Treading Styx


gabriel_icon.gif ghost2_icon.gif teo_icon.gif

Scene Title Treading Styx
Synopsis Teo has a bone to pick with Ghost, who has a few questions about tactical advantages for Gabriel, who thinks he's an asshole, but admittedly has a little curiosity to sate about the future that is no longer to come, himself.
Date July 11, 2009

Between Manhattan and Staten Island


For a lack of nice places to go, he's had Teo lead the way, mainly. Sharing memories that are shareable, guarding ones that have to be. It would be easier, less random, more comfortable for Gabriel to invite the other passenger into his own psyche, but we are looking for nice places to go, and all. That is, when he desires the company. He has good practice as being lonely, and so it's not so rare to invert yourself, to armadillo into a silent, still ball of introspection, barely a presence, barely anything.

If there are ways to telepathically die, it might be like this. But inevitably, Gabriel uncurls, away from the black-shadow interchangeable memory-apartments defined only by candlelight and Gillian's various shapes and forms. It's a relief that he doesn't just see the vague red walls of Teo's eyelids, darkness and capillaries and protein strings, that it's a room with a view.

It's hard to tell, from here, what time it is. As ever, when they're this close, Ghost can sense that coming awareness, maybe even a flicker of impression about what he dreams; tattoos and skin like milk.

There is a shift, slide, eddy in the ink, shimmer of movement and then a sudden, bulging distortion of a bubble pushed up, membraneous, around the embryonic emergence of another conscience, adjacent to Gabriel's and not unalike it, but ever subpar in the way of being articulate. Teo brings with him no images, memories, sensations, only a brief, short-lived spate of dully phrased, block-lettered noise.

Outside, where people have feet, hands, faces and voices, Ghost blinks his pale eyes. He is on a boat, now. Leaning on the rail above the sussuration of black sea water, its driver a dozen feet ahead and his bike roped down under a splay of tarpaulin beside him, as a trusty steed stands haltered. There is a belligerent absence of life-saving gear buckled onto him, which may or may not have anything to do with his nasty Jack episode the other decade. Month. Whatever.

There you are, Ghost says, two-toned, an intimation of a reptilian hiss and deep-earth rumble layered one over the other. I was beginning to worry about you two.

Heeey we're on a boat. Gabriel even knows how to move around them, after long days of getting in the way. Not that any prior knowledge of what it means to be a pirate has any relevance, now, but he presses close as if trying to get a sense of feeling and experience would naturally lead on to control of any kind. It doesn't, but it's nice. He can see the details of choppy waves, river replaced with ink.

Never far away, Gabriel states, words that ease through Ghost's physical brain like an injection, cold and invasive. Why? It's either better or worse that Gabriel doesn't have any body or expression to communicate with; a leer inside your own head, making the edges of his telepathic words curl. Did you miss me?

Denial puts a childish wrinkle across the bridge of Ghost's modified nose. He grunts, something close to a chuckle but not quite. Yes. No— were I being serious, I don't think either question would make you any happier. Shit's going down, though, and I need you to have your head in the game. However the fuck that wor—

There is not really such thing as sudden interruptions in thought speech. Though one might start abruptly, the speed of cognition has it that one rarely fails to finish a notion before the interjection takes up too many lanes for all to go heard. Ghost's puzzlement doesn't fizzle out before Teo's aggravation belches in, rolling, crashing liquidly up on the walls of their cohabited head, high waves, ragged with force.

WHAT THE FUCK DID YOU DO? Crash, slide. Gabriel feels it, through the perspicacious tendrils of his ability. Ghost can not, walled off by the nature of his gift. SONNY—

Oh, brother. Ghost doesn't even have to think it aloud for his cohorts to know he's thinking so, but it doesn't help that there's a swerve through visual perception: he is rolling his eyes.

If only he didn't shout. Not that Gabriel doesn't understand. He does. He just— honestly— doesn't care. Well, that might be callous (and summarily unsurprising), but if there was some extension of his ability wherein he could wrestle Teo's consciousness into something quieter, he might. If it didn't go against what the hell he was supposed to be doing here, he might. But he can't, and it does. Loudness is better than silence, and all. That doesn't make it any less of screech.
Your Sonny doesn't like predators, Gabriel states, as the world turns along with Ghost's eye roll. It's better this way, Teo, unless you want to watch someone else- not mentioning any names or anything- court him, love him, sleep with him.

You don't, Gabriel feels inclined to add. He probably should have been cut loose before. Just because they cling doesn't make it better. You're still at arms length. Not that he's projecting or anything. No one really wants to know everything. What do you need? The seamless transition from speaking to one Teo to the other is possibly too seamless. Perhaps a pause should have been needed, some installed sense of direction.

How long might it take for them to become all the same person? He had wondered the same about Kazimir. A memory had made a metaphor about oil and water.

Never, Teo would say, if he could hear. Never. He would swear it up and down, backward and forward, through the end of time, that he would never become this thing that's piloting his body right now.

Given he can't hear, however and instead, there's a bluster of insensate anger in Gabriel's direction, a messy handful of knives thrown, none of them pointing the right way to cut. They tinkle slightly where they land, instead, bouncing end over tip, rattling to an uncomfortable stasis. Not a predator, he means. He isn't a predator.

Exasperatingly, he is too long out of practice with proper speech, struggling lately with psychic exchanges, it takes Teo a moment to sort sentiment into recognizable words. A moment that Ghost doesn't deign to him. Fortunate, that Gabriel had cut in earlier, though; the strip of bared teeth clenched in Ghost's jaws unsubtly implies temper the likes of which has shown brutality in memorable history.

That concession is his last. He leans over the edge of the boat, angling his nose against the wind, squints. Don't waste our time, Teo. If you want him back, you'll fight until you win him back. You only feel this shitty because you already know what you would and will do— and fighting to be with Salvatore Bianco sure as fuck isn't it.

Ghost wouldn't be one to confuse Gabriel's change of subject for an abrupt token altruism to salve Teo's bruised and fractured ego, even if he does retain his younger analogue's propensity and preference for weird fractioned poses. Everything you know about Arthur's current catalog of abilities.

But it's true. Teo goes ignored when this new question comes up, thoughtful silence, trying to remember. Memory too faint to superimpose itself over the image of nighttime river and distance, spotty skyline, it nevertheless flickers somewhere a few inches behind Ghost's eyes. Broken glass, red shards, a sudden jerk away from it like a fish on a hook if Gabriel was the fish and the hook were invisible, the pristine white hallway tips.

Telekinesis. He can hear, now, like I could. Hear everything. Some kind of telepathic feedback ability. Make ice, freeze things. A pause, and grudging, sullen; He has lasers. Forcefield membrane. Bio armor. Bird talking. Psychic shockwaves.

This is getting to be an extensive list, and he stops. Not because there isn't more, but a certain inward anger that he allowed that to happen. He hasn't completely gotten around to making an inventory of powers lost. Gabriel manages to add, And he took my original power from Peter.

Thrown knives at a wall. Gabriel is silent in the face of incoherency. Only frustration in that Teo isn't fighting back with words, and that Ghost has time to add his 2 c. No rebuttal, though. Agreement, as it so often does when it comes to the former serial killer, manifests only in silence. He agrees with Ghost. He'd told Gillian to let him go, and she left, and if either of them cared, they would have fought. It's not pleasant.

But it's true. Teo goes ignored when this new question comes up, thoughtful silence, trying to remember. Memory too faint to superimpose itself over the image of nighttime river and distance, spotty skyline, it nevertheless flickers somewhere a few inches behind Ghost's eyes. Broken glass, red shards, a sudden jerk away from it like a fish on a hook if Gabriel was the fish and the hook were invisible, the pristine white hallway tips.

Telekinesis. He can hear, now, like I could. Hear everything. Some kind of telepathic feedback ability. Make ice, freeze things. A pause, and grudging, sullen; He has lasers. Forcefield membrane. Bio armor. Bird talking. Psychic shockwaves.

This is getting to be an extensive list, and he stops. Not because there isn't more, but a certain inward anger that he allowed that to happen. He hasn't completely gotten around to making an inventory of powers lost. Gabriel manages to add, And he took my original power from Peter.

It's arguably less pleasant that they do care, but that is neither here nor there, not unlike the uncertain terrain and hour between awake and dreaming. Speaking of dreaming— only that the ghost chooses not to, indexing his brief visit into Gillian's Morphean experience in the backlog of memory, in the file folder of pertinent sentimentality, the tab headered 'need-to-know basis.'

Much of Ghost's affairs are conducted on a need-to-know basis. For now, what he needs to know is being rattled off in halting stop-start, on the register of Gabriel's grinding annoyance. Fuck, he decides, toward the end of this grouping. And he has Brian's self-replication ability now, too. According to Catherine, he's damn good at controlling multiple abilities between clones, but there's no way for us to tell whether each of them has the full set or he has to divide them up.

Still, there's nothing that particularly resembles despair in the muscular pull of expression on Ghost's face, at least, as far as his passengers can tell without any mirror or light to see by. Some of those fucking abilities must leave vulnerabilities. Your hearing— I remember you having a little trouble with that in the past. There's a quaver-beat's pause, more specified annoyance.

I don't like that he has Eileen's.

You'd better win this, Teo bites off, brusquely, the noise of him now beveled down to something tolerable, but ever as flat, featureless as a recording over ruined tape. What the fuck else are you good for?

There's a sense of feeling in response. Gabriel doesn't either. Like that he has Eileen's. Also some defense, as if he could have safeguarded this one, like a treasure. He still has Colette's ability. He doesn't recall having a hell of a lot of choice in the matter but hey, no one asked him to defend himself. And he doesn't, a textured shrug at the words.

Weaknesses. The hearing isn't something you can turn off, not easily. It's always there. Loud noises hurt. The forcefields are conscious instinct, they can't always be on. Takes damage, over a while, degrades. He has the radiation ability. It's the most volatile, and if you lose control over it, the struggle to keep it inside shuts down everything else you can do. Augmentation is the same way, if it gets trapped in a loop.

A beat, and then, I didn't have many weaknesses. He seems to have as good a control as I did, or he will now. Sorry.

Not true apology, no sense of reaching into his soul and bringing out a handful of dripping remorse. Just sorry, this isn't ideal, bouncing off another psychic shrug. Just because the game is bigger doesn't mean anything apart from the fact you'll have to try harder. Optimism. Teo has a point, Gabriel unhelpfully adds.

Well, you know what, Ghost responds, acerbically humorous, neither of you get to be president of my fucking fanclub, so there. He hooks rough fingers into the rim of his glove, begins to peel it loose, leather wrinkling away from the pale, fishbelly interior of his wrist.

The constriction loosens away from his thumb, fingers. Leaves his skin, callused knuckles, the scars tally-ticked up his fingers, open to the mumbling caress of wind. Half of one of his fingernails is still missing from a few brutally fastidious efforts at conditioning some climbing strength into his piggies, but the stump that remains is reconstructing gradually, a ragged-edged rim that is reacquiring some semblence of proper shape and texture above the ruck of healing cuticle.

Yes, he's checking his nails. Ghost is a little gay. He'd be the first one to admit.

You had near to no fucking physical weaknesses, Ghost acknowledges, at length, the rasping groan and chime of his voice precise as machined metal compared to the underlying background static and drone of Teo's upset. Psychological, though. We didn't exactly part on the best of terms in '19. Would you tell me a little about the Hunger?

Psychological, though. That's one neat way to put it. There's a tightening of a coil, instinctive defense, but he's long since given up denying that, yes, something loosened a few wires long ago. Not for the worst or the better, although arguments can be made both, one more than the other. Psychological.

It's a shift in priorities. Reduces the world into working parts that need fixing. It was never about power— that was just me. The Hunger wants to understand.

But not entirely relevant. When you don't have your own physical body to cage your thoughts, there's not a lot of distance between a brain synapse firing and the words manifesting together. He goes quiet, before starting again. And it doesn't care about human life. No value. No anything. I can't think clearly, I forget who I am, what I'm doing and why it's wrong. It's not exactly a trance, just— a pull.

I don't think it's why I killed you, in '19.

It wasn't. Ghost stuffs the glove into his coat pocket, a thrust of thumb, lazy poke of forefinger. What made you kill me was stronger than that, I think. There was just a stylistic similarity in your final signature.

He lifts his denuded hand up through the flurry of sea air, brings forefinger to the side of his forehead. Draws it across, horizontally, delineating the course of a single, fatal stroke. They both know of this. It requires no verbal elaboration, and Ghost decides giving any would be less than sophisticated. He lets his arm fall.

I'm sure this is already painfully obvious, Teo snaps, but I don't really like where this line of questioning is going.

Ghost ignores this, his brow furrowed in thought, effort marching the weight of heavy-shod armies in the background of Gabriel and the other Sicilian's thoughts. In the distance, Staten Island is slowly picking itself out in needled window lights, harsher if smaller than the point scintillation of stars spangled across the sky above. Is there an 'on' switch?

And in turn, Gabriel doesn't quite ignore this, the equivalent of a side-long glance manifesting only in silence and an incorporeal shimmer of acknowledgement over the psychic tumor that is Teo Laudani. It only lasts a moment, however, there is only so much second-guessing he can do when it comes to his current joyride. It pays to be informed.

It can be augmented. Otherwise there's no switch, not exactly. It's always on. Another fleeting memory; a young man goes crashing into a wall, someone out his periphery flinching away. It's stifled before it can gain clarity, leaned on casually as if it didn't exist. Only furniture. When you know there's something to know. When you know there's nothing in your way to take it.

More images, confused, dazed. Arthur is upside down, as is the hallway beyond him. Ghost's forehead twinges in a way that would suggest he's recalling what it feels like to have his skull sliced open. Someone in this mind is, anyway. Gabriel doesn't allow the memory to continue so far as to show Peter bashing his father's head in with a fire extinguisher.

Ghost does recall what it is like to have your head opened up. With a telekinetic blade, rather than a fire extinguisher, mind you; however fantastically varied his experiences have been, he's never quite managed to circumscribe that one. Being bashed over the head with implements of flame retardation.

There's an awful joke in there somewhere.

The corners of Ghost's eyes deepen to crows' feet as something else crosses his mind. This smile fades, after a moment, turns bleak as he regards the sea. You can blame a lot of things on the sea. Well, the old man's sure as fuck never seen what I can do before. There is vanity in him saying so, though the long forefinger he passes across his brow is probably a response to the momentary spate of pain there, rather than particular enamorment with the shape of his face. Maybe we can use that. I'm sorry about Peter.

It sounds almost irrelevant, those final four words, stitched onto the rest like a scrap of fabric of the same shape and pattern, but discontinuous, errant. All of this has happened before, or close enough.

The Hunger doesn't come with knowing if someone has anything worth learning, Gabriel adds, languidly, words about as ineffectual but relevant as the water undulating against the hull of the boat they all ride along together, liquid sentiments up the side of Teo's skull. Use it how you like. This is all going to end, soon, one way or another.

As for apologies about Peter— there's a frozen moment, a deer in the headlights, but Gabriel manages not to ask the stupid question which starts with w and ends with hy. Who should be sorry about Peter? No one in this cranium, of that Gabriel is determined to be sure. Except maybe Teo.

But he's counting less and less. Maybe Gabriel only hopes this is all going to end soon. What was different?

This time, it's Ghost who's slow to answer. In his stead, or in the intervening margin of time, there's a hiss of bitter cognizance from Teo's quarter of their skeletal chamber.

Didn't you know? Despite that the younger Sicilian's psychic register remains as bizarrely toneless and unsophisticated as ever, it is difficult to mistake this sentiment for anything kind or casual. He came back here to shit on Paradise. You're a cop. You're married to Eileen, you mentor Magnes, raise Bai-Chan, have dinner at Deckard's place at least once a fucking week— it's too late now, but the irony's there and brilliant as the fucking genius, here. If he'dve given the fucking Formula to Arthur— but he was never going to do that. All this douchebag cares about—

I care about Peter, Ghost interjects, flatly. It is so simple, so sentimental, so absurd that Teo does nothing, says nothing for a protracted moment. Staten Island lurches closer still, needlepoint lights gaining shape, color, differentiations of depth, the boat banging its nose against the densely syrupy, crescent ruche of waves pushed toward land.

Deadpan, Ghost lifts a brow; turns back to the crouch of his Harley. And stuff.

It's Gabriel's turn to speak, but he almost lets his turn go by with careful consideration. It's like being told a story, about the serial killer who turned into a cop, got a girl, raised some kind of family, made some sort of friends— a dysfunctional collection of a happy life, like a collage made out of snippets from a very lacking collection of magazines. A motley assortment of all those things that tick the boxes.

Butterflies in Africa create tornadoes in France. A single choice can change the future a million times over, in the same way that trying too hard does nothing. There's no one fate. I could have been President, did you know?

Laughter, his own private joke, grates through their shared mental territory. Humour is best when you don't have to lie to achieve it. Gabriel would sigh if he had the lungs to do so. You care about Peter. But you don't about my happy ending, or Eileen's, not really. I'm not saying what you're doing is irrational… no, it is rational. Psychotic, careless, selfish, but rational. You weighed the cost against the benefit; the goal determines what's rational.

But you can understand how tiring it is to be the cost. You're right, it's ironic. I can't even stay angry. It's nothing I had to begin with, right? Gabriel may be lying. About being unable to stay angry.

Maybe Ghost would think it was sweet if suddenly former— to be?— Officer Gabriel Gray joined him in the stampeding herds of emotional marathon men. He has a singularly unbecoming perception on what is or is not 'sweet.' Given his propensity for pre-'10 slang, he would probably think Gray for President is pretty fucking sweet, too.

He steps around his bike, swatting a hand against tarpaulin. His palm connects solidly with the flattened curve of the Knucklehead's black matte chassis underneath.

"It's the problem with you kids in 2019," he says, aloud this time— and his voice doesn't carry over the wind, but it doesn't have to, steady through the thrum and bluster of wind when chambered in the acoustics of their shared body, "which the reader may take to circumscribe you, Deckard, and maybe sometimes Gillian. Getting all bitchy about all of the things that the future may no longer permit you to have, before it will— and it should— occur to you: 'fuck permission.'

"No one ever said happiness comes easy. I don't tell you you had a little bit of it because I think you never will." Gabriel can feel it, though neither Teodoro does— the speculative patience presiding the sociopath he quarters space with, an absence of real dismissal where Sal and anyone else had been concerned even if what's there is equally offhand, and the white knight clanking around in eye-gouging burning peppery aggravation. Ghost may be a Hell of a poltergeist, far as ex-government spooks and real live specters go, but only insofar as that he knows he's dead and over.

There are few so painfully aware that everybody else he speaks to, eats beside, threatens with knives is not. A beat's pause and he adds, with the luxury of amusement owed to every predator: "Butterflies in Africa get eaten."

Now the distant electrical glitter of shore is closer, but it still seems very far, the boat a fixture against the moving tide instead of succeeding any shape or form of crawling progress. Despite the blunt-muzzled nudge and insistent batting of wind against his clothes, Ghost can't tell if the weather is warm or colds.

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