The Rat Lives


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Scene Title The Rat Lives
Synopsis All of this has happened before, and will happen again. Flint is a mess and Teo is here to help. Squint a little, ignore the false identities, treachery, gasoline and tardiness of this rescue, and this picture is somehow familiar.
Date June 18, 2009

Between The Guiding Light Church and a Bloody Dumpster


Greenwich is farther than he remembers, the familiar squat of Guiding Light at its heart nowhere to be seen when adrenaline shock wears off and the rhythmic pound of his boots against cold concrete breaks and falters into a stumbling, displaced weave. He hurts. An isolated lamp across the street glances orange light harsh off the black sheen of blood saturated through the leather sleeve of his coat. Gasoline glistens damp in the dark plaster of his hair and the wiry scrub brush bristle of stubble grown in thick around his narrow jaw. It's in his eyes and burning at his sinuses, adding disorientation to the fuzzy dizziness of bloodloss ebbing resources away from the smog settled heavy into the ridges and troughs wrinkled into his rotten brain. The stink of Feng's Plan A clings and cloys, fogged thick in the air around him. An underlying twinge of whiskey is almost impossible to detect. Worst of all, he never got his donuts. :(

When he finally caves to the need to rest, which in this case may or may not be synonymous with the need to curl up and die somewhere quiet, a far-spaced, irregular pat, pat, pat of damp blood marks the curve of his trail into an alley dark as pitch.

Ghost hadn't bothered calling ahead, given that the old grave-robber seemed to have gotten it into his head, somewhere between the torture of immemorable allies and chaotic rescue efforts for little black-mopped damsels, that they aren't friends anymore. Tragic story. He'd gotten the coordinates off Hana's GPS and what serves her the same as Mapquest, paused when she added due notice, that the phone itself appeared to close to dead. Subjecting the situation to a frown, he cinched his helmet underneath his chin and proceed to rip the tarmac in half, biking up.

Greenwich is closer than he remembers, but maybe that is because the traffic, population density, and compression of buildings decreases proportionally with how far back you go in time.

The Knucklehead's headlights chase grime across the walls, pick out a faint gasp of steam unspooling out of the subway vents at the sidewalk. The ghost strains his eyes, first; the physical organs struggling against the dark, before he peeks out through his mind's. Realization lances his heart with adrenalized heat.

Somewhere out there, back there, from over the buckled heap of Deckard's shoulder, there is a mumbling cough of an engine shutting off, paired boots thudding the ground, an unfamiliar voice: "Deckard?" A hand on his sleeve, flinching recoil jerking through the torsion of fingers on fabric when the sudden stench of gasoline rises up and slaps him upside the face like a wave from some fetid sea.

Not excessively interested in waking up, Deckard moves enough to curl in on himself against the bike's noise chuffing at the hazy edges of consciousness. Still alive enough to exhibit familiar shows of sloth while the border between dreamless sleep and the black of the alley blurs indistinct. The air is cold and so is he, chill sweat difficult to differentiate from gasoline's deadlier drench. At least the blood soaked into his coat and blotch-blossomed up warm through the side of his t-shirt is color coded.

His left hand is host to a raggedy, bone-flecked hole blasted through the meat of his palm and out the back, fingers half curled against his chest until they're displaced by a jerk of movement that his achey muscles aren't responsible for. Wake up. Someone's saying his name.

Shivering comes first with a brittle return to reality, shuddering at his wheezy breath. His eyes roll in his head, lolling with a slack turn of neck and jaw after that unfamiliar voice. Pooled shadow has plenty of space to occupy in the hard-edged pits of his skull — he looks like he's returning from death rather than narrowly avoiding it, painfully thin. Someone's there. Bothering him. …Wait.

Someone — is there bothering him, jesus christ. All at once he goes from 10% awake to something like 70%, right hand grasping after the gun under his coat with tingling fingers and wide eyes while one bent knee tries to propel him backwards in the form of 1/4 of a crabwalking retreat.

The white knight sits up so sharply he bangs his head on the inside of his helmet before a scowl seizes his face inside the visor. He pounces, palm-first, physical reaction before the verbal spate of jostled panic and reassurance— "Don't— it's me. It's Teo. Calm down, I got shapeshifted— I'm not going to fucking hurt you, Flint. It's me." His fingers have noosed the wiery sinew of Deckard's wrist, a thumb nocked in between two knuckles, some arcane ninja joint-lock maneuver incipient but unrealized.

"T-Teodoro Laudani." When the Hell did he get his hapless dundering stutter back? The gagging choke of gasoline roping up into his nose and painting his tongue with this acrid patina might be it. "Vecchio. I came to warn you about some Chinese psycho gymnast out for payback— what the fuck happened?" Blood squelches and smears underneath the contact points of his knees and he scrabbles to keep Flint from escape.

"FFfff — " This is a noise Deckard makes a lot lately, too caught up in fear and manic, aggressive reflex to complete the curse, or threat or whatever it was meant to be. The sudden strike of Teo's hand at his doesn't register quite like it should, dull pain lost somewhere in sodden translation even as the gun tips out of fingers forced into a stiff splay and clatters harmlessly against bare concrete. "Don't. …Please." Effectively caught, breathless and bent in an unconscious to relieve the pressure at his hand, his words rake out of his throat in a puff of displaced fumes. The stark-cut shadow of his profile pulls away, then down, avoiding the face of his captor while drawn muscle constricts and slithers over itself, trying to squirm away with reptilian lethargy.

Chagrin works Ghost's unfamiliar brow down into a lumpy ruche of unhappiness, fear still swollen wide in his pupils. He — loosens his grip, lets out a breath that forms a consonant-heavy hiss. "I won't. I won't— I'm Teo.

"Deckard." Frustration knots in his gut and imbalances the strength of his fingers. His arm ends up dragging a long, dead rope weight oblique across the older man's skinny chest, hooking to haplessly try and right him out into a nearer approximation to upright, because that usually indicates— better. "Not your Teo but I'm still fucking Teo, all right? Look, you need to heal. Your hand— Jesus fuck

"Your hand." A ghastly marshmallow explosion of surprised flesh and strung-in bone. Ghost's voice flattens and harshens into a mutilated misrepresentation of itself. "Come on, you horrible old bastard. You can heal this, can't you?"

Silence. Deckard doesn't want to talk and he doesn't want to cooperate. This is clearly not a Teo: his or anyone else's. It's not so dark now that he can't tell through the absence of lucidity and a half-decent light source. The sky glows dully overhead, sickly city brown and purple just enough to create bleary contrast at the alley floor. He doesn't resist being propped up, but there's a shiver against the contact and he keeps his face turned down into shadow. No more energy to fight with.

"Not right now." Simple questions have simple answers. The phrasing around it is absorbed with zero effect. He is old and miserable and a bastard. "I tried. I was running." He needs to eat. Needs to sleep. Needs to stop inviting the wrath of God down upon himself in the form of pipes and gasoline and his own lead. The mangled hand in question curls back into its prior position at his chest, favored close to add another raggedy smear to the ones that already exist there.

Fear. Lies, dirty air swatting its rotted weave against his face. Ghost scowls and realizes only then, his skin pinching and pulling against the padding inside of his helmet. Seized by all of the wasted adrenaline that Deckard no longer seems to have in him, he rakes his fingers up under his head, claws the catch loose from underneath his jaw. Another moment, and the hardened carapace goes rump-a-thump on the floor, rolling, the polished curve left to seesaw emptily like a half of a broken egg.

"All right," he says. "Fine." Fine. "We aren't far from Joe's— or there's probably an empty flat," apartment, he should say, but he is occasionally pathologically European like that, "and we can find— find you food, and a pillow— get this— fucking gasoline of you." Incredulity diverts his tone away from sympathy that would otherwise have been simplified down to the pragmatism that he has always found salvation in. His identity — or lack thereof is left for another time. Thinly, he says, "I'll take you."

Stay here and rot in an alley alone or…something. Maybe a more creative and painful death. Maybe someone to cart his ass to a bed and something to eat. Deckard considers his options as best he can, which turns out to be not very well, and winds up taking too long. Irritatingly long. Can't even remember where he was going to go when it was still his decision to make.

"Okay." Okay. His breaths still come quick, panting and hoarse in their gallop after bloodpressure's backsliding drag and drop. A jello-like mass of cold coagulation drops off his hand into his lap. Plop. "He was going to set me on fire."

"Who?" It's an absent-minded query, as Ghost turns his head this way and that, scanning the mazey geometry of the alleyway and trying to remember, map out in his mind's eye the likeliest route out of here, the ideal destination out of the majority that are too far away. His mental arithmetic is quick, reels off a final number and location that was one that he had mentioned; the one that Flint had been aiming his beleaguered stagger at originally. Mumbling under his breath, he tightens his fingers on Flint's arm. Gives his Swissed hand a wide berth, steering a gangly limb up and around his shoulders, tilting his weight, steeling his crabwised legs into the dirty concrete below.

Though he tries to somehow steeple the trunks of their torsos against each other for balance, he puts the mainstay of the vertical effort in his knees, grinding upward determinedly toward the brackish night sky, launching toward the last-remembered location of the Guiding Light Church. It is a pity that its name doesn't provide a more literal sign in the evening.

Deckard weighs less than he has in the past, which simplifies dragging him around to some degree. Once he's up he's not all that comfortable about being in close contact — half unfocused animal unease, half the squish and squelch at his rickety ladder ribbed side that marks the narrow track of a second bullet, entry and exit both cleaner than the first. Body language and involuntary sound effects aside, he's at a haggard disconnect. There's no more wincing and no more panic where there's room for the tenative promise of relief. One way or the other.

His head still hangs and his eyes take in the stretch of the alley as if surveying the surface of the moon or mars, here without being particularly present. Dusky hair just beginning to lift again under gasoline's gradual evaporation around one side, he manages to take some of his weight onto his own knees as an automatic side-effect of being vertical again. "Feng." Feng Daiyu was going to set him on fire.

Feng. Ghost hadn't caught his name, had known better than to ask with John Logan looking on under the assumption that he wouldn't give a fuck, but he can recognize a Chinese name when he hears it, match it to the ethnic heritage of the stranger's sterile, stoic countenance. "Shit." It's a bucket of cold, existential shock. Trust a time-traveler to take it personally, when he shows up too late.

Only it isn't, is it? Deckard's still alive. There's still a walk, and Feng still waits— closer than the ghost knows; he hasn't thought to push his mind further than the nearest periphery of curfew enforcers, confident that the perimeter is secure, failing to grasp the possibility that some other mythological predator would be watching over Flint Deckard, conveniently forgetting that a little self-awareness might be due, now, if not external. "I'm sorry."

Hitch and sway. Their stride hurdles over lumpy concrete and tosses piecemeal garbage away from dirt-rimed shoeing. It is like a three-legged despite that they have four and there is nothing technically wrong with any of them. "Come on." It is a murmur, maybe familiar, like being helped through the cold might be too. "Stay with me. I'll tell you a story. Ends in Vegas, with a shotgun wedding, but I think it's the middle you'll like. There's blood in it. Childbirth, and the bright blond medical officers and heroes are the ones who die, but there's a happy ending—

"The rat lives," is what he meant, with clarity rather than sincerity. He knows he isn't telling this very well, but Teo— being Teo, is always wont to try. He gives a pull and an extra step for Deckard's every one and listens for the difference in the old man's breathing that means he's heard something he will remember.

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