An Imperfect Blue


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Also featuring:
The Laudanis

Scene Title An Imperfect Blue
Synopsis Teo goes home. Delilah comes with him. Teo's mom is rockin' out the whole half-dead-in-recovery look, when the men of her family try to tear each other apart in her hospital room.
Date February 8, 2009

Palermo, Sicily

It is immediately and primarily obvious that Teo doesn't fit in in Palermo, either.

It isn't immediately and primarily important; only perhaps that one would have expected a man who carries his mother tongue around in every other throwaway line of speech and is arrayed in popular cultural tattoos to— blend more. Nor is it immediately and primarily obvious how he doesn't fit in, apart from being, you know, a time-traveling assassin with all the fancy scars and atmospheric bells and whistles thereof. He's a little blonder than the average Italian boy. Fairer. However comfortably shabby he looked in New York City, his clothes are markedly confused about whether they belong to the blue-collar class of T-shirts and khaki trousers or higher fashions; as is Delilah's wardrobe.

They don't look as absurdly misfit as, say, Dobermans among poodles or anything like that: only subtle disparities that James Bourne, the Ghost, or— and this is perhaps disconcerting to Li herslef— a pro-Evolved activist and fugitive from Registration would gently, quietly, peripherally pick up on. It's no reason to start walking on the sides of the roads or move quickly around corners in feverish paranoia or anything, just a vague intimation of exposure.

Like most other parts of Europe, including Delilah's own birth country, the neon and plateglass fronts of the very new rub shoulders with the stylized stone, onion domes, wrought crosses and brassworks of the very old. A little more color than Manchester, maybe; business a little slower-paced. Vivid sun umbrellas parked outside, large enough to cover whole families, patterns woven into the pavement stones. All the street names sound pretty if you don't know what they mean. Pinwheels left outside to turn circular rainbows even in this weather.

It's raining on Palermo the morning of their arrival, and fifty degrees— or thirteen, depending on which system of measurement you're inclined to use. Teo has a duffel bag and an umbrella, an ID card to pick up a few packages from the post office that, in the dubious privacy of a unisex bathroom, turn out to contain the constituent parts of a pistol, some ammunition, and two more ceramic knives than glass. He doesn't apologize for those, and nor does Delilah expect him to; they go to meet Teo's father.

Who's blond, fair— as well as greenishly pale from what one might imagine is grief, blue-eyed behind the frameless glasses perched on his nose. Smaller than Teo, but not shorter, a soft-spoken extrovert in a way that seems at odds with Teo's choppy verbosity, and already, it is obvious merely from the air between them that the two men are at odds in more than stylistic differences. His name is Paolo.

He drives an Opel Corsa which is as shockingly blue as the city's seas look when you Google them on the Internet, though the vehicle retains its color here, even under the pewter-colored sky, when the oceanic horizon that notches through the buildings does not. They are driving to the hospital.

"Signorina Trafford, or Delilah?" the man asks of her. She got shotgun without calling it, invited forward after Teodoro planted himself squarely in the back.

Delilah didn't expect an apology for bringing something to defend himself with- though frankly she has been hoping the entire flight over that nothing out of the ordinary will happen. Then again, nothing with either of them is really that ordinary to begin with, is it? After a while she did notice the fuzziness with which Teo tried to slip back into Sicilian backgrounds, but if she was worried about any awkwardness on his part, she has politely left him to figure it out on his own, rather than point anything out. A blessing, perhaps, that she is apparently a stage more reserved in a foreign country.

Teo's sidekick slept most of the flight over, so her energy level seems to be at its peak; thankfully she hasn't quite yet overwhelmed Laudani Senior with anything. Keyword being yet. For all appearances, she has tried to put on a face that is a tad more introverted, but still polite. Generally. A couple things have already slipped, such as when she clocked her head on the frame of the car sitting down, and let out a short, colorful response. Dee is behaving. Enough.

Whatever she thinks of Paolo isn't writing itself on her face, but she has been casting Teo glances here and there to just check and see if he is paying attention and hasn't decided to try and hide behind the seat. After this last look, Paolo inquires, and she smiles brightly at him from the other seat.

"Whichever you prefer. I like Delilah, but I won't mind if you want to stay formal." Sometimes people just prefer not getting into using first names, and maybe he is one of them. So she'll leave it to personal choice, whatever it is.

Having lived with Teodoro for some years, the head of the Laudani clan was not overly perturbed by the short spout of epithets that come out of Delilah's head after she knocked it against the car's roof. He looked more sympathetic than amused, and more amused than disapproving. Life has reassessed his priorities lately. Particularly the fact that a priest was murdered before him, and his wife nearly so.

"Delilah, then. I'm happy to meet a friend so good to Teino as to come all the way to Palermo. I wish I could say I had heard of you before," he says. Paolo's accent is strong but far from indecipherable, preserves the substance and meaning of the sentiments contained therein like a baked surfacing of spices or seasoning. He turns the wheel and the car slings left over a throaty rush across rainwater and rugged pavement. "But Teodoro has not been home for many years and most of our calls go unanswered.

"Did you tell her about your family?" Whatever passive-aggression might have characterized his first few lines doesn't have Paolo stooping so low as to talk around pretending that his son isn't actually in the car, at least.

Not that Teo proves terribly communicative. He stares at the older man blandly in the reariew, and the right corner of his mouth digs down slightly, almost imperceptibly. "How about you tell me how mia Madre's doing instead?"

A beat.

"She is awake. But weak." Sentences shorten from the combination of lack of fluency and misery. "Her mind is clear. She will be happy to see you both."

Teino? Aww.

Delilah peers back into the seat when Paolo changes to ask something of his half-visible son in the car. He hasn't told her that much- that's clear from the expectant look on the girl's face. She looks a little disappointed when Teo changes the subject again, sitting back in the passenger seat with a small exhale through her nose. Time to listen, huh? Lilah sits up a little when it sounds like Mrs. Laudani is doing better than the priest; she's not dead, and she's not dying, so that is good. Weak is still not as good, but the redhead is suspecting that it is only a matter of time until she just manages to regain her strength. Amadora did get shot. Weak is always better than dead.

Palermo, Sicily — Hospital

It is. By Teo's measure of things, too. His features relax slightly and he sighs through the gritted white of his teeth. The knot in his stomach resolve, but those that riddled the muscles through his shoulders loosen fractionally. He has to roll his head back on its stem, squeeze at the line of his neck to assure himself he isn't about to crack anything, just sitting here, waiting for the road to pass. It looks different from the last time he saw it, but that's so painfully obvious and explicable it feels stupid.

"You may change the radio, if you like," Paolo tells her, to assuage the silence. Lucky, the ride isn't too long.

The sign above the hospital's doors is pretty like the road signs are pretty. Ospedale. Oss-pe-dauh-leh. The most stiffly functional of English words is afforded extra poetry in translation. The walls are white here and the floors that favored shock of blue, and the Pope Sixtus V is portraited once in the front hall, above the desk— small, like the rest of the hospital is proportioned— before the religious paraphernelia reduces itself down to crosses between standard-issue health notices, whiteboards, corkboards, mellowly cautionary cartoons for children.

Delilah had met Lucrezia at least once before. Frequenters of the Garden. The woman who lays in the bed, IVs in her arm and an ashy undertone to her olive compleion is the former actress' spitting image, give or take a few cosmetic touch-ups and a couture wardrobe. "Buongiorno," is her greeting. She lifts an unpainted hand and wiggles her fingers. She has an accent too, and an easy smile: "Did somebody bring me some American desserts? The— ahh. 'Ding-Dongs?' 'M-and-Ms?' Though, caro, your friend looks just as sweet."

If Dee does change the radio, it is only to listen to the various sounds of Sicilian radiowaves, not so much that she knows what she wants to hear.

Even the hospital has a strange quaintness to it, she finds. Maybe there's just something comfy about it. When they finally come around to Amadora's room, Delilah is quick to raise her eyebrows at Teodoro, a bit of amusement in her eyes when she realizes that his mother and his aunt are twins. It's actually quite weird, too- Lucrezia already seems worlds away from her sister, though. Dee is relieved when Teo's mother smiles and waves to them, and it gets another bright smile. So much for the rain- that grin might just make some clouds start parting.

"Somebody here ate all of my Twinkies on the plane."

In the meantime, the men in the room look slightly drawn, saturnine, and watery around the edges. Of course, Teodoro would fancy he manages to pull the look off better than his father does; he shoulders brusquely past the other man, eliciting a brief spike of a scowl from Paolo, before he seats himself on a rattle of metal chair legs beside his mother. He tangles up their fingers together, shiny-eyed, breathing shallowly, and seems momentarily incapable of cogent response.

He has to close his eyes a moment. Squeeze, before reopening, a hint of tired— but better resignation in the twist of his smile. They're making fun of him. Of course, they're making fun of him. There was a reason the ghost had gone so many years without introducing the main women of his life to one another.

Amadora, in the meantime, seems blithely unconcerned about his normally (she thinks; it's been awhile) loquacious child's sudden muteness. "He is very inconsiderate," she agrees, smiling back. Though her own mirth doesn't expose quite as many teeth or have quite the sheer wattage of the Englishwoman's, tired as she is, she makes up for it in warmth. Her fingers tighten on his, tug and his next breath going in sounds puppishly wet. "He does not understand that real women need to keep a certain weight, si? I am Amadora Laudani. You are..?"

"Delilah." Paolo answers for her, first, but delivers a gentle touch to the girl's shoulder, ushering her forward.

At least it wasn't an actual insult; more of a poke, really. The main women in his life, as he puts it, are already jiving and it hasn't been a few minutes. No wonder he didn't tell either side about anyone else. Delilah tilts her head to watch Teo when he silently and diligently pulls up to his mother's bed, equally dutiful in assuming a place holding onto her hand and emitting those very sad little breaths. She's glad she came with him, especially at such a fresh time.

She smiles again, close-lipped, when Paolo preempts with an introduction for her. When Delilah moves forward, it is first to come to Teodoro's side and put her hand along the back of his shoulder, her palm warm and the touch itself quite steadying.

"It's good to meet you, ma'am." Ma'am? What was that? Did she seriously just use ma'am? Ugh! Delilah punches herself mentally. What a dumb line! Who even says that? The moment of self-consternation flickers over her face long enough to probably be noted.

Perhaps Amadora thinks that alllll British people say that! It is exciting and adorable the way that shoes from Milan or Bruce Willis films are. Between she and her identical twin, Lucrezia had always been the traveler of the family. "Un'inglese," the woman observes, quirking up the corners of her mouth. Her lips are slightly chapped, despite the moisture laking the air and the IV tubs poking out of their tape swaddlings on her inner-arm. "Ha un bell'accento.

"He never brings girls home. And now that he has, he has lost his voice." There's a jovial Oh dear somewhere in Amadora's voice. Probably drowned out by the thunder of blood pressure seizing and rolling uneasily in Teodoro's ears, as far as what he is actually hearing right now. He knows well enough to realize he's being spoken of, though. Lifts his eyes and blinks somewhat fuzzily at the two ladies, as if they haven't quite finished sliding into focus. Maybe there's too much color in here, between Delilah's hair and Amadora's sanguinity. "I'm going to have a wicked scar," she continues, tapping unvarnished finger on her ribs. "I will have to wear the one… the one—" The tapping finger attempts to describe the cut of bathing clothes in the air. "Swimsuits, no-bikini?

"Or maybe I will use bikini, and explain to everybody: I blocked a gun with my Bible. Whose mother does that, eh?" Proud of herself— and one would imagine, rightly so, Amadora bends her arm up, parodies a hearty ribbing with the point of her elbow, but she is a little too tired to make good on the actual gesture itself. Her eyes squint cheeky, and she looks past the nest of her own dark hair, skates her eyes again gently off the hole in her boy's cheek and over to the Englishwoman. Delilah will have to forgive her, she thinks; it is the Italian way, that one manifests interest in the conversation by talking on until enthusiastically interrupted by the other, flattery manifest like a mutual wrecking of traincars. "Surely my stitch — stitchings? Stiches, they will be okay for swimming in the sum—"

"Dove Babbo era?" Teo locates his voice, finally and suddenly, and it seems to be the wrong texture for the lining of his throat. Despite that the question is decidedly Italian, and that Delilah is distinctly not, it can't be all that difficult for the girl to tell who he is speaking of. He's lifted his shaggy head; is staring at Paolo with an accusation hot in his eyes. Paolo's whiter than the sheets.

Amadora is quite possibly one of the cutest moms ever. She has no idea whether to try and follow with responses or not- the older woman seems to traipse around trains of thought almost as swiftly as Delilah often does. So to keep things simple, the redhead just keeps a happy face and her hand remains at the back of Teo's shoulder. She can feel the vibrations of his voice as they go up his throat, her own head tilting slightly to try and follow- guess- whatever it is that he says. It is easier when Teo looks to his father, a 'j'accuse' running wild.

When Dee follows the look, brown eyes clueless, she knits her eyebrows at Paolo's whiteness, unsure what she should be assuming Teo said. She can still guess- but she can't be certain.

This part of the program is, unhelpfully for the visitor unto their Italian lands, conducted in Italian. It starts with short, barked questions, muttered reply, a plea from the woman in the bed. The whites of eyes flashing to and fro as the three Laudanis glance at each other, apologetically at Delilah, then at the door. A handful of words scrape by that the toad girl might well recognize. Giorno means day— or morning. The equivalent of 'fuck' or 'shit' or whatever comes thick and windy after, lighting the air with the distant flicker of lightning raw behind the blinds. Everyone seems very upset, and rather inconsiderately so of the foreigner among them.

Then Teo says something else. It alliterates. Paolo, then Pau— something, musically, juvenilely snide, and Delilah remembers that voice very well, the sneer it came with— when he's angry enough to say things he couldn't not in a million other years ever really mean, even though she's looking at the back of his head. Sometimes, Teodoro says terrible things. This one strikes at his father as if it were a physical blow which perhaps almost explains why his father then reaches out and slaps him across his bearded face.

The impact of skin on skin goes off like a gunshot in the quiet of the room, in spite of the distant clamor of weather outside. And even if Delilah didn't have a hand on his shoulder, she'd be able to parse the reverberations of sweltering, lupine rage as unmistakably as the faraway Dopplering report of the weather. She knows Teo well enough now, even if she knew him better in ten years; there's about a half a second for her to get her arm in, just so, snag and cry out before Paolo's nose implodes in cartlidge and blood at the end of the vicious arc of his son's closed fi—

All Delilah can do is absorb. She's done a lot of that in this period of her life. It's because of this that she is able to realize what's going on, and that Teo is grinding tighter and tighter, his words becoming melodic with familiar bite. Dee isn't surprised when he gets slapped on the face. She did it too. But she knows for a fact that Teo, when coming to blows with men, is not nearly as forgiving as he was with her back home. Dogs do that too. An owner- a trusted person- hits a dog? They'll back down, out of knowing who is the Alpha.

A stranger, or someone that the dog already doesn't like, or does not respect? They'll bite. Even just from observing the car ride over, she knows there is a rift between Teodoro and Paolo Laudani.

Somewhere in that blind rage and *twang* of snapping nerves, Teo's body, at the least, will register the pressure of her arm slipping around his torso and flattening on the front of him, the muscles in the legs, back, and arm of the girl just behind him working doubletime to latch on. Delilah's arm hooks around his side, grappling for a grip and making a valiant effort in snagging on; all to try and drag him back before Teo slams a crater into his father's head- where the older man's face currently is.


It speaks volumes of what they've been through, that the girl anticipates that pitbull reaction, as well as the pitbull's reaction itself. Amadora's strangled cry— Ragazzi!— shorts out with a different sort of astonishment. Her dark eyes go big in her head, and she snatches her tube-taped hand back and out of the way.

Teo was going to lead that punch with his right hand, but it lags behind him. Skews his weight with it, addles his blinkered vision, sends his left arm sidling sloppily, weaker in to take over the charge instead. The side of his hand shoves into Paolo's shoulder, and Paolo clanks heavily, hip-first into the hollow steel railing at the head of Amadora's bed. Winds up stooped heavily over, his face blotched red, now, underneath the untidy tilt of his glasses. "Even your friends know!" His English is stuttered, claws its way out of Paolo's throat with difficulty. For Delilah's benefit, no doubt. "You are like this.

"Little beast. Where was I? Where were you? What kind of son disappears? Who would hate you enough to do that to your face?" Paolo's hand cuts another vicious arc through the air, but this time it doesn't intersect with Teo's face, or anything else. Merely grasps skinny fingers through fluorescent gray air, desperately frustrated, his face gone ugly with grief. "Why they come to your mother? Lo stronzo killed a priest. Padre Francesco is dead! Is it because me?

"Or you?"

It's a lot of words that the eldest Laudani manages to split into the air, there, and the fact that he's given the intermission to do so is thanks explicitly to Delilah. She doesn't have Teo in a joint-lock or anything so physically severe, but she has him trapped all the same, huffing and puffing hot air through her hair and glaring over the strandy red tousle in insensate fury. The gun in his jacket is digging into her collarbone, but he isn't moving, other than that. Dead in the water.

For a few long moments, all that Delilah knows is Paolo's voice, looking at Amadora from over Teo's shoulder, and the latter's breath warm against her scalp. The arm that had hooked onto him is now wound around his other side, hand now visible flat on the rear of his coat. She's not really sure what to do, and that is clear on her face, as she peeks over towards Teo's mother, eyes apologetic before she loosens her grip and turns to look at Paolo. The look itself burns almost as red as her hair, almost as venomous as her ability. It's quite a startling contrast to the Delilah that has so far been so endearing, and so generally warm to him, and even moreso to his wife.

"Nobody is at fault except the guy who pulled the trigger." Paolo may have been a coward, Teo may have made enemies, but neither of them held the gun that killed the Padre and injured Amadora. "The stars align and bring you both here, but somehow all either of you can do is blame each other, and not the guy with the gun?" At this, Dee does give Teo a short warning glance, and she knows she is right- and he better realize that too, because she is still hanging on and at this closeness it would not be hard to physically make a point. Not that she would- just that Delilah knows what is what here, somehow done with minimum English from Paolo.

Really, Delilah should be a detective or something. Her intuition doesn't lead her wrong, and there's a little wonderment in Amadora's drug-hazed features that she doesn't know more Italian than she let on. The whole room seems to be holding its breath for a moment, or maybe it's just the boys holding their breath; the weather is cold and there's no motion in the air around them. Save, perhaps, for the gassy strain of the heating vents in the ceiling. They bob through the dishevelled strands of Paolo's yellow hair.

"I want the police report," Teo says, finally. It is like a concession, to Delilah if not to his father. He straightens his shoulders and it is like moving against a physical cage of scaffolding, how stiffly he moves; there might even be a noise of grinding protest from his bones or the muscle tractioning around it. He gives a small gesture of salute to his mother, a callused forefinger to brow, in incipient farewell. Amadora's sculpted chin starts to find a stubborn jut, and maybe it's because of that that he adds, almost through his teeth: "I'm here another two days."

Nurses pass in the hallway. Click-click, heels like cats' nails walked across the hard floor, and odd expression erodes Paolo's features for a moment; his eyes are on Delilah like he knows her from somewhere, then he blinks them away.

"The spare key is still under the rose pot," he says. This, too, seems like a concession. Unmistakably, it is.

Teo's concessions come as less of a surprise than Paolo's. Dee just knows the former much better- and fathers can be awful if they want to. The girl glances back past Teo's arm to Amadora, her own hand unwinding and perching itself palm-first to Teo's forearm, fingers curling to hold onto it. Two days. Two days out of years, but two days regardless. Not enough for everything, no- but enough for something.

Brown eyes move back to look those few inches up to Teo's blue ones, brows knitting delicately; all to silently inquire as to what he wants to do in these ensuing and certainly very bated seconds.

"I'll show you my home." Teo's answer is straightforward and courteous. He wipes the side of his hand up his jaw, scoring away the sticky trace of saliva there, and inhales once through his nose sharply enough that his nostrils flare slightly less than a foot from the roof of Delilah's head. Wolf attempts to compose himself. Is not about to succeed in looking like a sheepdog, but he is, at the very least, a composed version of what he was.

Amadora's features go slightly still, but a yawn starts to twitch her jaw to spite her sentimentality. She lifts a hand to her face, thumbs down the line below her eye, unspeakably tired. "Come back in the morning." Despite that her voice comes in on a courteous register, there's no lift of a question to the end and Teodoro nods, simple compliance that would be easier to take for granted if he hadn't promised as many times to call.

Paolo mingles his fingers with his wife's, on top of the bed's chalky linens. Their fingers tighten, intertwined, and don't move an inch. Teo turns for the door, glancing up at the figures and profiles passing in the laminated window.

Composed wolf is fine. Delilah doesn't expect Teo to instantly simmer down, so she does keep her hand on his arm as he turns. She gives both parents a solemn little tilt-nod of her head in farewell, eyes lingering on Amadora before she turns to follow Teo out. Perhaps subconsciously she keeps herself between Teo and Paolo. She's glad she came now, even if just to keep Teo from turning his father into a pile of mush.

Palermo, Sicily — The Laudani Home

It's not a long walk back to the Laudanis' home, not even in the rain. Or, at least, without the encumberance of luggage. Immediately, it's clear this is a good neighborhood, the precise same reason the hospital had been built here. It's waterfront, or near enough; there's an incline, trees in ruffled green masses, a blue— that same startling robin's shell, Heaven's womb, Summer shock of a blue house sandwiched in a row of others. Two floors, no porch; the door noses right down against the pleating of rainbright cobblestones.

Closer up, the sea looks further away, wrinkling and shifting a dull, ferrous gray underneath the opacity of the sky. You could fit it into a diorama. Covered up by an overhang that the cold has swept free of geckos, to Teo's momentary disappointment when he does look, there is the rose pot. The key isn't resting on the concrete underneath it, but tucked into the notch at the base's rim. Tugging it out, he wipes the yellow metal clean on his pant leg, streaks a granule or two of dirt against the fabric, before scratching it open.

The household's clean, neat, quaintly again— pretty. Someone took a brush to the foyer wall, made a bouquet of lilies. The windows are numerous, exploit what one would imagine would normally be a brilliant view: solemn arch sliders, broad three-panel casement fixes, and the lavender of the curtains makes ghostly exaggeration out of the overcast sky's ashy patina. The furniture is a mix of wood and brightly luminous padding shod in wrought iron.

Teo closes his umbrella. Glances up. Finally says, tossing his key over the foyer island and onto the coffee table, "Sorry about that."

Delilah tails Teo the entire way home, like little Red finding a will-o-wisp in the middle of the story. He leads her on a little adventure on its own, and though there is a lot on her mind about what happened at the hospital, Delilah is in Italy. She is allowed to have her time of being in awe and being tickled by the seaside air. She hadn't flown either, not since she went to the states. Italy is a welcome, if roundabout, escape.

Huddling under the one umbrella was not quite totally effective, but at least Delilah isn't dripping a trail into the Laudani house, which she finds absolutely darling judging by the curled, lippy smile. It stays there when Teo finally speaks, and she looks at him with a see-saw of her head and shoulders. "It's alright." Dee only seems to offer him a bit of reassurance for some reason. "It's not the first fight I've had to mediate."

Shaking a few droplets loose from the umbrella, Teo pauses, stilts around storkishly on his feet long enough to free them of his boots and then moves toward the bathroom to set it down in the tub. His voice emenates back through the empty house, underneath the rattle of shutters and drip-drop of water against window panes. A slice of his head pokes out the doorway the next moment, and he blinks at her. Despite the umbrella, they're damp around the edges. Hair, sleeves. Shoes, certainly.

On the upside, the rain here is probably cleaner than New York City's. Fewer carcinogens and vaporized contraceptives (or whatever) washed out of the sky. "Are you more hungry or tired?"

"I don't know if I have much of an appetite, but we should probably find something even if we're not that hungry." Delilah's singular quickly turns to plural, simply to include Teodoro in a collective feeling. The girl proceeds through the hall, stopping to sidle through a doorway and back out, peering into places, exploring without actually exploring. "What a lovely place. Um, hm. I'm not that tired- just a little run over, I guess. Jet lag. It's not really the same thing as sleepy-tired." No sir.

"Let's find a bite? I bet we'll feel a little better, even though that sounds …primitive." It may be, but it is probably true nonetheless.

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