What Never Goes Out Of Style


francois_icon.gif ghost_icon.gif margaret_icon.gif teo_icon.gif

Scene Title What Never Goes Out Of Style
Synopsis Outside, it's a gorgeous day over Manhattan. Inside, well, the nature of a dungeon predisposes it to a different set of adjectives.
Date September 28, 2010

West Village: Maison d'Allegre

Outside, it's a gorgeous day over Manhattan. Inside, well, the nature of a dungeon predisposes it to a different set of adjectives. Francois has one now, the third floor of his house, all iron grille, impossibly burly table, plastic everywhere like somebody's planning to roll up a corpse.

The Ghost had not bothered proofing the walls, and it isn't much of a stretch of imagination to suppose that that's because the brownstone is of rather stolid build and impressive proportions. The wealthy pay for their privacy, the right to throw rambunctious parties without offending the neighbors or have it out with orchestral ensembles of prostitutes, and somebody paid for Francois'. You'd have to do a lot of screaming to be heard.

There's a girl zip-tied to the chair already. She is outwardly composed, something cold about the mousey-brown stare she has fixed on the wall, her hair neat, a bruise fading green from her mouth. She isn't really a girl.

There's a boy standing in the hallway, still, working up the nerve to go inside. He's dressed in a hoodie and jeans, both of them battered enough for comfort and to look a little shabby, too, but there's something about him— the slouch of his shoulders, the hard hands, handsomeness in and of itself, that lends itself to a seemingly unprepossessing, low-maintenance potential for cruelty.

Ghost hadn't told him what to wear. Maybe that was the point. What suits, dark-holes, and warrants do, a boy with enough calluses on his fingers and fluidity in his stride can accomplish too, or near enough. Either that, or Teo's being neurotic. It's possible. He often is.

When Francois arrives, it's from above, humid weather enjoyed on the rooftop that didn't see any action for about eight moths, ruined by winter, made unlivable. Now, it's all baking concrete, a three-floor view of sprawling West Village, and not unpleasant if a little dreary in its minimalism. So once he's in the hallway, his shirt and dark hair is still warmed from sunlight, and he seems vaguely surprised to see Teo still lurking out here, steps hesitating and eyes speculative.

The glance switches towards the door of the bedroom, and when he speaks, he keeps his voice quiet and confined to the hallway. Just in case, really, instinct over logical decision. "Perhaps this only has to be quick, and not so terrible. Are they ready, now?" There's a cant of a head tilt, possibly asking, silently: are you?

No? Yes. No. The younger Sicilian clears his throat and nods, kind of like he's bouncing his chin through a handful of stars to trace a constellation, or some crucial bolt had become unscrewed in his vertebrate while he stood there unmoving too long, herky-jerky, coarsely geometric. He starts to turn toward the room, and then stops halfway through the motion, his foot skewed out of holding pattern on the floorboards, one hand going up to scratch restlessly at the back of his neck.

"This is almost exactly how Eileen and I met," he says. "He didn't tell you about it, I guess because it wasn't his, but it's ironic anyway. I think. The whole fucking world was on the line on the cusp of Kazimir's viral apocalypse, so we kept the little Englishwoman in a basement and fed her sandwiches that had avocadoes until she decided we were good guys enough to turn on her own people. About two weeks. I can't remember if she let her shower, but her hair was all grease by the end and her legs weren't any wider than the bones.

"You ever done anything like that?" he asks, suddenly. Teo's tone is different when he says this. The earlier part had the weird, hollowed echo, signal-noise quality of a geographically-misappropriated confession, but the last question turns it into an exchange of resume qualifications. Blink and you miss it. The man-child peers at the Frenchman, and his arm falls straight at his side.

There is a pull at Francois' mouth, objection to the concept that memories were withheld because they did not belong to the hybrid. In his opinion, all the memories do. He asked about terrorism in the future, and sailboats, and the things his Teo wanted him to know that one date they had. It's just unpleasant to talk about torture, he thinks. But it's not an argument for this Teo. It might be one for the other. Francois hasn't moved since Teo started to, so there's no stilted hesitation or stalling at that question.

"Once I shot someone," he says, after some hesitation. "And healed it over. And then did it again and threatened not to until they told me what I wanted to know. Healing made it a little guiltless, if not much. This was before Volken — it was the Maquis. I do not think this should come to that."

Mouse-girls from the Institute < Nazi soldiers, generally, although not every time. That, and neither man here wants to be excessive. Excess was okay, in 1944. He tilts his head a little towards the door.

"Loyalty never goes out of style," Teo answers, presently. He fails to give his remark context. Maybe he means Nazis, or maybe he means the Institute. He might mean the Frenchman and other-him, some bond that holds sturdy enough still to reverberate tension whenever he insinuates something at odds, shapes a frown onto Francois' features and realigns all arrows to go dungeon-ward, even though Teodoro kind of doesn't want to. Loyalty never goes out of style.

Inward, ho.

The hinges squeak. Teo goes first, shoulders slightly bent around a hangdog slouch, pale eyes tracking across the white wedge of girl-face under the glare of the fluoescent lamp, and then down at the steel that keeps her wrists just above view of the table-level. "Hello Margaret," he says. "And you. Get the fuck out of her."

There is something spectrally familiar about the smile that sketches itself thinly over the woman's lips. Francois' Teo used to get it when he figured out something small that didn't otherwise come easily to him— the best part of wall to put the rooster poster up on, crosswords, how to get Piutti to sound in English nigh about as poignant as she does in Italian. It may occur to a Frenchman, then, that the ghost had been experiencing a protracted moment of uncertainty as they waited outside.

The next instant, the girl— Margaret, her name is, slumps down in her chair like someone just unstacked the column of her vertebrates.

When Francois enters, he also shuts the door, and doesn't enter in much further than that, at first. The room is dark, in the way that lamps will serve to define shadows as much as they illuminate, and he doesn't take his eyes off the set up, his expression going— expressionless. Neutral. Uninvolved, in a way, and even his position in the room connotes a certain amount of sidelines, and standing on them. He does, however, drift a step or so further, hands folded together behind him.

Like maybe holding them back from checking for a pulse or pupil response as the girl goes lifeless and slack. Chin up and gaze attentive, his attention swivels leftwards to glance at Teo, to check him for physical cues of change, remaining the one person in the room without a totally firsthand experience of what just transpired. It's the desire for a united, cohesive front that doesn't have him speaking just right now.

When she finally raises her head, it's like someone had sleight-handed a mask onto her face. One that looks almost exactly the same, except that the sharp line of her nose and vulpine jaw have gotten blotched with weakness, somehow. Her complexion's less even. Her breathing palpitates the dark spots of her nostrils erratically.

Margaret creases her eyes closed, and then reopens them like peeling the grainy skin off milk with a spoon. "What," she says. Possibly the sound of her own voice, chambered and functioning with her jaw, is unexpectedly gratifying. Her eyes sheen sudden tears, but she blinks hard and they're gone. It is an uncomfortable sort of nudity, this kind of vulnerability, a panicky reaffirmation and reshuffling of layers, a wilful reminder to self of personal complexity. Human complexity. It isn't the empty defiance of a recalictrant child, or even someone simplified by desperation. It bears resemblence, more than anything else, to the aspect of a woman hiding the exposed edge of her slip again, even if there is nothing particularly original about her snarled query: "What the fuck?"

Teo hasn't moved. Maybe to blink, draw breath, but that's it. There's no telltale shudder or weakness to his knees, no sign that the mecha's controls were wrested over to a dark and formless passenger. For an instant, surprise flickers through the young Sicilian's brows: he hadn't honestly expected that, but he recovers swift enough. Clears his throat. "My name is Teo. I'm the younger one, earlier in the timeline than the Institute's captive and your personal jailor of the past couple."

Hello, handsome.

Somewhere between the quietude of the brownstone settling on its feet and the pulse of blood in Francois' ears, the unexpected voice singsongs its salutation. There's a rumbling, subwoofer-bass undertone, the dieselly register of a dragon's harshly-smoked syllables discharged with the metallic keen of crystallized vowels. You look tired.

The Ghost doesn't get to tap into emotions, when he is in this state. Instead, he can at least experience the feeling of a startle pulling like drawstrings through Francois' chest, brief, ruching tension that probably conveys fear or surprise, and it's amazing how close those two emotions can be sometimes. There is warmth that runs through his skin. There is tiredness. Outwardly, Francois is perfectly still with nigh on militant discipline, although his eyes do a strange unfocused thing as if attempting to look inwards and backwards.

Then, a twitch, an accusatory glance little Teo's way as if only just realising what he's saying, and what he's hearing, and what no one else happens to be hearing. After all these years, he's still not very good at superpowers.

Ciao bello, is managed, although there is a scattered quality to this voice, as if other thoughts and ideas are all trying to edge in together, colouring the syllables like stain glass in a window. He isn't introducing himself to Margaret because he has a sociopath in his head. Did you take a wrong turn?

("Fuck you. I know who you are." Sucking air in makes her sound deplorably damp, something faintly unsanitary, the way that people get when they're feeling more animal than anything else. Not sexy, in this particular instance. "Please just let me go. I won't go back to the fucking Institute. I know they're fucking crazy. I'll tell them I wasn't shown shit. I was kidnapped. Nobody knows your ability lets you do this.")

No. I promised I'd stay out of it, long as I can.

(The younger man frowns at her. Scrapes nails down the back of his own head. Despite the fidget, he does not look as agitated as he should be; less like the man-child boxed into an unconventional post-torture interrogation and out of his depth, more like the erstwhile co-leader of Phoenix, irritated that life ditched him into the same fucking gig again, and this is somehow beneath him. "That's a long-term option that I'd like to think is going to stay on the table. I fucking hate that you're here." He does. There is no shortage of sincerity, but his palms don't sweat, breathing comes easy. "But your people took somebody of ours, and we need to get him back, first. Do you know who I'm talking about?")

Last thing baby boy needs is me breathing down his neck. There is a monosyllable windy in Francois' ear, like the older one just sniffed, catlike hauteur, but it doesn't tendril outward, fails to expand past the curious sensation of communicative telepathy clicking sloppily into the hearing channel. I'll ruin his groove. He's tired of me after he was trapped with me for a couple months. I'm sorry if I startled you, but your hands are still yours. Don't tell anyone: but I was pulling her strings through her ability. They were using her on Teo like the last resort here is using me on her.

I hear you didn't like my interrogation room.

Francois takes a breath like he's about to speak — wholly unnecessary and purely instinctual, words in his head following. Teo proofed the entire floor with guns and flashbang grenades without my permission, you recall. We fought. Getting passive aggressive until hugs is a little like fighting, anyway, if far short of escalation out front Ferry safehouses, or little Japanese womens' bookstores. Struggling to his attention on everything going on around him as opposed to just in his head—

And fuck if everything doesn't feel like its wrapped in cotton wool, now, barely keeping track of baby Teo's words and the cloggy whining of the girl at the table, Margaret. His hand goes up, presses fingertips to brow, like he could massage away the Ghost's voice—

I prefer to be asked when I am involved. But I want him back, so.

So. So it's something like permission, Ghost being in here, but there are hackles raised in his echoed telepathic tone, anxiety zwizzing through syllables like the metal strings on a guitar. Is this my role today?

Not laughter. Not exactly, that goes rattling around the back of the Frenchman's mind, sucking against his inner-ear like the upward trip of an elevator that's pressurized funny and moving too fast. Or maybe an elevator being eaten by the giant sky-maw of a reptilian alien, given the chilly rakka-rakka edges to the ghost's register of psychic speech. Nooo. You're here for your brilliant tactical mind. You're infilitrating the Institute, aren't you? You should be here. You might learn something useful.

I can get out if you want. But I'd have to find a stranger on the street, or something, and I don't know where they'd take me. I'm like a parasite. Sorry: for some reason I thought you knew.

("You don't need me. They'll kill me." Her fingers go in white snarls around the ends of her armrests, thin, round wrist-bones popping out in gaunt contrast to the sheen of steel locked around them. She'd have to break her hands to get them free, and maybe she is that kind of operative. That caliber. But baby Teo cocks his spiky head, watches her watching him, and decides: probably not. Probably. "You h-have— you have fucking resources, don't you?" She blinks hard. "If I'm the weak link— if they know I'm the weak link, they'll do something to me.")

You can stay, is sharp, putting it in words, eyes hooding shut, opening again in slow blink.

Getting used to it now, is the Frenchman, having turned his attention to the girl during her rasp-throated rationalisations to the younger man here, and so Ghost receives some silence as he does listen, chin tucked in and too distracted to feel pity, especially. You could do me the courtesy of not laughing at me while you do, n'est-ce pas? At least his tone doesn't sound offended so much as prodding, although— he hasn't relaxed. Maybe he was wound up before getting here.

Maybe he wasn't, but, the muscles up his back remain tight. There are crescents being cut into his palm.

Who are you upset at right now? Pain doesn't translate. Pain never translates, actually, but the five simple senses do come through loud and clear. Ghost knows, abstractly, that that does hurt or will soon. Fingernails! Dreadfully obsolete, but terribly important. The ghost had liked having perfect ones. Well, you know, bar that one chapter he spent going without some of his fingers, but those things happen. I can go for awhile. I can just come back later. I wasn't laughing at you. If you're being passive-aggressive—

No, I didn't mean that. Irritable. The ghost sounds annoyed then, maybe even with himself, maybe because he is, by programming, finally looking at what Francois is seeing, even if that doesn't necessarily mean he understands. He isn't that conceited. So this isn't about him.

"They have telepaths." She breathes in. Out again, twists her head to wipe her bottom lip on the sleeve of her jacket.

"Yeah," the boy answers, quietly. "You were one of them, or some shit like that. I heard. There are things we can do. Cover your tracks. Or at worst, we can help you start new. The Ferry, I mean. You know who we are. This is what we do. Minimal damage." A beat. "We wouldn't be having this conversation if you didn't think you knew something we can use, would we?"

Silent treatment is another form of passive aggression. That, or Francois isn't sure what to reply with. In truth, he had meant it: Ghost could stay. He could also back off a little. If Ghost is any good at feeling expressions, he might detect the half-smile that arises. The kind one gets when identifying a piece of the puzzle, but no comment, wary of making comments, for a moment. He turns his listening outward, feels like he missed his cue a few lines ago.

"You are already a liability." Oh, hey. Francois lends his voice, finally, to the dialogue, sounding louder to Ghost than it does to either Teo or the girl. "They will have no reason to trust you did not say the wrong thing, and that we— and even you— do not have ways of disguising such memories if you come up clean. Like any good clandestine organisation, it is in their interest to assume the worst of you. If you give us the thing we want, we can help you."

A sidelong glance to Teo, back to the girl. "If not, we could give you back to them. They probably won't destroy you. Like Teodoro, and others, you are probably at least useful to them, no matter which side of the glass you find yourself."

Her eyes shade shut. Open again, slickly, and Margaret's weaselly face suddenly goes terribly dour, suddenly stubborn around the jaw. Better than being a mess of nerves, probably. Teo, at least, dislikes talking under duress to girls who fall apart like wet cake. Unlike his analogues, he has a small problem with being made to feel like the bad guy, despite proceeding ever on the assumption that he is one.

"What he said," he adds. His eyebrows are up, head turned, looking at the Frenchman with a mixture on his face of what might be surprise. Possibly relief. "It's too late for shit to go back to the way it was. I'm sorry that the other one burned all your bridges for you, but the Institute's the kind of place that creates these kinds of psychotic scenarios. Apparently, it also recreates psychos from scratch. I'm not saying we've done better by you than they did, but you were going to find your way out of that shithole eventually."

Her eyes are slitted. She shifts them from Frenchman to Sicilian, perhaps trying to guess which one the ghost is riding now, except that her gaze levels on Francois in the end. "Can I get a fucking cigarette here, or is that against vigilante justice protocol?" she asks, and it'd be brash, raucous, defiance if the brittle cinch of her shoulders hadn't deflated fractionally when she asked.

Do you know what he is going through?

Making conversation, even as Margaret is looking to Francois, speaking to him. It feels silly, to articulate thoughts in his own skull like someone is listening, but there is someone listening. Sinks hooks in, makes a demand, or— encouragement, in some way. Not that Francois needs much, to be a prick, when he really has to be or even really wants to be. Teo, in the Institute, he prompts, wanting something more vivid than the little implications like Teo's eyes going fearful blue rings when Daphne and Frenchman had crashed into the OR.

Outwardly, he smiles at her request, a little Cheshire. "I don't smoke."

Yes. No. Maybe. Ghost drones thoughtfully for a few bars. She had dreams. Too vague for me to be sure, but it's hard even for her to screen conscious preoccupations out of that weave; the only way to avoid it entirely is to not dream at all. I saw walls and ideas of Evolved abilities— ones like her, but harsher, I think. Psychometrists, invasive telepaths, persuasion. Half of it could have been fantasy.

There's an erratic flutter, then, a rare instant's uncertainty. Or rather, of grudgingly giving a fuck that he actually answers that question properly. His cough sounds like a gas problem with a heavy machine out of the construction industry or something like that, fluting chuff with an underscore of grinding. At length, the specter volunteers, If that's what you're asking.

Otherwise, I went through something like that in Palestine, 2015, or thereabout. They used thin knives, outmoded KGB chemistry, darkness, deprivation, and Abigail fixed everything with your ability. It hasn't felt important for a long time. I think your boy will be all right, if he's anything like me.

Flink. The baby Sicilian smokes. More than the hybrid did, actually, except that the hybrid only really got bad when he was tremendously stressed out. He has put a cigarette into the corner of the girl's mouth and lit it, too, meeting her liquid dark eye with a blank, wintry-blue one of his own. "You can finish it before we go on," he says. "I don't mind."

'Anything like me' is funny and exasperating. Thoughts like that are what led to this. Francois doesn't mind that she's having a smoke, gives him time to make a casual pace away, turning his back. Hands planted on his waist, and even if he was turned back towards them, they'd see nothing, like the tolerant smiles Melissa gets, the careful pauses in conversations with Abigail. Ghost would feel it better, the one person in the world with a front row experience of what goes on otherwise, Francois' throat gone rough like sandpaper from voice box to nasal cavities, breathing temporarily catching high in his lungs.

It is upsetting. But— He is. And Francois probably believes that too, in the way that he has to.

At least, the ghost doesn't say, 'Awesome! Then you have nothing to worry about.' The nonsense syllable he mutters through the back of Francois' mind is just as callus, though. The kind that's designed to give the Frenchman some vague, temporary sense of privacy, rather than being offensive in and of itself. For all of its limitations, there are few abilities like Ghost's that offer this much to infer with.

Margaret's lips go out, narrow around the cigarette. It's a funny face to make, but she sucks so hard on the cigarette that there's a visible shortening of the cancer stick's thin column, ash rupturing up its length toward her lips. She coughs once, smoke twinning jetstream departures from her nostrils, and Teo is agile— helpful and agile enough to reach over, catch it before she drops it to burn her own lap. Or his hand. Or something.

"What leads do you have?" her voice sounds clearer, somehow, post-charring. She tries to raise her hand to do something and it winds up straining, squeakily steel-on-steel against the cuff. "I know a little about the way the Institute works in Massachusetts and New York, but it's hard to put it into order. Pretty sure you don't want to know which contractors we get our raid vehicles from."

Well, I don't know, comes so deadpan from the back of Francois' mind it probably takes his blood pressure down a percentage-point from sheer proximity.

There is the compulsion for denial, cigarettes and intel both, but Francois turns back to her when she speaks up again, chin lifted and arms coming to fold comfortably as he wanders a little closer, almost encroaching on the spill of lamp light. "I've stepped into the Massachusetts' facility in MIT, and I have the location of another facility in Braintree. My access is surface, relating to security protocol — I am not qualified, sufficiently, for the research side of things as you are, demoiselle.

"I want to know specifically where Teodoro Laudani is. The copy that was made. Most information pertaining to that goal would be of use." Note that he did not say any information. Tangible specifics, things to grasp and act on, sink teeth into. You'd never know, from the rough-throated politeness that is his voice, but then again, he is speaking politely to someone who is handcuffed in his home.

Something fidgets through the woman's brow, resistance giving way, however subtly. Margaret hadn't exactly been putting up a great and extravagant fight, after all. Her hair looks shaggier than it did a few minutes ago, despite that she hasn't had far to move, her profile hangdog against the silhouette at the blinded window. "There are only a couple safehouses I know of where they might keep someone like that," she answers, finally. "The hospital on Staten would have been one of them. Now, there's just the Quincy place. I had a.

"I did my training over at the Braintree facility, and some of the subjects we worked on came from a holding place not far from there." The line of her mouth moves, pulses inward slightly as she pulls at saliva glands that were actually watered recently, but Margaret is a little nervous. Room full of lunatic vigilante men characters. A few years with the FBI don't make you completely immune to that psychological effect. She looks down on the steel surface of the table. "There were consent forms, most of the time.

"But there was one guy with antisocial personality disorder and some kind of Mossad history, arms dealing stuff with abuse of Evolved abilities on the side. He started telling us too much about what the Institute had done to him before he got to Braintree, so they put him under for the rest. I took care of it while he was asleep. It was," her lips are white for an instant, then ashy pink under the fluoescence again, "the patriotic thing to do. But before that, he said Quincy. And that he could see the water.

"He might be there. Or he might be at Braintree already."

Francois listens on alert, but there isn't, in the end, a lot he needs to remember, sieving through her words for the ones that glimmer like gold in the dirt, like Quincy and water. He doesn't pace, stands as set as the statue he's become, for a time, in Ryazan, and occasionally stares at the steel table in reflection of her as she speaks, although never for long seconds — if there's anything in her pale face to be read, he scans for that too. It is possible, that when she is done, the subtle lines that crowfeet from the corners of his eyes convey gratitude.

But the Ghost was right — Francois is mainly just tired. Breathing in, he glances off towards little Teo, seeing if any dots are connecting between her story, his, Ghost's, his own, like maybe they could make a map out of it.

"How many people would've been kept in Quincy?"

"I don't know." She inhales again, and the moisture doesn't seem to have cleared up despite that her dour face is stubbornly dry. Her eyes slant toward Francois', and interpretation finds purchase somewhere in the subtle lines crows-footing at the edges of his them. "More than one. I never saw it. I don't think they let the ex-Mossad remember. He was kept awake there, though. Standard procedure for Teo was unconscious, and a lot of places aren't equipped to deal with the," she stops. Turns her stare back at the young man standing opposite the table. "Medical repercussions of that. So Braintree's as likely. Maybe more."

"What was Braintree like?"

A beat. "Competitive. High number of tactically-proficient Evolved, but mostly oriented toward research and interrogations."

A not-sound reverberates through Francois' inner-ear, swelling the skin of drum before the throb of release; the beast exuding a patient sigh. The tedium of detailed information-gathering is not unknown to him, but it's less fun when he doesn't have a pair of hands to use. Do you think you can get in, at this point? he asks. How the fuck did you get your foot in through the damn door, anyway?

My brilliant tactical mind, and Sarisa Kershner's influence. She built up my CV around my own hints of my identity and knowledge, and it got noticed — but they only wanted me for my healing. We inserted a fake physical evaluation— and a fake psych evaluation. It will be high comedy if someone breaks a bone on the first day I am there, I'll be the first to tell you.

It's easier to lie, or omit, when it careens through a deluge of truths. Francois doesn't even blink, and his telepathic voice comes across precise, only fraying apart by the time he's finished out of a lack of concentration, still gaining his sealegs when it comes to communication that crosses silently through neurons and synapse. I can get in. I just do not know for how long it will hold.

"Desmond Harper, Mohinder Suresh, Jean-Martin Luis. Simon Broome. Do you know these names, in relation to these places? Are there other names it would do well to know, either at Braintree or Quincy, or involved with Teo?"

Another raspy click, and the woman's hands fall still again. She doesn't even blink when a large hand descends by her head and the younger Teo pushes the aggravating prickle of her own hair back from her eyes. "Corporate central." Margaret's answer is clear, concise. "Research and development, maybe. Those three don't usually come out to Braintree. Braintree's for the kids, even if I met one or two 'kids' who were twice my age.

"Usually, McAlister's in charge— a big lady who's a telepath. Harper's there to see her sometimes, maybe. During a couple field exams, or on graduation day. Taking his pick of the litter." There's a lagging pause, and she closes her eyes, squeezes them, as if they hurt before reopening. "Never seen him actually pick someone, though.

"He's the one they'll want to impress the most. FRONTLINE Zero's a prestigious place to be. Not the kind they put on high-gloss brochures," she amends, clearing her throat on a sanding-belt register. "I mean, so prestigious nobody ever really hears about it."

Teo scuffs a broad palm down the side of his own neck, brow furrowing. "Would you be able to draw us a map of the facilities? Where the questioning occurs, storage, main offices?"

The silence twists like a knife. "Yes. I'd need my right hand."

I wonder which one he thinks my body will be in.

For an interrogation, it's reasonably cordial. There is no real disgust driving Francois out of the room or wishing he was somewhere else — all three men in the room have been somewhere worse, often of their own design. However, he would like to be in Massachusetts already, and Ghost can possibly feel his BP respond a little to greyhound-anxiety, the rush of cool air through wind pipes as he takes a breath for patience, eases it out again.

I can ask questions for you, if you have them, sounds humble, though he couldn't truly be sorry for focusing only on his boy. An unconscious body without anyone home can only suffer so much.

Impatience is a susurrus of consonants that rise and fall on a sinosoidal loop of volume. I have none. When there's a map. Maybe the Ghost's merely being wary. Paranoid. Distrustful of even the woman cuffed to the chair. Perhaps an ulterior motive to refraining to confront her personally, but you know, thinking so would be terribly paranoid and distrustful of Francois, so with a little luck, it won't cross his mind.

It's admirable, the way the woman phrases it: "What am I going to do now?" As if it's a matter of action, her own, rather than what action is to be taken against her. She's a do-er. Not a done-to. There's a pen in her hand, and steel unclasping the bird-like crook of her wrist. The brushed metal reflections atop the table's broad girth are interrupted by a piece of folded paper that the younger Sicilian had dug up out of nowhere. "Is he going to watch me? The," she pauses, biting back either fear or ill-conceived derision. "He calls himself the ghost." Who calls himself 'the ghost?'

Say something ominous, the specter rumbles, brightly.

"Neither of us have time to feed and tend to you if you remain handcuffed to a chair," Francois offers, which is probably too wordy to be very ominous, but he does better on the next sentence, "and someone must watch you." He tilts his head towards the sheet of paper set down on front of her, having wandered close enough throughout to tap two fingertips against the metal surface of the table. "A map, s'il vous plait. This will be over soon." He doesn't really mean the interview.

They're all in it together, see? Trapped, respectively. Little Teo bound by a sense of duty and love, older Teo caught in spectral, bodiless limbo, Francois also bound by a sense of duty and love only a less sheepish breed, and dough-faced Margaret chained to furniture. He paces back, restless, by a step or two.

There's stubbornness in the press of Margaret's jaw, but she doesn't ask more questions or even lance the ghost with insults. Instead, she makes statements, as if she's in a position to. "I don't want to be on the run for the rest of my life. Like I'm sure Mr. France over here doesn't, either. My job, I can afford to lose, but these are big bastards you guys are taking on— and a civilian identity's something I know to value. So we're on the same page.

"There are things I'd give up my life for, but that needs to be megiving up my life. The Ferry does good work, but I feel like they're full-up on ex-cons rat-nesting on Staten Island.

"So whatever you need to do to set that up." There are four or five rectangles laid out on the sheet of paper, now. The medical wing delineated with a fatly shaded cross.

Though the baby-boy should probably be warier of small, unprepossessing dark-haired girls wielding blunt phallic objects, he's standing close, leaning scar-notched hands on the edge of the table, wintry stare hooded downward, watching her hands, but watching her more than her hands. He doesn't answer her because he is thinking about how many birds it'd take, and how long, to sweep the stretch of coastline defined by Quincy's territory, or whether or not it would be the most efficient to track the traffic to and from Braintree. Maybe Francois could do it all himself.

A lambent shot of iris, the acknowledgment of pale eyes. An instant's quiet interruption, the shadow of a familiar smile.

Will it?

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