The Art of Asking Questions


tamara_icon.gif teo3_icon.gif

Scene Title The Art of Asking Questions
Synopsis Teo asks all the wrong ones and Tamara can't quite ask the right ones. At least one gets answered anyway.
Date July 13, 2010

Central Park

The nice thing about looking for Tamara is that you can do it anywhere.

The Central Park is a pleasant place to do it, if you have the option, and Teodoro does. He's sitting on a park bench after having walked around the great concrete roller rink and nearly gotten run over by a dozen joggers for the past half-hour. There is a slurpee, half-drained, gripped in his left hand, blue raspberry turning his lips and teeth a zombie shade of blue. The weather is fucking hot, Jesus, and promises later of rain, and oddly the combination seems to have drawn more people out into the open, enjoying corporate lunch-breaks or the opportunity for a bit of outdoors exercise while the kids are in school, rather than chasing people indoors.

Tamara's never been scared of crowds, though. Not as far as Teo can remember. He twists his foot around in his shoe, absent-minded and preoccupied with wondering why that hotdog cart-pusher happens to be armed, failing to parse that the minor twinge of discomfort is coming from a fleck of gravel trapped around his heel. Counts to ten before he's going to get up and start walking again.

Precisely upon the count of nine, a pair of hands rather smaller than Teo's own land on his shoulders. Their weight is slight, even taking into account relative size; she doesn't need to hold him down, after all. That never has been Tamara's chosen tactic. "The wheels are almost like flying," her familiarly young voice remarks in Teo's ear. "When they work right. Otherwise it's just falling. And falling is everywhere."

She steps around the bench into Teo's field of view, then: blonde hair cut to shoulder length, but just as neglectfully mussed as ever; she's wearing a sundress today, robin's-egg background with butterflies along the skirt's hem and neckline. A black leash looped around her right hand has a puppy on its other end, who ambles forward to stretch out her nose and sniff at the Sicilian's shoes. The tag on her collar jingles faintly as Misty looks up towards his face, tan ears perked forward queryingly. "Did you want to walk? We can walk."

"I'd love to walk," Teo answers, after a moment spent closing and opening his eyes to reassure himself that yeah, this is Tamara. The verbiage helps. What illusionary shapeshifting mastermind sociopath could otherwise pull that off? "Always seem to be running or driving somewhere to get there a-sap, these days. Hey, you cut your hair. It's very pretty, bambina." He swats off his posterior with one hand, carefully holding his slurpee out of dropping-condensation-on-dog's-head trajectory with his other, and then his fingers naturally rove over to scratch at the base of the puppy's head. Scritch scritch, and then he straightens up for real.

He isn't the tallest fellow you've ever met, but Tamara doesn't finish higher than his shoulder and Misty is well out of reach by then. He doesn't ask her if she's gone rollerblading. By now, he knows better than to ask that. "I have a plan," he tells her. "It's making Francois crazy and Gabriel a little curious, and it's tricking into everything else like a lie. S'pose you already know what it is?"

Misty's tail arcs side to side in appreciation of Teo's attention, but as the girl moves to start walking, the puppy moves over to pad beside her. Tamara peers askance at the Sicilian, collecting some of the excess leash length in her hand. She doesn't answer right away, but chews on her lower lip for the distance of a few strides, musing over his query. "Thinking wasn't doing, and shadows didn't explain what they were. They don't talk really at all, except if you did." The girl wrinkles her nose, looking up at Teo. "Plans don't exist out there," she says, a sweep of her hand indicating the park around them. "Only up here," with a reach to tap her fingers against his skull.

"Does that mean I'm not going to go through with it?" Teo's eyes hood slightly, and he seizes the straw atop his slurpee to jab at its semi-liquid remains. A child passing by hand in chaperon's eyes his cyanotic coloring and 'weenish scars dubiously, and Teo is too preoccupied to eye him dubiously right back, but he doesn't have to, before the chaperon notices and hitches the tot further away from them. While Tamara looks harmless enough, and unusually well-groomed insofar as the recentness of her haircut is apparent to all pedestrians, the company of dogs and maladjusted young men gives her an air of disrepute. "I talked to Gabriel. I've told Francois. I want to. I do," he insists, flipping a leaf out of their path with the toe of his shoe. "Can you picture me doing it?"

The girl beside him, completely immune to any disdain her choice of companions may inspire in passersby, looks sidelong at Teo. Her brows draw together in a furrow that makes the look more of a considering glower, and one hand, fingers splayed, shoves against his shoulder in playful rebuke. Tamara then bends down and scoops up the puppy at her feet, skipping two steps ahead the better to turn around and face Teo. "You are being obtuse," the girl proclaims, the words carefully spaced and deliberate. Indeed, the very last one is spoken with a satisfied pride that doesn't jive at all well with the chiding nature of the statement — but succeeding in saying it is a small victory for the seeress.

Ouch ouch Teo is—

—well not injured but. He was just shoved by a tiny insane seeress. Obviously preferable to being gunned down by a bit of firearms-kata or any number of discreet deaths that the world could harbor at Tamara's behest, but you know, that was separately astonishing even aside of the fact she just invoked a fucking SAT word. What is up with that? "I'm not being 'obtuse,'" he objects, indignantly. "I mean, it's a little elaborate, you know? Fucking — I don't know anyone else who spends their spring break planning shit like this. Half the people I need I can't find. It's only natural I come and bug your shirt." Such delicacy of prose. Teo wedges straw into his greenish teeth and makes an airy gurgle.

Tamara eyes Teo sidelong, then cranes her neck forward to where she can see the hem of her skirt around the fuzzy bundle of puppy clasped against her chest. It doesn't help that she's walking backwards all this while, each step swishing the butterflies in the wrong direction. But that's not really important. "It's not a shirt," she observes, frowning — then looks askance at the Sicilian. "Or I — is it?" The girl mentally weighs the subject for a moment more, then shrugs helplessly in Teo's direction.

It's not like what she's wearing really matters. Certainly not to Tamara, who doesn't care what her clothes are at least 29 days out of 30. "You want a rock from the river," she says, ruffling at Misty's ears. "You look in the mirror and want to see it; you can't pick it when the mirror's looking anywhere else." Blonde eyebrows arch as she regards Teo. "I knew you could be a better compass."

There is a protracted quiet, filled with halcyon bird-song, dog-breathing noises, and the pattapatta of joggers going by on their clean white trainers. Teo pauses. "Shit," he says. "I am an ESL, okay? I meant 'shit.' Bugging your…" He lapses into an uncomfortable pause, brows coming together in a fashion as accusatory as the little sibyl's glowering had directed at him earlier. It seems rather beneath him to accuse her of knowing what he meant, given the various complications of 'knowing' when it comes to the Brooks' girl's understanding of the world. "Ummmm. Hmm.

"Do you think we could go back to the bird metaphor?" the scarred man asks, optimistically. "Blue. Twitters. Goes," Teo flattens his hand and wanders it through the air, "like this. Want to go," and he flattens his palm with his other one, then splits them apart. "Like this. But with a backup clone. Compasses are for other people to read."

The girl's feet stop moving, planting themselves on the ground, and she gives Teo a sidelong look accompanied by a mildly frustrated huff. Setting Misty back down on the ground, Tamara unclips her leash — not exactly what one's supposed to do with a dog in the park, but the puppy seems content to sit at her feet and peer from one looming human to the other. The length of black nylon is slowly looped around her arm, after which she uses both hands to shove her hair back from her face. She has no tie to keep it back with, but the strands lodge behind her ears well enough.

When the sybil looks back to her companion, her eyes are darker; not as black as they could be, as he's seen them before, but less blue than they were. "You're asking where many paths hid the trees. Signs help a lot." Not black enough to make her statements clearly interpretable — but there's still a chance of correct inference. Tamara steps forward towards Teo, reaching up to set her palms against his shoulders; she looks up at his face, through him, unfocused gaze searching for something in the space beyond in minute, erratic flickers.

It suits Teo's tiny ego to be looked through in a way that threatens to go to the core of him and unearth secrets that he might otherwise find alarming for other-people's-consumption. What Tamara does is somewhat less compatible with his worldview. Transcends his sense of self, reduces the Catholic conceit of soul and the limitations of his egotism to merely one factor in a wild and random chaos of happenstance, circumstance, and worst of all— other people's plans and intentions. All right, that makes sense. Yes, that's what he's asking. For…

…trees. Signs. The right ones. "I need," he starts to say, before realizing the end of that sentence is 'to shut up,' and beats himself to the punch. His mouth clicks shut, teeth meeting pale and even in the sloppy, beard-fringed hole Kozlow's gift had carved into his cheek.

After a time, Tamara closes her eyes, exhaling a quiet sigh. "Sometimes the missing are what find," she says, voice gone weary with the effort of finding what Teo didn't point her to very clearly. "Ask the lynx to make what he hears." The hands on his shoulders become less an anchor and more a support as the girl's shoulders slump, her head bowing forward. "The rest weren't your shadows to beck and call," the seeress concludes, distantly regarding the pale puppy at her feet. Misty mouths a silent yip up at her person, blithely standing on Tamara's foot.

Talking to a lynx when you're a small and impressionable bird doesn't sound like the wisest thing, but this thought is only fleeting, lacking proper weight and the logic he had largely been pretending to. Teo is pretty good at appearing reasonable, a lot, arguing, constructing questions, collating answers, but as a side-effect of being the kind of man who always has an objective, there are always things he's more interested in hearing than others, and logic inevitably orients itself around perspective. Still.

If there's anybody who's going to bring the gift of perspective to the Sicilian, it might as well be the black-eyed girl drawing puppies and animal metaphors along in the lassitude of her inconceivable Snow White effect. Oddest Disney Princess you've ever met. Teo is silent a bit. Objectively, he feels he ought to be reassured. "Thanks," he says, and he certainly means that, as he glances down. "I will."

Tamara nods slowly, letting her hands fall from the Sicilian's shoulders. She looks up at him for a moment, then nods again just once; folds herself down into a cross-legged position on the park's green grass. The puppy takes that opportunity to clamber into the girl's lap; Tamara wraps her arms comfortably around the dog, and leans back against Teo's leg as a conveniently handy brace. "Be careful," she remarks, for no particularly evident reason — but it's Teo, there's general reasons aplenty to draw upon.

"Do you think I'm doing this for the wrong reasons?" This inevitable inquiry is pitched down at the top of her sunflower-spread head, and Teodoro stands steady under the meager weight of her lean. He runs a long-fingered hand through his hair, flattening out strands that take all of the length of one breath of wind to pop back into ragged disarray again, strandily shadowing his eyes. "I mean I guess the 'right' reasons are a lot about moralizing and shit that you don't generally like to oversimplify with words, but there you have it." He stoops slightly, finally, dropping his broad-shouldered shadow over Tamara and his hand falls lightly onto Misty's head, palming the velvety curve of the animal's skull.

Tamara folds her hands in her lap, across the back of the dog currently getting as many licks in on Teo's hand as his petting will allow. There's a momentary pause before she tilts her head to peer sidewise up at Teo, blond hair fallen over and half-veiling her face. It doesn't obscure the line now drawn across her brow, or the blank noncomprehension of the girl's expression: what am I supposed to do with this thing you just handed me? Or asked, as it were. Tamara shakes her head, squints at Teo a little more in vain attempt to bring him — or something, anyway — into focus, then closes her eyes, rubbing at them briefly.

There's a figment of apology in the broken fishhook line of Teo's mouth. He doesn't mean to cause migraines, except when he does. That's not bad. If she thought she could get further with him by telling him to quit now, she probably would, anyway. He saw her eyes go dark. Not as dark as they could have, but dark enough to figure that if he were about to accidentally the whole apocalypse by a dint of event more or less than conscientious endeavor, or anything especially harmful to people she cares about in quantifiable way, she would have had a cheerful if terribly confusing word or two of caution. And there's the odd point of contention, you know… the one where—

Well, Teo doesn't think he's the same person as the other two, but the differentiation seems less than important to the girl herself. Has, historically. "Bet you a slurpee of your own," he says, gesturing back at the path down their knoll with his not-dog-hand, "that I can get this into the trash can."

Blue eyes look back up at Teo, and despite the underlying weariness in her expression, Tamara gives the Sicilian a lopsidedly playful smile. One hand splayed against the soft fur covering Misty's ribs, the girl twists around to look at the trash can in question. Twists back to squint at the Sicilian, mock assessment of his chances, lips pursed as she considers.

It's not a prediction; not an expectation. Tamara takes the opportunity to play along as a relief, compared to the alternatives; slides out of the role of prescient into one far easier to maintain with a reply that isn't quite verbal: "Huh-uh."

Bet you can't!

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