francois_icon.gif teo_icon.gif

Scene Title 90
Synopsis Despite their best efforts, apocalyptic (inauspicious) happenings can't be kept at bay during a nice night out.
Date May 29, 2011

Some Empty Art Gallery

There aren't a lot of safe havens left in New York, Teodoro discovered, nor well-to-do college friends interested in spending toward yacht group trips. While he'd been hiding among his musty tomes and shiny laptop, the rest of the world has sunken into a confusing disarray of robots (literally) and dire plagues (or something) and political shenanigans (Americans), and by the time he hammered out the first draft of the latest Italian modern fiction novel about the horse and the old madman in the attic full of stolen satellite dishes, he was up a few thousand dollars, then down, and then realized half the fancy restaurants everyone thinks of were closed, a quarter of those that remained had waiting lists that wrapped halfway around the year, and the rest had fallen into lurid disfavor due to shootings, lootings, and political chessgames he couldn't even. He doesn't even.

It's odd how much things change, even before you realize the Ferry's half a lesbian pop star cartel, instead of ex-para/military guys whose histories and tattoos alike have been blanked. Apparently, that shit is so 2010, by now.

So it's ratatouille at an art gallery, having bribed the security guard, who hates the work in here anyway. Some crazy post-modern stuff that offends anybody who resents the very rich, and he did. Video projections cast double-exposed images across the walls, helicopter footage of a woman strolling across town superimposed over a brilliant aspen garden, gulls hanging out among the recursive color and glow pattern of casino lights, giant, bubble-eyed goldfish swimming serenely through the mosaiced windows of a skyscraper, a girl with a xylophone playing a symphony of Monarch butterflies across its keys.

He brought wine!! A red. Francois' favorite. It is so obvious what this is all about but he hasn't said anything about it, half because he thinks he shouldn't have to, half because he's almost embarrassed, a little ashamed, on the edge of wondering about Shoulds and Could'ves, and.

He made ratatouille, even though he'd accused Francois of dozing off halfway through the film. Their table is little and white, between a projection of a sushi chef who's rolling sheet music up with his fish and sculpted wasabes, and a set of lockers with a tiny gymnast flipping and flying all over it. "Do you hate this," he says, putting his chin on his hands, some two-three minutes after the last anecdote he hadn't been properly listening to.

Vaguely, Francois recalls some frustration, a small but heated glimmer of it, when Teo had begged off going out that one evening due to some kind of sorry excuse. Headaches. It had been bulldozed by much more positive, much more flattering emotions and reactions, but he recalled it traitorously when Teo proposed they head out for the evening. And so he'd agreed, and now sits in an art gallery with a curious eye set on a few of the more baffling installations, his jacket shed, wearing a nice shirt, and feeling like several kinds of shit despite the flu medications choked down in the bathroom before he'd gone and collected up his car keys, tossed them underhand to Teo.

It had taken him until his appetite collapsed in on itself to recognise what he was eating, that fusion of France and Spain that is an echoed familiarity, the coastal Mediterranean flavours, and it's a nice touch, like the wine.

"Non," he says, a hand reaching out for his drink, his smile subtle but warm, communicated more in the lines at weary eyes. Alcohol is a bad idea. Alcohol is a great idea. He takes a sip, sets the glass back down. Blinks and feels like there's sand beneath his eyelids. "It's civilisation — good to remember there is still some."

"Enough that Columbia University kids can still waste taxpayer money on these arcane," Teo gestures vaguely at what's all around them. Whimsical, though, and it smells rather nice in here he thought, clean, something slightly, sweetly soapy. White walls, bright colors. "I think the security guard was thinking about moving back to Haiti.

"How about the food? Is the food okay." He isn't sure why he keeps giving his questions the tone of statements, but notices it a few seconds in, which is an overanalysis perhaps preferable to overanalyzing why Francois' own tone seems to be falling into subtler flatlines, and something about his eyes—

Straightening, Teo's jaw twitches around the hysterical urge to self-deprecate and thus, before the other man has even gotten around to answering, probably, there's a big hand closing around the edge of his. Fewer calluses on the insides of Teo's fingers now, but he still fixes up around the house, so there's a scab wicking into the second crease of his forefinger and a leathery quality to the heel of his hand. He realizes what he'd really meant to answer was 'Really? You don't seem to think so,' which would have been even worse.

He congratulates himself for a second or two on not being worse. "Thanks," sounds a little better, "for coming out."

He would be a little like this after work — the shifts weren't long, but intense, and at erratic hours, enough that sometimes all Francois was capable of was letting Teo handle the banter, making encouraging sounds, sometimes forgetting— even after all this time— how English is supposed to work. But he would have the excuse, then, of actual work — lately, Francois has been even less of a presence in the voluntary quasi-terrorism, boating and scouting. Instead, at home a lot, doing some reading, some of it second-hand penned by the man across from him. By rights, right now, he should be wittier, sharper.

Even the tablecloth's whiteness is renewing him a headache. Francois turns his hand in Teo's to conform shape to shape, fingertips edging beneath the cuff of his sleeve. "Don't be silly," he implores, swift dismissal, his voice at a gentle scratch that could be interpretted as intimate. "Thank you for dinner.

"How is this for you?" The question is a true one — Teo seems to be checking the measure of the evening while Francois meanders through it without assumption.

Teo squeezes Francois' hand even though the Frenchman seems to be having difficulty looking at them enjoined on the table. He decides that he isn't going to overanalyze that, either. Everyone gets cold feet.


"Pretty good," he answers and it's still mostly true at this point. Teodoro is aware that he has very nice eyes. That goes a long way toward self-confidence. Sorry, all you ugly people in the world, but it's true. Nice eyes, decent biceps, straight legs, such things are an excellent prophylactic against people backing out of marriage proposals. Really, in anyone else, his internal monologue would sound embarrassingly neurotic. "I got you French food and a ring. It's time for me to give it to you, I think. Avant je fais crise de nerfs." He grins. Starts to get up, clearing his throat, palm peeling off Francois' knuckles though his long fingers stay splayed over his wrist.

That does make him laugh — not at Teo, even, although Francois could point out that technically he paved the way and everything, the heavy lifting, the silver on Teo's hand. He doesn't, choosing to be gracious, which isn't hard, because for some reason he is nervous also, and through the anemic-chill of his skin and ache of lungs, there's a more superficial flutter of something altogether deceptively youthful when Teo is getting up. It's a light sound, stalls out like a stuttering, choking engine even if the worst of it is promptly drowned out by a sip of wine that Francois hopes seems like comedic timing than obviously trying to squash out that rising, scratching, taste of blood.

His hand is cold in Teo's, but he is less conscious of that. Less conscious of his headache, too, out of sheer sprint-like willpower. If he can make it through a few more minutes—

Why isn't Francois saying anything??? Teo wonders but only a little. He begins to sink down onto one knee properly. It's easier when you're the first one. It's casual then and probably going to come off perfect anyway. Good engagements are definitively a hard act to follow. Do same? Do different? More? Less? Obviously Teodoro went with more, but Teodoro Laudani would. He summons a ring out of his pocket in a box, but takes it out with his fingers, a glint of sapphire blue between his fingers and white gold pure and cleanly bright between them.

"Anyway I'm sorry about how it went the other time when you tried to get us out of the house but I was a fucking moron and I figured you were tired of— being in the house after the last couple days which is why this shit is happening. Well I mean not. But. It took me awhile to pick this out. If you don't like it I guess I'm kind of fucked, but I love you and I wanted something you could have on your hand anytime that you weren't worried about people cutting a finger off to— you know. Something.

"I think our lives are fucking complicated and I'm glad I. Have you to get through that," he finishes, and then remembers that Francois' eyes are up there after a moment. When Teo smiles it's like a sun slicing through an overcast sky.

He pulls the Frenchman's hand down. Still-cool metal touches the edge of Francois' finger.

Teo has Francois' attention, unable not to smile like an imbecile, and maybe having no words is a symptom of wanting to listen. But there is an unfortunate point where he stops listening, even if he wants to listen, and maybe also reassure Teo that the only thing ruining Francois' evening is— well— Francois.

His hand twitches in Teo's hand as if white gold has burning qualities on ex-immortals in modern twist on the stereotype, and before the loop of precious metal can make it passed the first knuckle, said hand jerks free of it altogether around when compulsive cough has risen from deep in his chest to his throat, dragging its claws up his windpipe in suffocating, metal-tasting burn. The sounds are sharp, loud, wet, even as he turns away and muffles them against the palm of his other hand. His other braces against the table edge with a rattle of cutlery and makes the wine glass tip wild only just short of spilling altogether.

Hackhackhrgh. He moves as if to get out of the chair, away from Teo.

Halfway through giving the ring, Teo finds himself reversing along the process for no other reason than the hand he's attempting to manually attach ball and chain to is backing away. It happens too fast for neuroticismto kick in, leaves the Sicilian with a visceral lurch of noisy blond confusion, more than anything, as he lifts his head and lofts his eyebrows, gets his face into the insipid-looking beginnings of a query but his jaw falls slack around Francois stumbling discomfiture.

This wasn't that bad. He'd have to have the cold feet equivalent of frostbite, bits falling off and everything, before mistaking whatever's going on now for that. "Babe?" He's up on his feet again in an instant, big hands going out to catch at Francois' arm. It is sweet when Frenchmen try to physically collapse somewhere other than on your head, but that is hardly necessary. He's made of sturdy stuff. Technically, he's made of Sylar. "Francois— Fran— what's—" An arm insinuates it self around the other man's waist, and he tries to palm the ring to cup the other man's face but the angle is fucked.

Tinkle-dink-dink. It circles to a halt on the floor. "What's wrong?"

Sweet, but also vain. Though Francois welcomes the help with one hand clenching steady on Teo's shirt, the other is coming away dilute red, glistening on his palm and blotting his sleeve, staining his teeth, and on the next eruption of choking fit, it comes up deep scarlet — it speckles Teo's encouraging hand, and worse, his chin, shirt collar. A fractional second too late, Francois is pushing him away. More ruby red dots the ground in his wake as he moves to distribute his weight back on the edge of the table, clumsily gripping onto available, fabric napkins, shakily bringing it up to his mouth. Looking at it when it comes away.

Rattling coughing fit dwindled into hacksaw breathing, and then more legibly, I'm sorry, grated out twice, sounding tired, and more than a little adrift. Heat has flooded his skin where once it was fishbelly cold.

That's all wrong, and Teodoro knows it; not even he is vain enough to think that his ring, fallen or not, could possibly have anything to do with this. There's something warm on his face and he can guess that it's the same color as the spatter that he can see peeking luridly out of the half of his hand. Warm. Viscous. Sick. He's holding his breath even before he thinks about holding his breath.

Illogically, talking too. "Let's get you out of here," twisting his shoulder to press into the Frenchman's back. "Let's get you to—" So much blood. He's seen people die. He's almost died himself. The ones he loved, even, bomb-shredded corpses in the tabloids, bullet-riddled labcoats at Moab, terrorists who'd dumped their jugulars out over the ghost's broad steel knife. He steels his arm around the other man's waist, hauling him toward the door. "Hospital.

"Hosp— hospital?" A moonlighting career as a terrorist casts doubt over such assumptions, sometimes.

Blood can be scary, for the people it is coming out of but also for bystanders, particularly when it is spattered on them. Bright, red like a warning. Sometimes it will look worse than it is, other times it will seem exactly as bad as it's meant to be. Francois doesn't put up fight, to being guided away, but his legs work beneath him, one after the other, letting himself list into Teo's sturdier frame as he fusses with the napkin, trying to clean his mouth, his fingers, and calming the rattling scratch in his chest in slower breaths.

He's not 100% certain that if he makes it to a hospital, he'll leave any time soon.

"Home," he corrects, getting his breath back, a hand that's still clean coming up to wind and latch on Teo's shirt. A bodily tug, an effort to slow them that works also as an attempt at reassurance. A muleish lean against the arm bracketing his waist.

— oh God but the ring. Teo stops halfway across the floor, his fingers spasming at his side, feeling ridiculous and foolish but urgent all the same. "I," he says. "Home. But— wait a minute."

He goes back for it. Tries to keep one hand on Francois for as long as he can, bracing his center of balance with his hip, while he stretches back, scrabbling along the floor, long fingers stretch out past the sauce spatter and flipped-over fork to grab at the tiny glint of white gold there—

There. Snatching it up into his palm, the Sicilian's sliding back, suddenly, an arm out to catch Francois by the hip, mid-collapse or tottering vertical still, bracing him with a shoulder. "Home," he says, although there's reluctance serrating the register of his voice. "Fine, but if you keep—"

He leaves a red hand-print scudded across the side of Francois' shirt before his fingers bunch of the fabric. His other arm sliding down, fitting like an inverted safety bar around the back of the Frenchman's knees, lifting. The technicolor light of the projectors swings dizzily in the periphery of the man's vision, ketsup packets sliding haphazardly across the green velvet of a pool table. Ridiculous art.

It's all dark outside, the city lights blurred by the moisture in Francois' eyes first and then the glass of the car's windows. He props Francois up int he passenger's side because he is thinking about his lover drowning inadvertently in his own blood if he settles him across the back seats, and he can't stand that. Won't have that. His hands are white on the steering wheel.

A hand latches onto the handle above the cardoor, head against the crook of his elbow and eyes closed against the motion passing by the windows, and the dark is a comfort. Teo's fingers are locked tight on the wheel and Francois is similarly tense, his hand locked rigid around bloodied napkin. But he isn't hallucinating, he isn't slipping unconscious, and at a midpoint through the drive, symptoms have ebbed enough for him to mutter, "Teo." But it's a muffled down into his sleeve, inaudible, so he lifts his head, blinks seedily, looks at Greenwich Village flooding on by in murky monochrome and smeared lights. Are they speeding? "Teo.

"Sto bene."

They are speeding and probably worse than Francois thinks they are, but Teodoro takes side-streets that there are fewer checkpoints at and they weren't all that far from home anyway— just far enough to make Francois feel like they were really leaving home. It feels too far, as Teo loses count of the number of shrieks he burns out of the asphalt with the rubber of tires. There is probably a silhouette or two flashing through their neighboring windows as they go, but Teodoro doesn't care very much. He gets the door open, a gust of cold air knifing over Francois' cheek before the near door opens.

"I should have called someone before we started driving," he says. His voice sounds almost normal, but he has perhaps seen too much blood over the course of his lifetimes. "Who should I call?" His hand is heavy on Francois' elbow before it's strong, a pale thumb appearing under the edge of the door; no doubt, an instinctive and likely unnecessary prophylactic against whacking his head.

He isn't listening. Francois doesn't think Teo is listening anyway, head resting back against the seat as he feels the car rock under Teo levering himself out and jerking open the near door and jaw twitching beneath the next question, puzzlement as a glaze over bleary eyes.

He latches a hand back onto the arm stuck into the car, anyway, and uses it to lever himself out, standing. Francois has cleaned up some on the way back, save for where blood has dried but not likely to distribute, and for painfully obvious reasons, he won't be kissing anyone tonight — but he does settle his hands to splay at Teo's throat and jaw, as if the younger man were the one in need of steadying. "ArrĂȘter, s'il vous plait. I don't want to call anyone." Wind blows sheer off the roof of the car, and he glances up, the shape of their home. Pulls Teo insistently, and his forehead is pipingly warm against Teo's.

He doesn't personally have a plan after this, disinterested in moving a lot. Teo seems like he has a plan, so that's good.

Ah apparently Francois' fever is such that he is already brain-damaged. :| Teo says something loudly in Italian that merges into French when he realizes a little over halfway through that that's not the language to make himself understood in, variously chiding the other man for his ludicrous notion of hyper-masculinity or whatever, and how is that sensible at all? He can't eat. That could prove to be a problem if the issue is not mitigated by whatever combination of antibiotics and NSAIDs happen to be lying around the house, and assuming that the special medical brain-memories that Francois was installed with aren't frying under the incinerating heat of this—

"Fievre." He trips over the last word, but the heat wafting off Francois' face is unmistakable and pretty terrifying. There is still blood in an ugly smear on his chin, brown now, but that's even further away from his sense of reality than the very real awareness that there's disease behind the almost-kiss that their mouths are aligned at. He hates himself for thinking it, a little.

Another thing he can't wave a gun at and kill. He lifts Francois again, handles him toward the garage door which opens with a scuffing protest under his shoulder, and he's careful as he can be drawing his lover up the stairs.

The bed probably feels cold against Francois' back as the sweater's stripped off in hitchy increments, Teo's broad thumbs and callused palms nicking the thin skin of his hips once or twice before gravity descends and bounces him gently on the springs. "I found a thermometer." It's warm in the room despite the illusion cast by ice-white covers. "I think we should use it now and I'll clean it up again later." He means: you have blood on your mouth, but the words fail him, as if he doesn't mean to insult.

There is vocal, but wordless protest from Francois when he is lifted again, grit-teethed complaint but there is no threat of twisting himself out of the hold, choosing passivity because. Exertion isn't meant to help, and he heard some of that. The chiding.

It seems like no time at all, since they were having a nice dinner, and probably the wine was a bad idea, and then a spike in temperature that was warm enough to make him shiver, and here they are, Francois blinking across the bedsheets making a clear, blank tundra. It's not quite like waking up, but he's finding it more difficult to remember the blur of the last five minutes than it is to study the threads of bedcloth, of higher count than the fabric on the table. This is better, here. His hand creeps across the sheets, and lifts. Fievre.

"Fevers regulate themselves," he says, and he turns into the pillow to cough. There is no eruption of dilute-red this time, that Teo can see. "Rarely do they need interference. Healing is warm too. Give that to me." The thermometer, he means. "Water." Go get some, he means. In a glass, possibly.

"Fine," Teo says, setting the thermometer carefully to Francois' mouth. It is not a gentle choice of word but he can't very well help that. He wants to ask if Francois had been feeling poorly before they had gone out, and why he'd decided to go out anyway, but those are silly questions.

Instead he almost hears his father's voice in the mutter soundtracked over his shuffling feet, moving away from the bed, but faltering with the haste to return. "We shouldn't have gone out tonight if you were feeling bad. It was a little cold out tonight and I had my window rolled down when we went. That probably made matters worse, no matter how much faith you have in your resilience, and I have a lot of faith in your resilience." Shouldn'tve. "I should've noticed you were sick." Real anger there. Pointless— anger. Water hits glass, and his fingers squeak against it, cleaning away fluoride.

He's back with the glass in a blink, his weight sinking the mattress springs, a warm bulk against Francois' thigh. "I don't know why we don't have two televisions. I'll get another one for up here, or I guess we could use my laptop. I'll. This is so," he gestures idiotically with the hand not occupied by waterglass.

For five minutes, Teo has the stage, unless Francois wants to splinter the device planted between his teeth and beneath his tongue. So he listens, or doesn't listen, concentrates mostly on being still and quiet as the seconds tick by. His leg nudges against Teo, but not to urge him away.

When the stalk of glass is taken out, he looks at the temperature, brow furrowed. It's not into the stratospheres of panic, but high enough for him to make a face at it, not even at the slimy streaks of blood he palms away before offering the item. "I've been drinking too," he reminds, raspily, lazily pulling himself up to take the glass of water — two sips to wash away the coppery taste of drying blood, and the rest of it to hydrate himself, which is responsible, unlike going on a date. Before the water is gone, he presses it to his forehead for a moment, relishing the cool, before lying back. "We use the computer anyway," he reminds Teo, looking up at him.

"Non essere pazzo." Don't be mad. He can still appeal to Teo in Italian, after all. "I knew what you were doing. I wanted you to."

Teo does the fish-mouthy thing for a couple seconds, syllables that rise and fall without finding proper vocalization. He brought tissue too, a wad of it, and starts to mop at the edge of Francois' jaw. Maybe his throat is tight or something. Teodoro Laudani doesn't usually have difficulty talking. "«This is inauspicious,»" he offers instead, weakly. French.

It's crustily brown, by the time he draws the folded tissue paper away. Furrows it with his thumb and scrunches it in his palm, lets himself slouch over Francois' hip, but the Frenchman has borne the full brunt of the Sicilian's weight before, and then some. This isn't it. The fact that arcane influenzas don't immediately induce osteoprerosis-like symptoms is entirely beside the point. "If this is. If this is that—

"If this is what they've been talking about, its course. What will it be? Can you remember?

"Mais—" his eyes shift away, go dark as they slide out of the trajectory of the light. His knuckles peak white on the bedspread for a moment. "«But if it hurts to talk, don't.»"

It does, a little — that's one of the shitty things about coughing. So Francois obeys for a few seconds, which is in part thanks to being a little horrified that blood is still being dabbed off him. Off his face, even. That isn't attractive.

So he doesn't suppose that when he smooths fingertips up Teo's arm that it is in anyway ~sexy~, but maybe it's soothing, and also he just wants to touch. "Intermittent fevers, flu symptoms — nausea, a cough. The fevers can come to a crescendo, you remember. Ability negating, in Evolved, but the crossover instead seems to induce anemia also. Effects blood pressure, makes it hyperactive. It shouldn't last more than a month before the virus finishes, and the body recovers." He's obviously read about it — whether because he knew or because the headlines said something about a 90% mortality rate and he got paranoid is left to speculate over.

He shivers, despite outward warmth, and his hand drops to find Teo's. "Did you find it? The ring."

"'F course." Teo shifts almost imperceptibly but the springs whine very faintly through the dense layers of padding and warm blankets. "I have it in my pocket for later."

90% mortality rate. He'd read that too. 90 is an awfully large number in many proportions, of the years a man might live or marks on a paper.

"And the body recovers," he adds after a moment, staggered agreement. He rolls over Francois' legs, a deceptively cautious distribution of force, then pushes himself up across the sheets to rest against the curve of Francois' back and shoulder, his long fingers tapping their way over Francois' belly, tugging, evening him out so the ailing man is lying flatter. See? It's almost companionable. They've shared a bed this way almost every night these past few weeks, give or take variations in configuration.

Teo isn't coddling his lover into proper sleep at all. "I'll buy some ice for if the fevers get really bad," he says. "And find some anti-inflammatories. You should sleep before the coughing comes back."

Teo said it was inauspicious. Really, it's perhaps the opposite — in sickness and in health being a clause in the collective agreement later down the line. But that's if you're going to be optimistic. Still. Francois complies easier this time, lying back as urged, settling into the mattress and the warm body behind him. Clammy, his fingers widn with Teo's, able to be tugged loose without disturbance in a merciful fifteen minutes of half-sleep.

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