Wants and Needs


eileen_icon.gif teo_icon.gif

Scene Title Wants and Needs
Synopsis Teo asks the questions, Eileen provides the answers.
Date February 18, 2009

Staten IslandOvergrown Cemetery

The vast graveyard stretches for kilometers, with dark damp soil making everything feel cold as you-know-what. Signs of mass graves, loose soil, and the faint smell of rotting flesh are present around the outer edges, ominously surrounding the original relaxed single-grave style in the center. Many of the old graves have been vandalized or exhumed, leaving many empty six foot deep holes scattered around. Some open holes are still curiously empty, while others have been reorganized into piles of bodies, forgotten and unburied, and still more are just as likely to house the living.

Now Teo has no coat, except for the slow-drying women's garment hanging off his arm. It's pretty fucking cold, too.

He's going to need to get another one before he goes to meet an invisible Englishman or he'll freeze and die and be swept into the sea just like everybody else he knows from the Verrazano-Narrows bridge magically didn't, except it isn't freezing yet. Just bitterly unpleasant, sinking painful fangs in through the weave of his hoodie and the sweater and shirt he has underneath that.

On the list of things that suck, the ruthless meteorology goes somewhere on the ranking between a sprain and making Victor Childs cry in public. The Sicilian's breath goes white through his teeth before he sucks it back in, balling up what feels like particle ice in his lungs. The concrete flat of the cemetary bench his making the bone in his butt hurt, but he isn't leaving. Can't.

Not while there's a raven sitting on the black marble archangel Michael, staring at him. Waiting, he's sure, for the same girl. The crescent curve of the moon winks down at him, bright with conspiracy; the stars appear to be shuddering with laughter. His face has gone stiff; he stares blankly at the gap the path makes through headstones, like a tooth missing.

Teo Laudani hasn't just had a bad day - he's had a succession of them. The same can be said of the young woman whose appearance is heralded by the creaking groan of the cemetery gates. Eileen drifts down the aisle, one arm held out at her side, her gloved fingertips brushing the tops of lichen-covered tombstones as she goes. Unlike the man waiting for her, she's dressed for the weather in a heavy gray coat, oversized sweater and black stockings that act as camouflage in the darkness and allow her slender shape to bleed into the night.

It's the moonlight reflecting off her pale skin and glossy hair that makes her approach readily visible, and as she draws closer she becomes more luminous still, though there's nothing even remotely fey or ethereal about her tonight. Her gray-green eyes are cold and solemn, and the somber expression on her face is so hard that it looks like it too — like the markers around them — has been chiseled out of stone.

The raven remains where it is, unmoving. "He's lucky he said he wasn't looking for revenge," Eileen tells Teo, her voice ringing out with perfect clarity despite the distance between them. "Still. What an unfortunate situation we've found ourselves in."

Tomorrow will probably be worse, Teo philosophizes. The moment Felix Ivanov lets himself realize baby fuck boy terrorist knows more about Sylar than he's letting on, there will be a great deal of social awkwardness and possibly an obligatory gun. With bullets coming out of it. Maybe. Most people who know Teo would probably think otherwise, but Teo figures he knows himself best, and he's perpetually waiting for the day all those others figure out he's a fraud and soulless deceiver and desert him.

Though this is stinging a lot. Something is stinging a lot. Teo thinks that might well be his soul, though it might merely be his teeth, clamped so hard between his jaws, he can hear the bone joints creaking inside his head. He, too, fails to summon up mirth or joy upon salutation.

Though he does offer one. "Buona sera." One boot drags across pavement and he lurches upright, back to his feet, spreads his toes experimentally inside their leather and cotton confines. He's too used to walking to feel sore after a few hours of it anymore. "You get in touch with him? Bring anything back?" A memory? Two? Enough to reconstruct a monster?

Eileen stops a respectful distance away — or at least what she construes as a respectable distance. Safe, too. She hasn't forgotten what Teo did to her nose, or what she did to incite that particular act of violence in the first place. "Buona sera," she repeats, making a sincere effort to wrap her tongue around the correct accents, "it's good to see that you're still in one piece."

She brings her arm up, elbow held at a sharp angle, and calls the raven to her with an unspoken command that stretches between the two of them. With a few beats of its powerful wings, it launches itself off the archangel, takes to the air and makes its thumping way to a new perch on the crook of Eileen's wrist. "He doesn't remember anything," she says, stroking the knuckles of her free hand along the raven's back. "Not Kazimir, not the Vanguard, not me. It's probably in everyone's best interest if we kept it that way."

The boy thinks otherwise: they've stood, sat, much closer than this since then, and though there were other people and exigent circumstances, he's characterized by a practical awareness that there's a lot of harm they could do at this distance. That would be easier to do at this distance.

He doesn't, though. Doesn't — attack, or close in. Stays parked here, shorn head lowered, eyes lambent but not baleful, his regard as steady as the beat of the corvid's settling wings. "You too." It bears saying, if only because he means it. It might be less obvious to her than to most, anyway. Most people haven't had their faces broken in half around a bedpost by him in a little fit of pique. He breathes in. Out again. This time, it doesn't show mist against the darkness; his ruddy mouth is sealed.

"I think you're wrong about that." The objection comes, by default but not disingenuity, with an apologetic tilt to his head. "He's getting his abilities back, isn't he? One by one. It's only a matter of time before he finds the one that makes him cannibalize people's fucking brains. Think we'll all have as much fun the second time around?"

"You're assuming his hunger is a product of his gift and not his upbringing." But even Eileen has to be guessing at this point. As open as she and Sylar have been with one another, she only knows so much and can do very little except speculate. And speculate she does. "What defines a man, Teo? Experience or genetics?"

She lifts the raven up to her face, pausing to dip her head just so and press her lips against the top of its. As her breath ruffles through its feathers, she closes her eyes and the corners of her mouth pull down into a slight frown. If it was any other bird, or if Eileen was any other woman, it might not tolerate such intimacy — but rather than arch away, strike at her with its beak or even bat its wings about her face, the raven leans into the touch like a cat into the warmth of an open palm.

"In any case," she continues, "what's your alternative? Putting him down now as a precautionary measure? Killing him for what he might become? Go that route and you're no better than the people your friends wanted to torture me for information about."

It's surprising and unexpected enough that Teo gets to hinge his own speculation on a little bit more empirical feedback than the avian telepath. He's met Sylar all of twice over the course of his lifetime, after all. "It isn't an assumption, ragazza." A twitch moves the shadow in the hollow of his cheek; he doesn't like having to say so. Doesn't like the idea of condemning any of God's creatures as inherently evil or sick the day He built them, even if his own self-portrait was originally sketched upon the hideous black lines it holds today well over a decade ago.

"His lover said." His gaze drops fractionally, doesn't make it to the ground before lifting again. "And she has as much reason as you do to describe the best version of him, si?" There's a wryly humorless tilt to his mouth, some gentle species of cynicism, half-expecting Eileen to push that rhetoric further. How the Hell would that other woman know? He's questioned this himself, albeit only because desperately paranoid at the potential consequences of assumptions. Eileen warned him about assumptions, once, before the knife.

Teo learns remarkably quick, if not particularly well. "My alternative," he repeats, stiffly, his voice strange from the cold. How arrogant that sounds. How unbelievably, sickeningly arrogant. And yet, what else is all of this, why else would he be here except to play God with lives that ought to be at the mercy of the law or countless slain? "Is he redeems himself because he fucking wants to. Do you think he's capable of that?

"I never did ask her why he blew out Midtown." It's the one sin that doesn't fit. Fit — as if all of this were some great intellectual puzzle. Teo would so often prefer to be right than to be smart. He's frowning now, and though his eyes are on the enamel pallor of her face above the oblique line of the raven's back, she might have the sense it isn't for her.

The mere mention of Gillian should make Eileen bristle, cause her hackles to rise, but to her own surprise more than anyone else's — it doesn't. "Love has an ugly habit of blinding people to one another's faults," she replies, careful to keep her tone as neutral as her heart will allow. Which is to say: not very. "The 'best version', as you put it, is as much a lie as the monster everyone else paints him to be. He's quick to anger, proud, arrogant — hurtful. I won't pretend Sylar is without his flaws. There are a lot of them."

All this said, the aforementioned flaws can't be that numerous. Eileen wouldn't be preparing to defend him if they were. "For someone so high up on the food chain, you know surprisingly little," she says, "and for someone so crippled by his own guilt, Peter Petrelli has been predictably dishonest, so I guess it isn't really your fault." Her eyes open again, and with a gentle upward swing of her wrist, Eileen sends her inky-feathered companion off on errands elsewhere. The raven explodes into flight, vanishing amongst the shadows as easily as a fish disappears into water.

"Sylar didn't blow out Midtown. He did."

This makes Teo stop. Talking. Breathing, for a moment.

Almost makes him stop believing her, too, that's so absurd: as if she just yanked a name out of a hat. Somebody powerful, anybody powerful, slap it on their shirt, or perhaps she's a little drunk — but no. He squints under the fractured shadows of departing wings, picks out the severity of her mouth and sharp-cornered eyes. She's serious, isn't she? Butter wouldn't melt in her mouth.

The logic holds water. Key fits lock. Peter Petrelli, whose always had shit for control, who crucifies himself on his own guilt, whose girl told Teo that he didn't want to bear that burden. Teo can believe it. Doesn't want to. He's gone rather white all of a sudden, all the Italian sanguinity drained out of him as if she'd slashed an artery. His throat moves visibly. If he weren't horrified, he might be embarrassed at how right she is. For someone so high up on the food chain, he knows surprisingly little.

He starts to say something. It winds up catching in a cough, before he repeats, quietly, "Do you think Sylar's capable of that?"

She'll have to forgive him. Everything is very blurry; Teo's lost his grip on his nouns. He means: redemption.

There are so many ways Eileen could approach Teo's question that she finds herself lost somewhere amidst a labyrinth of possibilities. But ultimately, no matter which path she chooses, no matter which turns she takes, the final destination remains the same.

Redemption. What a funny word.

"I told him to find Gillian Childs," is the answer she arrives at after a momentary pause in which she waits for time to lend her sincerity some extra weight. "If he remembers anyone, it'll be her — and even if he doesn't, love transcends. Let him have his second chance, otherwise you'll never know."

No one laughs when Teo says or hears funny words anymore. It is a sad, sad world they've come to.

"You seem to believe I'd have a fumbling amnesiac man killed," he says, after a protracted moment. It reassures him that she mentions memory in tandem with Gillian's name, a tacit agreement in whatever small measure she might permit Gabriel Gray to confront his demons. It probably isn't a good sign, that he trusts her judgment enough to value it as qualification for his own. "I'm not sure how I feel about that. Or the rest of this.

"Didn't know the English did sentimentality, signorina." He isn't too worried she'll be offended. No one snaps or cries when he says funny words anymore, either. His eyes thin with a smile that does not reach his mouth. "Well. I told Gillian Childs I'd find him for her. I guess that could work out the way you want it. Barring complications." Those final two words fall conspicuously dead in the air. He gets the sense that he might have applied 'you want it' a little too liberally, too.

"What I really want isn't what's right, or even what's fair," Eileen shoots back, this time without thinking. She has to dig her nails into the leather material of her gloves, biting at the inside of her palm before that train gets too far and builds up too much speed to be stopped by unconscious means. "But I think we'd both agree I've spent enough of my life being selfish and putting my personal needs before everybody else's."

She blows out a sigh through her nostrils. Of course Teo told Gillian he'd find Sylar for her. That's so typical of him, she thinks, so typical to make promises he knows in his heart he might not be able to keep. "If there are complications, you tell me. I'll help you find a way to resolve them."

There are enough dead girls on Teo's conscience. Given his druthers, he'd rather not add Eileen to the list. Russian super-spies aren't complications that he thinks it particularly wise to shovel onto her plate, in his admittedly limited handle on things. Eileen's nostrils flare and he frowns again: this time at her. What did I do? I didn't do anything. Hey.

Nothing yet, anyway. He flattens his expression out afterward. Retroactively processing what she said, about what she really wants, finally parsing the correct and full meaning of that, of the connection he had only vaguely, gingerly guessed at, the day he recognized Sylar's false shape in Central Park. Teo had envied that, then. It brings him no pleasure to think it's all coming to nothing.

Nothing worth his wist, even if the sentiment that compels her is indisputably beautiful. "I'm sorry," he says, eventually. "I need to watch my fucking mouth." His jaw squares with a muted click of tooth on tooth.

The look on Eileen's face softens, becoming remorseful as her eyes grow dark. She shouldn't take it out on him. It isn't Teo's fault. It isn't anybody's fault. With no place to lay blame and no more questions that need answering, she turns, showing him her shoulder and then the straight line of her back. "No," she murmurs, "what you need to do is keep the promise you made. He told me I could find him at the Pancratium — I don't think he's ready to leave the island just yet. I know you didn't ask for my advice, but you'll have better luck bringing Gillian to him than you will if you try to bring him to her. Tell her to ask for Tavisha."

With that, she completes her pivot and begins retracing her steps through the snow, her figure outlined only vaguely by what little light breaks through the cloud cover. Eileen's dark hair covers the milk white skin of her neck, and with her back to Teo, her face no longer stands out like the moon against a dead sky.

Just one step away from being invisible. He might even get the impression she prefers it that way.

"There anything we could do for you?" We. Teo defaults to that.

Dried out and clipped in the cold lack of humidity, Teo's voice bounces and clacks over the carved stones. If the question weren't inherently presumptuous, his tone would make it graceful. Pancratium is the only note out of the passage he hadn't figured for himself, already. Invisibility would be a good gift. He might be able to sympathize. His name has already made an uncomfortable number of rounds on the island, and he'd feel less comfortable still if he knew how many.

"You've done enough." There's no malice in her tone, not even the faintest trace of ire — given enough time, Eileen has overcome her anger, replaced the hatred she once had for Teo's people with something she found was easier to live with.

Distrust. Indifference.

Or at least something that sounds like it.

And Teo either knows better than to take it personally, or doesn't mind if it was meant as such. He inclines his head in acknowledgment, figuring the verbal unnecessary. Not that she could see see, her back turned, darkness eating her up in great brutal black bites, but distrust, indifference, leave ample margin for reciprocation. Delilah's coat hikes up on his arm, heavy folds shifting against his pant leg, reminding him of the chill. He doesn't follow, though there's only one way out, and though he's fucking cold.

Giving her her room. "Not to say you couldn't find another reason," Teo says, "but you haven't done a selfish thing since I've met you."

Just as Eileen doesn't see the subtle gesture he makes while her back is turned, Teo misses the way her lips part before twisting into what is surely a scowl. If standing by Volken for as long as she did wasn't selfish, then what is? Her hand finds the iron handle belonging to the cemetery gate, and she pulls it open with as little fanfare as she did when she first arrived.

"Maybe if I'd cooperated with you sooner," she says, "we might have saved more lives. Maybe if I hadn't been so preoccupied with relishing in the love of cold-blooded killers, fewer innocents would have died, including Catherine Chesterfield's pretty journalist friend. You should ask her what she thinks."

The gate closes behind her, Eileen's departure punctuated by the creak of ancient hinges. She doesn't stick around to wait for his answer, if he has one. Not because she doesn't want to hear it…

… but because she isn't sure if she can.

February 18th: For Jennifer
February 19th: While He's Down
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