Both Sides


felix_icon.gif teo_icon.gif

Scene Title Both Sides
Synopsis "To be fair, Teo is more or less some boy bimbo he could have fucked and left. Instead, Felix is offering to buy drinks, accepting cigarettes and help, and grumbling about having to straddle loyalties when he would much rather straddle his unrequited crush's throbbing bratwurst instead. It's not very smart. Probably, he should just leave."
Date March 24, 2009

Biddy Flannigan's Irish Pub

The throbbing in Teo's arm is syncopated exactly to the beat of a Jimi Hendrix song he can't exactly remember. Voudun Child. Voodoo Child. Something. His nerves feel like they've been drawn thin for guitar strings, too.

The blare of something superficially culturally Irish on the jukebox in Biddy's corner is not helping a lot, but after enough tequila shots, that should be all better. So goes the theory, anyway. Tequila is a good answer to broken things. Strained friendships, mummified limbs, same difference. Jimi Hendrix sounds a lot better than this shit, though.

Curfew's in about forty minutes. There is some kind of calculus equation that describes the most drinks one can get in in that time and still be sober enough to get home before there isn't anymore. Teo inconveniently forgets that doing mental math and drinking tequila are mutually exclusive activities, at least in his past personal experience; he's leaning on the bar, picking at his linen-wrapped fingertips with his teeth.

There's that ancient talent of Fel's for turning up like a bad penny. He's in beautiful shape, having been healed by Abby - currently he's in leather jacket, t-shirt, jeans, and boots. He's at the bar and ordering before he realizes it's Teo. And then his gaze slides to the Sicilian, like he's not entirely sure if he's hallucinating or not. No question, even when he looks directly at him, and raises his brows to demand an explanation.

The next loaded shotglass clinks the bar-top, comes skidding over on something else's condensation. Teo's fingertips stop it in its dewy tracks, closes forefinger and thumb around the glass rim.

He throws the liquor back and stops his head where it dips afterward, his gaze skewed horizontally to answer the weight of somebody's stare on his profile. Felix Ivanov. Stands to reason. One of the people Teo would rather not meet right now, the evidence of America's Most Wanted marked out on his flesh. Blinking absently in the dingy light, he turns up the corners of his mouth in nonverbal salutation. It's possible to pretend it's too loud in here to talk about anything.

Fel sits down beside him, with all the confidence of a planned meeting. He opens his mouth to make a particularly lewd request, and then he notes Teo's wounded arm. It has him staring, lips slightly parted, for a moment. "What in the hell happened to you?" he says, momentarily utterly off balance.

"What?" Teo's eyes narrow. For a moment it seems that the distortion of alcohol or possibly the space-time continuum through more arcane means have obliterated the course that sound might otherwise have taken to go between the FBI agent and the terrorist. Either that or, you know, the terrorist just remembered he's supposed to be a terrorist, and that being deliberately approached by a Special Agent who you didn't know was meant to be here. After that moment passes, he glances down at his hand.

It is wrapped up in coils of neat white bandages: Sonny's handiwork. Last he saw, there had been blood seeping in under his hand, tracing the palmist's topography of his life line. His palm is turned downward now. "Funny story," he answers, presently. "There was broken glass in it." The story, he means.

Fel gives the bartender a jerk of his chin. "Vodka, neat. And one of whatever he wants," he says, in that clipped accent. "Keep talking, I'm listening," His tone is idle, as if it were just a friend's concern. "Why've you not been to see Abby?"

"Abby needs a fucking break, Ivanov." There's no margin of error or doubt in Teo's voice when he shares this soupcon of intelligence, which is rare and probably means he actually thought about this before he opened his mouth to say it. Also rare. He doesn't take the Agent's offer on the drink, though he turns it down with a polite smile at the bartender —

— who inevitably doesn't smile back.Virtues like humility can go ahead and die: Teo's still costing him business, after all. "I jumped out a window at Shooters. If I ever come back, the bartender will probably actually—" he lifts his hands, both bandaged and otherwise, into a mime shotgun. Blam blam.

The look Felix favors Teo with is dry at best. Declining the drink has him lowering his lids a fraction. The sleepier looking the Felix, the more annoyed. "Why did you do that?" he wonders.

"I'm not sure," Teo responds, the right corner of his mouth bending around an incline. Crooked smile, at odds with the ambient annoyance that had dominated his expression and posture a moment ago. Nothing helps a bad mood like spreading it around, but he isn't malicious enough to do so in earnest. Not really. "I think I'm just being difficult. Was. It happens. Often.

"Forgive me?" The expression shows either the soulless rage that had characterized him the last time they— bumped into each other or his characteristic warmth, but it falls somewhere along that continuum. Maybe halfway.

"«No offense taken.»" Fel says, in his native tongue, still eyeing Teo. Such a puzzle, even yet. He's idly dangling his empty shotglass, after knocking back the round.

It's disgusting, though. Teo's attention drifts down the inside of his own neatly wrapped arm. Forearm, inner-wrist, heel of his hand, palm, the brackish red wicked into the crease there. "«Can I ask you something?»" he asks, eventually, lapsing automatically into Russian the way that a linguistics student would've learned to. To seize every opportunity to speak it.

Absently, Teo splays his linen-fat fingers, wriggles them at himself: Hello, hello. A crack shows in the dried stuff, like the surface of an old kindergarten painting carelessly pulled out of storage after too long.

Felix inclines his head to that, lips thinning out. His hair's growing out, little by little. "«Shoot.»" The idiom's not usual for Russian, but then, Fel's accent is less and less Moscow and more and more Brighton Beach. His gaze drops to the wounded arm, and his nostrils grow a little pinched.

"«Who were you thinking about the other night?»" Teo's own phrasing has nothing in the way of idiomatic fluency, but most of the polish of textbook learning has chipped off, by now, worn away from adequate exposure to natives. His accent is neither regional nor Sicilian. And he doesn't sound especially aggravated, though the single blue eye he peeks through the spread of his own fingers is playfully round with exaggeration, reassuring Felix that he isn't. It was fine. Not the first time Teo has represented somebody other than himself, won't be the last.

Teo has a particular skill for finding the chinks in Felix's armor and sinking the blade there. But then, Sicilians were famed for the use of the stiletto. "«No one you know,»" he says, finally. He doesn't flush with embarrassment, but he does look away.

When the face on the other side of the linen-laddered hand retreats, Teo's quirks slightly, bemused. It probably doesn't say anything good about him, that he cuts by accident, but to do so on purpose would — probably? — be worse.

"«I'm sorry,»" he replies in a reasonable facsimile of kindness. Teo drops his hand, slides off his stool with a thump of heavy boot sole. He pulls a little roll of bandage out of his pocket, wags it at Felix without looking by way of explanation, for lack of real interest in actually verbalizing his explanation or anything else. He stumps off to the men's room, firing off a brief, hostile glance at the jukebox.

"«What're you apologizing for? I was the asshole there,»" Fel says, heavily. But he lifts his empty shot in salute, before upending it on the bar. Without a word, the bartender serves him another.

Probably true! Thinking about someone else, failing to get your partner off, and the literal mechanics of plumbing pretty much fit Felix to the term 'asshole' like, three times. Teo is drunk enough that this train of thought makes him smile. He waves an arm over his shoulder before pushing into the men's room. The door clanks off a broken lock.

There's another little shot to keep the first company, by the time that Teo returns. It doesn't seem to have mellowed Felix appreciably. Which isn't saying much - nothing short of small arms fire or serious drugs ever does.

The Teo that returns is a somewhat less tidy partial mummy than the one that had departed — which probably means Sonny's going to yell at him and take apart the effort he made in fastidiously little picky motions and then reconstruct it again, despite that it's fine, really. Loose in some spots, not quite even, the white rows. He requests another shot of the cheap shit he'd been drinking before, glances down at its quivering meniscus as if questioning the wisdom of that particular decision.

"You need to see a doctor," Fel affirms. He is drunk enough that his usually accentless English is also going out to bob in the waves at Brighton Beach. "What about… shit. What's his name? The pretty surgeon."

Something about that is very funny. Teo's face twitches around barely-suppressed laughter, the infuriating kind that makes grown-up people want to shake tots by the arm until they break off, rattle apart, like so many tubby doll parts, ball joints and hollow plastic and discomfittingly incomprehensible smiles.

"Really?" He puts his cheek on his hand, rests his weight against it. Which is a bad decision; hurts a lot, though less than it would have if he wasn't drinking, which is probably why he doesn't move. The stoop of the limb shifts the linens, betraying a glimpse of an unaccountably purple vein, rough skin—

"And a lawyer, except I wouldn't get one of those. Warden, executioner…" Teo's eyes swivel away.

"Deported. You'd get deported," Fel amends, wearily. "«What happened to you, T? No window ever did that.»" He gestures at the bandages, gaze not flinching away.

The corners of Teo's mouth tilt upward. "Say that again to my aunt, signor. She'd be able to tell if you were lying.

"She's an actress." Italian dropped into the middle of his speech, self-automated, a stranded expatriate's way of trying to hang onto his heritage through a decade — though he just as quickly trips over Russian again. Language tracks clicking and wheeling through. "«I helped somebody. It'll be fine in a few days.»" His eyes are swerved sideways, brow furrowed. He lowers his arm, looks at the other side. Frowning, he tugs the hem of his clothing down again.

"«Helped how?» Felix persists, though his tone has dulled, nominally uninterested. He orders a gimlet, next, resting a hand patiently on the bartop.

Flogging Molly has rolled on to some instrumental that isn't actually too hard on Teo's sensibilities or his senses anymore, numbed as they are. He turns his head around to look at the doorway, momentarily presenting Felix with the back of his head. Unwontedly rude, for him, but something had caught his attention. Some glimpse, sound, addled hallucination of a paranoid mind. Brow furrowing slightly, he turns his head back.

Studies Ivanov and his question as if they were animals penned up in a zoo, examining how strong the bars are or how thick the glass, instead of the purported malice of the creature they contain. In and of itself, the query is harmless. Sympathetic damage healing is not a singularly unusual Evolved ability. Rather romantic, really, easily glorified by tabloids and novels.

"I gave her my health."

That implies another Evolved, since neither Teo nor his damsel in distress are Evolved. "How'd you do that?" he wonders, more curiously. And then he asks, as if it'd honestly never come to mind, "You Evo?"

"Not as far as I know. Never taken the test, though." Teo turns up the corners of his mouth, but it doesn't last. His cheeks puff, briefly, expelling a sigh into still indoors air. He closes and reopens his left hand once or twice, testing the kinesthetic sensation of muscle over bone. He's drunk enough it isn't too bad. "We had help. How's work?"

"One of those healers who works by transferring life force from one to another?" Fel surmises, propping elbow on the bartop, resting his cheek there. Already sleepy from the booze. "It's all going to shit," he says, matter-of-factly. "City'll be under martial law before the summer's come and gone."

Lightweight. Then again, Teo's seen Fel drink enough times to remember that the metabolism will cycle the stuff right out a lot sooner than anybody else, if he's quit now.

Anyway, he isn't worried. Manhattan's hero cop. Protected by the law, deliberately spared by erstwhile serial killers, baby terrorist's soft spot, one of Abigail's favored. For all the trouble Felix invites upon himself, he has a number of well-kept blessings too and if he isn't going to go face down in a puke-filled gutter. "Sounds like an opportunity for promotion," he points out.

Fel just closes his eyes at that, an oddly feline motion of denial. "I don't know. I don't know how far I can get and stay in this office," he says, more slowly. "I don't wanna be shipped off to DC. DC is where the spook part of the Bureau is in charge. And while they have their uses, that ain't what I wanna do."

A grin flares briefly over Teo's features, pristine enamel white against his winter tan. "The life does suit you," he offers, politely. Insofar as, you know, getting shot and run over every other week can suit a guy, and backstabbing old allies all the ones in between.

Fel just grunts at that. He's apparently had enough - there's a moment's groping through his pockets before he comes up with tab and tip. In two dollar bills and golden coins - apparently there was a joker in the bank teller ranks today.

"Ciao." Teo pays his bill in bills, which is altogether less theatrical or interesting, but the barkeeper probably prefers that. The Sicilian isn't entirely steady when he gets up onto his feet, but at least the slope of his shoulder doesn't suffer for knotted pain-tension. "Oh." Belatedly remembering at least one of the other items on the list. There's always a fucking list. "Colette?" A sidelong glance. "Anything?"

"I went out to Staten. Ran into Ruskin, but nothing of Colette. The girl I ran into at the Lighthouse no doubt clocked me as John Law and wouldn't admit to ever having seen her," he pauses, eyes Teo, "You need a ride somewhere? Like a real fuckin' hospital? You're worse off than I was after Sylar got through with me, but then, you saw."

Teo's smile starts at his eyes, doesn't reach his mouth for a moment; there's a brief syllable of laughter, then. "No doubt," he echoes with unwonted cheer. Felix is to John Law as Teo is to a generic starving college student. It's the easiest assumption to make on first pass, if not the most accurate deduction. "Fine. Fuck. I'll… see what I can do. You should look up Stephanie Ciati.

"You don't drive." It isn't a question. He'd accosted the agent enough times on his way back to the hotel from work to be familiar with the supreme annoyance of waiting for the public transit system.

"I do," Felix says, simply, jerking a thumb at the door out, as he shrugs his jacket back on. "And I been a little busy," he adds, with a shake of his head.

Given he'd already been on his way to the door, Teo is disinclined to change course just because there is a car that belongs to an FBI agent outside of it. Which is maybe counterintuitive.

Black government vans are a somewhat crueler reality for him than they are for the average citizen of New York. Fortunately, he's young and drunk and bracketed by enough dead HomeSec agents to not worry overmuch. "«I'll be fine.»" Russian again. He bends his mouth around a smile that fails to be entirely plastic. "«I'm healing. Thank you for your concern.

"«How was» Eileen?"

"«Self-righteous as always. Much of the same mind on Gray as you were.»" He says, patting himself down for cigarettes he doesn't currently have. He turns to Teo, suddenly. "«What should I have done about Gray, according to your lights?»" It's apparently a serious question.

Automatically, Teo reaches around to locate cigarettes to offer. He has some left. Butane also, in its lighter, if Felix would deign to take one.

It may require patience; the Sicilian isn't at his best coordinated right now, though it — helps? — that he's been smoking long enough that the process is encoded into motor memory. One foot stuck out to prop the doorway open, he covers the tiny flame with his other hand.

"«Lights?»" Odd Russian idiom Teo has never heard of, maybe.

More like English that didn't translate. Fel's been in the US long enough some of the calques he comes up with are just flat out lacking in sense. "«From your viewpoint,»" he amends. "«If you were in my shoes, what would you be doing?»" He takes both cigarette and lighter with an inclination of his head.

"«Nothing,»" Teo answers, blankly. The lighter is capped with a clink of metal and a push of thumb. "Negation—" don't know the Russian for that, "«wouldn't work on him. Or guns, knives, fuck, a nuke didn't take him out in Kirby Plaza. There's a presidential… family…»" vocabulary, vocabulary, "«…conspiracy in the way of him and fair trial.

"«If I were you,»" his gaze squares back on the older man, oddly lucid despite sauced good cheer, continuous pain, and a lingering trace of animosity. "«I'd wait for my moment.»"

He waves a hand, an oddly effeminate gesture for someone usually so very tightly controlled. It leaves an arabesque of smoke hanging in the air, before a stray gust destroys it. "«Not that so much, specifically. In general. I… nevermind.»" Maybe it's the language, but something isn't coming across that needs to. He regards Teo with a puzzled stare, stark bones making him look more wolfish than usual.

Automatically, Teo puts a palm on his own face to check if he has something graceless smudged there. Nothing. Not that he can tell through the booze and cold numb of his skin instead. "You're being existential," he says. English, momentarily giving up grappling with a tongue so far from any he is fluent in. What's 'existential' in Russian? He didn't study enough philosophy in that language. "Or doubtful. Both? That's weird, for you."

"Eileen said I should stop playing both sides. I wasn't aw-" He shuts his jaw with a click of teeth. "Both," he confirms, cupping the cigarette lazily in a palm. "I'm drunk, don't mind me," he adds, shoulders drooping.

The sidewalk is strangely solid underneath Teo's feet. This annoys him somewhat, the prospect that he's going to go back to feeling his arm soon. At least he isn't experiencing an existential crisis. Optimistically, he feels okay about befriending sociopaths and killing all his fellow terrorists in an effort to save two. "Oh."

It probably won't last through the week. "Why do you?" he asks, eventually. Teo keeps twitching between the compulsions to smoke in the interest of companionable politeness and a deliberate avoidance of becoming More Alert.

"Why do I what?" Felix says, becoming perhaps too abstruse. Or yielding to booze. Better to stand out here in the chill than lie in the silence of a borrowed room, watching the fan turn, and arguing with the ache of longing.

Love sucks, it's true. Teo inhales and exhales the runoff from Felix's cigarette. "Why do you play both sides?"

"I'm… I don't. My loyalty is to the FBI. I'm allowed to use people as informants," Felix says, quietly. "I don't arrest you because at the moment, I don't have anything I can charge you with. You're not wanted save as a Known Associate. I don't think Phoenix is the threat, and you've made good canaries in the mine for the real threats." There's all but the shuffle of him laying the cards out on the felt. "And I have sympathy for some points of your cause. There's a lot of bullshit in the government, public and not, aimed towards the Evolved. I don't harbor any illusions that when the time is really at hand, the badge I carry will keep me from being herded on to the cattle cars with the rest of the freaks, and that time is coming. One of the perks of being a Fed is that we can overlook little bullshit offenses in search of the big ones." He takes a deep drag, the ember flaring and ebbing in time with his breath, momentarily illuminating the planes of his face, as he looks at Teo through the smoke. "I also haven't arrested you because if I did, the fact that I was your lover will come out. At best, I'll be fired. At worst, I'll be in jail, too. And I won't survive jail time."

That is a tidy little train of thought. Teo manages not to look unimpressed at it; his expression turns inward, like he's giving it actual thought. He doesn't really have to, though. "Your loyalty is to fucking justice.

"Or the best and highest manifestation of that weird little construct as you're capable of understanding and upholding with sword or celerity. Our cause is equality and your government is being a troupe of asshats. You haven't rounded us up because they're a threat only second to the fucking Vanguard. You follow protocol because it's easy and sometimes adds up to right.

"You leave it when it isn't enough. You're a hypocrite, I guess. Maybe a patriot, which is worse." Teo's mouth goes crooked, smiling at some interchangeable point of street. The storefronts on the opposite side are blind, dark. "If you can't just live with that, I wouldn't be too fucking worried: you'll probably die of it sooner than later. And me, even sooner.

"You'll be fine." Sometimes, Teo manages to be nicer than this. This time he isn't, at least, being cruel.

It would all be easier if Teo were just some boy bimbo he could have fucked and left. As it stands, his life increasingly resembles a Le Carre novel, and that's never a good thing. No happy endings. "What's that line of Twain's about how patriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel?" he says, wearily, dropping the bitter end of the cigarette in a puddle, grinding it out under a heel for good measure.

To be fair, Teo is more or less some boy bimbo he could have fucked and left. Instead, Felix is offering to buy drinks, accepting cigarettes and help, and grumbling about having to straddle loyalties when he would much rather straddle his unrequited crush's throbbing bratwurst instead. It's not very smart. Probably, he should just leave. "I don't read enough Twain."

At least, Teo is far too polite to mention about the potential outcomes of any honest effort on Phoenix's part to destroy Felix and all he loves. Even now, with the subject of his arrest or untimely death arisen. It's almost like they're friends. "Guess I should confess. I went around you and asked your godfather not to be— proactive about your request."

"Doesn't matter now," Felix says, turning for his car. "HomeSec has him in some basement in mutant Gitmo. I don't care if he's dead or alive, so long as he's been dealt with." Like they're friends. Sort of. Look, orgasms and police corruption buy you time not spent in an interrogation room.

Teo forgets to follow Felix with his gaze. Or avoids it. Bad time to mention he's bringing Fedor to blow up mutant Gitmo, probably. That Gabriel Gray may well be coming along, too. It hurts a little, to have to lie — not because Felix Ivanov doesn't deserve it on some level or other but because he would have irregardless of that fact. Orgasms and police corruption are some of the less morally questionable commodities he's dealt in lately.

He's getting tired of this job.

"Stay good," Teo suggests, turning around on an uneven drub of boots.

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