sal_icon.gif teo2_icon.gif

Scene Title Doppelgänger
Synopsis Sal and Teo have a conversation that's been a long time coming, though it takes an unexpected turn when Teo is overcome by an inexplicable weakness. Instead of rohypnol, there is a confession, and everything is going to be all right in the terrorists' creepy little world until—
Date May 29, 2009

Old Dispensary

On the outside, this sprawling multi-level complex has not seen use in many years, its walls covered in greenery and stone exterior and glass windows showing evidence of disrepair. Surrounded by a chain link fence, a drive leads from the street to a large dock, and around the back one can expect to find more sprawling greenery that eventually leads to a concrete drop off into the Atlantic Ocean.

Passing through the chainlink fence and into the dispensary will reveal that the aged and crumbling outside is a facade. The loading dock is kept clear for the most part of everything save vehicles and supplies, though a section has been quartered off and transformed into an open workshop. The dispensary itself has been transformed into something akin to a makeshift dormitory, complete with common areas, a sizable kitchen and eating area, with various rooms converted into bedrooms for the residence. One room has even been set up as a makeshift clinic, amply stocked with supplies.

The back lawn and garden of the dispensary is surprisingly well tended, green and lush during the right months. Vegetables have been planted in accordance to season closer to the building, though someone has indulgently planted a plots of flowers - notably sunflowers - here and there. Further out, the ground drops a little and makes it to a concrete edge from which opens out into deeper water of the Atlantic.

Sal has been in the lab pretty much constantly since Monday. Only the occasional bit of wooziness or a loudly rumbling stomach pulls him away from his work. The Formula is a complex thing, and the doc's a bit over his head. He's dug out a few of his old med school textbooks for reference as it's been a long time since he's used some of these skills.

Right now, he's sitting on a stool and is bent over the counter, staring through the lens of a microscope. There's a laptop at his elbow that he turns to every few minutes to input some more data. He's got some stubble on his cheeks and his hair is mussed. With the new face, it's a far cry from the vanity of his previous life.

It suits Sal, though. A little sloppiness, a little solitude. Teo still remembers the shared recollections of an introspective, curly-topped child content to play by himself in a house of ambitious politicians. Squint a little, and the scenario that's spanned more than half the week in the salt-faded walls of the derelict on Staten's shoreline is practically the same.

Teo squints, a little, from the doorway before making his presence known with a cough. "Tesoro." His boots scratch in and the green messenger bag slides off his shoulder, hits the floor with a slithering thump of canvas that frees his hands to close them around Sal's neck, apparently indifferent to the microscope's share of his attention.

It really is far more fulfilling than inflating the tits of socialites and smoothing out wrinkles on the faces of CEO's wives. What's in the petri dish under the microscope is the most important thing that Sal's ever worked on. It's a purpose, beyond pleasing his parents and making his father look good politically.

He looks up and blinks several times to focus his eyes on Teo. A smile curls at the edge of his lips. "Hey," he murmurs. His neck is full of knots. "Y'back already, or are you just dropping by?"

"Been dropping by. I don't feel like work yet." A broad thumb and callused trigger-finger map a V along the base of Sal's neck, curl, begin to work torque and soothing against the accumulated kinks and muscular disruptions underneath the older man's skin. In what might be construed as a completely counterintuitive action, he adds aloud, quietly, "I talked to Al the other day.

"You did a good job on his face. Never would've guessed, and I think he feels safer this way." The point of his nose bumps into the back of Sal's head, sifts through mussed locks.

Sal's muscles start to relax for all of thirty seconds, then tense up immediately at the mention fo Al. He exhales through his nostrils, pinches his eyes shut and draws in another breath. "I'm glad to help," he murmurs. He's not sure what else to say. "Wish more of the fugitives would come to me, to change at least until the heat dies down. But I understand why not." Not everyone can retain their sense of self with a changed face. Hell, not even Sal can, entirely.

"Work's going really slow on this. Feel like I'm back in med school." He leans back against Teo's hands and inhales calming breaths. "But I am making some progress."

"Do you get to use the one vial up on tests?" Teo asks. His hands slow slightly against the sudden resistance of Sal's mood and person, a figment of hesitation spiking in him with the precision of the needle of a polygraph. "—Which you're going to finish later, either way," he adds, dropping his hands to the back of Sal's chair. "I think you need a break, amico."

Without ceremony, he shifts his weight against the axis of simple gravity, jerks the chair backward, a scrape of three squeaking inches, sudden enough to yank a cry of surprise out of a lesser man, likely. Or one somewhat less used to Teo's physicality. "There's a certain geek chic to your Grissom setup in here, but I don't think that actual slavering lunacy would suit you. And I need to talk to you about shit anyway."

"No, this is your sample I'm working on. I'm guessing if this drug was mass-produced. Will be. Uh. However that works…" Sal scrubs fingers up through his hair. "…I know roughly the percentage I can play with and not affect the drug's overall efficacy. But it also means I have to go slowly, so I don't spoil the samples." Basically, he's trying not to use too much so that Teo can still take it and gain superpowers.

He makes a little grkk of surprise as the stool is pulled back. He also has to reach out for the counter to keep his balance. "Hah." That's for the Grissom comment. "Should we go make some coffee?" He slides off the stool and tugs at his shirt to straighten it out.

There's a shake of Teo's head, almost lost on the back of Sal's shoulder, except that the Sicilian's shadow cast across the floor and cabinets does the feathery wobble that his lover is, by now, used to interpreting even when they're reduced to steam-fogged silhouettes and small figures gesturing outside of earshot. Familiarity is a strange thing, and occasionally sweet. "I brought beer.

"And lime." There's a show of white teeth before Teo ducks down to drag two brown bottles and clingwrapped citrus fruit out of his otherwise empty bag. An automatic knife comes out of his lapel.

Teo insinuates his own setup on a stretch of bench left fairly empty of papers, electronics, and delicate chemical samples. It looks an island of delinquency in the otherwise somber establishment of sterilized equipment and science. Probably, he would not listen to Sal even if protests were made. "What do you think I'd get?" he inquires, around his shoulder. "If I used it?"

Sal has learned by now when not to argue with Teo, what's not worth it. And saying that he should drink coffee so he could keep working is not a good excuse, especially when effort was made to bring the fruit to make the beer better.

"Well. I suppose it's cerveza time then, hmm?" He flashes a grin. There are dark circles under his eyes, but that's from physical tiredness rather than emotional strain. Mostly.

He casts a look towards the microscope, then back to Teo. "It's impossible to tell. Far as I can guess, it must trigger a gene that we all have, but is latent in the majority of the population. There has been some research done into Evolved abilities between generations and relations having similar abilities. But not enough work's been done on that to prove the validity of that theory. You could…develop a camoflauge reflex, get pyrokinesis, power negation, hell, maybe some ability we've never even seen before. Or…" he purses his lips. "You could get an ability like…life-force draining and never be able to touch someone again. It's a crap shoot."

It is. Teo thinks. He isn't sure what cerveza means, but that doesn't stop him from offering an encouraging smile back at Sal, before he drops his eyes back to the blade and fruit at hand. Metal slides easily through rind and fructose-fat flesh, sending up a thin spray against his wrist, hits the plastic-mapped table-top below with a thok.

"Ionno about that," he says. "Bar a few tragic exceptions— or strenuous objections," his lyricism being very wry, "the genetic expression seems to tend to go along existential predispositions. I guess there's a whole chicken-egg thing with that, but you see the news sometimes. Little abused orphan girls manifesting superstrength at a time that finds them at a dearth of emotional power. The village idiot suddenly has pamnesia to lean on." God knows what the fuck that says about Julian Kuhr, but Teo is well-aware of what the ability of… life-force draining, and the unfortunate side-effect of being unable to touch anybody is doing to Eileen.

So— "Point well-taken. I really liked upstate New York, by the way. Thanks for that. The first fourteen hundred minutes of trees were kinda novel, and then the cabin ceiling was nice too."

Sal smiles warmly and clicks a few things on his laptop to save the data. "M'think it is a chicken and egg thing. I mean, I wouldn't have become a cosmetic surgeon were it not for my ability. Dunno what I would've gone into specifically, but it wouldn't have been that." He rubs his eyes and yawns widely, though he fights it. Oof.

"Just…if you decide to do this, if I find out it's not gonna turn you into a mutant with six eyes, you should decide knowing all the risks. Some abilities aren't so nice."

He grins again at the rememberance of their trip and steps behind Teo to encircle him from behind. "It was good to get out of the city for awhile. Easy to forget there's anything else out there." Especially with all the emergencies the city seems to oscillate between. And then, hesitantly, he asks, "What did you want to talk about?"

"You and me," Teo says, after a moment. The knife lays quiescent in his hand, and the bottles of beer stand in front of him with fresh lime wedges squeezed down the misted translucency of their throats. He angles the blade downward, after a moment, wiping it on his pant leg with little concern for either fabric or steel. "I've been doing some thinking— 'nd I'm sure you've been doing some thinking.

"It just takes me longer. Y'know." He points at his head with the weapon's dewy point, humorous in a humble sort of way, before he folds it closed again with his thumb. "Blond." Beer replaces switchblade in the clutch of his rough fingers, proffered at an awkward angle of his shoulder that divests a fraction of an inch of the newest tattoo on his skin.

Sal unfolds his arms from around Teo and moves to lean up against the counter so that they can look at each other face to face. "And what conclusions have you come to?" Those words are spoken like a man who's not really sure he wants to know the answer.

For a moment, he distracts himself with shutting down the computer, even though it doesn't really need to be shut down. He does it as a way of avoiding prolonged eye contact, lest Teo see how troubled this subject makes him. When the computer chimes, he reaches for his beer and pokes the lime further down the neck.

Teo takes a pull from his own beer, and the amber liquid inside rocks back to clink audibly against the base of the glass inside, a thin-streamed sparkle of carbonation surging up after it. He watches that for a second or three, something uncharacteristically occulted behind the pale of his eyes, hedging, a little sad, almost, faintly faint.

Sticky fingers close on the apple of Sal's throat. "Look at me."

Sal turns slowly and looks Teo in the eye. His eyes are mostly unchanged. Still strangely large, still blue. They may be set in a less pretty face, but they're still him, in all the ways that are important. The look he fixes on Teo is troubled, afraid, and slightly hurt even though Teo hasn't said anything yet that would hurt him. The fear of it is there, an inevitability all of Teodoro's friends seemed to have been preparing him for.

He continues to grip his beer, even as it's rested on the counter. He swallows, the adam's apple Teo is touching bobbing under the Italian's fingertips.

Something about this— about that warrants tenderness, sudden and unasked. Teo relieves the older man of his stare in favor of pressing his face close, a kiss on Sal's stubbly jaw, the fragrant incline of his cheek, the corner of his eye.

Teodoro isn't trying to drag this out: honest. The house of cards falls this way, and not even the precision of his fingers, his familiarity with the weight, texture, and gambling games can compensate for so many probable outcomes. The beer is tugged from Sal's hand: never mind that.

Instead, comfort is offered tactile, a vague parody of when they fuck, neither intended nor entirely coincidental, in a run of nails down the oblique line of jugular and then a thumb mapping across the stooped equatorial of Sal's unhappy brow. Teo leans his forehead into it, alights his mouth briefly on his lover's, before he sinks a sigh into Sal's ear, and a conspiratorial whisper. "I love you."

Part of Sal wants to say 'do you?' in a challenging way. But more of him wants to believe that those three words are true. So he purses his lips and lets out a slow ragged breath. He leans in towards Teo, resting his weight against the familiar shape and warmth of his lover's body. He inhales the comforting scent of his skin and rubs stubbled cheek against cheek.

Hesitantly, he rests his hands on Teo's hips, his chin tilted downward, his breath still ragged and unsure. "Do you want to be with me?" he asks, his tone smaller than he intends it to be.

By now, Teo's regret forms a spectacle more familiar to Sal than than his own face, irony intended. Quiet presides balmy in the air, tinctured with the powder off gloves and the fading burnt-ozone from the dozing laptop. It isn't a long moment, but long enough to leave Sal wondering, perhaps, if Teodoro had somehow managed to miss the question. He hadn't.

"Well," he says, and then as if it isn't nonsense, "I never should've left you; I hope that's good enough." He closes an embrace— tight— around Sal's waist. And then it hurts.

Like an electric shock at first, a single, pupil-blown coruscation of pain through Sal's skull— and then a sudden crash of numbing static. Elicited not by a jab of any cruel device or unimaginable ninjutsu pinch of rough fingers and an intimate knowledge of nerves and anatomy, no, there's just an inexplicable look on Teo's face that Sal hasn't seen there before, and wouldn't have for another ten years, bearing down on him in the two-second gap before unconsciousness bites down on his mind with brutal voracity.

Sal's face is pulled into a small, uncertain smile, but a genuine smile nonetheless. He opens his mouth to say something else, to respond to those words. But then, that weird…strange, stinging sensation. There is a look of utter confusion in Sal's eyes before they roll back in his head. His knees give way underneath him and he flops, dead-fish forward. The last thing he's aware of is his elbow connecting with the side of the counter before everything slips into darkness.

Sal's face pulls into a small, uncertain smile, but a genuine one nonetheless. He tilts his chin down, exhales a held breath against the other's skin. He opens his mouth to say something else, to say something worthwhile, something relevant. But then, Teo has ahold of his wrist. And he feels…strange. And then, pain.

There is a look of utter confusion in Sal's eyes before they roll back in his head. He draws in slow, shuddering breaths. His knees give way underneath him and he flops, dead-fish forward. The last thing he's aware of is his elbow connecting with the side of the counter before everything slips into darkness.

It's a different parody, this time, this embrace that goes around Sal and holds him up in defiance to the hammer-smash of gravity. Teo glances at the beer bottle left on the counter, polluted by more than lime juice, his mouth finding a thin white line for a cracked-short instant before that, too, relaxes.

He stoops to fetch up the lower half of Sal's body, to lift, carry in a makeshift bassinet of lean arms and sling him out to the hallway and the door. There's a cot for him, a choreographed arrangement of blankets, and then of the good Doctor's sleep-weighty limbs between the linens. When Teo kisses the other man's forehead, it isn't merely for show; they were, after all, conspicuously alone here tonight. It's why he'd come.

Afterward, but for a characteristically blithe wave tossed up at Hana through the discreet lens of a wireless camera, he steals out like a thief in the night: which he is. A bargain-basement saint's cover and worth of street cred blown on C-4, firearms, a laptop, and three vials of a bioactive substance unique in the entirety of this world.


The tattoo.

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