Exposition On Prom Night


leonard_icon.gif teo_icon.gif

Scene Title Exposition On Prom Night
Synopsis It's still 2009 here, and honesty is not yet passe. Best friends fight a little, confess a little more, make demands and then, at last, amends.
Date May 26, 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.

It's late afternoon, just before sunset, and Leonard is out working in the garden. He could use his power, but it's better exercise and more of a vent for stress to do it by hand, so he's patiently chopping at an overgrown stretch of lawn that will be made into a vegetable bed. The white t-shirt he's wearing is soaked through with sweat, and his face is still set in those dour lines. For all that Sonny's made him pretty, it somehow makes his temper just that much more visible.

The splutter of the Harley in what serves as the old dispensary's driveway sounds different, though only if you know about engines. It's been gutted and reinstalled over the past few days, a labor of hard work, sweat, and a certain amount of brooding temper that— probably doesn't quite rival Leonard's or lacks similarity in shape or size, but there to provide burning fuel and of itself. Motor grinds to a halt, gives way to the sound of sea wind and crunching boots underneath that.

It's either odd or touching, that Teodoro doesn't have a hard time— or a significantly long one figuring out where his friend is. Three minutes in, and his feet are scratching out a cadence across the dirt-strewn concrete. A hoody hangs scruffy over his back, and his eyes squint pallid despite the sanguine sunset that soaks into every other available surface. "Jesse," he calls out. "That you?"

"Name's Leonard, now," he explains, pausing, and slinging the strange hoe-cum-mattock thingy he's using on the packed soil over his shoulder. "Leo, not Lenny, please," he adds. His voice is deeper, and his accent is in abeyance. Something closer to Brooklyn, now, than the deep South. "But yeah, I was Al." It's as if he's using the face change as a basis for other alterations, less superficial.

Which leaves his best friend to wonder how deep they go, or why the ex-soldier would do that. It's been a subject of intellectual— existential, morbid— curiosity ever since he knew about Salvatore Bianco's ability: what makes a man decide he can give up his face? What would stop him? Flint says he thinks his narrow, haggard wolf-snout is all he has— all that 'they' haven't and can't take from him. Felix doesn't seem to give a fuck, if it's useful. Salvatore's like that, though. Fond enough of the man he is, but desperate to craft himself into something better.

Frankly, Teo thinks that the concept of reinvention was probably invented by a sadist. Too often, it leaves a blond standing around slightly slack-jawed and overthinking it, while the people actually trying to do it quite straightforwardly fail to, scrambling, and cutting their knees open on the backslide back into uncomfortably familiar territory. "Leo, then," he agrees in his most agreeable voice.

He comes nearer, placing his broad feet where it seems safe to, watching the soil lest he accidentally squish an embryo. He parks a few feet away, lifts his head again. Frowns, obviously disconcerted. "You got rid of the red."

Al, Leo, whatever the saturnine little creature before Teo actually is…..to him, it's all internal. The marks on the body, it's all just a mask you wear. Sonny, despite his wizard's craft, can't exorcise internal demons or absolve sins, can't work the alchemy he -really- longs for. "Yeah. It's too distinctive," he says, lazily, swinging the trencher down and letting the metal head rest on the disturbed soil. There's the scent of turned earth, water in the distance, the wild honeysuckle blooming.

"Bah," Teo says, intelligently. He feels obnoxiously like he's sinking slightly through the flesh of the terrain— or that the soil's sinking granules and terran notes and moisture into him, city boy that he still is. He's used to more walls on things. Concrete that doesn't give, hinges on the doors that should, woven fabrics and rectangled panes of glass, personal space, public space. Generally, he isn't cerebral enough to be disturbed at the subtleties of being out of his context: he's always an expatriate anyway.

Generally, he doesn't take vacations, either. "I'm still supposed to be resting or whatever. Innnnstead…" he pauses here, partially for dramatic effect, sticking his foot out to bang his toe on the trencher's bulky metal head. He squints harder when it throws spikes of refracted sunlight back into his face. Tiredly, Teo wonders how it always comes around to this, like a good lyric undulating smokily back in on itself, or a snake eating itself. "I'm here to 'splain that I've figured out the times tables. I've been in love with you for roughly one hundred and twenty two days, seven hours and three minutes.

"Not counting the time spent being pissed off enough to stop caring, but I did include the parts when I actually hated you. I couldn't get my head around the subtractions, see."

"Yeah, I thought you were still on vaca-," Leonard's jaw shuts with a click of teeth that is distinctly audible. There's a flare of nostrils and a toss of head that're all too weirdly reminiscent of an irritated pony. But the flare of anger dies in face, in eyes, as he listens, leaving him looking more weary than someone in the middleof their twenties should be capable of. He flings the trencher away, though it comes to a far softer landing than it should, drifting to rest like a feather made of steel and wood by one of the walls. Presumably to remove temptation. "That's only four months," he says, trying for dismissive calm. "Listen. We don't…..it doesn't…..why are you saying this to me?" Leo's tone is genuinely puzzled. "Every time I try to say the same to you, you call me a whore, or protest that it's just lust. And you're with your boy, I thought you loved him. Don't you?"

The younger man picks up his hands and puts his palms to his eyes. If Teo were a better actor— or tried harder, it might look like he were trying not to cry. Instead, it looks like what it is: that there's a headache coming on for him, too. The kind that hurts behind your face and tramples over your whole day. "I like who I am when I'm with him. With you, I'm a supernaturally hypocritical asshole." He drops his hands the next moment and breathes at the ground. "Every time you say the same to me, you walk away or change your mind a few days later. Are you ever sorry you laughed me off in January? Even… just a little?"

"I don't change my mind. I just thought I had no chance with you, and your aunt decided I was that night's piece of rough," he says, matter of factly. "And if you love him, then we shouldn't be having this conversation. I owe that guy a lot, whatever his real name is, and while I'm a violent asshole and we all know it, I've got no reason to screw him over with you. I didn't laugh you off."

Teo's shoulders stiffen slightly, their lean contours barely contained by some extra tension that— holds consistent with Leonard's earlier wisdom, in discarding the gardening implement. He continues to regard the earth with something like accusation, though he doesn't manage to hold the expression before it folds away under simple hurt.

"When I first—" there's a brusque jerk of his head, as if trying to vague in the tedious effort of having to say the words with a gesture. "Told you I loved you, you said, 'Sorry,' and slept with someone else after a few hours." Teo's voice thins out; grows mechanical in the click and push of consonants and syllables. It embarrasses him, how well he remembers all these things, and more. "Near the end of January, you changed your mind and I didn't believe you. Then the night before the final clusterfuck with the Vanguard, you told me you didn't know whether you thought I was just your little brother or what.

"Were you lying then or are you lying now?"

"You've been a little mercurial about this, Teodoro," says Leo, in a voice made more flat by that not-entirely-feigned Brooklyn accent. "I don't know what to think. I do love you. I just don't know where this goes, and I think we're past the point where this -has- a point. Am I wrong?" He plucks at his shirt, trying to catch a little of the sea breeze, get it to unstick from him.

There's a grunt of agreement, and then a sharp intake of breath; a thin fragment of a smile. "And I'd be the first one to apologize for it, grazie." The smile lacks sincerity, which is quite possibly a first for Teo, in as long as Alexander— Leonard— Jesse's known him. With some effort, he lifts his gaze, and winds up studying the seams down the outside of Leonard's pant leg, lacking the will to see what there is in Leo's eyes or discern what's in these cold and drowsy currents between them, keeping friends apart. Pride, past pain. It seems inconceivable that another timeline had seen them through it. He says, "Yes."

Leonard cocks his head, patiently, a kestrel contempating a cricket. "Don't make that face at me, Teo," he admonishes. "You ain't foolin' anyone. The first time you made a pass at me, you bailed like I had the plague. I made one at you, you acted like I was a whore. That seemed like answer enough. You went off and found some cop, and now you got your doctor. What'm I supposed to think? What'm I supposed to do? Four months isn't all that long, though I do owe you even more than I owe Sal."

Despite the unvarnished, unprepared rough to Teo's voice, he seems to have more than enough words to say to that. They come out with all the guilt of a bulimic. "You're supposed to think I mean it when I say I'm Catholic, and an idiot at relationships, and obsessed with the fact that you are and always would be more'n just a free fuck. You're supposed to notice I changed, and that I'm sorry. You're supposed to be sorry about fucking up.

"You're supposed to fucking realize I got crucified by a man who walks on water and palled up with Sylar and killed civilians and had half a fucking USAF wing blown up and ended up in fucking Botswana because I wanted you back home. And you're supposed to appreciate the fact that I'm fucking trying to fix this. Jesus fucking Christ. I don't even know why. Good job, amico, turning it into a matter of fucking quid pro quo." Fight's in his blood, often as he tries to weigh it down behind good conscience and white armor, and it's never more obvious than when—

—he cares.

"Well, I am sorry," It's just that there's this infuriating lack of actual apology in the tone of his voice. It's more perplexity. "I'm just asking you if you can understand why I'm confused. You've done a lot for me. Saved me. But you did that for Helena, too, and you don't claim to love her like that. What is there to fix? We don't have a relationship like that," Leo says. "What do you want me to do, Teodoro? Get down on my knees and kiss your ring and declare fealty? Sure," He suits the action to the word, and genuflects, albeit awkwardly. A very strange squire expecting an een weirder accolade.

This picture is ridiculous. Teo suspects he is being made fun of. He flushes with annoyance, an unmistakable shade of extra color underneath the vibrant and liberally applied palette of sundown and moves his hands to a secure location. His… pockets. "I wasn't thinking about Helena or even my aunt when I did half of that shit.

"It's a prevailing conc— will you get up, already?— concern of mine that our friendship is damaged and you— are always changing your mind, and lying. Or being sarcastic—" There's a wobbly sort of silence as Teo tries, fails, to determine which of these Leonard's current display could be categorized at. "Being confused isn't an excuse for being an asshole. Trust me, I'd know." He scowls. Makes him look younger, and not in that grimly handsome way that a backlit hero is wont to be.

Perhaps he was. Leo's face is even less readable than the old version, as he rises gracefully to his feet. Still pale, if not as much so, but there's no betraying blush. "I'm not changing my mind. I told you I love you, and I meant it." He lifts soil-stained hand. "Just….what now?"

Crud-hand. Teo himself smells of residual engine grease underneath the soap and exfoliation, but he still regards the other man's extremity with an expression of mild perturbment that has nothing to do with the actual various and serious topics of conversation going on. Yes, he's been crucified by men who walk on water and mopped up vomit and caught lice and ringworm from Ferry refugees and gone days at sea without showering before, but dirt is still in its own obnoxious little category.

"We could hug," he volunteers. Maybe he is trying to be funny.

Leonard wipes palms and hands clean on the worn denim of his jeans, holds out his arms. He's not being funny, apparently. Hey, it's silly, but it's also a start.

One accepted on quick and unequivocal terms: practically a pounce. Teodoro Laudani did, after all, used to be a football hooligan and remains pathologically Italian, and he is very rarely a halfway there kind of person. Leonard is squeezed in the corkscrew contraction of his arms like Teo expects money to fall out.

Or maybe candy, like a pinata. He smells of sweat and dirt and the teasing ghost of that incense scent. He stiffens a moment, before returning the hug with enthusiasm. His heart is racketing against the confines of his ribs, but he relaxes enough to perch his chin on Teo's shoulder.

There's a stillness to the side of Teo's face, where it's pressed on the back of Leo's close-cropped hair, that implies he's thinking about something else— or else, trying to remember someone else. Which would make sense. He is glad of the frankincense specter lurking over Leonard's shoulder, and he's pathetically in love with the guy he's hugging while he more than slightly attached in other respects of his life, after all.

Such uncomfortable spring-time thoughts. "Not to brag or anything," he says, in a ragged and reduced facsimile of his braggy-voice, "but you really have no fucking idea what I'd do for you."

"I'm sure I don't. You already pretty much brought down Alcatraz, looks like," Leo says, very quietly. No move to break out of the embrace.Far from it - there's that fractional, nearly imperceptible relaxation, as he goes limp like a sleeping pup.

Almost. Sort of. Yes; if Teo hadn't been here, Eileen and Gabriel probably would not have either. God knows about Trask or Fedor, and really, that question wasn't about logistics, so it's just Teodoro's bad habit that he turns it into one that is. Maybe, it should strike him as weird that Al doesn't look like Al anymore, but he's had that conversation before.

He's had all of these conversations before. Sometimes, even the most disappointed idealist realizes that there are worse things than revisiting old ground.

"Are you still going to be here over the next few days?" he asks, quieter almost than his restrained breathing. "I'll talk to Sal. And— then I'll come home. Soon."

"And say what?" Leonard asks, patiently. "I should be. Got nowhere else to go." Which isn't entirely true. There's a whole country out there, long highways waiting for patient hitch-hikers, distant towns to hide drifters in. He's got a new identity, a new face. He could leave ll this behind. Only…..the fight is all he has left.

One of a few things that they have in common. Hel needs them, too. That's always been important. Moreso than individual liberty, anyway.

"I'll figure it out, and let you know if it turns out to be anthing important, how about?" Teo offers, wryly. His thumb curls at the base of Leonard's spine, rifting a shallow crease into the sweaty fabric of his shirt, there, until he slowly, reluctantly assents to let his friend go. He blows out a sigh, both cheeks puffing up round with the force of it. From the distance of companionable quarters, his breath doesn't smell like anything at all. His eyes flinch from the sun.

Leo's face is arranged in a grimace, as he unsticks himself. Too hot out. "I'm sorry," he says, looking down at himself. "Sweatin' like a pig. I should go take a shower, really." He wipes lazily at his brow - hair still not long enough to shield his scalp from the sun.

For about another twenty-five minutes, stretched out around a moment as perfect as the fit of fruits' rinds, they are best friends again. In the garden. And just that, despite racketing hearts and clammy palms and worrying whether his breath stinks.

Teo nods his head and looks out across the grounds. He reaches up to thumb the cartlidgenous line of his nose, fails to either slap a lewd remark up against Leo's porcine perspiration or to pick at the dangling thread of their incomplete fight or three. Well, except for— "I can't wait for summer," and he hikes his hood up over his head, flattens his mouth out against a smile that actually started in his eyes, this time. He nods back at the dispensary. Let's go. "Still too fucking cold out here."

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