Vanishing Point


francois4_icon.gif teo3_icon.gif

Scene Title Vanishing Point
Synopsis It seems too paranoid to be true, but yes. It turns out, Francois is going to destroy Volken's ability on a kamikaze run to Deckard. And he's going to beat Teo up and steal his gun to do it.
Date January 28, 2010

Outside Antigua, Mexico

Motels like the one they stayed at do not provide complimentary breakfasts. Teo ate a handful of granola out of a plastic bag he'd bought, didn't ask Francois if he wanted any. The sun bled rust red light across the road, made mile-long shadows out of the chickens in the yellow hedges and scooped his eyes out in pink rims.

Granted, they probably would have shown, unhealthy, miserable and painfully sleepless, even if the sun had not been going about its absurd theatrics, but they're in Mexico. There's a lot of iron in the sand around here, and primary succession has been beaten back so firmly with decades of vicious desert climatology that much of it makes its way into the air and stains through the sunlight. Everything's red.

Not just Teodoro's stupid little girly eyes. He's frowning. Has been frowning harder, deeper, steadily, as the road wore on. So hard it's a minor miracle that the rearview mirror doesn't shatter and dump glass over their hair. They have only been driving for forty-five minutes, but it feels longer than that; the side-effect perhaps of the night's unrepentant chill, riffling through the paper map and diagrams loose in Frnacois' hands, or the sour silence that's permeated ever since Teo's groggy salutation and through the three irritable kicks he'd delivered at the engine before it would start.

Perhaps red dust had insinuated itself into the engine's parts, too, or they'd merely gotten ripped off at the rental agency. Either way, mounting mechanical frustrations are probably not responsible for the hardening clench of Teo's hands on the wheel. He hasn't slowed down yet, though. Hasn't stopped.

It will probably be about half an hour, maybe more, before Francois has to look at the maps again. That's if he's being cautious. There's a lot of blank space on the pages, narrow lines, a scattering of spots and labels, and right now he's looking out the window and watching the unfurling landscape which has a kind of beauty he appreciates more than black forests, snow, rolling green hills. His head rests against the seat back, and he's open the window just enough to allow a stream of wind to beat across his brow, cooling skin.

Teo's anger is making him angry. Perceived anger. He's been a sullen little silent island himself all the way in the passenger seat, drowsily watching the landscape skid by.

Expensive green lenses had been thrown down the toilet, and there's no point in gloves anymore. He wears a shirt with sleeves down to the wrists and trusts the other man's sense of self-preservation to do the rest. A few miles ago, he stopped trying to pick the difference between the desire to touch and the desire to take. Both things amount to much the same anyway.

He sighs, in and out, enough warning that Teo is going to have to endure conversation; "Are you going to forgive me?" That would come across better if he had even a trace of humility in his voice. His accent is thicker than such.

Nothing for a few protracted seconds. The tires hew road, emboss blocky prints in the surface particulate and breathe indistinct clouds out into the exhaust. Teo's bad side is on the left, facing out of the window, otherwise there would have been some farcical fuck-you aspect to the twisted curl of his Glasgow smile imposed on Francois' perception. "I don't know," Teo answers, after another lengthy interval of engine growl. "Depends, I guess.

"You planning on doing anything else that pisses me off?" A little humility probably wouldn't have hurt, no. On the other hand, a little forgiveness probably could have fit itself in there somewhere if the ghost half of Teo weren't actively searching the projected near future for the likelihood of other betrayals, like a shark swimming mouth-first through a dispersing cloud of blood in the water or a lion nudging its whiskers against an unrecognized object before its jaws open full of teeth for proper investigation. Some predatory metaphor like that.

Never mind the last time Teodoro tried to do anything mouth-first was when he wound up caked that ugly dehydrated shade of gray at his nose and scabs laddered across his lips. As faces go, both those parts are rather prominent on his, but there's probably slightly more than injured vanity involved. He looks over, finally. A glance, short-lived, his brows notched down low against something that isn't the glare of day, perhaps realizing— surmising— suddenly, the other half of him, that that question was unjust.

The glance isn't met. Teo only gets a stiff-necked profile, Francois staring out the windshield and a hand up to curl absently around the plastic handle above his window. Chin up and proud, insufferably superior, like he's convincing himself. Or trying not to let all the words he's been circling come out in a rush, and he's old enough to know better. The important things to say. Because he can sense enough that his words are already being circled by the other man in the car, and, you know. It's going to be a long day.

"I murdered a team of seven men and women." His voice wavers, and it was raw sounding even before his confession. "I wasn't even conscious. They were searching for bodies, I think. Soldiers. One remained alive along enough to try to kill me— I think he succeeded, for a moment— but I finished him too, all before I opened my eyes."

A hand raises, rubs his palm against his cheek, feeling the grain of stubble there, before resting flat against his chest. "And you are angry because I did not tell you? Why would I want you to know such a thing? How could I have— " He runs out of words as briskly as a tap being twisted closed, setting his jaw.

"So I can help!" Teo's voice goes off with a pubescent crack, strident, zithering up an octave higher than it was built to go. "So I can— that's what I do. I have— people I know, they have negation drugs. They could—" They couldn't. Already, there is that sinking, slow despair in his stomach, and his fingers tighten on the steering against the realization, as well, as if muscle and sinew and strength could barricade against uncertainty. "They could get it out of you, or make this liveable. It's not like I was going to turn you in. Shit happens with Evolved abilities.

"For fuck's sake, I've been a pro-Evolved terrorist since before I had one of my own. Would've been nice to be privvy to a small show of faith if we were going on a casual road trip to go see two of my best friends in the whole fucking world, don't you think?" There's a sharp inhale at the end. The question, however rhetorical, ends too abruptly, aflame with errant suspicion and the obfuscating static of his temper.

He suspects he is being unreasonable. The ghost was like that, sometimes, so mad with grief and deranged by nostalgia that he'd lost all locus, incapable of differentiating between his good decisions and misdirected rage. Conditioned reflexes and tactical objectivity had replaced most of his sense of decency. At least the hybrid knows better than to trust himself when every available sight offends him so. Francois' stuffy proprietary airs make him want to put his hand through the windshield. Their car sounds like death on hiccoughing wheels. The rusted iron horizon looks straightforwardly evil, and he really resents the rearview mirror.

Breathe in, breathe out.

More evenly: "I'm sorry you had to kill them."

There's a soft bark of harsh laughter that follows Teo's more even words, hand going from handle to his forehead, covering his eyes as fingers rub around the sockets. "It is more warm bodies in a few moments than I would have healed in a week, maybe a month." What does that mean? Nothing. Francois' not looking at Teo anymore, back to staring out his window and leaving the man with only 1/3 of his profile visible, the side with the piece missing from his ear. "I did not have to kill them.

"I could have stayed buried." His tone of voice suggests he spoke the wrong word: should, instead of could. "Sicily, you are helping me. I seek to finish this, and that is what we go to do. It is not liveable."
Volume is cruise control for emphasis, and that's what happens, Francois' voice briefly rising from its usual rough softness, harshing and steel edged. "He is there, I know he is. He will do to me what he has done to the others, until it's a waste, until he has no use of me anymore and will move on to someone else. I have no intention of ending my days as his prisoner, again. I did not want to put my fate in your hands, mon ami, it is mine. I'm sorry I hurt you."

Alternatively, maybe Ghost was right. You should never trust other people: other people are bastards. Bastards who just—


Teo pulls over, and suddenly the shitty rental's mumbling, herky-jerky trek along the road seems relatively smooth compared to the jouncing whine of worn suspension and barely-hinged tires that is its gait now. Teo stomps the brake eventually, and then they're skewing left, seizing to a halt, with a squeaky inertial jerk and rebound of their seatbelts. Well, Sicily's wearing a seatbelt, anyway. And this look on his face, all gritted teeth, nothing to do with the maraca rattle. He kills the engine with a yank on the keys. "So," he says. "So— so what. What the fuck— you're going to end it how? Why all the fucking intrigues and lies and cliffhanger secrets and ominous fucking ellipses, Francois?" Sarcasm doesn't serve him well. His wording is haphazard, his argument scattered, his panic exasperatingly obvious. "You make it sound like somebody's gonna end up dead. By whose hand? Deckard's?

"You don't think he has enough fucking problems? Or what did you bring— pocket Haitian? Syringe of neurotoxin out of the Verb's old stash? You think— I'm just supposed to let you finish your fucking B-movie mutant opera in the wave of violent melodrama you want because you think you're weaker than some dead man's genetic squiggle? You can't really know Volken was the first to hold that ability. And— and even Volken's ability could be used to heal others; I've seen it. It's not just evil, and you're not 'just evil' because you wanted to live. Fuck."

He takes his hands off the wheel and it is perhaps surprising that there isn't two layers of skin stripped off with it, his fingers were all transparent knuckles and livid veins. His breath goes in and out. Dives motes of ferrous dirt around with it. Teo stares at the available surface of Francois' face like he's like to score it off with the strength of his gaze alone, perhaps in hopes of finding something more recognizable against the parted armor. He wipes a hand down the shag of his beard and it comes away glinting saliva from overexerted speech through the hole in his cheek.

Disgust doesn't stop him from sneering, because sneering is better than grasping: "This is what he'd want, I bet. To ruin you. And Flint. Abby." 'And my fucking life,' but not even Teodoro is vain enough to say that aloud, though he might be thinking it, bitterly; he's a bit-character in this play as in every play, an inessential prop and a throwaway background character who only breaks the fourth wall to expound on someone else's narrative.

Collateral. "You're a fuckwad for letting him."

Ethan Holden had told Francois his story was boring too. But it's his, and he put a lot of words into it, and kids don't even know. He can't help the slight flush creeping up his cheeks under Teo's tirade, a hand out and hovering where it had braced against the dash when the car had swerved to its halt and still not looking at Teo, if only so as not to give into temptations to yell back or be youthfully angry and other things he doesn't have a right to.

Somewhere in there, the click of a seatbelt has the long tongue of fabric snaking back up from Francois' torso, but he's making no other moves to leave. Condemnation is met with response, twisting in his seat, rounding— "It is not about what he wants, only what is! Fils de pute."

Now it's his turn: breathe in, breathe out.

It doesn't help. "Kazimir is going to end up dead. At Deckard's hand. He will get over it." The interior of the car's cab is darkening, numb prickles climbing over Teo's skin, seeking out the sore points and making his heart shift unpleasantly in the cavern of his torso. Francois flinches back, blue eyes hidden under pale lids even as tendrilling ashy shadows are coming off his skin, reaching almost limply towards the other man.
A hand goes out, snake fast, to wind long fingers around Teo's wrist.


Teo recoils, but from agony rather than the predicted motion: he recoils too late. The older man's grip is already on his wrist and impossible shadows wreak havoc on the illumination of sunrise. From a distance, the conflict must look farcically, almost comedically domestic. Snatching wrists, raised voices, curse words, sullen resentment, a rental car ripped over the dirt to the left of the road, Mexico's lurid sunrise. Some romantic holiday gone wrong when it's barely started. All they need now is a stoic local herding goats past with a quizzical eyebrow, to play the straight man.

Only, you know, the next moment he's shoving the Frenchman away, a fist rammed up into the extended elbow. Reflex, for better or worse, but it's reflex too: that Teo drops the keys. They drop winking down onto the rubber-matted divider between driver's seat and shotgun, skewing cut edge over ring in one haphazard swing of movement before it topples onto Francois' left shoe. Teo can swear in European, too, and he does it vehemently. "Mollare di me, lei l'asino." His shoulder bumps into window glass.

Sicily beats a fist against his arm, and it hurts. Any dull throb of pain is washed over warmly in the same leak of healing he'd known for the better part of a century, but this time it drives daggers into the flesh of the other man, agonising serrated edge pain coiling around his forearm, as deep as bone, deeper, nicking together and making the world go a little fuzzy at the edges. The cold of metal that follows is painful on contrast to fever heat, infection heat, that throbs out from Francois' tight grip on his wrist.

The metallic zipper-sound of something closing precedes Francois letting go as asked, his back connecting against the locked car door as if he flinging himself away. All of the sunset's radiance is allowed back into the cab as shadows retreat. Teo's hand is connected to the steering wheel. Car keys glint promisingly around Francois' feet, but he doesn't pick them up yet, just nudges them out of range with a heel.

"Only you know I am alive. Flint will too. That is how it should stay until you know as well as everyone else," he says, voice harsh in his throat.

Sometimes you don't have to be very eloquent to articulate your thoughts and this time a string of repetitive monosyllables suffices. "No, no," Teo answers, fuzzily, obtusely, his head stooping over the steering wheel. Dirty blond hair dangles over the curving rim and he blinks unsteadily in the raccoon stripe of shadow barred over his eyes. "No."

He is uncoordinated as a new fawn, or possibly somebody very drunk; static blows around in his ears and snows his peripheral vision in, makes the strip of cold metal across his wrist a confusing occurrence to say the least. He yanks his wrist against his new shackle and ends up rocking his whole torso back against the seat as a result, head lolled and his neck bent at an uncomfortable angle around the head-rest that refused to lock in at an extension to match his height.

Hey, he's bleeding. What else is new? "Francois," arrives in a mumble indistinct; his cheek's wetter, now, but Teo's slightly too out of it and distracted to care at all. "Don't." Desperation inspires a change of tactics. Counterintuitively, perhaps, he reaches to grasp at Francois' sleeve, this time, hauling on the weave of his sweater. "I fucking promised Abby. And I got your call, back— back then. D'no I'dve gone if you hadn't. You can't just leave me here.

"You can't." Blunt nails dig deeper, insistent, trip on the grain of cloth; the thin skin inside his wrist passes dangerously close over Francois' knuckles. "I'll give you some fucking gr'nola if you want."

As cruelly efficient as he'd been to grab Teo's arm, Francois is skittish in response, the car almost jolting as he presses his shoulder blades harder against the door, arm jerking away. Fabric pulls, but twists enough that skin contact is avoided, and his other hand finds Sicily's arm — fabric as a barrier, this time. You will be okay. He wants to say that— even believes it to be true, but he doesn't have to say it for it to be so. It will sound dishonest. "I have to," he says, instead, pulling his arm free of Teo's grip but keeping a hold of that loose limb himself.

His other hand is otherwise occupied, moving towards the bent left wing that tucks a shoulder rig looped around it, the pistol under it. It would be nice if he could stop and explain, if he had time in the world to justify his actions. Francois uses these seconds to chain Teo to a keyless car and steal his gun instead.

There's a rusty kerthunk as the car door is levered open, spilling still cool morning air into the cab. He scoops up the keys with the tips of his fingers, and gracelessly gets out of the car. Like a silvery shooting star, car keys arc through the air, and land some distance away in soft red sand after a throw that's not particularly girly. It occurs to Francois he probably deserves all the European namecalling that they can summon up between them, and distracts himself with checking the clip.

"I used to think I was a good liar," is the first thing Teo thinks to say, anyway. He doesn't look altogether well. Lifeforce manipulation leaves his normally sanguine complexion and robust physiology looking gray and chapped like a dehydrated husk of a man left out on the drying rack. Perhaps the subject of an ogre preparating jerky, except his voice comes through disjunctly smooth despite his chapped lips and earlier stridence. No, he doesn't need water.

He couldn't tell you what he needs if asked. To get out of here, maybe. The damn car keys, or those to the cuffs. He doesn't even have a gun anymore, and that feels a little too much like salt kicked into the wound. Makes him feel paranoid, as well as smaller than he's normally wont to be, helpless; practically helpless. His breath blows a tremor through the wilted fold of his jacket collar.

"But you—" Another yank at the cuffs produces similarly negligible effect. Teodoro is not entirely sure what instance of deception he's complaining about now, but as long as he's stuck out here— "You really take the fucking cake."

The maps are taken, the last thing he needs from here. The gun is out of his hands too, likely tucked into his waistband, and Francois forces himself to scan a medic's eyes over Teo's form. There's nothing much he could for for him even if it was an option. "I would trade in all of my journals, my attempts at making marks— any memory of Antarctica— if I could have you remember me well," he says, over the sounds of folding maps, Deckard's and the ones they picked up from the gas station. Blue eyes are a little wide in his face, flustered. "Take care of her. And yourself."

He closes the door just enough that Teo could jerk it done all the way he if he wants, after reaching, or push it out, but either way— he's leaving. It won't be the longest hike he's ever taken, but it will be sometime before he vanishes from Teo's sight completely.

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