A Kiss Is Just A Kiss


alexander_icon.gif helena_icon.gif teo_icon.gif

Scene Title A Kiss Is Just A Kiss
Synopsis Teo and Helena chat near the Alice sculpture in Central Park on All Hallow's Eve. And then Alex gives Teo a scare.
Date October 31, 2008

Central Park

Central Park has been, and remains, a key attraction in New York City, both for tourists and local residents. Though slightly smaller, approximately 100 acres at its southern end scarred by and still recovering from the explosion, the vast northern regions of the park remain intact.

An array of paths and tracks wind their way through stands of trees and swathes of grass, frequented by joggers, bikers, dog-walkers, and horsemen alike. Flowerbeds, tended gardens, and sheltered conservatories provide a wide array of colorful plants; the sheer size of the park, along with a designated wildlife sanctuary add a wide variety of fauna to the park's visitor list. Several ponds and lakes, as well as the massive Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis Reservoir, break up the expanses of green and growing things. There are roads, for those who prefer to drive through; numerous playgrounds for children dot the landscape.

Many are the people who come to the Park - painters, birdwatchers, musicians, and rock climbers. Others come for the shows; the New York Shakespeare Festival at the Delacorte Theater, the annual outdoor concert of the New York Philharmonic on the Great Lawn, the summer performances of the Metropolitan Opera, and many other smaller performing groups besides. They come to ice-skate on the rink, to ride on the Central Park Carousel, to view the many, many statues scattered about the park.

Some of the southern end of the park remains buried beneath rubble. Some of it still looks worn and torn, struggling to come back from the edge of destruction despite everything the crews of landscapers can do. The Wollman Rink has not been rebuilt; the Central Park Wildlife Center remains very much a work in progress, but is not wholly a loss. Someday, this portion of Central Park just might be restored fully to its prior state.

Central Park is a big place. And there's lots of little nooks and crannies, places to go to enjoy the Halloween Eve. What might be most amusing is that over on the north end, there's a charming scultpure, much beloved by the children of the city. It's called 'Alice In Wonderland', and it depicts some of the characters having tea on a set of squat mushrooms. These mushrooms are climbable, and so many a little boy or girl has had a Kodak moment while sitting next to the March Hare, or tugging on the Mad Hatter's hat.

Except tonight, in addition to the Alice cast in bronze, an actual living and breathing Alice, blonde and blue-eyed, in pinafore and bowed ribbon and Mary Janes - is perched on one of the mushrooms. The only awkward thing is that in deference to the cold, she has on her usual too-large men's jacket. Somehow it doesn't ruin the effect - it just makes Tenniel's Alice look more Manhattan hip. Her cheeks are rosy from blush and cold, her lashes black and sooty - once more Madame Alexander's creature.

Apart from the asshattery with reputation and daytime responsibilities, the problem with pre-gaming early in the day is that by the time the real events are emerging, one has inevitably begun to lose things: costume parts, wallets, digital cameras. Thus it's almost fortunate, that Teodoro attended Columbia University's celebrations without the self-decoration tonight, put his Metro ticket and cash in his thigh pockets and, always the paragon of responsibility, agreed to guard a slutty nurse's electronic possessions a short time before she passed out on the floor of the bathroom with a keg floating in the tub beside her.

Some forty minutes later, he walks across the grass with the rolling, ground-eating gait, wind in his ears, collar pulled up against his chin. He walks like a man with a destination. The borrowed camera plays between his hands, small as a wafer of silver. Its lens slides open, a black pupil expanding in the half-dark of the Central Park past twilight. It singles her out among the intractible wrought-bronze smiles and the rabbit's rigid ears. She's a splash of bright— even before the camera flash lights her up, catches her and her unlikely companions in pixels, with a twinkle of a MIDI bell-chime.

"I'll delete it," he says almost immediately, slipping out of the shadow of a crimson-tressed tree. He says it like it's reassurance.

Helena turns in her seated position and blinks at Teo. It takes her a moment to process what he's done and what she's offering. "You don't have to." she says. "I'm pretty sure no one will recognize me or think to link me to other things. Unless it's just god-awful." Far from the case - Helena photographs very well. Unfortunately. "On your way to a party?" Nonetheless, she is prompted to reach out and pat one of the other bronze mushrooms upon which Teo can squat. "You can be my very own caterpillar, minus the hookah."

Teo stays his thumb; there's no noise to signal the image was trashed before he's shutting the little thing down, putting it into the pouch, tucking the palm-sized bundle into his other pant leg. There's a Gallic shrug in response to her question, or the closest to one that the Sicilian man is physically capable of; few of his gestures say absolutely nothing. "One of my TAs got all his roommates to pool funds and rent the whole fucking second floor of a restaurant in Chinatown. Tsingtao beer and spring rolls. Thinking about it."

But it's early yet, or so a University student might think. He comes to sit. Smiles at her. "Well, if you'll let me smoke," he says, though he makes no move to do so. His legs are too long to fit properly; they poke out at odd angles more like a crouching butterfly than the larval stage before. "How are you, Dot?"

"Sounds like a party. Are you inviting me?" She makes a vague gesture, seeming not to care if he smokes or not. She in turn extends one leg, seems satisfied when the ankle pops and resettles it. Her stockings are black and white horizontal stripes. "I guess I'm alright. I could be better. The world could be better. You know?" Helena leans back on the mushroom, pressing her hands to the cool bronze. "What about you? World ending for you anytime soon?"

Teo's chin disappears into the top of his collar as he glances down at her stockings. He likes those. Candy-striped, and she has enough muscle definition to pull them off, unlike some of the slack-thighed anorexics he's seen skittering around in stockings tonight. He lifts his gaze the next moment, forgetting to apologize. His mannerisms generally offend her less than they do most. "You're not old enough to drink," he points out, sitting back. "In other words, si. If you wanna."

The world could be better. In lieu of a verbal response of agreement, he answers her rhetorical question with a flattening of his smile, not quite a frown: he knows. The cold darkens his cheeks, and the wind Dopplers through the treetops, circling the voices of revellers toward them, distant and indistinct. "I don't think so. Not that it cares to warn me. I was wondering where my brother was, though," he says, finally. Teodoro wields segues like he wields hammers.

"The last time I saw him," Helena answers honestly, "He was on top of the Deveaux Roof because he totally used me as one of his portal links. Which is the first and last time your brother is ever going to be inside me in any way, shape, or form." She wrinkles her nose. Yes, she's aware of how dirty that sounded. "But when I met him, he was applying for a job at Piccoli's." A deli in Little Italy, which Teo may or may not be familiar with.

He's seen it. Never eaten there, but seen it, knows where it is, can spell it enough to look it up in the Yellow Pages if not. The look registers on Teo's face bright and as easy to read as the primary colors of a traffic light, that grim, low-browed look that is a young man's way of paying very close attention. "Heard of the place," he says, interlacing his fingers on his lap. Cold on cold. His expression softens as if he just remembered to do so with his face. "Grazie. Did— is he going to call you? How was he?"

"He filled out an application." Helena adds, "Which means he didn't try getting the job under the table, which means he's here legally." Also good news. "We're slowly working him in. I want him to work with Jennifer, actually. What he can do could be useful for one of the projects I'm having her focus on. How are you getting along with Abby?"

A twitch of muscle, Teo's dissatisfaction expressed in the body when he can't quite find the words to explain or validate it. He's been waiting weeks for his little brother to come out of the woodwork. It's kind of funny how you can dread something and be impatient about it at the same time. Ha, ha. Fucking hilarious. Legal issues and PHOENIX associations sorted, and still Romero doesn't want to—

"Ehhhh," he exhales, reaching up to rub the back of his head with a scrape of blunt fingers on short-tressed scalp. The change of subject, shift to business is welcome. "Good. I think. I like her, she has her shit together, good salt-of-the-Earth Americano. Why, did she say something?" Teo puts a parody of social paranoia on his face for a moment. It doesn't last; he's not very good at lacking confidence. "The task should go off without a hitch. Although Cat seems to be busy with other things than hospital records right now." His voice goes wry.

"No, she hasn't. But it doesn't hurt for me to check back." Hearing about Cat, Helena lets out a sigh. "You should have seen her face when I told her to let the whole American eagle thing go. But she's not checking those records like she said she would? She doesn't forget - she can't forget anything. What's she up to?"

A shrug moves through the lean breadth of Teodoro's shoulders, this one as expressive as the last. "Too many Goddamn bird species to keep track of. No need to confuse the populace with disunited symbols, eh? Or we could add flamingos." He glances across the tea party, stares at the petrified tea sitting in its cups. "I don't know.

"She's probably just running a very precise selection algorithm. There are a lot of ailing people to choose from; it can't be easy to pick priorities, and we still have time. She's too smart to be stupid about that." Or much else, he thinks. No; believes. His eyes blink quartz in the lamp-light. "Abby's going to look in on Samir. Eve sends her regards. She's staying with us. Or going with us, however you want to put it. She'll be back next week."

Helena lets out a laugh. "Add flamingos and play crouquet with them." she indicates her costume, it seems she knows the story quite well. Then quietly, "I'm going to see if I can figure out a drop point for me to talk to Claire. Maybe I can talk her back to us."

He might even have known that was coming. Teo had avoided talking about that. Claire. Abby's focus and Eve's secondhand well-wishes; better to talk about the things that are going according to plan than the shit that just blew up in Hel's face, he thought. But the cheerleader comes up, in tones hushed as if by the distended distance that stretches metaphorical between the two estranged friends. He considers her in silence for a protracted moment.

Alexander has arrived.

He might even have known that was coming. Teo had avoided talking about that. Claire. Instead, he'd told her about Abby's focus and Eve's secondhand well-wishes; better to talk about the things that are going according to plan than the shit that just blew up in Hel's face, he thought. But the cheerleader comes up, in tones hushed as if by the distended distance that stretches metaphorical between the two estranged friends. He considers her in silence for a protracted moment.

"The reasons she gave were bullshit," he says, always one to be tactful. "Locking anybody out from guilt by association would be spitting in Cameron's eye. Do you know how to angle it when you see her?" He doesn't say 'if.'

Helena admits, "I don't. I have to think about it more. I have to think about a lot of things more, these days. The only time I get quiet to think is - well, it's few and far between. I'm more confused then people seem to think I am."
THank God, Alex did -not- go out as a Chia Pet. He's in perfectly ordinary clothes - black hoodie, fatigue pants, the usual drill. His one concession to the holiday is that he has a bright blue glow stick strung around his neck like a strange pendant. The firefly light comes bobbing along towards the pair, in time with Alex whistling 'In The Hall of The Mountain King'

"You put up a good front." That isn't disapproval in Teodoro's voice. There had been a few who knew enough about Cameron's past to realize that he hadn't been a lot more than front. Charisma takes the leadership far. He fades thoughtful after a moment. "The only one thing I can see that all those stronzo have was the one thing I didn't think Claire did. You know— anger. Not your kind," if she cares to admit to some distinction. "Hate. Good luck. If there's anything that will bring her back."

He doesn't trail off, he ends the sentence there. He could have said anyone, but that wasn't what he meant, not exactly. Hate has a dichotomic opposite. Teo learned it from the dictionary. He pauses and stares over her shoulder, brow furrowed first in caution and alarm, then crooking to a more exasperated sort of annoyance. "Alexander," he tells her before she turns around.

Helena looks over her shoulder. "Hello, Alex. We're all mad here. Care for some tea?" She indicates an adjacent mushroom on which he might join them. She turns back to Teo. "I don't know. I just see that we need to be doing things, and do my best to make sure it gets done. I think I maybe worse this because I wanted to be a kid again, or at least more innocent, just for a little while." Absently she smoothes her wide blue skirt, her black and white striped leggings and mary janes resting in front of her.

"Is it proper sweet tea?" Al does have to ask, cocking his head at her, before vaulting lightly up to take a seat where there's room on the mushroom. He drops the glowstick down the front of his hoodie, so the glow vanishes. They can see each other well enough, right? He huddles down against the cold, but looks content enough.

Now Teo can feel somewhat less under-dressed. College casual is only creative on 'ween when you verbally announce yourself a serial killer, and really, that's not creative at all. Actually, he's feeling something other than 'less under-dressed' also. Cold. Concerned. Irritated. He takes the lattermost sentiment in his head and turns it about to examine for a few rotations, unsure if it's symptomatic of other things, perhaps just stupid.

"You could come to China town," he offers Hel, after a moment, his voice light with sincerity. "It's only one night, but there's less. —Excuse me a moment." Teo makes up his mind about something. Leans over the table, and aims a punch into Alexander's sternum. Other friends resolve disputes this way.

Helena leans back and watches the proto-brawl in its early stages. "Oh, my." she says, in a mildly toned, Alice-esque fashion. "I'd love to come to Chinatown, actually. I need a break. From everything, kind of." But now there's the prospect of amusing violence, so she shuts up.

Oh, right in the -glowstick-. Al oofs, and promptly begins to bristle, even as there's a dim, spreading glow in the middle of his hoodie. Now he's got glow-juice all over his shirt. "What the -fuck-?" he demands, more outraged and surprised than really hurt. He goes lunging for Teo, however, trying to grab him by the collar.

Actually, if Claire and Helena resolved their disputes this way, there would probably be some kind of ticket sale. Between Alexander and Teodoro, though, there's just a ludicrous quantity of badly-spent testosterone. Also, a widening stain of fluorescent fluid on Al's shirt, a smug sneer short-lived on Teo's face, a moment before he's yanked by the shirt. He scowls. "What you said the other night was fucking stupid. It was so fucking stupid, I don't think even I would've said something like that!" Punching is different. Punching heals wounds. "'There's too many of them to take on?' What kind of shitty argument against terrorism is that?

"'Wait until the fucking population ratio is in our fucking favor?'" He hits Alexander's elbow. He does it wrong, though, and he knows he's doing it wrong, his knuckles aren't pointed right, not to do real harm. "'Use area-affecting weapons?' What kind of psychotic idiota would've stopped and turned around on that fucking argument? That was retarded. Let go of my fucking sweater," he commands irritably, "you're getting bullshit all over it."

Helena watches all this with faint amusement, sort of like they're puppies sprawling at her feet. For a moment, she rather wishes she did have a cup of tea. And then in an affected tone she drawls with an air of boredom, "Why don't you just skip right to the kissing? Don't mind me."

"I mean, we can't go to war against the mass of normal humanity. That's what's fucking stupid, is what," Al retorts. "Nevermind the moral implications, we're outnumbered a zillion to one. I'm not proposing giving up the fight, paisan," he says. "I didn't say anything about area weapons. I'm just saying we have to make it clear we're not a bunch of bloodthirsty retards, like those dumbasses in what's left of PARIAH. They're gonna have the government counter-terrorism guys up their noses so fast their heads'll spin. We gotta be smart, not indiscriminate. ANd normal humans aren't the enemy." He takes Helena's suggestion as an order, perhaps. Because Teo does get kissed, and with evident enthusiasm.

Teo rolled his eyes. Not listening. Not listening! He's twenty-five, Sicilian, annoyed, and therefore more or less incapable of changing his mind, at least for the next ten minutes or so; his wrath doesn't tend to last, not after a good punch and a— "That was still the worst fucking thing you could have said, deficiente," he talks over the other man because he's mature like that. "I'm right and you fucking know it." He glares at Helena and misses the oncoming face until it's, you know.

Right there. He leans back once he recovers his motor function, which takes him longer than it strictly speaking should have had to. His hand in a fist, his face veritably on fire. Al's always been the pale one. The moment's too far off, too close in, for him to fit another punch into it. Instead, his elbow traces a vicious arc into Alexander's nose. He drives himself backward from the impact point, a stumble, an indignant string of Sicilian; somewhere in them, Normally I'm a much better kisser than that, but—

—which is fortunately incomprehensible to either of those two. He points at Alexander's face, wherever it's gone now, calls him a chiaro, snaps something about permesso, then rounds on Hel with a scowl that more closely resembles a Stop sign, if placed in a rather ill-conceived part of Manhattan. "2804 Bower Street. Second floor, it should have—" he waves his hands around. "Green lanterns." That's what his hands were saying.

The Alice In Wonderland statue in Central Park:


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