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Scene Title Box
Synopsis According to mythology, some things are better left unopened. Or unbought. Teo and Francois trip over their respective futures after a few days of avoiding the topic completely.
Date June 14, 2010

West Village

June 10, 2010: 8:03 PM

By the time Teodoro dragged his shambling carcass into the brownstone, the sun had begun to set, showing matte burnt orange on the West Village's conspicuously dry pavement but still-barren trees. Cops to dodge, cargo to move. Fortunate, that Hana had been there; more for reassurance than because the officers were about to get overly-involved with every damn vehicle coming off the Williamsburg Bridge, even if it did take some finagling to get their van towed to a place they knew they had Ferry contacts. There had merely been enough neon yellow safety vests and clipboards to make Teodoro profoundly nervous.

He had been far, far too tired for nervous by the time he got home. No news being good news, and enough chill in the air even without perma-winter eating the kinetic energy out of the molecules in it and making brittle everything from the metal in the railings to the bones in his body. He twisted the lock open with a stabby jab of the key. Called out: "Boy, I could sure as shit use an hour-old microwave dinner, by now!" (Teo is the best boyfriend ever, you see. He brings the house a sense of humor with each and every apology.)

If they were dog people, Teo might be awarded with a quicker and more enthusiastic greeting. For the first few seconds, all he'll get is the ambient warm of an occupied building, the vaguer scent of coffee (as opposed to nuked chicken steaks in packet sauce or something like that), until there are footsteps, and Francois not quite waiting by the door but apparently near enough. Wings himself around the wall that divides foyer from living area before giving the younger man the opportunity to get there himself.

"Where were you?" is not imperious demand, or even demand veiled in concern, but simple concern. "Before, I mean, when it happened." So not where have you been. Whatever Teo chose to occupy his time with— cop dodging— between it and now is probably less important.

Hands are going out to find purchase on Teo's jaw so as to inspect face, head, then a swooping body-length glance down.

Bruise on Teo's forehead. 'Forehead' is too narrow a term for the reality of the blotchy green slug-thing gymnastically squirming the distance down his temple, around to a purple tinge at the corner of his eye, speckling infinitessimal purple dots out of the pores at his hairline at the base of each off-blond strand. Nothing that would kill Sicily, just kind of gross. Sore, despite that Teodoro doesn't make a face. If it didn't hurt, he would have made a face.

Boys. And despite that he's creeping ever-close toward thirty, the vast majority of his acquaintances can call him as much with impunity. He blinks big blue eyes that are big and blue enough to show Francois his own reflection, in double and miniature, before his brow folds down a fraction of an inch, goes squinty, an instant before that grin lights his mouth. "Williamsburg Bridge.

"The shipment was still in-transit. I fell on the brakes and hit the horn with my face— I think I was the only one in the whole of New York who did so. I'm a great driver even when I'm knocked the fuck out unconscious, see? A Saturn ran into us after, but it was just a passenger car. Moved us a little." The details are here to give the illusion of total truth, and the illusion is not one woven with deliberate malice, of course. Teodoro merely, coincidentally abridges details like the van's crumpled side, door imploded, that Delilah's foot had nearly been popped like a grape, her shoe crushed like paper around tiny toes, below her knee. "It's amazing more people weren't hurt. A bus nearly went over the edge with Hana and Abigail in it, and some poor bastard named Silver, but they're fine— bumps and bruises."

A beat. "No flames," he adds, importantly. "Were you here?" He'd thought that had been Francois' plan for the early afternoon. Something to do with textbooks or database articles, yet more updates to Sadie's upgrade. Medicine never sleeps.

Missing details allows Francois less guilt in moving on, once the list is reeled off, so that's nice. The lines in his brow that had formed are smoothing out, eye still drawn repeatedly towards the bruise, and there are second hand instincts— ones that are not his— to reach for a penlight and see what Teo's eyes do in response, if they follow the track of movement as they should. His fingers twitch at the hair-lined slope of the Sicilian's jaw— a brief deviation where longer strands are gently flipped back from the bruising to see better— before releasing his head to plant palms on his chest.

That small moment of strangeness, crosses by Teo invisibly behind Francois' eyes. The foyer is nothing like an emergency room. Additionally, he hesitates. "Oui," he confirms, a beat later. "You should have seen the street before — cars bumper to tail all through, and not everyone had gone unconscious. I found out how big it was when no ambulances could come.

"How are you feeling?" is asked instead of did you go to the hospital, because Francois can guess. Conveniently, this question is relevant, which is always a bonus when preferring to not speak of something else.

They make room for each other the way people do when they've lived with each other long enough, and three months— give or take interruptions— is just long enough. Physical space counts, maneuvering broad shoulders around the other set while navigating the cramped canyons of the kitchen. Other kinds of spaces, too. Don't think he doesn't notice, the funny light shy behind Francois' pretty green lamps. It isn't because he doesn't notice that he doesn't crowd in and poke, pry. That's space given.

And maybe space asked. "Cheated. My dream was all foggy," he says. "I figure I was probably drunk in it. Which is one-up on everybody who had nightmares, I think. The police are going to be all over it, but all I can about is dinner right now. I think the lasagne from the other day is still good. That and coffee?" He doesn't yet know the significance of this lie, other than that it is one. 'Foggy's just bending the truth, on the grand scale of things, and considering what Ghost did with the one end of it, really. 'Foggy' isn't so bad.

"We could watch a movie." He knows how Francois likes to watch movies. Mostly because it's fun. Sometimes because it's other things. No necessity to time the turn of a page. You're either watching or sitting with your eyes open, a million miles away, the only anchor the leg slung across your lap or the occasional cough from the seat adjacent, and the person bedrocking the other end of that anchor would never know. He leans forward slightly, into the hands. Dares France to drop him on his stupid head again!

There is no dropping, only bracing and a break of a smile that didn't seem willing to surface around talk of foggy dreams. "You can have better ones tonight." Francois could not classify his own as a nightmare, to be honest — too strange and too irrelevant. Doesn't bear mentioning, either — movie-watching is both easier than reading aloud Silas Marner or verbal manifestations of honesty. Later, anyway. They can talk about it later.

"Mm. We have not watched the Bourne movie yet," he says, because he has forgotten which one it is. The titling system lacks numbers, but either way, there is nothing better than shaky cam fight scenes and car chases to lose yourself in front of, and pretty much any one of those promise this particular appeal. Francois' fingers curls in a brief and cattish grip to the front of Teo's shirt, before releasing, a shove backwards gentle enough only to counter the weight slung forward instead of actually knock him off-balance. "Allons-y. There is coffee. I had some lasagne already."

In contrast to Teo being the best boyfriend, Francois makes a poor housewife, though not always. Heel as an axis, Francois rocks aside as if permitting Teo entry into their home, hands retracting.

June 11, 2010: 7:45 AM

Teo is washing cups while the television is on. News, the asstastically early kind that commuters listen to before the accursed commute, although he hasn't gone anywhere. He had made the stupid mistake of going to bed at eight, and it has thrown everything off, or would have if there was a relative standard of comparison to gauge his life on other than chaos. The presenter is a redhead with a shiny green barette on either side of her head, winging back, divulging a telltale pepper streak at either temple. If their television weren't as handsomely high-definition as it is, he couldn't have noticed.

"—increasing percentage of reports of blackout vision activities matching planned events, such as the Shepherd quintuplets baptism… and Mary-Lou Leonard and her fiancee Cameron King's wedding. This couple have chosen to move the date of their ceremony forward and are planning to spend four thousand dollars to change it to a destination wedding, believing the event of yesterday was an act of G —"

Step in the hallway. Teo moves in ways that he rarely has to, within the confines of the brownstone, snags the remote like a snake, a wet-thumbed button-push and the television screen empties out with a seizure's flash. He pitches it on the couch in the same fluid motion and is back, wrists-deep in soapy water, before Francois' head pokes in through the doorway. "Buongiorno," he says. "I saved you the biggest grapefruit. Sugar's in the cup. Look at that Best Buy catalogue while you're at it? We have to replace that mouse."

If Francois notices that the remote is damp when he goes to get it, he doesn't let it on. Now, they're talking about the weather.

June 11, 2010: 11:34 PM

Since age thirteen, Teo has suspected that he stinks after sex.

It is the particular liberty he takes with those who love him, or at least concede to enact its embraces with him, that he stays awhile after, trailing affectionate thumb along the plump crease formed between demurely compacted breast and supine torso resting belly-down, or watching the evidence of his own passion cooling stickily on the other man's flesh. Under such circumstances, Francois doesn't tend to take showers immediately afterward, and probably not merely because Teo rode him into a too-tight Francois-shaped socket in the mattress, or inflicted injury upon his pelvis, though it's a funny thing to joke about.

Funny is good, while they still haven't run out of the giggly honeymoon-quality newness of the relationship, and they haven't. He discovered that while that sort of thing probably makes for bad porn, it indubitably makes for good sex videos that only turn bad after your ex gets shot in the head by a Humanis First! operative. And maybe that's why Teo decides, in the lull after the dig about stinky feet, and the parodical effort to jealously count all the male lovers Francois had by conducting statistical averages and extrapolations from his journals, to mention a thing.

His smile fades in the dark, though there's still something soft like humor to the shape of his words. "I added you to my will last week. Don't kill me: you'll be disappointed."

June 12, 2010: 11:12 AM

That day's newspaper had been found folded over and half stuck in the recycling. Not completely unread, that Francois could see. Later he would see the ink smudges where thumbs had flicked the edges, upon further investigation, and fortunately it was only stuck in among unread catalogues and paper advertisements, cardboard rolls of paper towels and an empty box of dishwashing powder. Recycling had gotten pretty popular, in the nineties, while he was still cruising along his seventh decade.

Usually, Teo leaves the paper out for him too. If only for the crosswords. Vecchio.

For all the disaster that's struck New York, it still takes a while to unstick major events from the headlines — two days later and it's still the news, of course. Upstairs, all the way in the mostly unused third floor, there is a room still empty of furniture that Francois sequesters himself within while Teo is gone, and spreads the thin sheets of paper between his feet, and reads. It's the room that had sprung to mind when he'd thought about what he could do for them.

Delilah and Teo and Walter, that is. It could make a nice nursery, and there's a balcony, for whenever they might want it. They might not, Francois doesn't know, but he is allowed to think about it until he knows when such an offer would not be uncomfortable or anything to actually make into words.

In this article, they're talking about November the 8th, 2010. Silent and still panic passes until he thinks he can take the crossword out, go back downstairs, and occupy himself with working out that #8, Down, is 'callipygian', until Teo comes home.

June 14, 2010: 2: 09 PM

This will turn out to be Francois' fault.

Restless within the confines of his own home and there'd been this place he's been meaning to meander through, and why do that alone if you can avoid it? They have the windows open, all the better for sunlight to strike off expensive woodwork to justify its pricing, a young clerk at the desk glad to have a job which she may read her books for the most part.

Teo is speaking, a sort of constant clamour in his ear that aren't translating into words, the same sort of jumble of syllables and senselessness that English sounded like maybe fifty years ago. (Maybe more.) Francois has his fingertips set against the very edge of the box, studying the distinctive pattern of the wood's grain and the shining polish that doesn't seem to take away from some rustic authenticity lended by its blockish make. It is nice, suitable, and expensive, and—

He's also seen it before, except it had a film of dust making its earthy tones greyer, and probably felt heavier in his hands then than it would now.

To be fair, Teodoro's incessance only real kicked in when he saw the price-tag, whatever that says about him. His apologetic but carefully generalized disclaimer about his unfortunate tendency to page through the private journals of others had only been good manners, and his enthusiasm upon discovering that the origin of the olive wood that had gone into the box's construction had been Sicily only appropriate. Sometimes, even Teodoro Laudani thinks about stuff outside himself without having to prop it up on the egotism of cosmic paradigms of evil or interracial warfare, things necessarily 'bigger' than himself. One needs neither evil nor war as relative measure to do something right.

One apparently needs something of a wallet, though. And so he is reconsidering somewhat, abashed, embarrassed, yet cheerful, failing to notice the trouble darkening on Francois' face as the Frenchman examines the inlaid frame of the lid and the curlicued detail of hinges. This whole place smells of a stately sweetness, sandalwood and resin, of things grown in earth and sunlight and then honed by hands that actually understand art. Rather unlike the callused thing that hooks the belt-loop below Francois' left hip, wiggles a tug.

"It struck me because it's the perfect size, mostly," he says, his volume an equally uncharacteristic show of restraint, pale eyes cutting briefly toward the skeptical clerk, whose attitude may be attributed to any number of factors. Teodoro's fucked up face, the meltwater on the cuffs of his pants and the undersides of his shoes, that the garb of a shabby sophisticante lends itself better to hokey vintage shit than imported handcrafts— a subtle distinction that such clerks are paid to know. "Single-stack sheets flat, or two folded up into envelopes. Well: and it's light. But we could just take these measurements somewhere else, si?"

Francois is generally a good listener — at least when he has nothing particular to say. Like right now, he's as silent as the graaave, and by rights should be taking in all the words being chattered just to the right of him. Even if he was floating away on some intellectual tangent, the nagging weight of Teo's hand hooked to the waist of his jeans should be a good grounding reminder. Except he doesn't even seem to notice that, not as his hand falls away, and not as he's turning to leave.

Almost takes Teo's hand with him, except the Sicilian has ninja reflexes. The half slice of an expression that Teo got to see last out his periphery was mute study, a kind of clammy texture to Francois' pale, and then—

Well then he mostly only sees Francois walking away. There is no suggestion of storming out or even particular hurry — but it is an unstoppable trajectory that carries him smoothly towards the door, needing air, quite abruptly, needing open space and to physically distance himself from a solid and tangible version of a thing he'd been denying. It's even made of wood. There is nothing realer than wood, except only rock carved out the earth.

Teodoro trends toward intelligent, on some level, but pedestrian in ways that other men have angrily, graphically eviscerated in their journals before. He interprets it as primness, a joke or honest complaint, softened either way by the older man's natural reservations not to lay it on too thick.

Confusing, necessarily. "Fuck," he says. His hand, the one that had recoiled, goes up in his hair, finds his scalp reassuringly solid, warm, underneath the thickness of off-blond hair, wryly flustered. "Shit. Ah, Hell." Stupid, useless words like that. He ropes two steps out after Francois before his attention skews off-trajectory, catches the clerk's eye despite that the clerk hadn't honestly wanted particularly to look at him. He gives a grin; you know the one. "I'll take it. Here—"

By the time he clatters out, Teo is lighter a credit card and syncopating, a little belatedly, with the strangeness oscillating in the air. "Francois," he says, hastening to gauge the distance, however brief, and to follow. A wind catches his jacket, broadside, flares it up behind him like it's determined to slow him with the drag, but he defies it with a sidewindering scuttle. "Francois, I'm getting it. I'm—" Not getting it at all, but he is earnest, optimistic, increasingly concerned. "Francois. Is something wrong?"

Dramatic walking does not, at least, take Francois out into a road that's become business-as-usual cluttered with cars — just down the pavement, choosing left, and an inch away from ramming his shoulder into an unsuspecting West Village-ian. The wind of his own pace's invention whips past his ears, always tingling the scars that line one, and he starts slowing when he hears Teo.

"You shouldn't have," he says over a shoulder, finally halting and turning on a heel, enough for his butt to find the backwards back of the streetside bench to rest against, hands bracing on either side. Is it dizzy in here or is that just Francois? The world is not actually spinning— in ways it's not meant to, anyway— but there is a sense of temporariness that he hasn't had since getting a house, like he could spin out of this reality at any time. "It was too expensive for wood. Merde. I'm sorry."

The detachment between this last sentiment and the first might hint that they are, detached.

"I'm sorry too," Teo says, automatically, but sincere despite that. At the very least, he can be sorry that Francois is sorry about something, particularly having completely missed the memo. Paranoia should be catching up to him any moment now, but it doesn't come, not even when he finally scrapes to a halt behind Francois, studying the outline of his shoulders above the slats of the bench back that's bracing him upright.

From where he's standing, the world is almost still, sunlight dropping shadows on the sidewalks and lifting dust off floors, and surprisingly quiet. Not so many pedestrians, relatively few cars caterpillaring this neighborhood and its block of tidy, tasteful little shops. Sparrows fleck the street, gargling gooey fragments of bread or other, less recognizable garbage, and some power-walker in tiny orange shorts is trick-stepping the cross-walk; the most frenetic activity he can see. No spinning anywhere.

Three seconds for equivocation is a luxury compared to some of the war-zones he's been in, let me tell you. Quietly, then, Teo is a long-legged weight settling on the bench beside him, his hands on his lap. He does not, in fact, ask whether or not Francois cheated on him. He asks, "What is it?"

If Francois was getting his way, he'd crawl beneath Teo's arm for an embrace before they have to have this conversation — and he didn't even cheat with anyone! Instead, he stays seated where he is, itching his fingers through his dark hair and smoothing it back in the same motion, fingers lacing together at his nape. "Maybe nothing. But, ah." Nothing is becoming increasingly wishful thinking. Despite his reserve, Francois shifts over on the bench, closer, close enough to touch shoulder to shoulder.

"I wasn't properly honest. About the dreams. I mean oui, I was in the house, but I was not immune to what happened." He steers a look towards Teo, despite this new proximity where they can read almost too much detail from each other, including that it's clear Francois would rather be making eye contact with his feet.

Teo feels more than sees a shrug. "I woke up to the sound of the traffic jam outside. You manage to go unconscious at the wheel of a truck, and I am in my bed while reading."

The knit in Teo's brow is tightening like a thread yanked out of the weave of a cloth, bunching the surface, turfing in creased grooves and peaks, a seam undone. He is glaring at his lap, mostly. There's nothing but lap to glare at. He and Francois aren't looking at each other right now, though the touching is good, reassuring, for the brief instant before it conspires with the confession at hand to drive a spike of guilt down, down, deep into his gut. Francois wasn't the only one who had lied about his blackout.

"Well, you were one up on me," Teo tries for levity, measured in ounces, and spread thin over the surface of the situation like a condiment. His imagination gallops ahead of him. Perhaps Francois had not seen anything either, and their deceptions are the same, derived of mutual concern and protectiveness. It will be easier, he thinks, to be frightened together than frightened only one for the other. A symptom of not being soulless. His shoulder pushes back. "I don't think I liked what I saw, either."

Francois tips forward, just briefly, in a brief attempt to catch eye contact — whether or not he gets it, the outcome is the same. His attention goes back to eyeing the world across the street, pensive as he considers the implications. There is a ludicrous question on the tip of his tongue, and it will only take a pause for it to drop, even if it doesn't exactly make sense. Because if it did, and it was true, there would be a different shape to Teo's words, possibly, an attempt at being delicate.

They would probably be having this conversation sooner, also. Foggy, Teo had said. Still, Francois asks; "Was I in it?" It manages to come off a little wry, a little rueful. He might take Teo's hand if he thought it would be desired.

In a feat of unparalleled courage, Teo sets a hand on Francois' arm, instead, closes his fingers around hands that have saved countless lives, spared others, and aspire to greater yet despite the reduction of superpowers. He holds the warmth of Francois pulse close against the thin skin inside the older man's own wrist, veins showing through green as a dandelion dropped in a cup of cream. "No," he answers. "But no one was, really. Seems like I was in the wrong place at the wrong time— every other person you hear about got to play in big fuckin' riots and fires and some manic shit. Or—"

Weddings, but he doesn't feel like talking about those right now. He picks at the Frenchman's prone forearm, partway picks it up, lets it fall again on the flat of Francois' thigh. They draw a few glances and it prickles the back of his neck, but he doesn't look at those people. Evolved is the new gay, anyway, motherfuckers; didn't you get the memo? Teodoro clears his throat roughly. "What did the box make you think of?"

Holding hands while seated on a wood-slatted bench, no less — at least this is the faggy boho part of New York, anyway (but then again, what part isn't!). Not Francois' concern currently, allowing his hands to clamshell over Teo's with a twitch of a smile. One that is relieved, though it's a cheap sort of relief where they both kind of fucked up. Still. He'll take it.

"I saw it, in mine." Tada. His hands release in a sort of helpless there you go gesture, rapid blinks downwards at their mingled fingers. He still isn't Getting It, when it comes to what Teo is saying, a snagging query where he isn't sure, exactly, what to ask — but he can recognise he's being just as vague, if not more so. "I thought it was a dream, truly, nothing real. Nothing familiar, except now that box. And then when they spoke of prophecy, I thought it wouldn't be— this year. So soon?"

The edge of his thumb traces Teo's lifeline. A glance is meant to be prompting, this eventual display of card hands.

It would appear that Teodoro had made an error of optimism. This is not his first. He would suppose, that if it'd be an appropriate last, but that would be morbid. The street doesn't spin for him, but his heart does sink, an inch first, then a hiccuped fraction of one. Then a stolid foot's drop squarely into collision with his gut. He had not fully understood what it meant to lose this particular game, which is odd; he usually thinks about that a lot. Maybe, he's had a lot on his mind, lately.

He clears his throat, eventually, shoulders squaring like one of those colonial buildings with their cornice mouldings that preside over them. His palm tickles. He is careful not to close his fingers too suddenly over the ones that have already formed their wandering grasp on his own. "I, ah," should return the box, maybe, or keep it; a talisman against early endings, at the very least, to hold back the darkness with its trove of worthy secrets. Love you. Like the idea of this box of keepsakes being the keepsake you retain of me, protecting all others, never empty, expensive, and from Italy.

"Didn't see anything," is his answer, roughed out, in the end.

There is almost irritation, in the mark of a dimple at Francois' brow, unsure of what this game is because Teo just implied that he had a— ! But then he will recall that there had been some, some lost souls, who had seen nothing too. The hands in Teo's don't go cold or anything, but they do grow tighter. They didn't need this, really. It's been months, and that's a mere handful of time, between them, for them to be together. Sad endings aren't supposed to be here yet.

Or confusing endings. "No one knows what that means yet," Francois says, eventually, now looking at Teo, instead of his shoes or the windows across the street. "Maybe you were in the right place. Asleep. Or very drunk."

Elbow set against his knees, somewhere in the middle there he has developed a slouch, but it allows him to pick up one of Teo's hands in his own, settle it protectively beneath his chin and against his scarred throat, warm with a fluttery pulse, vibrations of speaking. "I think what is maddening is what is not known about what we know, ah?" he observes, safely contemplative and distanced from their respective concerns. Bon dieu, and his own punchline is still unspoken.

"That'd still mean I was ripped off," Teo answers, in his complaint-voice, facetiously, making light partly in evasive reflex to the divot that annoyance jabs into Francois' forehead, and partly because he doesn't know what else to say. He thinks it's too early for endings, too. "I had to've been sleeping. Motherfuckin' boring, right?" He thinks this, even though he's been circling around the logistical planning for one for, oh, a few months now. It's why he's circling. Like many people of his home country, and perhaps even of France's, he knows that a straight line is the fastest way to get anywhere.

The blackout makes it hard to forget. Time seems linear, sometimes, despite that Teodoro better than anyone should know that. The Columbia 14 might have died again, but Jesse and Helena retain their lives, and ergo, Hana— it seems— her soul. Not the most optimistic take on diverging from the precursors of Fate, no, but such truth carved out on unmistakable if ugly terms, and perhaps easier to believe that they aren't scrawled out in cake icing. Anyway, this is kind of nice. If 'nice' is a term adequate to sitting out on a bench with Francois in one of the finer neighborhoods New York City retains, holding hands. Francois' neck is a good place to be.

"You didn't see me, though." It isn't a question.

"Non," Francois admits, easily, catpurr vibrations of vocalising felt at Teo's knuckles through the thin skin of his neck. He lets silence fall, there, not as added punctuation but an attempt at figuring out how to explain. Attempting to remember, though that isn't the hard part, eveything slamming back too hard upon the mere sight of something familiar. Hell, maybe it's not even the box, even if his soul would disagree. He sits back again.

Lets his clasped hands and Teo's fall back into his lap. "There was a woman, but I don't recognise her. But I knew her there, and she knew me. I saw myself also. The mirror, a little. My hands— "

Reluctance hitches his words, mouth going into a line as he his attention drops towards the tangle of fingers between them, one set crooked, just like in the future. "I'd changed, in it. I was old. In that I looked it, and felt it. No one else has seen that far." In that it probably isn't. Far. Francois sort of is watching Teo, but only in his periphery.

In Francois' periphery, Teo is slightly grayscaled and slightly slouched, his bearded chin in overhang and long fingers of his free hand splayed arachnidae over his other knee, fingers bending and twitching flat again at erratic intervals. His smile is indisputably fond, for that long moment, before it fades out under the weighty drag and passage of the other man's answer. No, that doesn't make sense, not even to a time-jumper before.

(And Teodoro has never beat up an old woman before, though this would be a sad place to start.) (As opposed to…) His teeth sink into the flesh of his lower lip, thoughtfully, and he fights back the nervous jitter and squirm of improbable kinesis in his gut, and his eyes drop to the hands in question. His voice sounds very much like his own, at least to his ears, but the words— he surprises himself, vaguely. "Maybe you should try to find her. She might have seen something at a slightly different time. She might have a better idea of what happened."

"Or if she saw any such thing, she is just as confused as I am." Indicating that Francois has considered, already, discovering her. To talk. Or to hide from, whichever comes first. He gives a shrug, however, one to indicate he's not discounting the worth in this errand, still finding it better to observe the cracks in pavement, a receipt stuck thinly to the ground with the ink run beyond comprehension. "The box was the first thing I saw — it was older too, but, perhaps just misused, je ne sais pas. There were letters in it."

And now a smile, brief but sincere and sad. "You were correct about the fit of the thing, for envelopes. They were for you. Abby. Others as well. I'd hidden them beneath the floor, I think, or found them there." Hidden them is correct, and he feels it, too.

Lines in Teo's brow, laddering, wrinkled compression. Someday he will have to pay for his expressiveness in damage to his ageing skin, unless he dies ahead of schedule just to evade it, and not even he is that vain. Besides, men tend to age well. Look distinguished. Be a change from his childish grimace. That makes sense. He isn't sure how, but the connection formed by the box, the look on Francois' face, his rapid-fire exeunt, his declaration that Teo shouldn't have. Maybe he is right, and Teodoro shouldn't have.

He doesn't know if it's too late now. The clerk will be annoyed if he tries to do take-backs, but then, maybe he can just explain it is in light of flashforwards and great gay love. New York is a blue city, and event he stodgiest of retail-slave bitches can appreciate that, surely. Teo isn't sure if he should be feeling better or worse, but whatever he feels comes through a little clearer, less cloyed by static than what he was feeling fifteen minutes ago. "But suppose she is kind," he says. "And curious, and, uh. Graceful. S'pose we find out that the dreamless ones mean I'm gone from your life, one way or another.

"Suppose the reason you're that old so early, or the letters you'll write, holds an answer to keeping you from it or a fairytale about noblesse fuckin' oblige about why you did. Some dangerous mutants in the world. I wouldn't put it past you. And I like fairytales." Teo's voice loses momentum, and a child skips by, a pinwheel gripped in small fat fingers. "That's at least three scenarios to plan for."

Francois' thumb drags up the side of Teo's hand in a gentle kind of gesture, before releasing it entirely. The lines at his eyes that accompany a smile denote expression over age, still. The man opposite him is neither asleep nor dead. There is time, before having none of it. "At least we can plan, ah? But I plan to not need letters. And for you to still be in my life, one way or another." Hell, if anyone can stop the flow~ of time~ itself~ it may as well be either of them.

Short of actually having any kind of precognitive powers, temporal abilities, burned out ex-Evolveds that they are. "I am not afraid of a box, regardless — and maybe you are right, and both it and the lady know something I do not. Shall we get it now?"

No. Teodoro nearly does say that, but finds that he is physically incapable of it. Which is only like, two percent slut joke. Leap of faith, or something like that. A baby-step. Or there's Ghost, in the back of his mind, a greased wheel in the engine of his personality, intent on introducing the connotative box to a denotative sledgehammer. Ghost tended to value brute effectivity over delicacy or decency, one would suppose. His silence is not short, but his answer is, and clear: "Si."

He quells cowardice, then. Squashes down a dozen minor functions of self-loathing, delays the anticipation of self-destruction. Pushes back the obscure, embarrassing knot of relief that had tied itself off loosely around the vertebrates of his neck as soon as Francois had let go of his hand. Teo gets up, puts his hands in his pockets, passes his tongue briefly, unthinkingly, through the exposed molars on the left side of his gouged-out cheek. "I'm thinking I'm gonna get over it and start talking to Abigail again, soon," he says, footnote and background to the flat-soled tread of his feet on concrete.

At Teo's heels long enough— to first observe the back of his blonde head and the set of his shoulders and wrestle with the urge to grip onto the back of his shirt and go the other direction, back home, and maybe lock all the doors ever— to catch up in a second, Francois has his hands tucked away and inoffensively in his pockets, fingers curled. When he'd found Teo sort of almost about to kill himself, I love you had sort of almost been the wrong thing to say.

Even in French. He measures it in his head for a moment and discards it for a less awkward time, in bed or in moments of gratitude or apology, neither emotion fits this picture. "She would like that," he notes. "And I told her you would. Make me seem prophetic."

"I misplace my sentimental principles sometimes," is Teo's answer, muttered, but the kind of muttering that is meant for mood rather than to evade perception. "Start to thinking punishment ought to be proportional to the crime. Get carried away with terms and balances like that, you know? I mean, Kozlow did those kids, nearly—

"My mom—" His explanation goes thready in the air, tugged askew by the wind and then by the fact that he measured his glance askance incorrectly. Francois is coming up on his other side. He doesn't turn to locate the Frenchman in the proper place, though, content for the moment with the peripheral flicker of long jacket, the triangular crook of elbow, of scarred hand demurely set into pocket. "Forgiveness ought to say 's much about her as it should about me, I think. Humility would probably be a nice thing to have in my fucking catalogue."

Francois nods, in that his chin tucks in briefly and casts vibes of pure Switzerland, unrelenting neutrality born only of love instead of cowardice or apathy. There are more constructive things for love to do, granted, but he likes Teo's catalogue as it is, holds a little resentment for the entire situation, still, and wants his friends to be friends.


A step has his shoulder bumping into Teo's, as companiable as they were on the bench, knocked back into the correct trajectory as he asks, "Are you going to tell her?" He would understand, implies his tone, if Teo wanted and needed someone else to talk to.

Bok. Teo tilts away slightly then tilts back on his next stride, his far knee wagging out like a drunk person's that moment before his reflexes snap him back upright more sharply than most sober people are even capable of. He twists his mouth off to the side, contemplative, reluctant, perhaps apologetic. The storefront looms up, and they are framed within the plateglass of the front display first, then again miniaturized within the couple of funny wooden photo frames positioned within it. Teodoro slows down. He doesn't want to be the first one in.

"Nnnnot just yet." The fewer people who know, the better. He isn't sure he'd be able to shut himself up before telling her the rest, for one thing. And he wouldn't know what he'd do if she told him to stop, not to go through with it, or worse, if she didn't: either way, she wouldn't understand and that would gall him, for some reason. Teodoro thinks so, anyway. He'll tell Francois e-ventually. He plans on it, on explaining once he reaches the point of no return, and it's nice to procrastinate 'til then because he makes believe he can afford to, that the flashforwards have given a nebulous confirmation by way of one concrete date, that something might happen, some secret overheard or battle won, effervescent revelation or new priority that would, could, change his mind before Francois is burdened with the suffocating obligation to try to change it for him.

Procrastination. Case in point. Teo sticks an arm out at the shop door, and bows.

A small, affirmative grunt from the back of his throat is meant to indicate that Francois isn't going to tell Abby yet either. Or anyone! Even. Teo doesn't count, having his hands in the future's creation or toying with its implications already just by buying an overpriced block of wood. "Godiche," is good-natured enough as Teo waves him on in, Francois crossing past him without a slow of step or hesitation. The door bell rings out obnoxiously, as they retrace their steps.

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