Bad Terms


alexander_icon.gif teo_icon.gif

Scene Title Bad Terms
Synopsis To part on. Fortunately, they don't just yet.
Date January 27, 2009

Confucius Plaza — Abby and Alexander's Apartment

The window is swung ajar to allow cigarette smoke to filter out where Abigail won't have to put up with the stink if she chooses to come back to her new apartment to sleep tonight. Pila is back inside her cage. There isn't much evidence to betray the fact that she had been out at some point recently, besides an errant black-barred feather caught in Teo's hair, a slight scratch on his nose where she gripped her favored perch with her toes and he threatened to end her tiny blue life if she crapped in his mouth.

Teo's leaning his weight on the brown metal sill with his elbows. He is watching a Chinese woman with the most perfect neck cross the street in an extravagantly minimalistic dress, listening to Pila's twitter underneath the rumble of gears changing on the Brooklyn bridge, traffic uninterrupted despite the brush with mass death and terror that no one knows about. His silhouette is still padded with jacket and sweaters, protective bulk at odds with feet clad only in gray socks, his boots long since doffed despite his aversion to cold thanks to the habit of propriety. This is somebody's home, even if the rooms are filled with boxes instead of photographs, and even if it isn't his home.

Where is Teo's home now? Sonny's expensive and expansive flat? Fel's utterly generic hotel room? PHOENIX's headquarters? Al's on the street below for now, a drab figure with his bright hair hidden and the only color on him those weird, lambent eyes. He's got a couple bags of groceries over his arm, and walks without his usual loose-jointed stride. It's a very weary shuffle, in fact. And then he's keying his way in to the little lobby, and clumping up the stairs. Teo hasa key, of course. There's the sound of Al's in the lock, and then that of him putting away the groceries in the dingy little kitchen. Teo's boots by the door are enough to betray his presence, but there's no greeting, at the moment. Al's face is slack with exhaustion.

Home is Sicily.

Home is Sicily.

Home is Sicily. Teo breathes smoke and vaporous condensation out into the air and listens to the noise of domesticity behind him, familiar yet not, uglied by the stagger and slowness of the invisible weights somebody docked on Alexander's limbs. Four breaths. Five. Teo finishes the cigarette off with one final flare of ember, puts it out on the metal and flings the diminutive cancer stick out and away into the sterile, ice-locked domain of perfect necks and ignorant truck-drivers and people carrying groceries to places that aren't here.

Pulling the window shut, he walks to the kitchen to help.

"Thanks," Al says, quietly. He's so tired there's no play with his power. It's all being done by use of hands. He smells like the streets - that aura of the subway and exhaust and the old canvas of the outer layer of his parka. Though once he's dragged that off and hung it on the hooks by the door, there's the faintest scent of that soap he uses, or something that smells just like it. Weirdly reminiscent of a church and a desert, at once.

Subtract a few strains of church — ironic on various levels — Teo smells similar. He smells like Manhattan. Most of the time, he manages to forget that drives him crazy, but he's been to sea recently. The grumble of motor parts and the reek of brine remind him. Of home, of the words he had first addressed Edward's request for a boat with, neither recollection any less stupid than the other.

"Non c'e problema, amico." A can in each hand, he reaches up to snag the cabinet open on the point of his knuckles.

Alexander's voice is even, civil, but a little distracted. There's that whole aura of distance, already. As if he were already in tomorrow, the smoke of battle, the adrenaline. Waiting. And the last few hours of mundane life just have to be got through, before it's all decided, for good or ill. "What brings you out here?" he says, softly.

In the meantime, Teo is doomed forever to slog around in the residual muck and abject of the past. There are worse things. He can't think of any right now, but he knows better than to rank any given sentiment or set of circumstances as worst ever.

The cans click contact with shelves, before he pushes them into clicking contact with each other, filling out the depth of cabinet until there are no more left to add their sturdy little shoulders to the companionable huddle. He closes the cabinet. Doesn't answer for awhile. When he gets around to it, it's with a slight jerk of his head, glance over, as if had forgotten to say the words. "Pila."

In truth, he'd thought he'd imagined the question. It sounded a lot like the words zooming around inside his armored head.

Al smiles at that. "Abby dotes on her. She's gonna be as fat as a roasting hen before you know it, she spoils her so. You wanna a drink or somethin'?" he wonders, over his shoulder, done with the fridge - he's put away all the cold goods. There's a beer bottle in his hand, tentative.

"She deserves it," Teo replies easily enough. Whether he means Abby or Pila is hard to say. Both, probably. He should have said them. Confronted with the beer bottle, the corner of his mouth bobs up before retreating down and back into its neutral line again. "No thanks, but go ahead. You aren't an alcoholic if there are people around." He puts his fists into his pockets and leans across the sink, glancing out the window from this side, the view this angle. A small bank, a nursery.

Well, of all the things to say. Al's expression falls as if Teo'd slapped him, and he quietly puts the bottle back. Instead, he pulls out the carton of orange juice and shuts the fridge, the better to pour himself a glass. He hasn't blushed, however. Just staying pale as he was.

Teo has maintained — tried to maintain a distinct no hands policy since their last few knots of spontaneous tactility resulted in him getting telekinesised. Slapping was out of the question. He doesn't really get it, the look he glimpses out of his peripheral, despite that he knows what it means. He grunts, once, exasperated; turns around and falls into sidelong step, leaning his shoulder on the fridge. Reassuringly solid, it drones in his ear. "Do you like your team?"

"Yeah. I been over it more 'n' once in m' head. It all looks as good as it's gonna," Al says, opening the fridge to replace the orange juice. He settles at the little two person kitchen table, having hooked a chair out with an ankle.

Hands installed in his pockets, Teo blinks when the clap of the refrigerator door breathes cold on him. Probably could have picked a better place to stand. Further away, maybe: it's probably just as well Alexander went all the way over there. "You're probably one or two up on me. I think Deckard's probably already dead."

Alexander notes, laconically, "I can't say. I don't know what he was assigned to do, or what he tried to do. Poor bastard if he is," He leans back in his chair, as if he ached.

There was a time when Teo threw up words on his friend about every available topic under the sun. He is currently trying to determine whether or not that ship has departed with the various and sundry others long since waved from the dock. His eyes close and open twice, slow as a moth breathes through its wings. Toss of a coin, imaginary, and it lands—

"Infiltrating the Invierno. Edward was supposed to have a man on the inside who'd keep him alive. Only, Edward isn't a field guy, never mind a fucking people person, and he didn't have enough time or money to win or bribe a professional soldier over out of a contingent that didn't already know about us. I was going to ask more questions about— where he got that information from, but Deckard was right there and I didn't…" Teo's eyes go to the ceiling. "I probably shouldn't have let him go."

Alexander cocks an eye at Teo, patiently. "Did Ed have a man on the inside? Do you think they've made Deck and we're all fucked and blown now?" he wonders. By his tone, he's asking about the Braves' chances at the Series this year. He's still limp in his seat, slouched down on his tailbone.

"I don't know," Teo replies without real patience in either voice or manner. Without much of anything, really, an uncharacteristically dispassionate quality to the way that he judges the ceiling, despite the fact that it probably isn't the ceiling that he's seeing. He might merely be tired. The refrigerator is holding him up.

"Well, since we're both still alive and free, something is going right. You know they'd not wait to deal with us if they had an inkling of what we knew, how far we've gotten," Al says, looking critically at the state of his nails. He's picky about cleanliness, especially now that he's not squatting, but renting for real.

Given enough time to speculate about the strange shadow across the ceiling, Teo sends his attention to join Alexander's examination of the state of fingernails. "I didn't tell him anything that would get you dead or caught until tomorrow. This isn't working at all. You have absolutely no logic or bedside manner," he notes, dryly, hooking his left shoulder up under his jaw, against the flat of the refrigerator's case.

"I thought Edward did, though," Al points out, quietly. He watches Teo, dull-eyed and patient. "Ain't nothin' we can do about it now, 'thout any news. If they got him, they got him."

But Teo reserves the right to make angry faces at the whole thing, whenever he remembers to. Whenever he isn't doing something with his hands, or somebody else's hands. It comes and goes, the whole leaderly paranoid neurosis thing: he wasn't born a worrier, and he isn't really about to become one twenty-six years into the due processes of life.

Rue, on the other hand. "Edward's an asshole with a God complex who gets off on graphic calculators and pukes at the sight of blood." He pushes upright, off the refrigerator, and settles his socked feet on the tiles. Looks out the doorway.

"Likely so," Al agrees, lacing his finger over his belly and slumping down. It's the sort of posture that really demands a rocking chair on a porch, when you think about it.

Absurdly, Teo does think about it. Briefly. There aren't any porches in Manhattan. It must hearken back to the days and places from which Alexander inherited the accent and everything. He stops staring out the doorway, which stands empty, dark, agape. "You get around to saying your good-byes?"

"Ain't got anyone to who doesn't already know," Al says, simply. "My family's all waitin' on the other side, I'm the last. Got no affairs to settle, since I don't own anything but the cab."

And half of Abby's home, a third of a blue budgerigar, and an itty bitty sawn-off fragment of some Italian jackass' heart. At least they aren't fighting this time. "Abby made me promise I wasn't gonna. No preparing to die." There's half a smile when Teo mentions her name; it fades over the course of the rest.

Those're just places where he sojourns. Who really owns anything. "She's wise," His lids droop at half-mast, sleepily.

"She was. I don't think she's holding up her end." Teo graduates forward a long stride, glancing briefly past the cup of orange juice, the man it sits with. "What time are you up tomorrow?" The attacks, as he recalls, aren't until noon.

"When I wake up, likely dawn," Al says, taking a deliberate sip, eyeing Teo. "You?"

That actually requires silent consideration. Distant street lights diffuse through the cage-striped window glass, refract in Teo's irises, faded yellow cancelling pallid blue, makes them colorless. "I don't know. I just got up a few hours ago. I guess it depends on what I do. I feel like I should probably see Sonny, b—" his teeth meet almost soundlessly. "Maybe I'll catch you two for breakfast."

Alexander blinks at that. "Sonny? Doctor Bianco? Why?" he wonders, clearly a little bemused. "You need a doc, or you got something Abby can't handle?"

Motion seesaws through Teo's shoulders, left to right, too gracelessly readable to pass for the inscrutable Gallic shrug of myth. Uncomfortable. "Neither. We're…" Despite that he speaks more than ten languages to varying levels of fluency, he fails to locate a word for that. Ends up coloring faintly and staring at the pulp sliming up the wall of Alexander's glass. Breakfast. Couldn't be worse than dinner, the other night.

"You're what?" Alex's voice is as flat as a beach at ebb-tide. And now he's raised his gaze to Teo's face again, lips thinning out.

Unconscious mirroring, Teodoro flattens his mouth too, like a wire being drawn out. Despite the difference of their complexions, his looks no angrier. "'M sorry for everything, you know. Not figuring shit out earlier. Confusing you, dragging other people into it." He's changed the subject. Sort of. Not really. Salvatore Bianco is among inconclusive, confusing things dragged into it. "Didn't want there to be stuff I'd rather forget."

Alexander lowers his gaze. "I'm sorry, too," he says, and his voice is bleak, expression weary again.

Everything sounds like good-bye when the world is about to end. Even putting a budgie on your face sounds like good-bye. Teo scratches his nose as if to allay the sudden ache in his head, and looks at the interchangeable patch of table that seems to be the subject of Alexander's interest. Wonders how to fix it; whether this would be better in the morning.

Perhaps. Who knows? Al has apparently surrendered something. And that something is vital. For once, he's got no impulse to fill the silence with words.

Over enough time, the silence seems to develop shape, mass, and presence of its own, void forming energy, energy attenuating to mass, and the whole process leaving Teo feeling blurry from waste heat and squeezed out. He walks out of the kitchen. "See you later, Al," is the mutter, backward, without looking.

January 27th: Discreetly
January 27th: Placeholder
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