2007-03-09: Too Much Risk


Tamara_icon.gif Judah_icon.gif

Date It Happened: March 09, 2007

Summary: Judah encounters a familiar face while taking a stroll through Central Park and is forced to make a difficult decision about his professional ethic, while Tamara hints that there's more to her cryptic way of speaking than he might think.

Too Much Risk

Central Park

The day is winding down, though not yet done. In the amber sunlight, it's fairly warm - definitely springtime, with the park's flowers beginning to show, its trees unfurling their leaves. In the shadows, there's still a breath of chill, the fading touch of winter. Tamara seems more to have embraced spring, with her sweatshirt gone; she still wears black jeans, but now her hair falls free over a blue tee-shirt. The teen's made an effort to be presentable today, even if only those who've seen her recently would notice. She sits on the steps of one of the park's gazebos, spinning a penny on the concrete, its sides glinting bright copper in the sunlight.

Although Judah Demsky is usually married to his work, he indulges in the occasional affair with Central Park — a place where he can go to think without being interrupted by the jarring ring of his office phone, or the raucous explosions of chatter from the station's bullpen. He weaves his way down the path with his large, calloused hands stuffed into the pockets of his windbreaker, the collar turned up to protect his stubbly cheeks from the slight chill in the breeze. Although he's deep in thought, the glimmer of the penny causes him to pause just as he's about to pass Tamara's gazebo; dark eyes turn toward the teen, and recognition sparks in them a moment later.

There's something - some chance, some coincidence, or so it appears - that causes Tamara to look up from her game. To look straight at Judah. The girl returns his regard for a moment, her expression caught between two opposing poles - friendly on the one hand, and wary on the other. Nonetheless, Tamara picks up her penny, stands, and tosses it in his direction. "Catch." The moment it's in the air, she retreats just far enough into the gazebo to place the railing between them.

Judah approaches Tamara cautiously, the same way he might approach a wounded animal or a stray cat. No sudden movements, no threatening gestures — his posture is neutral, his stride slow and easy. Whatever he might have been ready to do next, however, is immediately forgotten as that penny comes spinning toward him. In a smooth, practiced gesture, he snatches it out of the air and turns it over onto the backside of his opposite hand. "Heads or tails?" he asks.

Tamara laughs at Judah's question. The wariness doesn't vanish, but it's partially masked by her grin. "Tails," she informs him. "That's easy." After a moment, the expression fades, returning to its previous state. Tipping her head to one side, the teen studies him thoughtfully, almost as if to look through the detective. Waiting to see what he chooses to do next.

Judah lifts his palm off the back of his hand and takes a look at the coin. Sure enough, it's tails. "Good call," he remarks, pocketing the penny as he climbs up the gazebo steps and leans against one of the support beams, careful to keep plenty of distance between himself and Tamara. He doesn't want to frighten her away. "Just killing some time before you head home for dinner?"

As Judah settles in to chat, Tamara does much the same. Over there, apparently, is fine by her. "You did. Most of the time," she remarks, for whatever that answer's worth. Leaning on the railing, she looks out into the park, towards the distant horizon. "Sleep, maybe. After a while. I don't sleep so much when the mirror's clear. There's plenty of other time to kill." The subject of 'home' passes untouched.

"That's a really peculiar way of speaking," Judah observes, though he waits another moment or two before adding a gentle "Tamara," to the end of his statement. "You seem to be doing pretty well for yourself, too. Not all runaways are so lucky." He smiles then, but still makes no move to get closer. "Got a jacket?"

Tamara looks back to Judah as he replies, one corner of her mouth pulling back ruefully. "It's as close as it gets." Normally, anyway. She doesn't react to her name; not even showing any surprise that he knows it. "Luck. Chance. Always some of that." Oddly dark eyes focus on the detective. "Even now," the teen remarks. Jacket? Tamara blinks at the question, giving her arms a quizzical glance as if she hadn't ever given it a thought. No jacket. "Didn't need one," she concludes, shrugging one shoulder dismissively.

"You might," Judah points out. "The weather's fickle this time of year." He reasons that Tamara must have a place to stay; if she didn't, she'd look much worse off than she already does, so he doesn't press the subject. "There are a lot of people who are worried about you, you know. Your parents. Your brother. The entire New York Police Department." That last one might not exactly be true, and it's one of the reasons that Judah is here in Central Park instead of lounging around in his cubicle back at the station. If he hears the name "Sylar" one more time, he's likely to snap; there are so many other cases that he'd rather be working on, one of which is standing right in front of him. "Why'd you leave?"

Tamara shakes her head. She seems quite certain about not needing a coat. "They didn't need to." She folds her arms on the railing and rests her chin on them, quiet, staring out at the park without really seeing it. "Too much risk. The shadows weren't good; don't like them. White and empty, closed. Endless water without the river, nothing changing. Doesn't matter where you are when it's all the same; the way back is lost." Tamara doesn't make clear whether that's supposed to be an answer, or just her thinking aloud in a melancholy sort of way.

It's a lot for Judah to take in all at once, but he's quiet while Tamara speaks, and quiet for some time after she stops. Maybe he's trying to make sense of her words, or maybe he's skipped to wondering whether or not her family has a history of mental illness — it's impossible to say. "My handbook has protocol on this sort of thing," he murmurs finally, "but I don't think I ever read the chapter on what to do about kids like you. You're sixteen, right, Tamara? Just about old enough to make your own decisions." The detective reaches into the back pocket of his pants and retrieves his wallet, which he then flips open. A few seconds later, he's holding a business card belonging to the NYPD between his fingers, though the number printed on the front is a little more legible than the number scribbled hastily on the back. "Still," he adds, "I want you to have this. If you ever need anything, anything at all, you call me. Even if it's just to talk." He offers the card to the teen, arm outstretched. "That's my home number, by the way — not the office. I can't trace you if you use it."

Tamara turns back to give Judah a slightly exasperated look, folding her arms across her chest as she watches him scribble. "It's in the shadows when it's needed. Cards get lost. Float away." But she knows he'll probably be stubborn. So she takes it anyway, turning the card over in her fingers. A crooked, wry grin. "We can read the book if you want," the teen offers, watching him.

"The book?" Judah asks, raising both his eyebrows as he tucks his wallet back into the appropriate pocket. "I don't have a bible with me, if that's what you mean, but I'd like to read with you. Very much." As tempting as it is to reach out and seize her by the wrists, he knows that he shouldn't — and so he doesn't. Instead, he holds his ground, his jaw tense.

Funny how Tamara's eyes narrow. Maybe, might-be… won't be. This time. The moment passes, but that wariness is back in full force as she studies Judah. "Your book," the girl elaborates. "But it doesn't matter." And promptly dismisses. Bracing the card between her fingertips, she idly bows it back and forth. Still /watching/ him all the while. Judah just might get the impression he somehow came close to a wrong move. "More questions than answers, because the answers were wrong. Squares and circles. You can ask if you want; I don't mind."

"The /hand/book." That makes a lot more sense. Judah lets out a short, barking laugh and shakes his head. "I don't have it with me, either, sorry." Sensing that he's walking a very fine line, he pretends to take a passing interest in the trees around them, saying nothing until he's certain that the words coming out of his mouth aren't going to startle her. "Do you mind if I ask what you want me to tell your parents? They'll want to know you're all right."

Pretending doesn't entirely cut it, but it keeps him over there and not over /here/. Tamara can deal with that. She shakes her head a bit when he finally speaks again. "Whatever you want. Going back would be to leave again, or never leave at all. There's only forward, and their forward wasn't the mirror's. Not there, not those. Leaving the edge now does nothing good." When she falls quiet, she gives Judah a pensive look. Considering something. Perhaps some choice of her own.

As Tamara stares at Judah, Judah stares back at Tamara. It doesn't take long before he's feeling vaguely uncomfortable. The last thing he wants is to ruin what little trust he's been able to forge between them, and so he takes one step back and then another, retreating down the gazebo's steps without turning his back on her. "I'll tell them," he promises, though he can't help but ask the teen one last question. "What /does/ do good, Tamara?"

"Walking the edge." Go figure. "One foot on either side. Not here, not there. Hard to balance against the river, but I can. Mostly. Enough. Just enough to see the shadows and still be here." Falling quiet for a moment, the girl blinks slowly. Then Tamara hops over the gazebo rail, joining Judah on the ground. While she doesn't go even a single step closer to him, it seems she might not be done with him quite yet.

Slightly taken aback and desperately trying not to show it, Judah narrows his eyes at Tamara as though squinting might allow him to see her in a different light. It doesn't work. "Tell me about the shadows." This time, it isn't a question — but it isn't a demand, either. No, it's a polite request, spoken so softly that only Tamara can hear. If he's no longer in immediate danger of frightening her away, he's going to make the best of this strange situation.

Tamara tips her head to one side, too-dark eyes turned on Judah but seeming focused just beyond him. "You don't know what you're asking," the girl observes, speaking equally softly, a faint quirk to her lips. "Chances offered, chances taken. Gamble, risk," she muses aloud. A beat of silence, and a conclusion drawn. "How much do you think you want to know?"

The truth is that the detective wants to know enough to bring Tamara home safely, but he can't say this. What he has to say is, "I want to know everything." Judah takes a tentative seat at the very bottom step, his hands resting harmlessly on his knees. His legs are long enough that this pose makes him look a little stork-like, but he either doesn't notice, or he doesn't care about any awkward positioning.

Of course he does. It doesn't take a precog to predict that response. Tamara smiles sadly, and shakes her head. "No, you don't. You only think you do. That way lies madness." It wasn't meant to be a quote; it's spoken more in the manner of one who looks into that abyss all too often. From her pocket, another penny is produced. "When does chance stop being chance?" she asks, tossing this coin his way as well. "Tails," Tamara supplies upon its capture, without even giving him opportunity to prompt her.

This time, Judah claps the penny between two hands instead of snatching it out of the air. At first, he isn't sure what to do with it, but then he settles on turning both hands sideways so that one rests on top of the other. "Tails," he repeats softly before lifting the top hand off the bottom. Even under the shadow that his palm casts, he can see — plain as the nose on his face — that the penny is positioned with the head facing down. When does chance stop being chance? "You had a fifty-fifty shot of getting that right," he says, though he's unable to stifle the unsettled undercurrent in his voice. "That's called a coincidence."

Tamara smiles softly at Judah. "Perhaps." Tucking her hands in her pockets, she takes a step backwards. "Then you choose the odds, next time." The girl turns away, walking through the growing shadows. "Tomorrow," she calls, without looking back. No mention of when, no mention of where. Just… tomorrow.

Tomorrow. Judah can clear his schedule for a Monday; he hasn't used any of his vacation time in years. Watching Tamara go, he feels the perplexed expression on his face settle into a frown. He's no longer a religious man, but that doesn't stop him from praying that he's doing the right thing.

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