A Thousand Words, Part III


francois_icon.gif teo_icon.gif walter_icon.gif

Scene Title A Thousand Words, Part III
Synopsis Long journeys have endings, as do extended vacations.
Date Spring 1954

Camélas, France

It is unrealistically beautiful out here. California in 1954 had been something rather exceptional already after the seasonal drear and ambient socio-political toxins of living in New York City in 2010, what with the cacti growing in the cafe gardens and the lambent gold of the desert stretches between highways in the crisp warmth of early drought season, but this— it's almost like home.

"Mediterranean weather is like this," he tells the red-haired man walking beside him. Sedge nips at the hems of his pants, and so he shifts his course back closer to the middle of the road. Despite the lilt of the local topography and the violent striation of rock formations beyond, the asphalt is smooth, new enough or merely well-maintained, but irregular at the edges; not the sort privvy to a great deal of heavy traffic. "It was really similar in Sicily where I was growing up, although obviously we cluttered things up with more metropolitanism. But the air smelled like this. Lots of sun, some salt, sea, almost citrusy. I've always wanted to visit Spain.

"I figure it'd be almost like home, except that they get more sunlight than any other part of Europe." He ventures around a stone, and then realizes that there's one that trapped itself in his illogically heavy winter boot. His coat lays heavy over his arm and sweat has gathered an army of tiny saline beads at the base of his neck. There is a dirt smear on his cheek and his beard is getting fuller, minute details that accumulate to make him more and more out of place in the late Spring of the Pyrenees-Orientales. "It's the kind of place I'd want to raise kids, except then the kids wouldn't know jack shit by the time they needed to be grown up. So a vacation place, maybe."

Nearer now, the houses straighten up handsome coats of paint. White. Red rooftops, all of them. In the meadows between gapped trees, there are fences in some moderate state of repair; difficult to tell whether they're merely a territorial demarcation or supposed to keep livestock in, predators out. Powerlines bound gently in the wind.

The truck taking a gaggle of a family by slows a bit to level five pairs of eyes on them, briefly. A shouted: BONJOUR.

Walter raises his hand in a wave. Regrets it an instant later when pain scissors through his arm, originating from the gauze bandage taped to his shoulder beneath the black cotton of his wifebeater. Like Teodoro, he isn't wearing his coat — it's draped over his uninjured shoulder instead, and the sunlight reflects off the leather to give it a texture like snakeskin even though it isn't. He's broader than his father who doesn't know he's his father, arms both thick and long with sinewy muscles that swell with tension when they move.

The young man is in good shape, and where he comes from you almost have to be. A beetle tattoo with an iridescent carapace flashes green on what's exposed of his back — a junebug — and it's not the only ink he has on his body. A thick but ornate band with a celtic design in black encircles his right bicep, and there words written on the inside of his arm in a language that isn't English, though his injury has him holding it too close to his body for Teodoro to get a good look at it.

"Where would you?" he asks, continuing on, and he does a good job of pretending to have only a casual interest in the other man's answer. "Wanna raise your kids?"

They give each other space, out here. The houses do. There is an abundance of it beyond, too, in rolling green hills, thicker forests, mountain ranges. Possibly, even, you could imagine that someone who was raised here might write ridiculous patriotic things in a journal, once upon a time, or do silly things like fight in wars in the name of a country that draws its lines around this terrain. The house that they come up on is suitably bigger than others, demands more of that space, with beaten dirt all the way up to where the doors are flung open and wide.

If sketchy words and lines on a receipt are meant to indicate anything, this would be the building they are looking for, though its openness advertises it as something more public and shared than a residential home. There call it a chambres d'hotes, here, the French equivelant of a bed and breakfast, translating to room of the host. It's big enough and humble enough.

And there is a woman in a floral dress, hair pinned in economic swoops out of her face, half-bowed into the back of a parked car as she pulls out groceries, bags of string and paper, and does not notice any other time travelers gracing her with their presence.

The Sicilian is quiet for a few long moments measured out in the scratch of his stride, considering that. "Not on the front lines, but close enough so the kid could see as they get older," he says. A beat. "As he gets older." Walter, he means. "I guess they call that the 'home front,' in English? New York is the wrong place, I think. It's not just about surviving, but if a kid's really going to know how to live— I think security is an important part of that. Not about the complete absence of danger of some bullshit like that. But not having to make the hardest decisions too early. Not growing up too fast, becoming too cynical.

"Knowing how to love with all the 'despites' and 'becauses.' Calculate risks, to have the confidence to 'try anyway,' whether that's to learn the piano or approach a woman. Or save the world," but he sounds annoyed at this; he doesn't want any child of his to have to go and save the world. "All that comes from knowing how to find a safe space. I ruined that for my brother once." That latter statement has an unhappy, uncomfortably cold weight to it, but it's lightened slightly by a lilt of distraction; the Sicilian's eyes roving ahead, squinting to spite the sunshine. Hey, a woman. HEY. A woman. No, calm down, calm down, Francois surely didn't marry every woman in history between now and the present.

Surely. "That's probably Madame Dupont." He lifts his increasingly bristly chin to point with it. "Possibly Corinne herself. You speak French?"

"Oui," Walter answers. "«So do you.»" His response is delayed by his body's natural response to Teodoro's words; he has not only an intellectual reaction but a physical one as well, his gut tightening and the corner of his mouth slipping sideways into a lopsided frown. What parents want for their children is not always what they get.

A glance at the back of Teodoro's head yields nothing about his emotional state, so there are no quiet offers of support disguised as a joke or facetious insinuations about Francois' promiscuity, though he can probably be guess. He'd be anxious too if he was in the other man's position.

Has been, almost. Once. It ended badly.

He does not ask him if he wants him to go over there and talk to her, maybe assuming that he wouldn't have inquired about his French if he didn't. "Excusez-moi," he says loudly instead. "«We're looking for a friend of ours. Can you help us?»"

Corinne— because in fact, it is she, dressed in sensibilities that are minorly old fashioned even for the fifties— straghtens her posture with her arms full of market things, and despite the fact that time is stamping its marks in crows feet patterns at her eyes, an engagement ring glitters on her finger. Head scarf now loose around her neck, she glances from Walter to Teo with distanced interest, eyes lingering on the latter for a few seconds before switching back to the one who had addressed her.

"«That depends if I know your friend,»" she states, logically enough, but with a kind of friendly, disarming smile on the rail of rapid fire French. Teeth white, lipstick red. "«And if you are going to help me take my things inside.»"

Teo looks down at himself automatically. Up again. He does not think he looks like the kind of foreign stranger one wants around one's delicate lady self, and that's only a little bit about the accumulated dust of walking around fucking everywhere. "Il s'appelle," he starts, before he is T-boned at the intersection by a truckload of oh shits about the Francois' dozens of alises down the— ages. The Sicilian rights himself out in a second or two, but it's probably conspicuous to anybody of passable intelligence anyway, that momentary scramble to equilibrium. "Francois Allegre," he finishes.

"«Fastidious diary-keeper, among other things.»" Is that helpful? Maybe he shouldn't have said it. Maybe she'll think he works for Volken. M— "«I was told he might be staying here. Again.»" There's a slightly mechanical upward hiccup of his hands to help receive groceries. "«My name is Teo.»" He makes a gesture out of pale eyes and expressive brows, both of which remain so despite the smudges of travel and the sun beating down brightly about all their heads. "«This is Reynard.»"

"«I'm Reynard,»" Walter confirms unhelpfully. What is helpful is the way he follows Teodoro's lead to help Corinne with her groceries, though his attention is more on the house looming in the background and its windows than it is the car or its trunk's contents. They didn't come here for milk and eggs.

The wink of her engagement ring has him looking vaguely worried, and it's not an expression he wears well. Makes him look nauseous instead.

(In fairness, he is.) Perhaps wisely, he leaves the majority of the talking to Teodoro and occupies himself with the shuffle of his feet.

Suddenly, Teo is being squinted at, Corinne with the kind of startled if analytical stare that comes from being presented with evidence in the flesh of some mythical creature that she had only sort of believed in. This is at a mid-point, with a paper bag in limbo between them, something that doesn't contain any fresh produce because she can probably get that cheaper and fresher somewhere nearer. It crinkles as she finishes pushing the item into Teo's hands, her eyes still made into suspicious slits. And she doesn't look at Walter.

She doesn't know, personally, the name Reynard.

And then smiles again. "«My lessons were not entirely useless,»" she says with some enthusiasm, for all that this might fall meaningless on the ears of either Americanly dressed man before her, though she seems to expect them to agree. "«I had almost given up, you know? The likeness is there, but— »" A hand snags out to nudge Teo's bristled chin over to observe the unmarked corner of his mouth. "Mm," comes along with her hand retracting as swift as it had gone out. She isn't sure what to make of that.

He'd always been drawn with scars. Her mouth is opening to say more around when Walter's perusal of the house's face betrays movement at an lower window, approaching stairwell, to do the right thing and help out hostess after the killing of her car engine, then long delay means she might be struggling to bring in her haul.

"«I think I can help,»" Corinne meanwhiles, smile crooked.

No alarm in her eyes, no grief. OK, no need for Teo to flip out too early he only needs to do so roughly about right on time, the present moment occupied with the act of juggling vegetables against the front of his too-dense winter shirt and above the fold of his coat. The hand on his chin does not go unfelt but it does go oddly unacknowledged, for a man who's probably trained in the martial arts, and other disciplines that hold that having your face grabbed by strangers is unacceptable terms without reprisal. He can smell basil from the bag and vanilla from her hands, though. That's nice. She's nice. Too nice to grab and shake and demand where his boyfriend is.

"«Is he hiding?»" nevertheless has the rough edge of annoyance to it, sharper than the grout cleaner arguments, pettier than their stiff-legged circling about Teo getting himself kidnapped by the Institute and have his mind recopied or whatever. "«We were, in fact, talking about the weather on our way up but it hasn't exactly been a short and casual venture. He should be aware that I'm looking for him. And— if there's anything else to carry, I will; Reynard's arm is a little sore.»" Deflation in the space of seven seconds, his fingers prodding crinkly wells into the bag's brown paper. He doesn't mean to sound ungrateful, it's just.

His scruffy jaw shuts with a faint click and a duly self-deprecating shift of his stare. "Excusez-moi."

His face is a little sore, too. There's some bruising under his eye that's more obvious the more light shines on it, and the piece of tape he wears across his nose is not particularly encouraging either, but Walter doesn't complain. "Let me take that," he suggests, and regardless of Teodoro's answer he is stealing the paper bag away from his father. Maybe his pride is a little stung by the fact that someone has drawn attention to his arm. Or maybe the glimpse of movement he spies indicates to him that Teodoro will be needing his for something else very soon. Presumably not for shaking somebody.

That's the hope, anyway. "«I'm not a cripple,»" he assures them both, and if to prove his point, hefts the bag against his chest. Hides his wince. "«You want it in the kitchen?»"

It's a strange sort of dichotomy — Corinne is both gladly expectant of Teo's response, and also irked, inexplicably. Maybe on Francois' behalf, or simply her own, in a kind of spectator avid reader sort of way. She's listened to far too many wine-fueled retellings to be dismissed as an obstacle. Despite this; "Monsieur, «you can tell him what he should be aware of,»" is a little, well, sassy, hands planting on her hips.

But verbal slap fights don't come to be before a guest of the country house is finally stepping outside with the sort of guilty haste that indicates he should have done sooner for reasons to do with helping out a lady as opposed to Teo's arrival. Francois hasn't been doing anything important — maybe he should thank Hiro for the extended vacation if it proves to be one, instead of retirement — and thus bears no bruises. He never threw out the black and kevlar of the last time he and Teo had briefly seen one another, but he isn't wearing it now — brown slacks, white shirt, wearing shoes out of politeness than requirement.

At sign of movement, Corinne glances, then flicks a hand in his direction, where Frenchman is stalling a couple of steps and then freezing mutely (uselessly, if you asked Corinne) when he blinks and narrows his focus on one of the two men, the one he recognises, chiefly, with a sort of guarded hope. "La cuisine, s'il vois plait," she tells Walter agreeably.

Though accustomed to antiquated French sass, Teo nevertheless looks surprised at hearing it from this one, brows shot up and mouth :Ved around the beginning of some easy retort, no real edge or malice in it, I WOULD IF I HAD THE DIRECTIONAL FLOW OF CHRONOLOGY TO EXPLOIT but then there are feet coming and silly Reynard is going to utterly fuck up his arm, and the Sicilian wheels around and stares.

And then stares some more for a long few seconds, studying the Frenchman's face, the registration of feeling on it, manner, the hold of his shoulders [and that he isn't obviously, openly armed] [this time] and things that would take a few seconds to process properly if Teo was willing to let those few seconds span long enough. Instead, he marches his inconceivable snowboots across the ground, no longer feeling the heat venting out of the weave of his shirt when his arms pop open and cover up the white of the Frenchman's shirt with the grimy blue of his sleeves.

At least Francois is hefted a few inches off the floor, physical cooperation permitting, moved out of the way to allow Corinne and Reynard their course to the kitchen. Wherever that is. Whatever.

Satisfied and maybe a little smug, Walter ducks his head, makes a point to avert his eyes from the couple and readjusts his grip on the bag with an audible crinkle of brown paper. When he first saw his father, Teodoro was trying to subdue him. The only instinct he experienced then had been to fight. When he first sees Francois, he makes a very conscious decision to keep that red head of his down out of some ridiculously obscure fear that he might somehow be recognized even if, on an intellectual level, he understands that the chances of this happening are about as good as his taking sweet little Corinne to bed with that engagement ring on her finger.

He isn't even going to try, okay?

Wordlessly, he disappears into the direction he assumes the kitchen is in, and he's more motivated than Teodoro is to find it.

Physical cooperation doesn't so much as permit as it the simple binary opposition of resistance, of which there is none, from Francois. Unable to really conjure that up, or even receptiveness, the deer in the headlights getting hit by the truck. This one has the right scars — bitten ear, ribbon ripple flesh low on his throat — and a distinct lack of twitchy paranoia, and his hands close around fistfuls of winter jacket when feet clumsily find the ground beneath them again. Francois blinks unseeing past Teo's ear, at the blur of a redheaded man headed inside, and Corinne on his tail.

"Teo," he says, because he can say it. Maybe. He folds himself closer and firmer against the younger man, shoulders up, before tipping back a second later to better look at him, hope rewarded keeling off into some shock. Relief will probably only set in when he is breathing New York City air, circa 2010. Give or take a year.

Francois wrote a lot of letters, before he settled on drawings. Most of them can be summed up with what he does settle on to say: "I've missed you."

Teo turns them around once and then schlumps acknowledgment of gravity, plants a fat kiss on one of Francois' cheeks, then one between his eyes, his nose like a lump of heated charcoal pressed up on the Frenchman's face for a moment before his beard roughs down, scrubbing, eskimo-style or the affection of a dog. There's no specific check conducted to confirm the familiar scars, or questions drilled at Francois' overlapping memories to verify identity, and maybe that's just like Teodoro as well. Memories can be bought and sold, scars regenerated or remade. He seems instead to prefer convincing himself with color and texture, indefinable details that might only really exist in the vanity of his own impressions. Corinne and Reynard are off dealing with important celery or whatever. Whatever.

"I feel like it's been a long time," he says. It shows on his face. More lines. The scraggle. Mostly things that can be trimmed and washed away, restored with regulated meals, but it has startled his analogues like it might disquiet Francois, eventually, that he looks more and more like Ghost. "Months I guess. Fucking months; I didn't even know how I was going to get to you if I figured out when you fucking were but—" his fingers go to the Frenchman's ear, pinching flat on the velvety pip of skin around the cartlidge. Then he kisses Francois on the mouth.

In mimicry, there are things Francois is trying to discern through tactile sensaton alone, about which Teo this is supposed to be, but faith and study in kind tells him, he imagines, what it is he needs to know. His hands have traveled up as far as Teo's jaw, thumbs running along the bristled slopes from chin to ears, eyes squinching shut beneath kisses to open again and blink at words. At details. Shadows beneath eyes, cheekbones a little more emphatic. Lines. He feels bad for Teo, suddenly. How long has it taken— ?

Until he's being kissed, then he feels better for both of them, which is an improvement. Months. His arms wind around Teo's shoulders, hand gripping a wrist like one does in a chokehold except the wrong way around. "Je suis desolee," he says, once the kiss is done, although not done enough with his brow now pressed to Teo's, embrace tight. "«I wrote letters.» Details, but sometimes he'd send them back.

"How did you get here?" This is almost laughed, for all that it's a serious question — gladness, love, these things inspiring a sudden smile, a hand sinking around to grip onto jacket lapel. He can kill Hiro later.

"Reynard," the Sicilian muffles into the shoulder of his lover's shirt. This is nice. So nice— the way Francois smells, the feel of his arms, the eloquence of vastly oversimplified sentiments. The urge to give the older man a sound shaking diminishes. Nice, and he usually hates that word. Maybe it isn't real at all, though that'd be cynical to think. His arms tighten a little, perhaps momentarily impeding Francois' ease of breathing, before a self-deprecating grunt allows the man a few extra inches of circumference. "«He has Hiro's ability, I believe. A fact we're both sworn to secrecy on, if you want to go home.»"

It isn't a real 'if' but it occurs to him after he said it that the Frenchman might take it that way. Might? He looks hale, whole. There was a prophesy of the future that said he could stay that way. With— someone else, admittedly, but a Sicilian has license to wilfully ignore that minor detail. He just smiles though. Very suddenly, like someone just twanged the cords of sinew in his jaws. Then, blankly, belatedly processing the inside of the house at the same time, "Abigail's going to kill me."

If? and some variant of who the fuck is Reynard? war for prioritisation, but it's disarming smile such easy reference to people impossibly far away that smooths some anxiety-ruffled feathers. "Oh? Why should she do that?" is muttered, still due to proximity, although slowly Francois is also relaxing his embrace, allowing for space, without actually breaking contact. Like Teo is a sort of magical anchor to where he wants to be— and he is, in his own way— and should he suddenly be tugged all the way through time to break surface in 2010, Francois can come with because he's taking Teo's hand in his own.

Easing fingers between fingers, a squeeze. He's had too much time to think to still have the vanity to ask, are they worried about me? and surely he will find out for himself. If he— "I won't tell anyone. I want to go home." Delivered as a pledge, gentle emphasis.

There's a grin. Bright white against the faint sunburn of Teo's face, clean teeth despite that his breath is faintly stale from having travelled through time a bunch lately. At least it doesn't reek of alcohol any more.

'Who is Reynard' should have been answered by an extraordinarily well-cued appearance of the injured redhead sweeping out of the doorway, but since there is celery, that leaves Teo and a certain quiet pleasure that the Frenchman does want to come home. He could probably guess at the quandaries of Francois' ego if he were thinking about anything besides that whatever soap he's been using suits his skin chemistry rather well, and the earth colors his natural palette, and oh, he is wholly for three or four minutes or maybe—

days without flaws. Getting kidnapped through time will get you a little bit of slack. He squeezes Francois' little hand and gets around to not staring insipidly into his own miniaturized green-tinged reflection in the other man's eyes after some conspicuous length of time. "Good," he says, lamely.

Yes. Oui. Good. Bon. Francois has his own stupid smile going by then, interrupted when he brings Teo's hand up to kiss his knuckles, rises up the necessary inch or two to do the same to the unscarred corner of Teo's mouth— either to celebrate the lack of damage there or because he's just used to kissing there— and then breaks a step away. Clinging still to the other man's hand, Francois supposes he should get some things over with before he can get out of here, this idyllic little retirement haven. Like meeting Reynard, making the same pledge but in reverse, maybe—

Thanking Corinne. Helping her unload her celery. Even if in Francois' experience, time travelers are usually exempt from these niceties and why shouldn't he be too. He tugs on Teo's arm, to lead the way towards further inside the house.

The grip on Francois' waist tightens, which makes walking difficult, before conceding to attach itself to Francois' hand instead. Teo seems content, for once, to be led. It is refreshing, after having gone so long with such few and strained leads. To be able to follow someone who knows exactly where he's going. To be able to follow Francois, not through time and space and harrowing clues, but down a hallway and things. "I went to California first," he informs the back of the Frenchman's head. "I met another you. The wrong you. I said some things I probably shouldn't have.

"Were you here the whole fuck'n' time?" He quickens his stride a little. Probably bangs his hip into the endtable. The kitchen door opens up, shedding more sunlight than the ambient afternoon that seems to pervade this house in a way that's — nice too, instead of provincial, even to his city boy sensibilities. "Is this where fucking Nakamura dropped you?"

In the kitchen, Walter is playing a game that involves puzzling out where things go without having to ask Corinne. Cupboards open and close. Paper rustles. His progress is delayed by a secondary challenge, which is rearranging the contents of said cupboards to accommodate the newest additions.

The tune he is humming under his breath sounds suspiciously like the original Tetris theme. A tin of powdered chocolate mix is turned between his hands and slipped into the space he created by turning a box of risotto onto its side and then stacking it on top of some shortbread biscuits.

"I liked the one of Delilah the best," is his contribution to the conversation, and not entirely on topic, "but you didn't make her look mean enough."

The silent other game going on consists of Corinne worriedly eyeing Walter's attempts at creating storage that doesn't have gaps in it, but there is also a glance sneaked on over to Francois and Teo, yet another placement of kinds that is out of her hands now. Probably slightly more important than risotto and biscuits, but not as much her priority. She's opening up a box of teabags, and shaking them into a glass jar, her back turned to the three men.

"Not the whole time, non," Francois is saying, his hand remaining latched around and through Teo's, dare Little Italy to try and break it before he does. "He dropped me on the beach of Normandy, and then took me to Paris on my request, geography being less of a concern to him, apparently. You can go anywhere from Paris. I came here." If it had been part of a plan, he doesn't brag about that — he isn't, honestly, sure if it was. Or just instinctive, homewards migration.

He flicks a look to Reynard, now, the comment giving him obvious pause before breaking an uncertain smile. "I have never seen her stern," is facetious apology. He offers out his other hand to shake. "You are Reynard, then. Merci beaucoup, for your help."

Spilling color into the shadow of the hall, Teo looks better already. Some color to him that has nothing to do with being ruddy from the exertion or shunted too abruptly between the sunless chill of Manhattan winter and the laser-eye of Mediterranean summer. He is still smiling. Not as insipidly as he was earlier— no teeth showing at least, and his eyes aren't bulging dreamily glazed over immobile in a haze of fixated joy. He's mostly here now, peering around Francois' head, resisting the urge— if only barely— to set his chin on the top of the Frenchman's shoulder.

"I made him promise already," he says. "And you should really not be carrying all that shit around." A flicker of consternation crosses his fair features upon realizing, somewhat too late, that Walter going all psycho domestic in Corinne's cupboards, and that has nothing particular to do with the fact that he's leaving gaps. "Not to rush you, either. You should— here, let me help wi—" but that would require breaking Francois' grip. Possibly. Potentially.

Workable-around with him towing Francois across the floor, reaching over to appropriate the next item. He stands there gripping it for a moment, then abruptly swivels his head to look at Corinne. "Thank you," he says. "I owe you— I really owe you."

"Then you aren't watching her closely enough," Walter says, taking Francois' hand in a firm shake. "She's a banshee," which would be an insult if there was anything sincere about his tone. There isn't. He saves that for when he swiftly adds, "You're welcome," and returns the older man's smile with a ghost of his own. "For a Frenchman named Francois, you have less of an accent than I expected."

He relinquishes the contents of the bag to Teodoro, not because he's incapable or because he wishes to humour him, but because old habits die hard. When your dad tells you to do something, you do it. In this case, it's letting him help even if he insisted on bringing the bag in by himself.

He releases his hold on Francois' hand. Pretending to meet someone for the first time takes Effort. "I hope he's talking t'her," he says of Teodoro. "Because she's the one feeding you and making sure you don't waste away into a rattly bone sack. All I did was play catapult."

If Francois is truly worried about being left in history, possibly he should be holding onto Reynard's hand. As it stands, he is fine with the current arrangement, stepping leftwards out of obligation so that Teo can do things like. Stack groceries. Food that will be dust and rot by the time they are where they want to be, he wants to point out, but that would be rude to Corinne. Currently, he's just studying Walter's face.

"Ah, oui. Too much time your side of the world, I think. But also not enough," Francois excuses, before he studies Teo's profile for a moment, looking back to the redhead by the time he is quizzically repeating a thing he missed a second ago; "Californ— ?"

Corinne clears her throat some, a delicate reminder than everyone is speaking anglaise in her kitchen. "«De rien,» monsieur. «I'm just glad you exist after all — so much so that you do not even have to pay his rent.»" Not only because she doesn't think American dollars from the future would be more or less useless to her too, says a sparkling smile. She flows forward a step to take the packet of brown sugar Teo was holding, and go to fill the appropriate container with it too.

"Is that how you found this place? The other me?" is needling, but gently so, Francois' hand comfortable in Teo's.

"Oui," Teo says, in answer to many things. It is nice to be able to YES now, after so many months where the whole bleak world of emo seemed determined to pelt him with No's. "«I am real. And yes, that's how I found you.»" The package he'd been holding in his hand tilts and stretches a little, clumsily, in the clasp of his fingers, but he hoists it aloft and stows it into a higher shelf. He suspects Corinne is going to move it anyway. Probably she'll have to scoot around damn near everything in the cupboards to make them fit nicely and be generally accessible to her needs. And those of her fiancee.

Or whoever's supposed to be living here. "«You're a pretty good catapult.»" That last word is volunteered in English because the Sicilian isn't sure what the French for medieval siege weapons are. He flashes Walter a wide grin. "«Gentle landings and perfect aim.»" He doesn't elaborate further, and is too discreet to eye Corinne, but she can probably guess, anyway. What else would catapult be a metaphor for? Catapult was a rather ungainly metaphor to begin with, granted, but.

Another can, a second, and then Teo is surveying the rest of the items. Bit difficult having only one hand, and he does. Some discomfort in the glance he answers Francois with sidelong. "«I guess we were both talking about each other a. little.»"

Walter leans back against the counter, his arms folded across his chest, one uncomfortably higher than the other. He lifts one leg, crosses one booted foot behind the other with his heel raised and toe bent. It's the kind of posture a person adopts when they're pretending to be more relaxed than they really are. He's both anxious to return to his time — good god is he already calling 2011 his time? — and not.

Resting is nice. Not worrying about his ability winding its way out of his control and dropping them back in the time that really is his time is nice, too, and that's less likely to happen the longer they stay, but the longer they stay, they longer he's away. This shouldn't be an issue for someone like Walter.

Then again, this shouldn't have happened, either. "And if Nakamura tries t'get rid of you again? What then?"

"I hope that I care more about trying to remain where I am than he does about trying to keep me here," Francois says, in English, if only because the question posed as such. Standing patient still and attached to someone who is moving around, conceding a few necessary inches here and there, but he'd really like to be home and remaining possessive. Like the sheer power of Corinne's domestic kitchen might lure them all into a situation of which there is no return.

At least no one is cooking. "I will think of something," is quieter. One imagines he had a long time to think it through. And he has. "Perhaps hold the entire timeline hostage if I must, ah?" Francois remembers that Hiro cared about that.

"«Are you staying for dinner?»" This from Corinne, who needs to know these things on a business level, as well as a personal offer, head tilted birdishly when Francois declines to answer.

No. Yes? Teo's mouth opens and his stomach makes a monosyllabic liquidly remark, drawing a brief glance downward, and he has to clear his throat. "«It's not up to me,»" he asserts with certainty. "«There's food where we're going too, and I'm not the one who has to do the legwork to get there.»" He casts a glance at Reynard and there's a smile, even, wide, white on his slightly flushed features. It doesn't seem like undue magnanimity, his saying, "«I think we should allow Reynard to choose.»

"«Although I know you must be anxious about getting back.»" A glance at Francois. He doesn't let it show on his face that he's a little twinged at the thought of Nakamura catching and fucking with his Frenchman again, or worse, going after the one who had brought him back. He isn't even going to think about that right now. Holding timelines hostage; really not his area of expertise, even if one half of him dabbled extensively in time travel, and the other seems wont to fall into it in the style of fashionable young-hero trends in Manhattan at any moment.

"«A dinner would be a nice way for Francois to say his goodbyes,»" says Walter, who has learned some tactfulness from at least one or two of the individuals he was brought up around. There is a time and a place for diplomacy — he figures this probably qualifies. "«I don't mind waiting a few more hours.»" He also never says no to food, but this goes unsaid. Fingers curl around his biceps, he arches his back in a stretch that's just enough to be noticed when his hips shift off the edge of the counter, and he lets out a long sigh through his nostrils, content. Or as close as it comes.


Yeah that would be a nice way to say his goodbyes, and patient and diplomacy are things he isn't bad at. Practically nothing shows on Francois' face, as practiced as ever, and the only change in his demeanor made manifest in response being the rhythm of his breathing making way for an only slightly unnecessarily emphatic exhale. He smiles, though, and his hand squeezes Teo's once more, and finally— and by now, slightly clammily— releases the hold.

"«She is a good cook,»" Francois says, turning out of Teo's periphery. "«Moves around the kitchen like a dancer.»" His tone is facetious, some joke cultivated over the long French spring, indicated better with Corinne's mock glare. "«I can show you both around if you like. You can tell me how you got here. And your detour.»"

Teo clears his throat, as if to retroactively scrub the grumble of his belly from hearing. "«That would work for me.»" He nods his head too and doesn't even think to wipe the moisture off his hand and onto his pant leg or anything. He does close the cupboard, though, after a moment, a puppet-stringed hiccup of movement that ends in a smile. He casts his eyes through the kitchen, a seemingly small space now, boxed in around the number of broad-shouldered gentlemann who are looming over Corinne's bitty fine self.

"«Is the garden this way?»" he lilts a few strides back toward the hall, stops instinctively as if someone had raised an invisible wall, or more accurately, marked off an acceptable radius from Francois by tying them together with string. Poing-poing. He glances back with a crooked grin that takes years off his face.

Walter glances at Francois expectantly. He would also like to know if the garden is 'this way', and he steps away from the counter to indicate his feelings on the matter in case the foxish tilt of his head isn't enough. It might not be.

The few minutes of privacy he gave Francois and Teodoro while he helped Corinne unpack in the kitchen are the most the pair is going to get until he sees them safely home. He did not come all this way only to have Kazimir Volken leap out from the shadows and ash them both to death while he flirts with the lady of the house.

Francois trades a brief smile with Corinne— and it isn't diplomatic, even, honest like inside joke and honest like her indignation with Teodoro pre-thank yous— before he looks from one man to the other. "«This way,»" he agrees. This is okay. A little more France-Spain sunshine before facing the encroaching New York winter never hurt anyone — or, by the looks of Teo from several minutes ago, as well as what he's wearing, the very middle of it. He hopes not, a little.

But it vastly outweighs any other alternative, such as never seeing it again. (His hand snags Teo's again, shoulder nudging his in the direction of the hallway.) And he will.

Bumped at the shoulder, Teo drifts in the appropriate direction like a barge pushed off on a pole. His feet trawl away too, leaving a little dust as he goes, but he is too boy and too tall to notice anything like that leaving marks all the way down there. He breathes easier with a certain other man's hand in his own, and has little compunction about swinging out an arm to sling (carefully) over Walter's shoulders. It's an ungainly spill into the hallway, yes, and probably a little clumsy and awkward before they reach the doors, but at least it gets them out from under Corinne's feet. Back out into the sun. He left his worn coat on the counter.

"I can't believe this is really fucking happening," he says, a bit idiotically, possibly merely dazzled by the light of the summer. He blinks his eyes shut, open, shut, squeezes them and then they're squinty watching the swing of a butterfly going by. "I nearly puked when I met other-you. No offense to you in any incarnation."

If that's what it takes to make Teo throw up, Walter is glad that he hasn't been honest with him and Francois about his identity thus far. Right now, the only thing that risks exposing his act is the fact that he doesn't instinctively tense when Teo's arm goes around his shoulders — like this is something they've done before, though Walter can't remember ever having walked this way. As a child, the difference in height between them was too much.

In his past — Teodoro and Francois' future — he was the one always holding the Sicilian's hand. It's probably a good thing that Teodoro has two. "Harder to believe what he's missed, yeah?"

The garden is prettier now that Francois knows he won't be seeing it tomorrow. For someone who has traveled across the world, geographically and temporally, more than one man should, he's never truly felt a desire to leave anywhere as much as now, second only to Antarctica. At least this habitat is more accommodating, the company superior, the weather nicer. He grins, if in an unsettled way, at Teo's assessment of himself, an eyebrow raising instead of the automatic 'none taken' response.

"I don't even remember," he says, lightly, unsure if he should. He's not that old, surely. Well. He is that old, almost. But. "I hope I wasn't very welcoming." For the record.

He tips a look passed Teo, to Reynard. "Only good things?" Birthdays, maybe. Walter's birth. Abby's divorce hahaha. :(

Teo finds some grass to stand on, squinting out under the brilliance of the sunshine. "He nearly shot me," he says. "And I described who I was looking for. I think he figured out that I didn't mean someone— else."

Not that he just burned their bridges all the way back home or anything.

"I'm sure it's fine. I mean, you don't remember me," says the least reliable source in the world. Walter's given a push that's nine shades hooligans' comraderie, sent toward the low-lying brick boxing in the planters over there. He lets go of the Frenchman too, if only briefly, stooping to rather abruptly and unceremoniously haul Francois over his shoulder, fireman's carry, without any apparent plan on what to do. Maybe he just wants them to not panic about him obliterating the time continuum. That would be a whole bunch of panic.

"Messy things. Noose is getting tighter around the mutants. Why aren't you wearing any shoes? They might have flatworm parasites that will go up through the soles of your feet. I think they make homes in people's eyes." He pulls on his shirt, self-conscious for an instant, despite the fair coverage of trees and the green hummocks of hills. "The Ferry's doing its best with their separate island."

Walter debates explaining what 'its best' means, and using words like 'martial law' and 'thousands dead' but decides in the end that it's still a little soon for that. He doesn't have to hear it from him. Or from Teodoro. There are plenty of people where they're going who will talk about it and nothing else.

Francois deserves a few more hours of blissful ignorance. His hand catches the side of the planters. Does not tip them over thanks to the fact that the combined weight of the brick is greater than the force he exerts when Teo knocks him into it.

His first instinct is to reach out and attempt to steady it anyway. "Delilah had her baby," he offers, because if Teo isn't going to tell him about being born then he will.


A hand hooks on Teo's belt, another locking onto bicep, and Francois has a most lovely view of the grass where only a couple of shreds of green stick to bare heels swept off of it. "My eyes are fine. I am the doctor," is wheezed out from shoulder in his stomach as well as repressed mirth, though he smiles, still. It is the appropriate time and place that he won't request to be put down, not until he breaks something. Messy. Noose. Seperate island — that Francois knew about, and triggers some alarm bells in a twisted glance at what he can see of Teo's face.

They don't last. He looks to Reynard. "Oh," he says. Hooray! "So soon? Did she name him— ?"

"Walter," Teo adds quickly. Martial law, thousands dead, FRONTLINE multiplying into the double-digits any day now, the Timestream pocked with boulders he rolled down the metaphorical hills, and the future promising to shape up as bleak as the one a certain recently-named time-traveler came from. "Walter Trafford. He's perfect." Hurff. He boots the Frenchman up a few more inches, sending his heels up kicking precarious inches through the air, before the rebound catches him solidly across his compressing belly. What's he doing?

He probably couldn't articulate it anyway. Strutting around showing off his catch. Leaves him with only half a hand and a pair of flopping legs to assault Nakamura with, if the Japanese swordsman is to take issue with this reunion and their plans. Through some odd coincidence, his back is turned to 'Reynard' when he says, to the flattened ribbon of the road outlying, "Red hair, brown eyes. Exactly like his momma's coloring. Abby helped us get Li out of the city on the day he was born."

"They're blue," corrects Walter. A beat. "All babies' eyes are. White ones, I mean. And he is. Like milk." He lets go of the planter. Straightens. "Maybe they'll turn out brown." And maybe they won't. His aren't. Deciding that he's got a shovel in hand and is digging himself a deeper hole than Benji would approve of, he shuts up.

For approximately two-point-five seconds. "Does it really matter?"

It's nice that Reynard isn't doing things like averting his eyes at tomfoolery going on over here. Francois knows better than to ask Teo what he's doing. Maybe he doesn't actually need to ask him what he's doing, seeing as it directly correlates with warm feelings that home usually inspires, even if they aren't there yet. "Maybe they won't," he says, accidentally echoing inner monologue for reasons that aren't completely the same.

But mainly similar on some points. "I'm sorry I wasn't there," he offers, quieter, to Teo.

Teo snorts. "Me too," he says. "I nearly peed, I was so fucking scared when her water broke. I think Abby almost started praying to you instead by accident." He walks around a bush, and then comes to a bench that seems of likely height to settle his Frenchman on, twists his head to reassure himself that they're still within line of sight of the red-haired boy on the bricking. With all the aplomb of something without very much, he slings Francois down in his arms, carefully, supporting his waist and the backs of his legs, easing him down to the sun-warmed top of the bench.

"I don't mind what color his eyes are. It'd just be a little weird, 's all." He wraps an arm around Francois' neck, loosely, stoops down to sniff at Francois' hair without getting all right in there. While 'Reynard' is, apparently, no homophobe, there are some PDAs that perfectly heterosexual young men don't need to see. "The— my analogue? The older one, from the other future. He had a kid with Delilah, too. Brown-eyed ginger. Turned out to be Evolved, and everything. I dont' know. I guess it doesn't make any sense to believe in souls, or what kind of relationship they have with the alleles that determine your fucking eye color. But it'd give order to things. That's all."

Walter's response is another tilt of his head, though he remains by the planters. If he can't give them privacy, he can at least give them space. He glances back in the direction of the house, then angles his face toward the sun, basking in its warmth.

He has questions. Of course he has questions. Questions like: Did the other Walter ever manifest? What was his ability?

And the most important: Is it anything like mine?

He's not sure if he can get away with asking any of them, especially not the last one. Settles on silence eventually after a short murmur of acknowledgement.

Talk of analogues has Francois' eyes dimming some, a light going out behind neat green rings, but his smile remains, as it is wont to do. There is affection, in the way his hands smooth over Teo's shoulders as he's set down, hand then finding purchase on Teo's shirt to tug him down to sit with. "Perhaps," he says. "Although I will not pretend that every change described to me from the future your other you knows does not put me at better ease. I'd like to exist in it still." And of analogues, they can talk about it later.

Fight about it later, if necessary, although to what outcome, Francois doesn't know. He just has rehearsed some lines. The knowledge that that can wait has France grinning abruptly, in that startled, compulsive way people do when they realise something awesome has just happened, is happening.

"Tu es mon heros," is gentle declaration, as opposed to telling Reynard the same; a hand curling behind Teo's skull to tug so as better to kiss at off-blonde hairline.

It is the destiny of all Teos to not notice their offspring when they're staring beadily at him and asking terribly obvious questions. He's quiet for a few long seconds, then grins suddenly, widely, and Walter really doesn't have to worry about a damn thing; it'd be a minor miracle if he could see past the glow of his own teeth. "I am," he says. "Aren't I? Fuck." There's something of the shit-eating barfly shooting thumbs-up at his friend across the pool table, having scored a number, when he glances at Walter, briefly. Haven't forgotten you. Haven't forgotten the world, or the time, or the ones they're going back to.

Won't forget for long, anyway. He stoops. His beard bristles scratchily over Francois' cheek, and then there's a mouth on Francois' again, a little kiss, aborted with a laugh that's probably going to make the Frenchman tell him he can borrow his toothbrush. The corner of his hand brushes browned leaves off on its way to wrapping around Francois' hip. It is probably the faggiest thing in the world that he answers, archly, "That's vous to you."

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