The Wisdom Of Children


delilah_icon.gif teo_icon.gif teo2_icon.gif walter_icon.gif

Scene Title The Wisdom of Children
Synopsis After having stalked his husband's paramour, Teo is recruited into a rescue mission he is under-equipped for. Fortunately, Delilah has his back. Unexpectedly, Walter is, too. (to follow The Woman)
Date May 20, 2019

Bay Ridge, NYC Safezone: Trafford Residence

Teo has a plan. It's a very Eve plan, but what's an interesting twist is that it's also a fairly Delilah plan.

Which is a nice change because how they came by this new adventure had been distinctly fucked up and stupid on any number of levels, by Delilah's standards. Former sexual partners of your husband aren't for stalking and lying to, no matter how painful that betrayal might have been. But at this point, said former sexual partner has been stalked and lied to. And no matter how unethical the way was to arrive, the conclusion is: there is a child missing. That child needs finding, somewhere in a small town, Arbory, outside of the industrial centers of Michigan where no one has been picking up their phones for a week.

And the road to Michigan is long and dangerous, which Naomi discovered herself when she got into her car and went to find her son and her ex-husband alone. She had been injured, but it was desperation rather than pain that had made her cry. Of course, Teo wasn't going to be able to resist that, even if the cover identity, private investigator, had started out a ruthless charade. Of course, Eve has always been reliably inclined toward heroics both large and small, no matter how unpredictable her aesthetic. As for Delilah herself — that was a foregone conclusion. She has a kid. She knows, and what she doesn't know, she understands too well and prays she will never have to.

The two of them are parked outside her home now, just her and the hybrid Teo. Who is: drunk again, predictably.

"You don't have to come," Teo says, for the third time. There has been something off about him ever since Naomi talked about her kid, hours ago. Scratch that; there has been something off about him since the war, his own steadfast avoidance of his own son, or the one he has a curious psychic share in. He stares at her blurrily. "This isn't your problem."

Letting Teo find his own way around knowing he is half in the bag wouldn't sit well with Delilah. As with many, many other things. Thankfully, he hasn't gotten sick in the Impala, and she isn't going to give him much of a chance.

"No, I don't have to, and it's not. But I am, and now it is." It's firm, but not angry. She had a moment of that when they got in the car. Delilah takes the keys in hand and looks to Teo, an attempt to get him focusing. "Eve isn't exactly the paragon of subtlety. Especially now. I love both of you to death, but someone needs to be the voice of reason." Teo has already proven himself lacking in that department.

Maybe he understands. Maybe not. Maybe she'll need to explain it again. Nevertheless, she slips out of the car and steps around to pull open the passenger door; an arm comes in to hook around his, steady.

"Come on, scruffy."

"Hnghgrggh," says Teo. It's as good as he can come up with right now. Also, for the second or third time, he says, "Hey. Congratulations on your engagement." And then he unlocks the door and half-falls, half-steps out of the Impala.

But then he's up again! And he never hit the ground, which is: a plus. Teo scratches his fingers through his hair, shuts the door behind him. Goes stumping obligingly toward the house behind Delilah. He wonders randomly (for the fifth or sixth time) where it was he put his dossier, but it's either in the back seat somewhere or Eve made off with it. EIther way, it's fine. Obviously. Everything is fine. Please ignore how he raises his hand and recoils like a vampire when the apartment door opens, casting unwanted illumination into his eyes. (He is already, somehow both drunk and mildly hungover.)

Inside the rectangle of light, there's a man who looks almost exactly like him. Except of course that Delilah was right: the other Teo, the one who doesn't have anything of Ghost blendered into him, isn't nearly as scruffy. He blinks in surprise from Delilah to the hybrid, and then his expression darkens fractionally. It's obvious that the other Teo is extremely drunk, and he knows spoilers about that of course, but it seems inevitable that he is also bringing trouble into their household.

"Welcome home," says tiny Teo, stepping back to allow his fiancee in. He leans over to kiss her. His doppelganger, he allows a ginger pat on his shoulder. "Should I make up the couch? Get some Pedialyte ready?"

It's the fourth time, but of course she lets it slide. Delilah makes sure he's not tipping over again when she lets go of his arm to open the door. That they're greeted by the less scruffy version isn't surprising, and to that Delilah first fixes him with a look that begs pity. She couldn't leave him slip-sliding around.

They've all known that since the first night they met her.

"Hey," Dee retains that somewhat pleading look as she returns the greeting of a kiss. "Yea, I think… both. Or at least the couch." She wonders if she'll be needing a bucket just in case. Probably not a terrible idea.

While there are no immediate signs of him just inside the front door, there are hints of the smaller occupant. An annoyingly blue raincoat on the rack, a toy here and there, a pad and pencils(a fine collection crammed inside a translucent box).

"I'll get both," says tiny Teo, after giving his counterpart a long, assessing look. His counterpart in the meantime, rather misses it, because he's busy playing retrospective catch-up with the signs that Walter is around. I mean that's fine. That's the right place for a child to be: in his home with his mother. But now he's wondering how he ended up here, besides the obvious, and that incidentally is a sentiment shared by the Teo that this pose started with, camerazoom back to the other, more sober doppelganger. "Walter's upstairs, but I'm sure he'll be down in a second."

Who's getting the Pedialyte out of the fridge first. They have the red kind, some kind of tropical fruit flavor? He and Dee only see each other for a few weeks every year, but he can predict her course through the house, where she's steering the other Teo to. He doesn't have to call out; he reappears and ends up exactly where she has installed the other. The dining table, incidentally. It's closer to the bathroom, in case vomiting must be done before couch/bucket. "Is this about Francois again?" tiny Teo asks, setting down a clean glass, beginning to pour.

'Again.' Because she had spent the other night out, talking with this one and Eve about it, he remembers. He is not entirely clear about why there is so much to talk about, but that's because he thought Delilah might be capable of forestalling any more stalking than had taken place. Unbeknownst to him, he was: very mistaken. He has missed out on many important updates.

The baby Teo is perhaps about to receive those updates now.

"He'll see us before we see him, anyway." Delilah murmurs on the subject of Walter appearances, mainly to herself as she guides scruffy Teo into a chair. There have been more weeks this year, and finding anything else after the drink is a cakewalk. "I think maybe something to chew on wouldn't hurt…" Do animal crackers count?

"Well…" The redhead looks at the filled glass up to her Teo, brows knitting in a way that suggests more emotion involved than expected. Her tone seems to match the seriousness. "Yes and …no. Indirectly." She settles on the latter, and only when she's sure nobody is falling out of a chair does she rifle around for those crackers.

"This one went to find one of 'Them'- -" Pointed. Unsure, still. Dee clutches a bag of cookies in her hands, crunching one under the waxy paper. She looks back, angling only partway towards the Teos as if the smaller will just read her mind regardless of her words. "Her little boy is missing. She- - she got hurt trying to go find them. Scruffy here- -" A breath inward to finish. "Thought 'private detective' was a spectacular cover story before any of this even came out… now…"

Now, inference.

Inference occurs quietly for the less scruffy of the two Teos. The sharp light in his pale eyes flatten, then brightens again as his mind moves from point A to point B, managing to ignore the noisy sluRP SLURP of the other Teo slowly guzzling his way through Pedialyte, as if he's not entirely sure how to operate his lips, because he can't really feel them all that well. "I take it he wasn't drunk when he went with that cover," baby T says, and is rewarded with a vague, precarious wave of the half-empty (ha) glass. C'est correct. Je was sober. "Well, I'm sure it can keep until tomorrow.

"What borrough is the kid in? I take it there's some kind of problematic co-parent involved. Until the NYPD is up, I doubt the Military Police have time to follow up on shit like this, so she's lucky she came across a specific kind of lunacy." There are aspects of this situation that the baby Teo has yet to properly infer, clearly. He pulls up his own chair, sitting down at a third point of the dining table triangle, waiting for Delilah and the small biscuit animals to arrive. In the meantime, all three of them can hear the inquisitive putter of Walter's feet angling toward the steps.

Did Walter hear something? Is there something downstairs for a Walter to hear? Of course there is!

Delilah returns to pull up a seat and lightly slap the little bag of animals on the tabletop, a sigh in her chest and a look to how far Scruffy has sipped. He's no little boy with a cold, but it will do him for now.

"Michigan." Her fingers work at tugging open the seal on the crackers, eyes flicking up to Sicily and back again. "And yeah, ex-husband is involved. They went dark and nobody is answering any satcomms or landlines. I'm not exactly sure if it's the town's infrastructure, a kidnapping situation or just… a stupid one. But," Lilah holds out an elephant between bigger Teo's slurps. Eat it. "She's not really equipped to do it alone." One elbow leans on the table, brown eyes tipped to blue. "And neither is he." There it is, the Catch. Delilah's sympathy is easily extended into action. Until now she's mostly ignored the padding of feet on old floor. That is, until she stops hearing them. That's the part you wait for. Talking gets put on hold when Dee turns in her chair to look out the archway towards the stairs. "I know you're- -"

"Mom- -"

"Gyah!" Delilah startles, wheeling around to find Walter poking his face in the adjacent doorway instead. He gives his mother an apologetic grimace. Oops. It doesn't last long, because despite his sneaking around, Walter hadn't been sure who they dragged inside. blink blink

"…Teo?" Not 'Dad', just 'Teo'. One hand on the wall, the little boy teeters curiously in the fidgety way of eight year olds, eyes moving to Dad instead of Mom to take his cues from.

"Hey, Walt," says baby Teo a little distractedly, reaching over to grab the tiny barrel of his son's body with his hands. Towing the boy away from the doorframe, Teo squeezes his arm then wags his entire diminutive body side to side, which is usually an indicator that there must be a serious adult conversation pending, otherwise he would stand up and flip Walter upside down in the air instead as a proper father should. "Say hi to Teo," he says, freeing Walter unto the other Teo now, with a little bump, in time to say,


Teo isn't shouting. He wouldn't shout. But his voice is slightly louder than it was a moment ago, assertive. He is after all: Italian. He gets louder when he has feelings, and he does have them now, staring at Delilah from across the biscuit giraffe that the drunk Teo has momentarily paused snuffling down his Pedialyte in order to fumble out of its package. "I can't believe this. I don't even know which part is more unbelievable, the fact that you threw 'Michigan' in there just now, or the fact that you waited to throw Michigan in there. Excellent rhetorical strategy, Delilah." Self-help books eschew the use of sarcasm with teenagers but

well. Walter is eight, I guess. "Do you want me to finish your next thought for you," tiny Teo says, evenly, "or did you want to do it?"

In the meantime, the other Teo — the hybrid one — decapitates the animal cracker between his molars, and wordlessly hands Walter a camel-shaped one. His eyes shift blurrily between Dee and tiny Teo. D:

Looking for cues from Dad Teo gets him somewhere, at least. Walter makes a wavering 'uhh' sound as he gets jostled lovingly, eyebrows hiked up between mom and pop. He's not quite sure what to do, so lets himself get nudged and noodled at his 'uncle'. Said man gets a diminutive 'hi' before Walter accepts the cracker; they aren't quite as good as the icing ones.

Annnd something tells him that it might be wise to cram something in his mouth so he looks like he's not paying too much attention. A lot like Hybrid is doing at the same time. #related

"Oh, don't patronize me." Delilah sits up, a knot in her brow tightening. Tiny Teo in her crosshairs, she gives Walter a short glance and leans in towards Teo instead.

"I waited, okay? Is that what you want me to say? I know exactly what you'd say if I hadn't." She's not yelling either, just… simmering. "So go right on ahead, finish my thoughts for me since you can't seem to guess your own."

"Trust me," says baby Teo, "I know exactly what I'm thinking." It's not the kind of sentence that usually sounds spiteful, but there's a dull red edge to it when he says it, turning himself in his chair so he's staring fully at his fiancee now. "You want to go," he says, his shoulders bunching under the fabric of his shirt. He fights to keep his voice at a reasonably conversational rate; he's careful not to curse. "You want to follow the footsteps of a woman who was injured looking for her own child. Go further, even. You want me to think that's a good idea."

The narrator: Teo did not think it was a good idea.

Actually neither of them does, but the hybrid one knows better than to think you can tell your spouse what to do. Hybrid Uncle Teo glances over at Walter, as nonchalantly as possible, as they both RONCH RONCH inconspicuously on biscuits, their eyebrows in identical configurations of background camoflage. Je suis irrelevant. Don't look over here, s'il vous plais. It would be too awkward for him to drunkenly ask, 'So how's school?' or he would. What stops hybrid Teo from slurping down another uneasy mouthful of Pedialyte, however, is a sudden (still drunken) feeling of responsibility, everpresent, inescapable. Inarguable. Shut up, he tells himself, the split second before he says: "You can't tell people what to do just because you love them."

Trust me, hybrid Teo almost adds, I tried. But he notices an instant before it's too late, that two Teos telling other people to Trust me in sequence would undermine everyone's point, and he clicks his jaws shut. Though not before baby Teo flashes a stare at him, irritated; he doesn’t say 'You've done enough,' but the sentiment is there, obviously. More than enough. Too much. Delilah thought so, right up until she decided to join the clown car.

Mute, hybrid Teo hands Walter his cup of Pedialyte.

The more that tiny Teo talks, the more Delilah wants him to listen to himself speak.

"Of-fucking-course I want to go." Delilah has zero reservations about language at the kitchen table(at this present time). They aren't eating and Walter knows he is not allowed certain vocabulary until a certain age- - Dee does want him to stay a kid for as long as he can. And there he is, halfway behind hybrid's shoulder, crunching on animal crackers and trying not to look conspicuous. "Are you telling me you'd ignore it, then? Not bother, since it's not your- -"

Her words peter out when drunken uncle Teo shares his druncle thoughts; Lilah's mouth flattens, tongue pressed between her teeth to keep from adding something immediately. She glowers at Sicily when he looks back from leering at his twin.

Walter takes the glass and sidesteps a little more behind the broader shoulder of not-dad. He probably figures he's just as shielded there as he would be with Dad. Not wrong, technically. It's not that he think's he's in trouble or unsafe, exactly. Just. A little intimidated.

"Do you want me to drive you over there so you can tell her I won't help? Teo," Dee waves a hand. That one there. "doesn't need a chaperone. It's because there's a child out there whose mother is crying herself to sleep- -" Breath leaves her in a hiss as she clenches her jaw, pressing the heel of her hand against her brow in frustration- - and an attempt not to start tearing up in it. Pale skin is flushed red in places, as it tends to get.

It's all just making her think about the tiny body several paces away. About how he's in the same danger, and it prickles at her neck every day.

Sharply aware that he overstepped, Druncle Teo grabs his baggy of animal crackers. He grips the edge of the table and uses it to help himself upright, elbowing Walter gently, clumsily on the way. 《We should go hide,》 he mumbles into the small boy's mind's ear. 《Give them some privacy.》

In the meantime, baby Teo is having to lean sideways several degrees because his gigantic clone is obstructing his vision, inconveniently, in the middle of an argument. "Do you really think I'd do that?" he demands of his fiancee. He would probably be more hurt if he weren't angry, and he'd be scared if he weren't telling himself that he is angry instead. "You think I'd ignore there's a child missing? You think that just because I don't want you to go out there, I'd ignore that someone needs help? If I didn't know you better, I'd say you were being arrogant. And that's even worse; I know you're not too arrogant to believe you're the only person qualified to help her."

Druncle Teo keeps his face as blank as possible, shuffling through the doorway, crackers in hand. They are still extremely audible even from the living room, he and Walter discover. And from the bottom of the staircase. And then the middle of the staircase. And the landing on top. By the time they make it into Walter's bedroom, it's hard to make out any real words; just man-voice and woman-voice, switching, occasionally overlapping. "Seriously?" is just audible.

It's highly likely that Walter completely forgot about Teo's brain-mumbles, because his eyes widen and tip upwards at him when he ambles to a stand; he's got a good point, though, it feels like Mom's about to turn the same color as her hair.

"You wouldn't ignore it, but why would you blame me for wanting to go?!" Delilah grips the table edge with her hands, barely giving the copycat a glance. It's not that she doesn't care that Walter is sleeenking after him, he'll be fine- - she's just a little bent out of shape at other things. "Of course I bloody know I'm not the only one, Teo. What would you want me to say to her? 'Sorry, I can't help you, find someone more qualified', 'Sorry, you'll have to do this on your own', 'Sorry, you're not important enough'." Though she isn't shouting, it's getting heated.


Walter lingers at the doorway to the dining room, crabwalking out when it starts getting worse. Pat-pat-pat up the stairs after hybrid Teo, who somehow happens to go straight to his room.

"How did you know where my room was?" And he says his wonderment out loud, setting down animal crackers and half-full glass when he slips past. Walter's room, of course, is a little kid's room; it looks exactly as you'd expect it to. Toys still out, a tiny old guitar with broken strings, desk covered in art supplies, walls plastered with things of various origin, messy bed, laundry not quite making it to the hamper in the corner. Some things here and there are familiar to even hybrid Teo, old comic books(is that '9th Wonders!'?), CDs, salvaged posters of things Walter wouldn't know about but it looked cool Mom I'm trading for it!

"We have hiding spots but mostly I use them to spy." Tiny hand grabs big hand, and the little whirlwind of ginger and freckles tugs Teo over to the edge of his bed. Walter drops flat on the floor and rolls right under like he's done a million times. "Come on!" Muffled. "Ohhh, there's my notebook…" Paper rustling. The clinkity-clink of metal on wood paneling.

Drunk Teo glances around the room hazily, registering the embarrassment: he hasn't been here before. Walter Trafford's bedroom.

And by the time he looks back from the childish disarray of the room, Walter Trafford himself is gone????? Druncle Teo blinks in bleary confusion for a moment, but fear not, he hasn't managed to lose that many braincells in the intervening time.

Thump. Thump. That would be the hybrid's knees hitting the floor, one at a time. He folds himself all the way down, squinting in search of the child calling out to him. There he is. "If you think about it," Teo says, "there are some clear differences between your room and your mom's room and the guest bedroom." Obligingly, he then starts to crawl into the space under the bed. His head fits! And his shoulllderrrsssss kind of, with one leg, and after that we are definitely inchworming.

"Fu— dam—" what is the right word? The hybrid pauses, after the third time the edge of the bedframe punches him, painfully, in the lumbar area. "Shit," Teo settles for, finally, in exasperation. Whatever, Dee was cussing. "I'm too big. I'm like Winnie the Pooh. Do you know Winnie the Pooh? I'm so old. Ugh. One sec." Teo collapses himself, sliding back out a bit. Then he rolls over, so that he is laying on his back, face-up. At least he won't be inhaling baby dander for the duration of this ill-fated enterprise, now.

Effortfully, Teo sideways wiggles himself in underneath the bed. Approximately halfway through, he pulls his phone out of his pocket, switches it to flashlight mode, and flips it toward Walter's tiny hands. "Walter," he grunts. "I'm having — a sudden—- realization: you can't actually spy on anybody when you're under this bed. Can you?


"Are you really going to act like those are the only two options!" tiny Teo exclaims.

"Seriously? What else is there? I do it or I don't, there's no 'middle ground'" Delilah snaps back, "Why are you so determined to keep me from going? Really?" A more blatant demand of honesty.


"I need—- you- to not hide under your mom's bed. Ever. Mmmmmkay?" druncle Teo says, a special request of some significance, no less meaningful than the argument ongoing downstairs. He even stops crawling (he is 80% through) to eye Walter.

As soon as Teo gets down on the floor, he can see the little boy peering back at him from the space under his bed. Hi! As Teo inches his head, shoulders, leg under the bed, gamely attempting, Walter watches with a small amusement, but in the end more happy that he's coming in at all!

"Course I know Pooh. He got stuck in Rabbit's house cause his butt was too big." Hey. Teo. Your butt's too big. There's a giggle for the second try, which ends a little better for the Grown Ass Man trying to crawl under the bed. The blink of light from Teo's phone gets a blink back, blue eyes much like his adjusting to the change in brilliance. Walter clicks the button of a little light clipped to his notebook, a mussy little thing full of scrabbled writing. He can read it, that's what's important. "Yours is better. Hnh?"

"Oh yeahIdon'tdothatanymore it's okay." Words run together, colors mixing in a rush of breath. Rather than dwell on the demand or his answer- - the sprout just hehehes and shows Teo the lift of a heating grate in the floor. He pops it right out. It's not even screwed in anymore. They're rolling around somewhere under here, probably. Visuals aren't much more than shadows moving around, but once the grate is popped they can hear pretty well. "The guest room has one over the living room!" Walter whispers! Excitedly! "And in the hallway you can hear all the way down to the basement!"

It's not often- - or ever- - that he gets to spend time with 'uncle' Teo, much less show someone his spy-holes.

This is a lot of information for a thoroughly inebriated man. Teo manages to drag his remaining leg in underneath the bed, and rolls his head on its axis. He is a buff fellow but he can turn his head, and even turn his shoulders most of the way, without getting completely Winnie the Poohed. But it turns out to be a mistake anyway, because then he can see Walter's face and the kid is very cute. "I don't have a secret notebook," Teo says.

"All my secrets are in here." He fiddles his arm up, bending it, so that he can point at his own head. Teo's remark is not: entirely true. He types things into laptops and takes written notes here or there, but that does not sound as impressive as drunkenly insisting on your cognitive superiority. He bonks his forehead very gently on the slat of the bed when he tries to raise his head to check the open heating vent, the moment after Walter points it out. What does an eight-year-old have to hoard in dark confidence? Nothing? He hopes it's nothing. He can't see anything in there. "Yo.

"Do you show this to your friends?" Teo asks. "You have friends, right? You should be more like your mom with that one. I mean, not just making them, but keeping them."

The insistence that Teo keeps all his notes in his dome just has the little boy smiling back. He is definitely cute. The voices in the vent come through a little better, and Dee and Dad are still not-fighting fighting. He's still not sure why. Dad, just let her go do hero things!

Friends? Walter looks at his too-big company with a blink. "Uhh. Yeah I got lots. We all go to school at Ms. Peyton's. I only showed Carl cause he's good at secrets." Duh, what a silly question. "Are your notes," he mimes the tap to his head. "Cause you can talk in my head? How did you do that? Dad doesn't have that… I.. Think." Walter is suddenly unsure. "Can you read my mind?"

"Why don't you ever visit?" This question only occurs to Walter when he realises there is sooo much he doesn't know about this Teo. Kid rambling ensues. "Mom said you live in the woods. And Ms. Eve showed me her dog you gave her! How did you do that? I like robots and stuff but I dunno how they work…"

It's the question lost in the middle that leaves Teo in silence. Suddenly marooned in voiceless uncertainty. He closes his eyes, which feel heavy despite that is not particularly tired.

During the war, Walter had turned two and then thirteen. He thinks about that. The second one, he'd missed, on account of a collapsed lung, despite that he'd wanted to, the other Teo in Sicily. Ghost had pointed out, ever irreverent, that it's not as if Walter would fucking remember anyway. It had been the beginning of his withdrawal from Walter's life. Teo has a bad habit about ruminating about his falures, lately. It's easier to avoid when he's drunk, but the presence of his son, the weight of that question, is too heavy to escape.

"I can't read your mind," Teo says. That's one of the easier questions to avoid. "And I needed a lot of help to make the robots, but out there, it wasn't too hard to find machines you need for parts. Less people, less competition. I know things I shouldn't. I have memories. From…"

It's one of those moments that Teodoro might someday look back on, see an opportunity missed. But tonight, he has no way of knowing the secrets locked up inside Walter's head, how oddly similar their experiences are, the conditions of their existence. Knowledge of other timelines, overlapping memories, a cross-pollination of personality. He reopens his eyes, and all he sees is a child with red hair, whose existence he is deeply responsible for, and the responsibility thereof that he so often failed. "I'm sorry I fu — I'm sorry I went away. I was having trouble being around kids for awhile. There was," Teo rambles, hopelessly, his fingers groping absent-mindedly for his cellphone. "Some things happened during the war.

"For awhile I was in some pain."

Walter waits and listens through the quiet, the patience something he's learned all too fast over his short life. Things will come. Time works like that.

"I know things I shouldn't too…" The little boy admits, just him and Teo and a shy confession. Delilah already knows. Dad, probably not. Mom only knows because 1) hypervigilant and 2) people tell her. Walter only gives that before thinking on what Teo has confessed to him. Maybe it makes him feel grown up, but he just responds with an empathic look gifted to him from Delilah.

"Some people aren't good with kids and that's okay, you don't hafta be sorry." Tiny shoulders give a big shrug. He's met a lot of adults that just sort of- - get awkward, don't know what to say. Mom said that's just how some people are, it's not him.

"Lots of people we know are sad about things and having pain too." Walter grew up in war- - he doesn't have a before to compare it with. "Where was yours at?" The way Walter asks, it only sounds like sadness and pain are two different things to him.

Oh God. Teo is stumped, instantly. How do you explain to a kid what's wrong with him? He doesn't even know. Depression, maybe, though it's worse than it ever had been after he got Gia killed. Anxiety? Paranoia? That's not as bad as it used to be; he's yet to suspend shotguns by any door.

Heartbreak seems like the closest but Walter's — fuckin' — how do you —

"Um," Teodoro flounders, expelling a great gas cloud of beer breath into the narrow space under the bed. His glazed eyes rove across the boy's little pale face, below its fringe of red hair. "I… it's uh, like," maybe he should point to his own heart, he thinks clumsily. Symbolically appropriate, physiologically sometimes, also, true. Maybe…

It's some waiting again, and this time Walter does chance a fidget, energy wound up in him expelling in the fuss of fingers against scratches in the floor under his chin. He's okay with waiting, though, blue eyes back on Teo when he falters with an explanation.

Despite the lack of a real answer and Teo's inability to word one, Walter's features squint up a little when he speaks again, interjecting before something does come.

"Oh…" a tiny crinkle Walter's eyebrows, and the indecisive frown-smile-frown-smile of his mouth follows as he puzzles pieces together. The seven year old elbows closer, "…it's the not-bandaids kind." A tiny hand pats Teo's hair and slings around his shoulders(neck, Walter's too small-limbed, but the gesture is there). "Okay."



"What," baby Teo says, "the fuck am I supposed to do if you never come back home?" His voice sounds more raw when he says this.

A good deal of Delilah fizzles, the immediacy of her own internal response catching her just a little off guard. Still, she squeezes her eyes shut and shakes her head, fingers pushing hair back behind the barrier of her ears.

"I don't- -" Know? Her jaw tenses and her eyes shine, caught in a tangle of irritation and regret. He's right, though, isn't he? On the other hand, Teo knows that she will help anyone if she can. It's her nature.


In the meantime, the other Teo, the one upstairs with the tiny boy, starts to cry.

If he were less drunk, he 1) wouldn't, and 2) would be much more humiliated about the fact that he is. Instead, Teo's state of inebriation allows him to fall into it like a stone through water, wildly, brakes off, no straps or holds, head-first and head-long. It's an ugly sob first. A choking sound after that. Tears sopping out of his eyes. One big coarse hand splays awkwardly over the middle of Walter's tiny back, a badly shaped hug around the little boy.

Teo doesn't answer. Or at least, not in words that have ever been spelled in a known language.

Walter, of course, never intended to cause this, but somewhere in there he knows it's not a bad thing. Not exactly.

Hugs under the shelter of a bed isn't quite the roomiest, but somehow Walter still weasels in under the arm at his back to press his little frame to Teo's, giving it as much an effort as he can given circumstance. He doesn't care about the smell of beer, or the blubber of tears, or even the oddity that is nestling up to your uncle who could technically be your dad too.

The little boy has a singular care, as kids tend to have; his shape lines up against Teo as a puppy's might, a coal of warmth.

"…Mum says it's okay to be sad. If we don't get sad sometimes we get mad instead."

By now, the conversation between Delilah and her fiancee has faded down to a conservative volume, very indoor voices. Custody, search, length of absence, the legalities. Mundane and terrible aspects of partnership that baby Teo had been hoping to defer for a long time yet.

And upstairs, the hybrid Teo is ugly crying on a child. It's a good time to be a post-war superhero in New York City. Walter smells like a kid; the way that kids do before adult hormones have fucked everything up, made them susceptible to the bacterial stank of body odor. Maybe he also smells faintly of dinner. Maybe the only thing Teo can really smell right now is the mucusy cloy of his own snot, even as he struggles in vain to suck it up back into his head instead of dripping all over his kid. Teo's kid. The other Teo's kid. Walter.

"Uh huh," he says. "Uh huh." He coughs wetly. "What does y-your mom say about if you can't stop being sad?"

And for whatever it is worth, that same conversation downstairs is one that Dee knows they have to have eventually. The world they live in is unkind, even if its people aren't. They could fight and fight over it all evening, but in the end both of them know one another too well to think it would go down easy. The days in the lives of the brave and bold is never easy, is it?

They'll simmer out, tonight, at some point. Possibly apologies for fighting but never for why they did. It was all valid, even the worries that she'd never come back. Convictions always make everything a thousand times harder.

Upstairs, under the bed, tangled up together, Walter doesn't judge the blubbery state of his Uncle-Dad. Crying is usually messy anyway.

"I'unno yet. I never asked her that." As in, he's tempted to go ask. But! He shouldn't! Cause he's needed up here. "Umm…" Walter thinks out loud, "Maybe… maybe just… this?" Sharing. Hugging. The opinions of a kiddo versus a world that's way too complicated. "I jus'know everyone's sad a lot. Cause there's a bunch to be sad about I guess. I'm sad sometimes. But that's ok." He gets his tiny ramblings, perhaps, from both parents. "I'm sorry you can't stop being sad." One more mighty squeeze of tiny arms, then Walter is wiggling around and tugging on Teo's meaty hand.. "Come on, maybe you should, erm, I got tissues you can have, ok? And I can show you my pictures."

He wants to help. Is he? He hopes he is.

In this state, Teo is in a miserable blur that makes good nearly indistinguishable from bad, light from dark. It smears together. But he can make out the tiny starfish of Walter's hands and the querulous edges of his baby voice, and maybe in this moment, that will be enough. Enough to get him to take the advice, even in absence of understanding or believing that the outcome will be well.

"Okay. Okay, I'll use a tissue," Teo snuffles damply, pawing blindly along with Walter's direction. "Then I'll look't your pictures."


There's not much sound from down there now. Grownup, indoor voices have prevailed.

Indoor voices and quiet plans, and even tentative apologies from Delilah, in the faint hope that maybe it will make things better. Softer at the edges. She may have hardness, but also that more plush exterior.

Stubbornness runs in the family on all sides, and in a few ways it can be daunting. Butting heads. Rams manage, though. They will find a middle ground. Any words that still filter up through the vents are not nearly as provoking as they were.


Wee fingers wrap around Teo's, and Walter more or less pries him out into the open again, feet padding along the floor, briefly leaving Teo on the rug. When he reappears it is with a small box of tissue paper and a mighty need to help the grown man to sit on the bed. As helpful as his Mum is. Hell, Delilah gave Teo a scarf the night they met. It all just… fits Walter, too.

"I think they stopped but we'll stay here just in case." Box, extended. Eyes, tipped up to Teo's. Muddied as they are, Walter still doesn't seem to judge. He will leave the box on Teo's lap so he can retrieve a sketchpad of recycled paper and do a hop-leap onto the bed.

"What's your favorite color? I like purple a lot…" And so on.

Teo gives his nose a deafening hoooonk, that maybe his twin and Delilah might even be able to hear in reverse all the way down the pipes. Dangerously close, anyway.

Then he takes a deep breath or five. Fumbles around for another tissue, careful not to get snot on his offspring, leaning back against the mattress as it bounces under Walter's weight. He mumbles thank-yous, and answers to the little boy his questions. Something like, It used to be red. Then, as he wonders hazily what Walter is drawing for him, he adds, Guess I still like red. Red is still good.

Some of Teo's favorite people are red.

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