instructive flick at the younger man, even as he leans his hip on the edge of the sink. "It'll hold you for a few minutes until we get there," he says. "Don't be such a fucking girl, man. Come on. Five fucking minutes, we'll be out of here." A beat. Further remarks on the quality of the young man's Italian, or what his name is, are derailed entirely by this exchange of priorities and Walter's well-placed question.

Curiosity subverted to other curiosity. "I guess," he answers, after a moment, stiffly. Surely— surely this mong wouldn't be dense enough to ask something really awful, while he has a bloody hole in one leg, his nose popped, and just broke Teo's stuff. "No. I don't mind. What do you want to know?" He washes his hands off first, at least, moves the knife out of the sink with a sinewy quirk of his wrist. Wipes the blade try on his sleeve.

Walter flops down onto the toilet, pulls in a breath and unhooks the button that fastens his jeans. This is stupid. This is embarrassing. This is entirely his fault, but on the bright side the only one here to witness his misadventure is his father who, as scary as he is when he's angry, is never scary enough that he stops being Dad.

He dabs at the underside of his nose with the toilet paper and oozes some blood mixed with spittle into his palm. "Never mind," he decides, and an inch at a time he hitches them down until the angry red wound is exposed. His boxers, too, but they're black, non-remarkable, and he covers them with hands folded in his lap. "'m Reynard, by the way. Nice t' meet you. Teo."

"Reynard doesn't sound Italian." Iodine on the wound to stave off infection, a mustard-yellow smudge along the white skin of Walter's thigh. Much to the young time-traveler's relief, no doubt, dad doesn't seem to be checking him out. Does the whole thing with the medical procedure quickly and expediently, the cleaning, and staunching the blood flow with gauze before it runs too many streaky lines down into the sink, tape pulled over it in shiny zebra stripes. Tight around the bulk of Walter's leg, enough to survive the abrasion of trousers fabric, but not too much so that he'll have difficulty walking.

Teo rather unceremoniously shucks the boy's jeans up the next moment, yanking him neatly to his feet in the doing so. Refrains from actually fiddling with his button-fly or zipper, much to the audience's relief, no doubt. "Nice to meet you too." Maybe he feels bad about throwing his knife at a guy who was just messing up all his disappeared lover's shit. Maybe. Maybe not. "What the fuck were you going to ask me?" As far as curiosity goes, it probably could have done to sound friendlier, more conversational, but as it is, the Sicilian does a good job sounding like a cantankerous old man barking from the porch.

He puts his knife away with an ill-advised sheen of water drops still on it and claps the first-aid box up in his hands. There are shadows under his pallid eyes. Maybe from the baby, maybe from the boyfriend. Maybe from something altogether different.

Walter thumbs his button back into place. Zipper second. He keeps his chin tucked in, his head bowed, and pointedly refuses to meet Teo's eyes when he asks. There's the accusation for him to deal with first, if it's an accusation at all. He decides that it is not, but purses his lips to defend himself anyway, mouth moving around words that sounded more articulate in his head. "I like languages," he says. "Grew up talking a lot. Italian and French, mostly. I tried to pick up Mandarin from a fella, but I'm pretty shit at it. Passable, I guess, but shit.

"I was gonna ask about your kid is all. People talk, you know, up on the island. Guess I just wondered why you weren't with her when she came. The mother, I mean."

There's a grunt from Teo, sympathetic. About the Mandarin, of all things. It's certainly harder for a native English speaker to do than anything else. 'Yeah.' He straightens, turns to fit the first aid kit back into its shelf, nudging aside a cup of spare toothbrushes— they'd been on sale, four for the price of one; probably targeting a demographic that he and Francois knew they'd never be a part of, anyway— and some Ibuprophen. He used to eat that stuff like fucking candy, when his cheek was bifurcated courtesy of some Russian asshole.

There's a touch of surprise to the edge of the motion when Teodoro turns to look at the young man. Does it without blinking for a few long seconds, studying Walter the way a fish regards the world through a pane of glass or the diamond-lattice and cross-crossing of God's golden fingers, divining the liquid distortion of truth in an adjacent universe. When he does eventually interrupt his own stare with a twitch of eyelids, he does so in tandem with a step toward the bathroom door, motioning for the younger man to follow.

He doesn't offer Walter his arm, but his pace is unmistakably accommodating. "You know Delilah?" Teo asks.

"Seen her," Walter says, which isn't a lie. "She's not been around much, but when she is people fuss over that baby like nothing I've ever seen. And not to be an asshole or anything," really, "but I've seen a lot.

"Didn't think it was right," he adds, and this next part isn't a lie either, "t' introduce myself. Real busy, that lady. Lots of friends, lots of love." Careful not to put too much weight on his injured leg, he limps out of the bathroom after Teo, swatting the light back off along the way. "Don't get the wrong impression. 'm not looking or interested. Got a little girl of my own back home. She's—" A hitch. "She's two and a half, right? I think I can count the number of times I even got to hold her on my left hand, so." So. "Just a question from one dad t' another."

Nothing for a few long seconds, other than the steady (and unsteady) beat of big, boy-sized feet on the hallway floor. Teodoro's hands have found their way into the pockets of his coat, pulling the fitted fabric narrow around his waist. Shabby sophisticante. He looks like one, even without an ivy league school parading its name block-lettered across his ass. "She seems to have it in her head this is the kind of place a kid should be growing up. I don't think I agree. But he was just born this fuckin' month, you know? I can't tear them apart.

"But until I fuck off out of here, I think things are just going to get worse around me. Or I'll go were the bad shit is. That's not something I want to bring home to an infant." A shrug moves through the lean breadth of his shoulders, and he takes the first short drop down to the stair, the rubber of his boot rolling heavy over varnished wood. He takes his hands out of his pockets long enough to flip his coat shut over the webbing of shoulder holster, push button through buttonhole, and glance up at the younger man.

And volunteers something, finally, as they block their shadows into the shaft of vague light lifting dust off the floor: "Mine's Walter. What's your girl named?"

Stairs are difficult enough to navigate in the dark, never mind the dark with a leg that isn't supporting its weight the way it should, but Walter makes an effort not to put his pain on display, a habit he's picked up from watching stray cats and other people, as well as his best friend. He glances up at the stairwell ceiling then over to the banister as he reaches out and hooks his fingers around it in case his body decides it's going to trip and stumble.

Deliberation has him strangely silent for the first leg of their journey down the steps. At the halfway point, he settles on, "Lu." Clomp-clomp go his boots. "Named her for her great-aunt. Hell of a woman if you believe my dad's stories about her. I do.

"Most of the time."

Pollepel Island

Some hours later…

Green water raises white crests up under the nose of the boat, churning glossily under the blades of the motor. Sunlight refracts, pitches off it at odd angles, and when the thick ribs of the vessel bump into the tires ropped to the jetty, its big black void of shadow seems to delete the slim frame of the Englishwoman standing waiting on it entirely from the world, until the windows line up with the dawning sun and frame her pale face in a square of bright white light. Teodoro is already standing on the deck, leaning over the railing. "Morning," he calls down. The wind cuts off sharply enough that it doesn't steal the noise from his lips. "I stabbed your nosey fucking courier, but only a little bit."

As greetings go, it's not the worst that Eileen Ruskin and Teodoro Laudani have ever shared. He checks that Reynard didn't accidentally die in the interim, and then the gangway plank falls with a whack, makes dragging noises, and the Sicilian lets the workers aboard finish lashing everything down as he moves with a pirate's leggy grace onto the gray boards, interrupting the strips of light that fall against the barnacle-crusted pilings underneath. He reaches out to touch long-fingered hand to slim arm, study her face a moment. Lower then, "We brought the journal."

"I should have sent someone more reliable," is Eileen's apology, "but I'm so short on hands." She rests hers on his and gives his fingers an affectionate squeeze, chin elevated at an angle that allows her eyes to meet his— or would, if she knew exactly where to look, which she does not, and although her gaze does not completely connect, the tight smile she offers him is genuine. "I saw Delilah and your little one at the wake. He's beautiful."

If Reynard— Walter acknowledges this compliment, he does it smugly and behind his arm so the magpie on the Englishwoman's shoulder does not see. The glossy stripe of fishscale-blue on the bird's wing gleams like metal in the light, and it studies the young man hauling himself out of the boat after Teo in an attempt to determine just where he was stabbed. Magpies are opportunists, and this one hones in on Walter's injured leg while he's still crossing the plank.

Eileen's hand, gloved in soft leather, drops, and she indicates the looming shadow that is Bannerman's Castle with subtle tip of her dark-haired head. This way.

Castle. Walter. Notions and reminders that start a pang in Teo's gut, remind him why he's kept away. Not enough to push him away now, of course. There's business that needs attending, and all of it is personal for him. He has no doubt that while Francois Allegre means a great deal to many other people in New York, he ranks up with the most derangedly frustrated and unhappy of them, that the man remains missing. He reminds himself to call Abigail later, and falls into a single long stride along the jetty before hanging pause. Twists his head around to check Walter's faltering stride is going to make it.

It takes him a moment or two, but Teodoro eventually arrives at the conclusion that whatever he and Eileen are going to talk about isn't going to happen a few yards ahead of Walter on the path, whispered, and finger-jabbing pointing signals around the shape of the journal, amid complaints about the redhead's hamfisted hadling of Francois' personal effects. The corner of his mouth digs down sharply, where once it had been twisted upward, scarred open around a glint of pinched gum and exposed teeth. He falls back a moment, flips a thumb over the arch of his own shoulders, an offer. The castle looks a ways.

"You're kidding me, right?" Walter levels Teodoro with a dubious look, weight on the better of his two legs, and glances up at the ledge above the trees where the stone archway leading inside is situated, then flicks blue eyes to the crumbling stone stairs leading up to it. Okay. Maybe he can see why Teo's making the offer.

"Here," he says, lengthening his stride to clap one large hand on Teo's shoulder. The other finds Eileen's, and abruptly there's a feeling like the earth has dropped out from beneath the Sicilian's feet. His breath stalls in his lungs. Blood pressure drops. Darkness crowds the corners of his vision, and then—

They're standing on the ledge, looking down at the river and moored boat, men like toy soldiers working the ropes, easily crushed between Teo's fingertips from his newfound vantage point. "Much quicker, huh?"

Not panic, in that moment of bizarre compression and swimmy peripheral darkness. Not exactly panic. His heart just, you know, goes jumping up his throat then lands with a sledgehammer's weight, his head twists in his skull like a freshly-caged panther, and maybe that metaphor's more accurate than it strictly ought to be, given the nature of his own ability. This is Walter's. This must be Walter's. It dismays and concerns and makes him wonder, in an instant's carefully internalized shrieking paranoia, what the fu—?

"Holyfuck." The Sicilian winds up bent forward, hands on his knees, gasping like a three-hundred pound mouth-breather having dragged himself up a flight of stairs. He stares down the ledge. Stares up at the castle's stone-shouldered shape. Stares down the ledge again, the pale accents of his eyebrows hiked up on his forehead. "What the..? Ff. Cazzarola. How did you do that?" He hitches himself up again, straightening. Looks sharply at Eileen, expecting some kind of explanation-shaped thing, or at least commensurate shock.

Eileen's fingers curl in on themselves, a hand held above her heart. Her magpie gives a startled flutter of its wings and a rasping call of alarm. She's just as startled as Teo is, but rather than pitch forward she's chosen to lean back against the stone wall behind her, either confident in its strength or so put out by what just happened that she isn't thinking as clearly as she ought. It wouldn't be the first time.

Fortunately, the wall holds and she does not go tumbling into the water several hundred feet below along with a pile of loose rock. Teodoro gets an explanation, but as long as her heart is in her mouth, it isn't from her. "Wouldn't be here if I didn't have a gift of my own," Walter says, a little sheepish. "Sorry. I forget what it's like the first time, but don't worry: you're both in one piece. Well. Two pieces, I guess. What I mean is you're whole, even if it doesn't feel that way."

And he doesn't, admittedly. Feel that way. Well possibly in two pieces by himself, but not one; brain dislocated from body, extremities buzzing with needling static and he doesn't know if it's just him having a physiological overreaction to taking shit way too seriously or if this is a side-effect of popping your whatever-Reynard-just-did cherry. Hrrngh. "Do you ever think about what you do before you do?" Teo demands loudly, flattening his shirt down his front with a hand. If he knew he was Walter's father, he'd probably have some compunctions about coming off like such a stuffy, negative old bastard, but.

"How did you do that?" is at least meaningful curiosity, given he said it twice. It's not a punishing, demanding sort of query, though, only rather impressed. Nothing that Walter needs to actually worry about. "Teleportation?" Teo steps over nested slabs of stone, reaches out to offer a hand to Eileen rather than an arm, as much because he supposes she might want it as because he's always been a rather physical animal and reattaining equilibrium happens best this way. "Have you met Anne?" Not that he thinks they all know each other, or anything like that.

"Sssort of. If you wanna think about teleportation as going side t' side, what I do is more back t' front." It's an evasive answer, and one Walter at least has the sense not to pretend is anything otherwise. "Don't know any Anne," he admits. "Only one other person I know who's like me, and for the record I do. Think." He hides his hurt behind quiet, blustering indignation, a sigh huffed through flared nostrils to emphasize his point and dismiss Teo's accusation. "'m not the one throwing knives at people."

Eileen takes Teo's hand. Eases herself off the wall. It's a little like morphing into ink and shadow with Gabriel, but different enough that her body is as vulnerable to its effects as Teo's is. Walter makes a wide loop around them, giving the pair space, and shoulders open the wooden door into the building. "The journal," she reminds Teo, her voice fluttery and soft. "Have you read it at all?"

Teo's big rough fingers close over her small rough ones, his palm throbbing with metabolic heat. His cheeks darken slightly when she asks him that, and then his brow goes into a puzzled knit. This is relevant somehow. This would be relevant, of course. "Not much," he answers with a rough scrape of voice. "Enough to know it's his and be confused as shit over some of the names." Places. Maybe he'll just put his foot up Hiro's ass and leave his toe-print on the roof of the little penguin Jap's mouth. He's thought about that more than about the journal. Made himself do, mostly. "It's here."

His other hand claps down on the lapel of his coat, long fingers bridging the shape of the leather-bound book through the woven wool. He peels the collar away from his neck the next moment, pulls out the narrow stack of paper, worn edges, elegant if close hand. He doesn't flip it open and shove it in Eileen's face, well-aware that that gesture would be the opposite of thoughtful. "He had a flashforward about this shit, you know. He was an old man. With an old woman at his side. I should have fucking thought."

"It's not your fault," or hers, she hopes, but there's guilt in Eileen's tone regardless as Walter leads them into a room that was occupied not long ago by the last person who needed to make use of it. In the ashtray on a wooden table by the window, a crumpled cigarette leaks a thin stream of smoke into air, filling it with the smell of damp paper and cheap tobacco. She has a pack of her own in her coat and a solitary stick tucked behind her ear, but both stay where they are when she enters and the magpie hops off her shoulder, onto the back of a rickety old chair.

Someone has taped a map of the area to an adjacent wall with markers attached to indicate where patrols have found evidence of the military's presence, though the network's skirmishes have so far been restricted to one encounter with a helicopter and the Ferry's attack on a prisoner convoy traveling along Breakneck Road.

That will change. On the table, beside the ashtray, a shortwave radio sits dark, idle. "He told me, too, and I didn't think anything of it until after he was taken. It's been long enough, don't you think?"

Silence from the Sicilian for a long moment, and then a brusque shake of his head. When his pale eyes slide back into focus, they're roving restlessly through the room. "I'm not sure 'long enough' is a relevant measurement of jack shit, considering the situation," he says. He moves over to sit on the floor, drops into a crouch there, long fingers walking up to touch the shortwave radio deftly. Christian taught him well, whether it was two years ago or twelve, and he's kept up with the progress of technology since.

Off the table, onto his lap. His fingers run gently over the tiny screen of plastic that covers up the digital numbering, then the perforated grille out which the sound must play. If it's odd, that he's still hugging the diary to himself under his forearm like a favored teddy, well. They'd be kind enough not to mention it. "I don't fucking know what to do. In his f-forward, they were leaving. Well: she was trying to make him leave. And he had the fucking box that Lassie just shat in." He cocks his head over at Walter, but there's no heat in it, not even enough to indicate honest projection.

"Well, we've two options as far as I can see." Eileen pulls out a chair from the table, one that the magpie hasn't anchored itself to, and sits down. Like Walter, who has come to stand in the doorway, one shoulder leaning into its frame, she's nursing a leg injury, though hers is much less pronounced and her limp tame. "We can either try to find him here, now, or we can take another look at the journal and see if there are any clues he might've left behind.

"Your French is better than mine," she adds, with the same note of apology she'd inserted into their greeting on the docks. "I don't know where Hiro is, or whether or not we can convince him to take us back, but for awhile Gabriel had—"

She doesn't get much further than that. "'m sorry," Walter says, "but you don't mind if I just hang around out here, do you? I won't eavesdrop much."

For awhile Gabriel had. Teo's eyes cut sharply to the girl, and he straightens, fingers digging briefly into his elbows. "My French," he repeats, and folds the journal open with his thumb. "I'm not sure if," he lapses to silence. The first page is brindled over with text, a style of writing not yet as refined as Francois Allegre circa 2010's had been. The objects on the Sicilian's lap change roles. As Teo pries through the journal's pages, his shoulders hug up under his ears like a dog's hackles and it's the radio that ends up cuddled up. Walter's presence is permitted by a grunt under his breath.

"He's just a soldier in this thing," he says, and if that sounds like he's complaining, well: he has a very great deal to complain about. The overzealous baguette-eating patriot who had penned these initial pages bears little resemblence to the man that Teo eventually won as his own. "'J'ecris ceci maintenant pour conserver ma bravoure et ma conviction.' Who says that?" It's a better use of nerves, arguably, than biting his fingernails. "Ghost told me Hiro said he'd try to help if he could, but it's the wrong… it's— not him, or some shit, I don't even fucking know.

"Time-travel is too complicated," he mutters, perhaps the second worst hypocrite in the room as one to say so.

"Essayez plus fort," says Eileen. "'Try harder.' The box took us to the memorial in Caen, which is where we found the journal. It's a sequence, Teo. I'm almost certain of it. He's leaving messages for himself. Look." The floor is not a very dignified place to be, which is why she stays seated in the chair, opting instead to lean over his shoulder, a hand placed between his shoulder blades: a spatial reminder to herself. Interacting with the world through the eyes of her birds is a system that has its flaws, and the magpie's wandering attention is one of them.

The island is crawling with smaller birds to prey on and plump little mice that would fit in its claws if it can catch them. "One of the agreements we made when we went back was not to interfere with anything that didn't require our interference. That includes leaving messages, but there are ways around it. Loopholes."

A sneer twists Teodoro's mouth, momentarily disrupting the shape of his mouth as starkly as if he had his scar back again. "Agreements?" he says. "Somebody dragged Francois out of this fucking world, stuffed him in a metaphorical fucking burlap sack, dumped him in a fucking river— I don't think any fucking agreement covered—" His voice gets too loud, in that moment. Probably not loud enough to penetrate stone, but he notices it, winces, and looks down at the page again. Try harder.

Try harder. Fine. He'll try, if Francois did; the way Eileen is.


Time passes. Pages turn, a rustle of pulp to go undercurrent to the flip and rustle of glossy, iridescent-black pinions. He skims the pages, mostly, makes a half-hearted attempt to recognize ink that was laid down out of place, squinting hard at the parts that are scratched out. Sifting through minutiae, trying to strain clues, however small and inobvious and esoteric out of the pages of a book that go further back than Francois could possibly have been flung.

It's thirty-five minutes, maybe forty, before he makes a noise that sounds like an ungulate that just got shot in the windpipe. The radio slides off his fingers, clatters and slides into his knee. He says something unintelligible, probably French, since he's been thinking in it for the past however-long. He swallows a mouthful of what tastes like tobacco dust, and turns the page, pushes it out for her to see. Drawings. Small.

Eileen's in them, dark-browed and raven-hair, severe at the base of the canvas. Abby nearby, her hair left pale as the color of the paper, his interpretation of Delilah's constellation of freckles for Walter to see. Deckard's gaunt profile scowling fiercely into some remote corner, seeing things that nobody else there can; Daphne's impish grin preserved exactly, and Teo presiding at the top with a break in the wall of his mouth that was there the last time they'd spoken, the Sicilian to his lover.

A cartload of SWAT-geared government mongs couldn't drag him out of this room right now.

The magpie darts its eyes between the faces, snagging on Eileen's because that's what gives her pause. Her raven, maybe, might be better equipped to realize that the lines on the page represent the woman it's tethered to with a psychic string. The tips of her fingers brush the edge of the page, afraid to touch the paper where the pencil already has for fear of smudging it and taking with the lead some vital clue.

If she has any complaints about Francois' unhappy portrayal of her, they are much less important than Francois himself. She can be vain, but quite that vain. She recognizes the signature attached to each portrait, and coaxes the magpie closer, a hand held aloft for the sleek corvid to perch, bend toes around the delicate bones in her wrist. "Is there a date anywhere?" she tries, and Walter is drifting closer too. "Something to indicate where he was when he drew them?"

"April 1954," Teo says, roughing his palm up his bearded jaw, then around his ear. He rasps blunt nails through the shag of his hair and starts to get up, the shortwave radio still balanced on his hip. He glances at Walter briefly, checking out of habit— Ghost's, oddly enough— that the wounded operative remains in stable condition. They really should have seen to his leg, and Teodoro finds himself marking it down in his head for the nth time, that they will. "Fourteenth. It says the fourteenth.

"He seems to be writing from home, in these entries." Broad fingers block into the magpie's view, running down the handwriting. "But he mentions 'the Palace…'" He squints, shuffles grammatical components around in his head. "'The Palace of Kings.' And there's a constellation of names. Residents, businesses… this is a synagogue. There might be records I can look up, perhaps— maybe with Hana's help, if she's picking up these days." Despite the halting tone, thought clotting up between words and stalling action, he sounds steadier than he had nailing 'Reynard' in the leg with a throwing knife.

He hooks a thumb at Walter over his shoulder. "Do you think you could look at his leg while I do that shit?"

Eileen's response comes in the form of chair legs scraping over stone as she rises from her seat at the table, places the magpie back on her shoulder and briefly touches her hand to the back of Teo's head. Reassurance unspoken. "I'll see what I can do," she says, "but you'd be surprised how few people let a blind woman anywhere near them when she's holding a needle and thread."

That's a joke. Probably. Or some attempt at self-depreciation that doesn't quite make it to the finish line. "Eat something while you're here. Please? They're working on a goulash down in the kitchen and it's venison. Should be ready in a few hours." She spares him the You don't look well tucked under her words like a small child seeking shelter from closet monsters beneath heavy blankets. Eileen sounds a little worn herself, and she's the last person to be lecturing Teo about the dark circles under his eyes or subjects focused around the word avoidant.

"You should see if you can find Millbrook," she suggests. "She and Abigail will want to help, too." A hand firmer than the one that had been resting against Teo's skull a few moments ago ushers Walter out of the doorway and into the corridor beyond. Eileen ignores the quiet sound of protest he makes the same way she imagines he might ignore his hunger regardless of her advice.

And she's in no position to judge him for it if he does. She won't eat either, not until they know more.

Unless otherwise stated, the content of this page is licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 License