lucrezia_icon.gif teo_icon.gif

Scene Title Coccoon
Synopsis A Bennati family Valentine's Day. There are a lot of red things that run in this bloodline. Love works. Terrorism may also apply.
Date February 14, 2009

Orchid Lounge

The Orchid Lounge, owned by the mother of Senator Nathan Petrelli, is an Asian-inspired martini bar lit by candlelight and the soft glow of wall sconces spaced evenly throughout the room. Although there aren't any employees at the door to check for identification, it's unusual to find anyone in the college-aged crowd at the Lounge, which caters to young professionals with plenty of extra money to burn. During the day, the plush burgundy drapes affixed to the windows are used to filter out the sounds of traffic and at night are drawn back to allow passersby a glimpse inside.

Seating is simple: clusters of rectangular tables fashioned from white marble, each with two leather benches parallel to the longest sides. Silk pillows in varying shades of red, brown, yellow and orange lend a splash of color to the Lounge, vivid against the pale walls and black-painted cement floor. On one wall is a giant mirror with an intricately carved frame that reflects almost everything in the room and makes the space appear twice as large as it really is. Clearly, the proprietor of this establishment wanted to get her money's worth - real estate in this part of town isn't cheap!

Fifteen years later, and Teodoro Laudani still wishes they'd get their grubby mitts of his zia. These thoughts don't distract him while he's playing the theatrical ninja terrorist so much as give the experience color. He's in the Orchid Lounge this time, oddly enough, his torso garbed in a dark button-down shirt. Over one arm, the long panels of a woollen coat he doesn't own lay folded, its pocket rounded by the cellphone where Hana had sent the coordinates of one Lucrezia Bennati's GPS lock.

Valentine's evening finds her in a club of red candles, melodic contralto, and a male model on either side of her. The left is from Shanghai, the right from Sweden. They're something to her. He can't tell what, exactly, from across the width of the couch and alcove, but he can tell they're both speaking their mother languages, an unbroken stream of foreign nothings fed into her mind in a manner that, he suspects, is supposed to seem sophisticated and charming.

He has no room to criticize, of course. He left her alone for weeks.

Still, there's a distinct crook of discontentment to the brow he's staring from under when he finally does come out of the flickering shadow and ambient lights. A familiar look, to her. He shows uncharacteristic restraint, at least, in refraining from clearing his throat. Or putting either man into a mirror.

From ether to bytes to data to blip to shadow to shape to incredible lips, hips and tits. Lucrezia looks up from the vain company she has no intention of keeping for very much longer just in time to pull from the line her first genuine expression of the evening — a smile made broad with pride. So. He really is alive. At least, that's what the spider hidden behind her ear whispers (without using so many words)…

The incompatible eye candy taking up all the prime real estate is abruptly dismissed with a drawling English excuse of, "Would you excuse me, boys?" But, yet, instead of letting her hangers-on vacate the cushions and leave her to occupy the corner alone with her newfound nephew, Lucrezia makes quite a production of finding her feet before they do and slinking around the table in order to claim the ghost of a man presented before her in a significantly more familiar embrace than either the Swede or the Chinaman were deemed worthy to receive. Jealous yet? They should be.

She clasps a hand on the back of Teo's wooden neck with the other slung 'round his shoulders and presses one of her rouged cheeks to his, ignoring the scrape of stubble. And, you know, if given the choice, she might not be so easily inclined to let go any time within the next, oh, five or six years. That'd be okay, right?

M-maybe. If they stretch time out long enough, surely she'll tire of him; an hour might feel like six years, in a young man prone to be as difficult as Teodoro Laudani is. Was. He isn't being particularly nice at the moment, glaring at those other two with an expression of the greatest affront. His arms close on her waist, finding the fit between tautly concave flesh and generous hips with the ease of experience and tactile memory. It takes him all of one minute to subtract the offending models from his spectrum of giving a fuck.

He pulls his face down into his aunt's, presses his mouth to the plum-colored corner of hers. "I'm sorry I didn't come sooner," he says. First thing. Of course the first thing would be that: I'm sorry. She'd understand. First, that he loves her; second that he's Catholic. There mother tongue switches in, seamless as the second kiss he presses to the other side of her mouth. "«There are idiots running around with badges and guns, trying to accomodate us in a style to which we aren't accustomed. You might have heard.»"

"«Oh, my precious, I was so scared that I'd lost you…»" Of course, if Teo had any idea how close he came to losing her

Was it too soon to speak? It's hard to tell. Initially, Lucrezia seems decidedly disinclined to disengage her serpentine encircling of arms and hands and heads; it's almost as though she's trying to bodily meld herself with the younger man, without any overt sexual connotation. It would certainly be easier to keep him safe if she could just suck him up like a sponge and keep him contained within the cast-iron armor plating installed around her heart, neh? But, no. That would never work. And so, finally, she gives him an inch to breathe without being chest to breasts but she keeps him close, held at the cuffs in order to keep their conversation covert. "«I have heard,»" she confirms. "«You are taking precautions?»"

Maybe Teo does. There was bridge camera footage, word of an insect lady, a long absence, Sonny's call. His arms are tight. Any charm he has is but a hundredth of hers; he'd keep her for six years if she'd let him, maybe. Maybe if the world would fuck off and let him be. He had supplanted air with the scent of her perfume. The inch she cedes him isn't unwelcome, but it comes at a discernible cost.

"«I am,»" he replies. A quaver-beat's pause. "«I'm trying to. They took our leader.»" There's no shadow of a lie cast over his tone in saying that, at least not until a rueful duck of his chin presses his forehead to hers, quiet acknowledgment she probably knows, like he sometimes has to make himself remember. Phoenix had two leaders. He smells of someone else's aftershave, soap. Cleanliness, nothing so extravagant as the bouquet of colognes that the two men passing behind Lucrezia waft about as they flounce out. "«Alexander, too. And one other.

"«I don't know what Homeland Security got out of them. Or out of any other prisoners they took.»" He might have said your people, but the portion of his mind reserved for Lucrezia's pedestal continues, adamantly, to refuse to seriously consider the true extent of her involvement with Kazimir Volken and his heinous crusade. Instead, the pallid eyes that reflect hers back to her show only worry. She, too, should perhaps take precautions.

"«I know,»" she answers ambiguously. While this may not be the time or the place for such curiously public displays of affection, the actress shuns any stifling concepts of American propriety and instead boldly stands there amidst the canoodling Valentine's Day crowd and allows her long-stemmed fingers to momentarily make a careful study of the unscarred face belonging to her sister's son. They pass right over the place where she saw him get shot, reverent and yet unaware of the bipartisan miracle which manifested in that hospital room and allows him to stand before her today. God and all of his furious angels where on guard for her that fateful day, to be sure.

But, enough of this touchy-feely tour of duty. These two have somewhat serious business to discuss — business that, unfortunately, does not require the waiting attendance to a pair of male models, no matter how pretty they may be. If the tiny terrorist's baleful glances had not been enough to frighten them off, then Lucrezia dismisses them with an over-exaggerated kiss blown to them from the tips of her fingers which then wiggle in a wave. "Bye bye, boys." Be gone with you, fashion accessories of the flesh.

With the corner now theirs to share only with the shadows and each other, Lucrezia sits as close as she can to her favorite younger man and engages in a little more forthcoming conversation. "«Tell me about your Homeland Security… what will they do to them? Where are they being held?»"

Safely encloistered in the weave of stuffed silk and shadows, believing himself fended from prying ears by both the ghost in the machine and the goddess of small things, Teo allows himself to relax, or closer to it than any other circumstance ever finds him. It isn't quite the armored enclave of Lucrezia Bennati's heart, but it's near enough.

His hands loosen. He hadn't known how tight they were under there was a slight give in the bones of her captured hand and a sharp lance of pain in his other palm, bitten by nails kept pragmatically short. "«I don't know.»"

He smiles on reflex, then, although he's wrong to do it, because he doesn't mean it. His mother taught him better than this. It's a nervous reflex, a spasm of his jaw, an instant's flare of teeth, hopeless; his eyes fall to her lap, their fingers all interpolated loops and angles, scrimshaw filigree and dim green veins. "«Electronic tracking isn't going very well.

"«I don't think they're dead. I don't think he's— they're dead.»" The correction comes a quaver-beat too late, haphazard, the last syllable swallowed too soon, short-circuited with a cough. "«It's been two weeks and I have shit to show for it. "«Would you…?»" The end of that question ends in dead air, somewhere between selfless fear for her and some commonplace, egocentric species of despair.

There are a lot of dark and unknowable corners into which the end of Teo's half-mouthed query might scurry and hide instead of crawling from between his lips and joining the preface now hung in the air. Lucrezia prefers to be impaled upon the tangible instead of the abstract. With burnt amber eyes focus on a point somewhere on the wall just over Teo's shoulder, she wonders aloud, "«Would I… what?»" Ask it. Say it out loud. Make it real.

And Teo, of course, doesn't want to. It's a collision of worlds for a young man for whom compartmentalization is absolutely essential to survival and keeping whatever facsimile of peace he's capable of. Still, he needs this, and the knowledge is winning out slowly but surely, over even ten years of both semi-conscious and conscious hesitation to admit to himself what his mother's sister was capable of. Her gift. How she chose to wield it. For whom. The count of secrets she unearthed from him is second, it seems, only to those that she maintains from him. "«Would you help me?»" He has to bite out the words. They emerge raw, half-processed, rough; his eyes are her hands.

Lucrezia's eyes pull back into focus and fix again on the face of her sister's son in order to divine the weight of his sincerity… or, perhaps, to sneak a peek at his gentle agony while wrestling with the terrible truth. Funny how when you finally find the voice to name a thing, it somehow loses its lustre and becomes mundane. Common. And Lucrezia could never be that; it's not a fate she desires but still she can't help but to long for the secret to be told. Let him say it. Let it be known. But, don't.

"«I would do anything for you, dearest,»" she declares easily enough. It's the asking that comes much more carefully. Does she dare to seek clarification? She needs something yet unspoken to go on. Be brave. "«What shall I do?»"

He'd balked, almost broken himself up in knots when Romero joined Phoenix. What Teo wants to ask from Lucrezia now is as much as he'd ask from any of his people. More, for some of them. His lips find a white line; he lifts his gaze from the origami fold of her perfect hands. "«I would like you to watch over me, and several places. When the time comes, to look and listen in on places held by Homeland Security. And—»" This is the worst of all, perhaps. For its selfishness, that his personal investment in it is not concealed, even thinly, by professional interest. "«If you could watch Salvatore, too, I would— I would appreciate it. He's… revising his life.

"«I don't think he's ready for it.»" A ludicrous claim, perhaps, made to a forty-four-year-old actress by an erstwhile plumber and high school teacher, but there's another thing suspended beside the hint of self-deprecation in his features, then, a flicker of something subtle, almost reptilian for all of its cold awareness and traits of legacy. They aren't quite like Sonny Bianco. Never had been.

They have never been soft people.

Salvatore…»" She enjoys the sensation of Sonny's real name on the tip of her tongue, curling her lips around the vowels and rolling the ending R like it ought to be done. There's nothing nearly so enjoyable in chewing on his too-American nickname. "«…is ruining his life one small step at a time, handsome.»" It's not so much meant to be a judgment as an observation. Had Sonny Bianco been an actor instead of a doctor, being photographed while taking a swing at a city official might have garnered him a hundred poor fans; every other girl does love a little bad boy… but not if he's the one you want to having holding a scalpel over your breasts. Bit of a crowbar separation there, really.

But, despite how it may seem, this is not a denial. It just takes her a precious moment to apply the salve of consent to a new bruise on her ego. "«This I can do.»" And without an address or any real idea of where to start in order to pursue surveillance of Homeland Security, this gives her silent excuse to spy on Felix, too, just to make sure…

…not as if she didn't already. She's spies on everyone. Especially you, Teodoro, dear. Lucrezia reaches out a hand in order to capture the younger man's errant fingers and claim them for her own, pressing his palm lightly between both of her impossibly soft hands and giving him a squeeze meant to instill confidence, assurance, sincerity. "«We will find them.»"

Instilling Teo with sincerity is probably unnecessary. He has that in troublesome boatloads. The touch and comfort his aunt gives him is so unlike that which the commensurate pressure of Amadora's hands would have left him with it's almost perverse, but neither twin would have expected anything less. His relief is obvious; eyes closing briefly, a new slump to shoulders that had refused to ever learn to do such a thing. His own hands are a familiar mix of calluses, from simple work and some barbaric type of play, warm, always, defying the weather he so often seems to fear. "Grazie." Thank you. Thank you.

"«You'll be happy to know I've started behaving myself,»" he adds. His voice changes when he does, loosening, less fear here that his words must hold water or reign in the sentiment that inspires them. Less is to say it isn't gone, yet. Rarely is anymore, but there's an undertone now of wry mirth he thinks he can afford. It's only his immortal soul at stake here, now, not the lives of others. He can afford to be funny about that, in the same way he's reckless with it: less serious, less valuable. "«Only fucking Sonny.

"Zia—" straightening. Smiles. "«I wouldn't recommend keeping Felix for long, though.»" Some whimsical knowledge casts something like humor across his face. "«You have as many if not more reasons to avoid Federal agents as I do. 'S all I'm saying.»"

Given Teo's capacity for words and meddling, that isn't much. He promises that it ends there, with a kiss to her jaw and a lazy request for champaigne in exchange for gossip. He also wants to know if she bought off Giacomo for him when he was fifteen; the man went from trying to drive a car over him to ready albeit grudging good mornings in the space of a week. Weeks before his daughter found out the baby was Umberto's.

San Valentino love them. No one else will.

February 14th: When You Gotta Go
February 14th: A Kind Of Fear
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