White Knight


deckard_icon.gif teo_icon.gif

Scene Title White Knight
Synopsis Once upon a time they slayed dragons and saved princesses. Now they make sure bitter old drunk cowards don't freeze to death in graveyards. There's a glory deficit these days, see.
Date January 19, 2008

Calvary Cemetery

It would have taken more time for Teo to get from Staten Island to Queens if he hadn't been on his way back onto Manhattan Island as it was, chased out of the Primatech Paper facility by the snapping fangs of something infinitely worse than simple rejection. That is, being told by Hana Gitelman — in a growl that sounded downright lupine — that she would think about it. It leaves the Italian more than enough to think about, himself.

His shoes scar the pristine sugarfrost canvas that weaves between headstones. His phone is one hand hand, the LCD screen flipped out, protruding like a flagging tongue between thumb and forefinger. It's already idled into darkness, both the clock and the text message originally displayed lost to ordinary perception, and Teo doesn't bother renewing it. Instead, he strains his eyes for the gangly figure of one Flint Deckard that he might also describe as familiar.

He manages to reach Judy Anderson's grave first. The plot with the skeletal orange tree over her. Stoops to take the handgun in his free hand, before he straightens, his brow contracted from uncertainty. He lapses into hesitation once. Then, "Mike?"

It takes time for Deckard to pick himself up again. Time for gut-wrenching pain and nausea to twist its way out of his system. More time to stagger back over to the Jesus grave marker and his shovel balanced against it, where he makes a hunched effort to brush off the snow caked white and amber over his overcoat. The same effort is extended up into his mussed hair and around the back of his collar. He jerks upright when some of it gets swept down the back of his shirt instead of onto the ground, only to hunch again immediately. Cold, cold, fucking cold.

There's no helping the overwhelming stink of whiskey about him now that he's spilled ten bucks worth on himself. This is noted with a sniff when he crosses his arm over his face to wipe his nose, only to wind up shaking more half-melted snow out of the sleeve. Last of all, and perhaps most infuriatingly, his right hand passes once over his face. No cuts, no lacerations, no tender bruises. Just cold blood under his nose and smeared across his cheek where Abby's flower pot did its thing. Knuckles cracked around the fist that falls back to his side, he works his jaw and just stands there for a while. With Jesus.

By the time Teo's on the scene, he's found a new place to sit on the great blocky base that the J-man occupies. Head tipped back against stone folds of cloth, he's as easily marked by the glow of eyes and cigarette as he is his gangling construction. And he's not thrilled to have more company. "What?"

"You look fucking terrible!" Teodoro exclaims, always the paragon of politeness. He is coming closer, quicker now, a bobcat bouncing between headstones and sculpted angels, a rush and a crunch that plugs holes in the powder and surface crust of snow. He doesn't have an extra holster with him. Despite the freezing temperature soaked into the gunmetal of the weapon he had retrieved, it's given only a cursory slapping-clean of snow before he shoves it down into the waistband of his trousers, at the small of his back. A decision he regrets almost instantly. "Fuck.

"You smell terrible," he adds, cleverly, struggling to a halt in the sliding layers of snow with a ginger grip on the shoulder of Robert E. Altmann's marker. "I—

"I'm…" Rather slow on the uptake, if it took him so long to absorb the fact that these words are not kind. His facial muscles pull into an expression of contrition that Flint Deckard's eyes are too critical to acknowledge. He had merely been surprised. "Abby said you were in rough shape, amico." Rougher than usual.

Distance can be deceiving. Though the short trim of his hair is frozen up into an arrangement too creative to be intentional, and though his overcoat clings damp to the layers beneath it, and though there's blood smudged around the bleak shadows painted black into the hollows of his face, Deckard is as hale and healthy as Teo has ever seen him. His eyes are bright in their infernal way, deceptively keen despite the dullness alcohol continues to press upon his reflexes. And his scent.

Teodoro's various observations are endured with the air of someone who is self-aware enough not to be surprised by them. Unfortunately, also someone who doesn't necessarily like having it pushed in his face. He's watched in irritable, suffering silence until he gets to that last part. About what Abby said.

"Was," is the inevitable correction. "Was in rough shape, until she hit me in the face with a pot and forced herself on me. Praise Allah." When he shoves himself down away from Jesus's feet, it's a stiff, jerking push. Not quite a flounce, but angry enough that it nearly qualifies.

'She hit you in the face with a what?' Teo's face asks. He trawls closer. 'She f—what.' 'Shouldn't use his name in vain.' 'Shouldn't push Jesus.' 'You don't look so bad.' It's a fairly linear progression of facial expressions, his right eyebrow prying itself higher and higher out of position, the other one stooping lower, mixed incredulity, consternation, and sympathy painting havoc with the sanguine palette that tends to characterize him all the time.

By the time he's in range to get punched in the face, he's laughing. 'Ha!' Eyes squinted into beady arch-shapes with humor, and he's extricating the gun. The one he had plucked out of snow: Deckard's gun, a scuff of clothes, private shudder. "Ah, shit. I'm sorry." He doesn't look unrepentant, not exactly, but the sort of rue or sympathy that is completely alienated from pity. He shakes his head. "It isn't fair.

"I'm supposed to be the white knight in this one. Why do you get all the good stories?" The handgun is turned around, butt pointed out, proffered.

More than half a staggering step is necessary to ensure that Flint does not fall over once he's disembarked from the grave marker. His ill-temper is directing more focus into things like 'glaring' than it is interested in the arguably more important 'remain standing.' The younger man's silence is traced with a twitch of his head and abruptly pinned pupils, suspicion grim in the fuzzy lines around his mouth while he searches for laughter at his expense in the flesh and muscle of Teo's face.

It takes him a few seconds, but he finds it. The timing of the revolver's offer is therefore unfortunate. His finger squeezes impulsively at the trigger's heavy pull, gun barrel still directed down at their feet. Or. Well. Teo's foot, specifically.

He doesn't quite get the hammer drawn before the impulse passes, and his offending finger takes up a less potentially painful placement outside of the trigger guard. Deep breaths. Don't put bullets in your friends. It's an impulse he's had to resist a lot, lately.

"All the good stories." Ha ha. Fur rubbed way too far the wrong way for him to even force a smile, he looks down at the gun and shoves it back into place under his coat. "I gave the phone to Ethan."

"All the good stories." Teo has enough decency to soften his voice and his features, folding his disbelieving hysterics back behind the gentler geometry of mannered response. He realizes that Deckard wasn't being funny on purpose, and he'd rather not be a tough audience. In the interest of not getting shot, and that sort of thing. Apparently, good health and belligerently insistent friendships don't a happy crackshot make. It was a stupid assumption to make. Teodoro is capable of enough sobriety for the both of them. The invocation of Ethan's name helps.

Something like a snarl spasms through his features, here and gone in the blink of an eye. All right, then. If Deckard's piss poor mood and trigger-happiness required some sort of excuse, viral apocalypse aside, that would have sufficed. Either trust or self-destructiveness keeps Teo's feet stamped in the snow inside the exact outline of his shoe-prints, no dance of evasion or violent rebuke forthcoming; the hand he'd raised to buttress Deckard's teetering tower hovers before falling. By the time he gets around to saying anything, his tone has evened out into something polite, if not pleasant.

"Grazie. Good to know. Helena hasn't mentioned the call connecting, yet, but…" Teo shrugs one shoulder, either failing to recognize the stakes associated with pissing Ethan off, or unequivocally acknowledging his limited ability — or desire — to do more about it.

The transition to business seems to suit him just as well. He lets out a breath, opaque with cold. "There's going to be a meeting. Friday night, nine-thirty. The top boys came up with a plan: the one we needed the boat for." A glance askance; if you remember. Deckard smells like more whiskey than he could remain upright after drinking, but given his staggered gait, Teo isn't going to count on his memory. "I'll text you an address for our teleporter to pick you up at before dawn. Please come."

"White knight," Deckard repeats on a hefty delay. If Teo is allowed to repeat him repeating things then it stands to reason that he should be allowed to…repeat…more things. The idea of pure heroism isn't as appealing as it should be, even where it may actually apply. The fork of his tongue blackens and chars the ideal and all the natural optimism it might normally carry with it before casting it aside like a rusty hubcap.

It's a lot to say in two words. Particularly given that they weren't his to begin with.

He's leaning again, meanwhile, steeply enough that it's him who lifts a hand to brace it against Teo's shoulder so that he can hold himself upright. Stone Jesus is fired on account of currently being out of arm's reach, just like the real one only less perpetually. While he still has a free hand, he flicks his cigarette aside to keep the ashes blowing off the tip of it out of Teo's face. This does little to change the fact that his breath smells like a homeless guy's beard.

"I don't think he's having fun anymore." He presumably being Ethan, whose name is dropped more casually than it ever was before. No disgust or fear or hate or discomfort over past deeds done in his name and 'or else.' Just Ethan.

There's a silence filled on his end with heavy breathing while he thinks about the rest, then: "She hit me in the face with a pot." Woah, meeting, what? "A pot with flowers in it. Then she sat on me. I said no." He said no and she did it anyway. Again. His brow furrows, the familiar pathways etched across his forehead creased deep over the puzzle that is how he should feel about this other than really angry. "How are things with you?"

White knights died out with fire-breathing dragons. After discovering neither remained in the world to slay, Teo had never truly recovered from the disappointment. He frowns at being repeated after. Disagreement would require even more saying, so he leaves it at that: a frown. 'It was a joke,' with a superficial prickling of pride, and then a sharp blink of eyes against the gust of polluted nicotine smoke slapped in his face. His face fails to change despite the reek of rancid saliva and rotting sugars. 'Don't cast it away.'

Self-contradictory. He is a self-declared Catholic who buys Evolution and pewter patron medallions. It happens. Teo finally remembers to move his face when he moves the rest of himself, finding direction in physicality, as ever. One gloved hand goes up, closes on Deckard's elbow, tightens firmly as he sets is feet further apart.

And he drops his gaze into the snow, his cheeks puffing out a sigh. He would smell like sweat if you could smell anything under the old man's tailored odor. "He sent another English stronzo around to show us he wasn't pissing around. Kicked my ass— instead of Abby's, I think. Nearly blew up a sidewalk, stole my fucking Para-Ordnance. And a knife Christian fucking gave me. Things suck monkey's. That shit was mine." Though this injustice may not rank above all others, it seems consistent with the conversation's modus operandi.

Deranged priorities.

"Sorry." Misery, misery misery. It's thick in an apology that's too vague to do much other than exist. Sorry for the Ethan connection, sorry for the ass kicking, sorry he lost his stuff. Sorry for all or none of the above. "People are assholes. Nobody cares about anything."

Spectral eyes still operating at their usual cold burn, he sweeps them sideways over the surrounding jumble and jut of gravestones and markers. Angels and obelisks and flat slabs overlap white over grey, with patches loose earth darker than the harder packed stuff they're standing on now. When his head twists around enough for balance to become an issue again, he teeters and clenches his fingers into Teo's shoulder to avoid an impromptu visit with the hollow ground to his left.

Whatever he was looking for, if anything, doesn't seem to be there. When he looks back around to Teo, his eyes are pale, but not unnaturally so. Regular, dull somewhat less than 20/20, with alcohol's warm fuzz to airbrush over hard edges and bright city lights in the distance. "Is it after four?"

It isn't repetition, not exactly, because Teo does the intonation all wrong: "Nobody cares?" A fist closes, chugs once against the curve of Deckard's ribs, a mock-blow meted out to flesh and bone long since healed by the little Southern belle long since fled the desolate graveyard where we set our scene. The nudge reconfigures into a wary grasp on Deckard's stinking lapel, trying to sling the man's unstable weight back to center using the tenuous lines of clothing creases.

Frozen whiskey. Maybe it'll all shatter off and there will be no mess. "Don't be sorry," comes the ignoble mumble. Teo fills the air with ridiculous, meaningless consolations, none of them insincere. "Better me than Abigail. Not your fault. Part of the job, anyway.

"I don't know. Does it matter?" There's a twitch or spasm of self-realization as Teo's subconscious self-reprimands himself for that remark, and he ducks his head against his collar to rifle his pocket in search of his phone and its built-in timepiece. The window beams at them from the length of Teo's arm. Though the digital clock probably shows hopelessly blurry to the older man, Teo can see read it reasonably crisp, clearly. "Almost. Almost four.

"Do you want to go home? Maybe you should. There's work to do. More work," he clarifies, suddenly gone all awkward with rue. "There's something else we need you to do. Later. I…" He had not meant to further dent Deckard's battered old armor or to fill his sword with misery. "I think you should go back to being mad, vecchio."

Contact at the ribs prompts a foggy glance down after it. Something on his coat? Something other than stubborn snow and the dampness of whiskey that saturates the lapel in question. It hasn't frozen, but it's definitely cold and wet behind the down-drifting fog of Deckard's breath. Behind the lapel is a hoodie, the bunch of the hood at his collar marked by a sliver of silver chain against his neck.

Once it's clear Teo was just looking for another hand hold or whatever, he tips his chin up again, left arm dead slack at his side. Pretty utterly unhelpful in his endeavors to stay standing. Maybe he's forgotten he has it. He doesn't resist whatever adjustment the younger man deems necessary, and holds reasonably solid once he's there, the way axed trees seem inclined to hang up at the end of their ninety degree angle forever before they actually fall. It's a very temporary state of rightness.

"Depends. Depends on…whether or not we're all supposed to die." His brows are lifted high, no longer restricted by the slash glass left over the right however many days ago. He can't read the phone, not even close, but waits patiently enough for Teo to dictate whatever it has to say about his chances of beating last call. …And his odds don't sound great. Mouth pressed thin at his poor luck there, apparently more put off by the cut off than the prospect of him being blown into bone shards and a vitriolic spatter of blood, he sighs.

The idea of work doesn't sound like a very appealing alternative, either. He looks up over Teo's shoulder, then aside again, as if looking for an excuse to pop out from behind a gravestone like Magnes did earlier. Eventually, a non-commital dip of his head may qualify as acknowledgment. Confirmation that he heard, at the very least.

"What should I be mad about?" The question is posed with eye contact, however tenuously unfocused when he leans more of his weight forward into the brace of hand to lapel. "Abigail? Taxes?" He pauses a beat, squints. "You're not mad."

"M' always mad," Teo disagrees with an audible, visible pang of guilt that indicates either that the confession was awfully true or was a stupid contrivance of whatever other constructs he has living in his head. In his perspective of things, holding Deckard upright is a lot more helpful than holding the hewn-through tree upright. The tree is dead anyway. Despite his clever costume and apparent depression, Flint isn't. "Always feel a little like I've been… ripped off." The mumble tumbles out as if in spite of some half-hearted effort to stop it. "It's not fair. I don't want to pay so much for fucking up once. I guess that means I'm a spoiled tool. I think I deserve more.

"And you too. It's just not… fucking… fair."

One of the stupider things Teo has ever said while sober. As if expecting Deckard to have been doing something constructive, he glances over his shoulder to follow the older man's line of sight into the graveyard's headstones pitted into the snow like a diseased maw of limitless black teeth. "Abigail and taxes," he agrees, falling back on what seems like superior rationale, even if no more useful to anybody's practical intent or purpose. Practical intents and purposes keep getting waylaid and ignored here anyway, from from more work to the meeting on Friday.

Teo blinks steadily in the dark. "I know a precog. I asked her how things would go, and she had to knock herself out hemorrhaging to pull the picture out of the ether, but she did say. We have a solid chance." If he were a little more awake, he'd have phrased that better, so that it didn't rankle and grate with all the signs of crudely approximate translation. He translates for a living, these days. Should be more professional about it.

The smile Deckard breathes out on a near laugh against talk of persistent anger and the unfairness of life in general looks even more like a leer than usual. It's sidelong and slanted, but warmed by honest good humor over years of brackish, bitter build-up on the subject. "Once is all it takes."

The wind picks up and a shiver serves as feeble punctuation there, and Deckard's left hand curls up into the shell of his sleeve. Tension stored up between his shoulder blades bites in all the more taut against the involuntary movement, straightening out his back, and his nose rankles. Cold. Also, he might've just caught a whiff of his own boozy stink. His brows tilt accordingly. Phew. Worse than he thought.

"What people deserve and what they get…it's just." Shitty? Unfair? It's hard to speak well when you're so drunk that you're at risk of forgetting what you were talking about if you take too long to think of the right word. Eventually he gives up, frustration more at home in the lines in his face than the amusement of two minutes ago when he shakes his head after whatever it is he was going to say.

"I don't know any precogs. Just the photos." And all the optimism they inspire. "I'm not worried about it."

Teo's nose is beginning to run. Cellphone blanked out in hand, he raises his sleeve to rub the beginnings of mucus slime off his upper lip. Disgusting. Accomplishes little except to give him the distinct sense that he's spreading more mess around. A moment, and he fumbles his phone's shiny carapace back into his pocket, thumb over forefinger, managing somehow not to drop the thing into the scudded snow. He is listening, though. Yes. Laugh at him! It— it warranted laughing at, although Teodoro has no real sense of whether that's because he was wrong or because he's just being flagrantly obvious.

Shitty. Unfair. "'S supposed to balance out in the end. I'm s'posed to believe that." Whether discomfited by the existential conundrum or because his tongue is getting clumsy from the cold, it doesn't sound like Teo does at this specific moment. Little doubt, it'll heal over by Sunday Mass again. "Didn't show you all the photographs. I should've told you that.

"Some of them can't happen anymore. We've changed things already. In the future we've been warned about, there's no fucking fight the way we're planning it. And there's photos in 2018 of people who're going to be on ground zero. People I know. And they wouldn't walk out of there alive if Volken was. There's… it'd be okay if you were worried." Teo is, he thinks, the worst possible terrorist cell leader ever. He attempts to inject hope into Deckard like transfusing him with the blood of the wrong type: either crippling clots are due any moment or Teo will wipe out what reds he has left.

Sharing the facts is pretty pointless when Deckard only knows the photos. Kazimir could've sent the photos. Teo sniffs wetly, all snot nose and graceless tugging. "We should go home." He extrudes a pointing finger in the direction from whence he'd come. Not home, probably, but out.

"Does it matter?" Teo's words are tossed back at him without care or inflection enough to make them cross or ironic or anything really. Like an empty cup or yesterday's newspaper. "I'm not worried. Worrying is…it's a waste. Just a waste of time. If we do okay great. If we die then…" His current state being a pretty blunt argument against any case he might try to make about feeling perfectly okay with the way things are going, he rolls his eyes closed there. He's not that great of a liar sober. It's way harder drunk.

A nod follows a few seconds later — to what part of what they're talking about, exactly, who knows — and he opens the hand he's clenched into Teo's coat into a flat brace that navigates its way dumbly around into a sideways hook around his shoulders. Part time terrorist, part time crutch. The sag of Deckard's weight into his side isn't exactly insubstantial, either.

"Okay. I believe you." Time to go home. Or somewhere else not in the middle of a really cold graveyard. He doesn't seem to recall that he brought a shovel with him, which could be for the best.

Abby's going to love this. Teo is going to smell like the wrong end of the barkeep's dog when he gets around to seeing her. It's bound to get worse as they undertake the Herculean trial of walking, roughly steepled together, smearing footprints underfoot and trying not to trip into crypts or squash buried flowers. Not that the buried flowers would mind. Nor, arguably, those who were so lucky to have such tokens bestowed upon them.

It might be for the best that Teo doesn't look for the shovel Deckard inevitably brought with him, either.

"I can try to get you a banana bag before dawn. Head off the hangover, in case you're needed. Or want to get an early start with the whiskey tomorrow."

Teo's grip around Deckard's waist doesn't suffer any strength for its gingerness, and he's strong enough to bear a healthy fraction of the older man's weight, even if his trouble with terrain turns right inward and undercuts that. Squinting a lot, he manages to make out the shape of the cemetary's corrugated iron territorial border. The posts seem to be topped by spearheads which, Teo thinks, seems to be a contrary to the spiritual logic of holy ground. This doesn't seem like the place to be making enemies.

"Banana bags sound like more fun than they really are," Deckard observes. Wisdom for the ages. He can't really bring himself to be bothered by their slow, retarded progress across the graveyard. If he can get out of here without twisting an ankle or cracking his head open on a grave marker, it's a win. That some hapless dead flowers (or flowers that were never alive in the first place) get crushed underfoot in the process isn't so much his problem as it is the site owner's for employing a security guard who likes getting bribed to sit in his warm car and read on cold weekday nights such as these.

For a guy whose human contact is generally limited to hookers and people who beat him up, he doesn't seem too averse to doing the whole four-legged race thing now. It is what it is. "Banana bag," he says again. "It's because of the banana." Maybe he'll be less talkative once they've been walking a while and he starts getting short on breath.

Maybe talkative is a better alternative to silence. That can be oppressive for a reasonably good Catholic kid, out here between revenants and epitaphs whose run-off condensation seem to have frozen in tear tracks down the headstones' faces. Teo isn't going to rush, though. Slow and steady, no race. He forgets to be surprised at Deckard's temporary tolerance of tactility, just as he tends to forget Abigail's, until whimsy or random chance prompts her to reject his. "Hey. Uomo anziano." Blankly: as if he just remembered. He looks at Deckard askance. "Do you still sell guns? I guess I'm back in the market.

"I'd ask Christian, but—" Snnnghk. Teo snorts up an exaggeratedly sodden inhale. Creases his brow with annoyance and wipes his nose for the second time. "'E's not here."

"I still have an okay stockpile. And a proxy or two to get other stuff for me. Christian gave me a couple of Tavors to give to some psychopath but I got busy." You know, in case Teo was thinking of upgrading from shooting individual people to shooting whole squishy bunches of them at once. Left sleeve scrubbed across his face, Deckard does not say banana bag again, having probably already forgotten it was funny a few seconds ago.

He's quieter after that, anyway. The hour sinks into his bones with more resilience than the cold it's coupled with, and before long, he'll probably be more interested in going to sleep on any benches they come across than walking to wherever they're headed. Good times.

January 19th: Call Me With A Drop Of Faith
January 19th: A Family Brought Together
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