Two Knives


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Scene Title Two Knives
Synopsis Hana Gitelman had two knives.
Date November 8, 2011

Staten Island

Around the abandoned Primatech Paper facility, beyond the cordon of radioless Homeland Security personnel, the streets of Staten Island are desolate, derelict, decaying. Three people stride briskly down those streets, eager to put distance between themselves and the situation so recently left behind, to not enact in truth the illusory scenes that had played out before their eyes. They are in accord on that score, even if that accord only papers thinly over a much, much more profound discord.

Noah Bennet walks in front but not in the lead, his course directed by curt instructions from the woman at the rear. In between, and a good ways off to one side — as far as gets her out of the line of tension crackling between the other two — is Candice Wilmer, looking like she's ready to bolt at any moment.

After seven blocks, Hana gives her that moment: "Wilmer. Go." With no more ceremony than that, their third is gone, scurrying off into the surrounding desolate streets as quickly as any cockroach might. Hana herself keeps walking, listening to the receding signal of the phone Candice carries and the constant presence of the one that remains; meanwhile, Bennet reads her mood, recognizes its tone and texture, and continues on in silence.

It always comes down to just the two of them, in the beginning, in the end.


It's almost a surprise that Hana speaks instead of acts; words are not her strength. And yet she plants her feet on cracking pavement, stands stationary in this narrow alley overshadowed by blocky tenements, fixes Bennet with a basilisk stare rather than sweeping him to the ground or into another wall or even just sticking a knife in his back. It isn't Hana that really goes in for back-stabbing, but it would've only been fair if she did, this once.

Yet no other words are immediately forthcoming. None of Hana's embittered curses, none of her aggrieved recriminations, none of her outraged accusations.

Only that cold, bleak, aching silence.

In the crisp fall air, Noah’s breath is visible even at midday. He stands as tall as he ever has, a looming presence even cut down as he is in this situation. For a while, Noah doesn't turn. He stares out at an overgrown parking lot beyond the alleyway, with its tall stands of brown grass springing up through the asphalt. Steam rises up by his leg, venting from an iron grate in the alley. A rat, heedless of the tension, scurries past.

“What would you have done?” Noah asks with his back to Hana, head inclined only slightly to the side. Enough that she can see the arm of his glasses at the side of his face.

What would she have done. "When?" is lashed back at him as if the word could be a whip, demanding context.

Hana doesn't wait for any response, but strides forward, circling around Bennet at a wide berth, halting square before him. The knives are not in evidence now, but they're not far beneath the surface — just hidden better than the tension coiling through her frame, the anger that energizes her voice.

"I would have told you!" Presented it as a fait accompli, perhaps, not allowed him any input on her decisions. That's eminently typical. But issues with Ferry relevance, she would have communicated; she has that sense of responsibility. Hana's lips pull back from her teeth. "More fool me," is spoken blackly, the words an edge that cuts within more than without.

Even after all these years — because of all these years — Hana fails at keeping Noah Bennet at metaphorical arm's length.

Now that she's started moving, she does not remain still: Hana pivots, paces down the street, pivots back again, lioness confined by boundaries entirely of her own making. Confined by memories of events buried but never, ever forgiven — the first and most fundamental story of their relationship, now seemingly being replayed in full.

"You brought me here. Again," she says, momentarily stationary, looking up to the clear blue sky high above.

"I listened to you. Again," is spat as her gaze drops, fixes on him; as she strides forward, closing the distance.

"Did you expect him to kill me?" is delivered from an inch away, one hand knotted in the fabric of Bennet's collar, the other remaining both empty and lowered. For the moment.

Noah is still in the way prey creatures are when they're trying not to be seen. But Hana, more than anyone, knows that isn't what he is. Noah Bennet is an ambush predator, he doesn't hunt, he doesn't stalk, he hides his tone patiently before moving in for the kill. He lures people into his web, and plays his hand.

Clearing his throat, Noah regards Hana with an expression of mixed ruefulness and guilt. “Eventually,” he finally admits to only the last of her words, the one question in it all. “I did. If not today, then tomorrow, the year after, the month after that. I always assumed you and I would die together. There.”

Looking away from Hana, Noah regards his own reflection in a puddle of stagnant water in the alley. Then, as he looks back to her it's with another more inscrutable stare — one that she can read, one that she knows means he's trying to hide his emotions. “Parkman found out about the Ferrymen in 2009. He sat on the information right up until the Messiah business started.”

Noah looks past Hana, to the street beyond, then back to her. “When the vision of the future happened, the… the flash? Matt panicked. He came to me in secret, laid out what he knew about the Ferrymen — Grand Central, Primatech, Brick House, the Garden, some of our travel routes and foreign accomplices. He was building a case to present to the deputy director to take us down — every single last one of us.”

Swallowing tensely, Noah’s gaze momentarily wanders and he looks up to the sky between the buildings. “He wanted to make a deal.” Bennet looks back down to Hana. “Matt told me that if I turned over a handful of the dangerous people that came through our network, he'd let the others slip through. He was desperate to stop the riots, thought cutting into the violent offenders would do it. He agreed to sit on his intel about our operation provided we stayed low-key. That we didn't force his hand. If we rabbited, if we closed down the network, if we cut communication, if I told anyone, he'd drop the hammer on us.”

Like Faust, though, Bennet made a deal with the devil and came to realize the terms were not static ones. “For… for a time it worked. Then the riots happened. He panicked. Matt came to our next meeting with armed guards. He told me I was under arrest. I had an ace in the hole — I knew he had a son. Evolved. In hiding. I turned the tables, offered to hide his son within our network, in exchange for… everything.”

“It didn't work out that way.” Noah looks to the wide again, jaw working back and forth. “When Amid Halebi came into our network, Parkman demanded we hand him over. But Winters was already shepherding him. I —” Bennet scowls. “I had to make some difficult decisions.”

When Noah looks back to Hana, it is with confidence in those choices. “I chose not to tell you. I kept you in the dark. I kept the whole network in the dark because of I hadn't —” Noah’s voice raises with a hint of an emotional tremor. “If I hadn't made these choices there wouldn't be a network!”

"Together!" A short, sharp bark, am emphatic pronouncement of disbelief. It isn't the most important thing he says in absolute terms, but it's the one she latches onto first. It's the one that's personal. Hana releases Bennet — all but drops Bennet — in a jerky motion that borders on a shove. She pivots, strides around him in an agitated circle. "Comes down to it, Bennet, I'm the one at the tip of the spear. Not you, not together!"

"Tanzania." Where the Company lied to her, and in the person of Noah Bennet abandoned her, leaving her to capture — to probable death, given the illicit nature of the facility she'd broken into.

"China." A personal mission that never happened, derailed by the Bomb — but that would have put Hana in space alone. Willingly — but still facing those risks, that inimical environment, alone.

There were others, in between, other times where she stared death in the face and defied it — but not as important to this moment. Not as personal.

Having finished a full circle, Hana finds herself in need of more space; strides away, flinging her arms wide as if asking the heavens for forbearance. Or, more likely, "Now here I find you waltzing in like you don't have a care in the world— " So much hyperbole; even she doesn't believe that. "— and undercutting everything you set me to do for the last five years!"

Everything that turned into a shackle heavier than she ever intended to carry, a shackle that chafes all the more for having this deceit revealed.

Hana slaps her hands against the brick wall framing one side of the alley, leans her head against its rough surface, breathes out something too harshly bitter to be a laugh, too sharply-edged to be a sob.

She's said to him before, it doesn't matter if I die; she meant it then, still means it now.

What matters is that she can trust the man who's supposed to support her. Who's supposed to carry on after her.

Once, though, she knows he did. That once both cripples anger, offense, heartache… and makes them burn all the more harshly. Because that once, to all evidence, isn't now.

She’s dying.

It isn’t the pain — more than she’s ever felt in her life — that tells her so, nor is it the way the blood seeps through her and Bennet’s fingers where they clasp over the wound. It’s not the way the sounds of klaxons and bullets and explosions seem to fade into a dull and distant hum, nor the way the ash that falls around them looks to her blurring eyes like snow.

It’s the way that Bennet looks at her, a thousand apologies in his eyes that he can’t save her, that he can’t make this right, that all of their efforts through the years have come to this moment where she’s dying and he’s helpless to stop it.

"I died, Bennet," she says, an inflection to the words that makes them more than merely academic. She did die, lived the experience, woke up from it. "In Noa's timeline. I died. You didn't." That should be an accusation, a verbal lash, a stinging wound. It succeeds only at conveying ash, dust, despair.

There should be other words, a whole litany of them. Words about Parkman, about the Ferry. About convictions and upholding them. About trust and its breach… and about her own stupidity in placing that trust once again, a soul who views the world in absolutes relying upon one who perceives only endless permutations of gray.

They fail to be immediately forthcoming.

Noah is still stiff at the shoulders, ever a plank of a man. He regards Hana with quiet eyes that do little to belie any emotion behind them, though in their many years together she knows the telltale crinkle of crows feet and the thinness of hips lips as something analogous to regret. He watches Hana in silence, not for lack of things to say, but out of uncertainty as to whether she’s already passed judgment. When Hana fails to find more words, Noah finds some of his own.

“There’s a lot of futures I’d like to prevent,” is Noah’s diplomatic answer, though it isn’t left to stand on its own for long. “All I’ve ever wanted to do is make right by you, for the life you never got to have. The life the Company stole from you. The life I stole from you.” Bennet looks away, finally moves, even if just to shift his weight uncomfortably to his other foot. “Things have spiraled out of control so far away from there.”

Then, with a squint, Noah remarks defensively, “Don’t think it’s because I was trying to protect you either. You and I both know the only thing you need protection from is yourself. The rest of the world be damned.” When Noah looks back, it’s with a certain look of broken acceptance in his eyes. “I did what I did to protect Claire. For whatever that’s worth in the end. For however long that happens. Tables turned, I’d like to think you’d do whatever it takes for…” Noah doesn’t say her time-slipped daughter’s name, he doesn’t feel it’s appropriate given the juxtaposition of their relationship in the here and now.

“But, you’re right. You shouldn’t be the one to die. You have a family, and Parkman just made me give mine up.” Noah’s tongue presses against the back of his teeth, holds back the words but not yours. It isn’t the time for measuring guilt by steps. The feather’s already on one side of the scale, Hana just has to place Bennet’s heart on the other to see how it balances.

"Fucking— "

He misses the point; of course he does. Hana slaps a hand against the brick, shoves herself away. "It's not about me!" she shouts, crossing the distance between them in a surge of motion. "All those strings you pull," she fumes, shoving viciously at him; at least there are no knives involved this time, "and you still don't fucking understand!"

The lioness resumes pacing, frustrated prowl in pursuit of entirely figurative and despairingly elusive prey: the right words to express what she wants to say.

What seems like an eternity passes before Hana finally stops, pivoting to face Bennet, dark eyes sparking furiously as she stares down at him. Too far down. She hauls him up, pins him against tenement wall, all the better to be up close and personal.

"You asked me to help them. Protect them," Hana says, words delivered in a soft-voiced growl at a distance of mere inches. "Traded on my grandmother's history." Necessary, to convince her at the time; revealed to be double-edged now, there being nothing more sacred to Hana Gitelman than the memories of her female forebears.

The knife reappears, its point an acute pressure against his chest. "And then you go behind my back. Belie the very thing we set to do!"

It doesn't matter that they were potentially dangerous. Only that they were supposed to be helped.

There's a moment's pause, a moment's acute tension where it's clear Hana stands on the cusp of action — her gaze boring into his, lips pulled into a snarl, posture taut with pent energy. Then the knife flashes, a slash from low to high across his chest, driven by the same momentum that pivots her back to him, carries her a step away.

"…and I fucking owe you," Hana spits, loathing of that fact pronounced in every syllable, her hands clenching white-knuckled at her sides. A violent snap of her arm embeds the knife in a line of crumbling mortar across the alley, its handle quivering briefly from the intensity of impact.

Noah Bennet exhales one, sharp breath. There’s a hitching in the back of his throat, too, a noise of uncertainty and surprise. Surprise that he was able to exhale anything but blood. He only moves a hand to the cut on his chest when Hana backs away, pulls back red fingertips. He looks down at the blood, seeping into his pale undershirt, his suit jacket. He winces, but he’s not going to die from this injury. That much is a considerable surprise.

“You don’t,” Noah far belatedly says with a somewhat poorly-timed huff of laughter in his tone. “Owe me,” he adds, “anything.” Staying leaning against the alley wall, Noah bends his knees just a little and curls his fingers into his shirt’s fabric, presses it firm against the cut. “You’ve convinced yourself you do, but whatever debt you think you owe to me was repaid a dozen times over in the last five years.”

Noah’s eyes avert to the alley floor, voice fading as he takes a few shallow breaths. “I didn’t do what I’ve done expecting to be able to walk away from it, Hana. I know— I know the consequences of my actions, I know the consequences of betraying trust. Yours, especially.” That hand at his chest presses tighter, the other steady at his side, not bothering to adjust his skewed glasses.

“You did what I asked,” Noah adds, after a few beats of silence. “You did it so well, that — that you were able to keep them from him. From me.” Perhaps part of what Noah had done was compartmentalizing himself from Hana, the less he knew of her own actions, the less he could report, the less compromised the network would be. Maybe that explains his repeated absences, the latitude he gave Hana. He was playing both sides against the middle, except in this instance Noah Bennet is the middle.

Hana turns her head slightly as Bennet speaks, enough that he can see the line of her nose, the edge of one dark eye. She huffs softly. "Only you would tell me I should finish the job." Delivered in a tone as dry as dust, there is no humor in the words. There could have been, on a less fraught day.

What she owes Bennet, Hana utterly fails to elaborate upon. But then, he's lost that grace, the right to hear her confidences — as opposed to her rages — even when he already knows the pieces involved.

Consequences. Some might say then why did you do it; Hana doesn't. She understands that part. In the end, she says nothing at all, just walks across the alley and pries her knife out of the mortar. Spends time inspecting its tip, tapping a fingernail against the nick that now mars its edge. She'll have to decide, later, if it's still worth keeping.

For now, she returns the blade to its sheath… and finally turns to face Bennet again, regarding him levelly across the swath of pavement between them.

"I would have helped you," she says, uninflected, matter-of-fact. He knows that; it doesn't need saying, and yet it does. He also knows what she doesn't say, the form of help Hana would have offered — the fact that even if he had refused she might well have taken matters into her own hands. With his quandary laid out plain for all to see, they both know why Bennet made the choice he did.

Despite that knowing, there is no tacit apology in her stillness, no sympathy, no forgiveness.

"Go, Bennet," Hana says, toneless. There is no anger in her words now, no heat, no rage. Their absence is perhaps even worse. "I don't care where. Go somewhere else and don't come back."

Posture still tense, Noah does finally ease himself away from the wall she’d originally pushed him up against. As he leans away, Noah regards both directions up and down the alley, then Hana. With one hand he reaches up and straightens his glasses, then with the other takes out the phone he'd used to call Parkman. It's set down, in its shielded bag, atop an overturned plastic barrel.

“I know,” is the only real response that Noah gives Hana. To her assertion that she would've helped, to the means in which that help could have come. They'd always understood one-another, always been by each other’s side, even when apart. Bennet knew Hana too well, knew her obligation and dedication.

Those are the last words Noah Bennet has for Hana Gitelman; no platitudes of stay safe or anything of the sort. That isn't who they are, certainly not who they were, and absolutely not who either of them will become. All Noah does is fix a look to Hana, then turns to depart for the last time.

There's a steeliness to Noah’s expression in those parting moments, not entirely unlike that of Hana’s knife, and he too has a chip in his edge.

One knife she keeps, one knife she discards.

Hana watches him step forward, watches him set his phone aside, watches him walk away. Her expression remains resolute, implacable, unyielding; in the silence of her soul, she wonders ever so briefly if that might be the wrong choice — and knows herself willing to accept no other.

So does one life end, for the both of them.

After the sounds of Bennet's footsteps have faded, after any imagined sense of presence is long since swallowed by the surrounding ruins, Hana herself finally breaks from statue stillness. Gliding forward, she picks up the shielded bag that sits abandoned and adrift like the lost soul it is, that she is.

Where does she go from here?

Breathing out a rasping sigh, Hana tucks the case inside her jacket, picks a direction, and starts walking with ground-eating stride.

There's only one way to figure that out.

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