Your Invitation


hana_icon.gif teo_icon.gif

Scene Title Your Invitation
Synopsis Twenty bruises later, Teo asks Hana to the Prom.
Date January 19, 2008

Primatech Paper Facility

Monday evening for those without day jobs is whiled away into the smaller hours of Tuesday morning. There is no locus of time down here anyway, underneath the dusty bones of the Paper Facility. No clocks. It makes sense: the woman to whom it belongs — as much as the carcass could belong to anyone, deserted now by the function of its design and original inhabitants — carries the hour around in her head, accessible from the consensual system that seems to cover the whole damn planet, insofar as 'the hour' is a subjective symbol for how many you have left.

She can still kick his ass sparring, obviously. It's the last thing they do every class. Set stance in the middle of the gym floor, face to face. She gives the word. They start. She kicks his ass.

Practicing maneuvers, systemized repetition against another body, is one thing. Sparring is quite another. He wouldn't last for five minutes. Not even one, mostly. But in recent days for about the first thirty seconds, there's the hint of something there: enough to worry an ordinary man, even if he was carrying an ordinary knife; perhaps even enough to delay exasperation in his teacher as he goes end over end, bare heels in the air and arms caging his head.

Thump. "I think you're hitting me harder than last week," he tells the ceiling in an unsteady voice, listening to the noise of impact fade away in concentric circles of sound inside of his head. Given the nature of their art, he means, she's hitting the floor harder with him.

What matter time when the only arbiter of your life is you yourself? There are advantages to being a ghost in the system; no job, no bills, no schedule save the list of what needs be done. At present, the only thing Hana needs to do is look down at Teo, a single slender brow arching in an almost eloquent expression. You think wrong. "I don't need to," the woman disagrees.

You're not a challenge… yet.

She straightens from the crouch that was the automatic conclusion of the movement which renewed Teo's acquaintance with the mat, reaches down to help the Sicilian back up to his own two feet. "But you're doing better." Says the eagle to the fledgling, watching the chick practice wingbeats well in advance of it ever possibly leaving the nest. Yet the analogy fails, because any 'nest' is far, far removed from here.

A rough hand closes over hers. She isn't one of those silk dollies his aunt used to teach and titter with, but his hands are messier things by far, the grain of his skin rubbed wrong by a lifetime of menial work and decisions made in arguable taste. Teodoro is fairly used to thinking wrong. She doesn't need to. He doesn't answer verbally this time, catching his breath. Merely nods his head against the floor, scrunching his dirty-straw hair against the sticky polyester of the mat.

His arm tenses. He gets up in a clean jack-knife motion of his frame, recovering his full height after a subtle stagger of a foot carelessly turned sideways, catches his balance before it sprains. The chick manages, at least, not to fling himself bodily over the rim and down the cliff face.

Elegantly, he snorts a breath up through his nose and wipes sweat off his chin with the underside of his forearm. This is harder for him. No elbow strikes, crudely aimed knees, headbutts, the option of running away, nor even feints yet; none of the many and sundry vulgar maneuvers that constitute what experience he does have in fighting. Unlearning all that, and more, is as difficult as learning the rest. "When we're done—" ahh, his back. He plants a fist there, looks at the floor, breathes in a sense of burning. He isn't looking at the floor because it burns. "I need to ask you something."

When it's clear Teo has rediscovered his balance, Hana releases his hand, turning away from her student. A bare handful of strides brings her off the mat; to the cooler that's taken up residence in the gym since these lessons started. A towel is tossed at the Sicilian, followed by a bottle of water; he'd better be able to catch them both by now. Hana blots her face dry with a second towel, then drapes it over her neck. "We can be done," the Israeli allows as she turns back, a stray couple of steps shortening the distance between them; no need to push past exertion into pain. Not for this student. "What is it?" There's just a trace of sharpness in her voice, the expectation that his query will be something unusual.

It is Teo asking.

Well, that's… fair. Teo doesn't recoil against the edge to her tone; almost smiles at it, wry or cheeky, but the corners of his mouth manage to hold after that dangerous wobble. Despite soreness, the bottle was caught across one hand, the towel with his head, stuck out on the end of his neck with equal acuity. He was all right at catching thrown objects before.

He is better at it now. "Someone in my family is getting married to a wealthy and famous man. I just found out," he says, straightening. Draped spinelessly over his rumpled skull, the terrycloth panel bangs into his nose. He pushes it away from his eye with a thumb, before smearing his cheek with a palm splayed against it. "There's a huge—" huge— "banquet I've been asked to attend on behalf of my family. There will be a lot of drink, food. And people.

"Some of them with stories, and cameras and… I can't not go." He doesn't want to go. Obviously. Transparently. He hooks four fingers into the towel and pulls it down off his head, skewing his hair up into bizarre angles. Some of the gloss has dried off his skin, leaving the liquid blue candor of his eyes to match the pallid meniscus of the water bottle held up near his head, uncapped but slowed to pause. "Would you go with me?"

Time stops.

Hana is totally, completely, perfectly still; a frozen neutrality, surprise that isn't entirely certain whether it should transmute into offense or outrage, or perhaps something else altogether.

Time resumes with the sudden narrowing of dark eyes, tension releasing itself in a transition from standing to pacing; slow, pensive strides that circle the mat. And Teo. "You're asking me… why, exactly?"

It is not an unexpected question. It should have warranted a prepared and thus cleverly articulated answer. Why? Because— there could be police. With earpieces. Keeping radio contact. He hates police. Because any given situation feels safer with her at his back, or if he has hers to duck behind. Which is geometrically inconsistent with the circles that her strides are cutting around him now, and the coruscation of an inscrutable temperament flashing through her eyes. Because— she's—

He so rarely means offense, or to try her temper.

Time has started again. Realizing this, he remembers to breathe. The water bottle, clamped between his ring finger and middle, falls to his side, hanging below his hip, still.

"Lots of reasons," he says, unsteady, if not with uncertainty. If she turns to fast, her hair will flare out this way and cut. "I mean. I don't have any reason to think it'll be dangerous." The default reason. "It…" the syllable hangs unwetted. His brow furrows: so very serious. For once, his solemnity does not look the more sanguine of the two. "It could be different. It could be fun." He doesn't do irony very well, but if he meant any, he would be doing better than this.

There's nothing fast about Hana's movements. Just that keen regard which never leaves Teo, the pacing that despite being anything but still implies restraint of motion, the fists and feet that previously had been engaged in teaching difficult lessons (and perhaps a few simple ones as well) held easily within the constraints of her chosen activity.

Teo's seen Hana annoyed, and he's seen Hana in a fury. Neither seems entirely to apply now, though there is some element of the former.

"Fun," the woman echoes, as though the word could be spit out in distaste to thwap against bare concrete. It doesn't quite. She could point out that Teo obviously doesn't put any stock in this notion of the banquet being 'fun'. That this is possibly the worst reason anyone's ever offered her. That it's possible the worst request anyone's made of her.

She doesn't do any of these.

The lioness ceases her circling stalk, bare feet padding silently away across a cold stone floor. "I'll think about it," is her nearly growled reply.

To be fair— to be fair. To be fair, Teo hadn't thought it would be, before. He hadn't thought about it enough, maybe, where thinking would have substantiated reason, based itself of logic, required intelligence. Some things, you just know. That God has it out for you, that Hana would be the one. He's thinking about it more now, a little, the tiny wheels spinning almost audibly inside his armored skull, his mind's eye turned inward, dulled, before sharpening, refocusing to find her standing slightly to his left.

"Yes." It's either confidence or a certain level of arrogance in his saying so in the face of her skepticism and its brow arched, in spite of her believing that she knows better. "Yes: if you went with me, then — I think so. It'd be different." There's more confidence in this second repetition. He watches her face, then drops his gaze to the floor beyond the points of her toes. The level of the water in his hand remains perfectly still. "Grazie.

"I'll copy you the invitation."

January 19th: Two Is Company
January 19th: Our Lady Of The Capricious
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