Flesh & Spirit


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Scene Title Flesh & Spirit
Synopsis This time, Teo loses a piano-sized chunk of his mind, and Francois calls him on it.
Date April 11, 2010

The West Village — Francois' Brownstone: The Kitchen

No one wants rain when it's this cold, not when it'll turn to ice in all shades from white to pitch. But it probably wouldn't be a bad thing. It might mean the end of all this snow, a heralding patter of raindrops on the rooftop, running streaks on glass and forming glistening puddles. For now, there's only snow flurries beating against curtained windows, and the sound of the shower running upstairs. It'll have to do.

It's a lazy morning, and the power went out about half an hour ago. Outside, only snow is making movement. Inside, not even that.

There is music, though, which is— weird. Light piano, kind of loungey, experimental, and weird because Francois definitely doesn't have a piano, even if both his hands could deftly navigate ivory keys with the dexterity even surgeons don't necessarily require. Agility over patience, although both can claim grace. Radios and televisions are currently dead relics of a world where the power is working properly, and the notes are ringing too clear in Teo's head to be coming from next door or similar.

Weirder is where it's coming from, when Teo does find it. The dining table is usually an oval thing scattered with drinking glasses, newspapers, books, occasionally a dusk-shaded diary when Francois is careless, cleared only for eating, and surrounded by four wooden chairs. All of these things are gone in favour for a truly white piano, pristine and pure and soaking up all the light available to gleam it back proudly.

Logan probably has the hands to play a piano, long fingers and a manicured elegance. Whether he actually can is one unknown variable, and it would be hard to say if him doing so now is actually confirmation. He shouldn't be here. Especially not in prison oranges that seem bright enough to sap the life from him — eyes dilute in their greenness to the point of resemble ice, skin pallor neither shockingly pale nor healthy. Drab. He looks drab, although reasonably content as he watches his own hands flow across piano keys as if he were playing instead of producing actual music.

He switches to a tune more one-handed as he lifts his right one to clench fingers around a cigarette, crystal ashtray upon the bleached white wood. Ash litters in a smudgey trail when he goes to take a drag. (Formerly pristine and pure.) There is premature grey in the growth of stubble across his jaw, and a track mark scar in his neck shifts as he draws breath.

Snorts out smoke like a dragon, and gives Teo a smile like a crescent moon. "Because I wanted to," he answers, before questions can begin, if they were ever planning to.

Teo studies the top of the piano first. Marvels, privately — if privacy is the term applicable when one is in the company of seemingly sentient hallucinations— at the seamlessness of the details provided by his apparently deranged brain. Look.

Look: he can see his own reflection. Slightly distorted by the planar variations of the polish and the gloss, but every feature retained in its proper color (fair), mass (the nose, considerable), curve (one wicked scar), the physics of it as impeccable as the wheedling strain of the music through cold air. He understands that they're probably only there because he's looking for them, but such is the nature of dreams.

Of the human mind, also. Outside of it, things don't come as easily when he merely wishes them. "It's been awhile," he says, instead of asking the question that Logan, version of the Prison BItch, had already answered. It's almost experimental, when he raises his hip and starts to settle his rump on the piano's edge. Wondering, maybe, if he might fall through empty air, connect with floor with an embarrassing thud, only to find himself looking up in a daze at Francois shower-wet and wrapped in a towel, impatiently wondering at his clumsiness. He doesn't. Francois doesn't appear. Such is the nature of— "You look like Hell.

"Are you sick?" Here, as well? Teo has the good grace to look faintly concerned, at least, under these circumstances.

There is a honed and waspish look to the hallucinated version of Logan, or the one circa 2016 and beyond. The usual one is all bones and sharp edges too, but this one is older and doesn't have to pretend to be anything else. "Hn. That's just what a life sentence and several years of prison rape'll do to you. No," Logan says, punctuating the word with a firm keystrike, a C, followed by a C sharp as the next finger picks out the key's smaller, blacker counterpart. "I'm healthy. Too healthy, actually. Not sick enough to be committed to kinder institutions, although, Delaware Correctional has better drugs.

"If you know who to ask." This is all spoken around the cigarette clamped between teeth almost as white as the piano keys, the lit end darting along with each syllable as smoke greasily eases from orange embers in a continued, hazy ribbon.

It frays and disperses with a deliberate exhale, and he replaces the cigarette upon the ashtray. The music's stopped. "Know who is sick, though?"

"I know a lot of people are sick," is prompt, but not (really-not) pre-emptive. Teo hunches his tall frame slightly, trying to make himself relax above his perch. Slouch a little. God knows he used to go around round-shouldered and swaggery as any football hooligan you ever had the pleasure of knowing and possibly calling the cops on. It doesn't work, though, and Teo doesn't know if it's because his nerves and the muscles strung against them are screwed too tight from the fact that he's more than a little upset about all this, or because he's too much Ghost right now.

Ghost never slouched. Militarily perfect posture, always, a yogalites instructor's dream come true, particularly if she were inclined to fucking her students, and dense enough to ignore that there was an ugly shadow in the corner of the leer she was pressing kisses to. This Teo has one of those shadows too, and the look he levels at the Logan is less than friendly. "Delilah. Kozlow. I don't know what it means if even my brain-you doesn't give up a little, squirmy pang of guilt." Teo's almost making fun, now. Of himself. Trying to have fun when his brain is enacting a man he fucking reviled.

He tips himself forward a couple inches, narrows his eyes from this slightly improved vantage point, tries to focus on Logan's face with absurd expectation. Gimme a tic. A twitch, a rueful steepling of those weary brows? Something. Anything. Christ, even the cigarette smoke is pricking the back of his nose.

Logan lets his eyes go wider under scrutiny, which only adds to the affect of mannequin indifference — shows apathy like he could be proud of it, and the corner of his mouth twitches upwards in the beginnings of a smile. "Let's not kid ourselves. You wouldn't know what it means if I did." His eyes dart down to linger a look on Teo's mouth — probably because of the scar, the same swerving gravitation that Teo knew the second to last time he encountered Logan. Appreciation, though, evident enough to recognise — he might not be looking at keloid.

"Sit down." Easy invitation, breaking his attention back towards his cigarette, picking it up to tap embering ash off the end. The details are tiny, and there, as with the slight wear at the elbows and knees of orange fabric, some unknown track of dust along a seam at his shoulder. Whether from memory or blanks creatively filled in.

Giant white piano may take away from the realism, even if all details are there too. Logan shifts over on the bench with great deliberation.

What else is Teo going to do? He sits, of course. It is nice to think that there is some dislocated vestige of vanity still happy with the full contours of his own lips, even with the macabre architectural modifications made on the left side. The bench is strangely solid beneath his rump, feels wider than any of their kitchen chairs should be. Obscurely, he wonders if that means he is sitting on the floor, or about to fall onto it by rocking side to side like some stupidly experimental four-year-old—

He puts his fingers on white-and-black keys, perhaps thinking for an errant moment that he might be capable of some remarkable musical gift as long as he's here. Probably an erroneous thought as well as an errant moment. He would lay money on it. Dream-money, preferably. He's more willing to part with dream-money than he is real-money. Of the former, he imagines, he has either mountains or an utter dearth and total indifference to the lack. Teo's finger chunks down on a sharp key, then he swivels his thumb around to the tinny note of the white beside it.

"Is this a disease of the spirit or the flesh?" he inquires, finally, glancing up at the raw-boned jailbird beside him.

"There's a point where it doesn't matter." Because even hallucinations of men who never finished highschool, never set a foot down on a university campus except perhaps the football fields, and never many other things, have to be elusive with the way they answer. Due to being a hallucination, as real as the bench Teo sits on feels, and the weighted plunk of a piano key under his finger. Logan copies him, up a couple of octaves, the notes ringing like song birds.

His head tilts a little like one, exposing more the patch where the negation needle makes a plunge every several days. The willing inmates get pills, said publications relevant to the subject. "The flesh degenerates and the spirit will follow, and the other way around. You're very sick, Ghost. Even I knew that, before you tried to heal me.

"How'd that go, do you think?" That almost comes out as fink. "On a scale of one to useless. Trying to make up for saving only one person who never deserved it. And Alexander." Logan has never met Alexander. "Thank you, anyway. Orange isn't my colour."

"Prego," Teo answers, easily. You're welcome. Moreso than the other ghosts in his head, at least. At least, this one isn't invading his bed, or the sensibilities adjacent to it. "I think it's gone okay.

"I think it's too early to tell, maybe. I don't know. I think there's always been something wrong with me: I don't regret saving Jesse. I don't think there's anything that could make me, and that's a dangerous assumption. Like a dare. That isn't the kind of dare you want to deliver the world. Any world, Arthur Petrelli's or Nathan's." Teo's head falls slightly, shadowing his face, his profile turning neatly against the periphery of Logan's vision. Logan is sitting on his good side, now, and he has no idea whether that was deliberate, or on what level. He has only two sides to choose from, after all; a coincidence is as likely as anything.

Plunk, plink. Tinkle-tinkle. No, he decides, his fingers curling around the inarticulate agonies of a reed tormented by wind. Still can't play the fucking piano.

"Is that what ails me then?" his tone is ironic to fit with the funnily archaic choice of verbiage. Teo squints down at the keyboard. "I've been too much of a cock, and the fabric of my existence is sick of it. Unravelling, cell by cell, thread by thread of fragile sanity. Jesus fuck. If I'm going to die crazy, I'd rather be the kind of crazy that wants to fucking die."

Ash litters the perfect piano keys when Logan picks up his cigarette to take another drag, and he goes to smudge away the dirt with his other hand. Doesn't, exactly, only draws absent spirals on the keys with the same whimsy of someone writing on a steamed glass window.

"That would be very convenient," Logan agrees, pleasantly, observing his fingertips before ignoring any and all fallings of ash and taking another breath of smoke. Lets it out in a loose exhale, acrid haze lingering around them. It should be no surprise that smell is just as vivid as sight of warning orange, sound of clearly struck notes and slightly raspy South London, touch of cool ivory. Taste might be something better left unexplored, any and all eyeings of Teo's mouth set to one side. "I think you might be right. But on the bright side," he continues, shifting enough on the piano to rest an arm against one ivory-shiny edge and observe Teo's clean profile, "the company is fucking marvellous."

If he does say so himself. What Logan has to be so cheery about is probably a mystery, considering the sight of him — or it's a very tenuous veneer. Teo didn't get that close a look, however, so it will be another case of filling in the blanks. "You're all pieces. That's the problem. But you can't have one thing without the other. You can't be Ghost without being Teo, you can't have ten years of memory without it existing somewhere, and you can't have a broken ability without actually having an ability and everything— " everythink "— that goes with— " wiv "— it.

"Good and bad." The cigarette is crushed out onto crystal. "Mine's gone too. 's what they do." That hand moves, now, closer to Teo's face like Logan miiight just touch him — fingertips threaten to press to a high cheekbone, palm to jaw. If he did, Teo could probably imagine it. As it happens, he doesn't, and there isn't even a shift of air to give that tingly feeling of something too close.

Because it isn't real. Logan's eyes also don't flare green as they should — they remain as pale and watery as a fish's underside. His jaw sets in mute frustration. Veneer cracks at the edges, a little. In lieu of the kind of touch his power would have permitted him, Logan goes to rest his hand against Teo's face— the good side— and his hand feels warm and detailed. "You're sick," he says again, slower, deliberate, in the tone of voice that suggests what he's saying is very important.

There's an embarrassingly acute anticipation of the hand that nearly touches before it does, and then a hard swallow when it does. Teo's always thought he was a little too horny for his own good. It's a symptom of sociopathy, you know, even if falling in love with anybody who looks at you sideways isn't. "You sound like a bitchy little sixteen-year-old I know." Blue-haired, skinny, fixated on the Sicilian's less-than-good health.

His nose was a little runny earlier, but he honked it for all he was worth. Rubbed his own neck with his palms, couldn't tell if it was hotter than usual or if he was merely metabolizingggg handsomely, as usual. Felt prickly and tense, but the weather has that effect. Likes his sleep, but that's normal for him ever since the duelling abilities sealed the genetic expression of his in a tomb. The last shimmering note that he poked out of the piano has long since been absorbed into the silent, vacuous space of the brownstone's kitchen and living areas.

"I don't have time to be sick," he answers, finally. As his jaws form syllables, his cheek scrubs Logan's palm with scratchy beard-hair. "We're too many soldiers down, already. The plague's kicked ass through the Ferry and Phoenix. Helena's up to her eyes in atmokinetic shit.

"Eileen's punched through by handgun rounds," Teo lifts a thumb, counts off his fingers, though he won't have enough of them. "Raith's arm is fuckin' broken, Liz and Felix are worn so thin they're practically translucent. Peter's gone playing house or some shit. Abby's ribcage is in more pieces than this thing has keys. Gabriel's— mind in nearly as many, and they're crazy. Odessa's buckling under her addictions, Magnes is nearly 's lost as he was in the world you come from. Cardinal's unravelling like smeared tissue in a toilet bowl. Tamara's still mad, Colette's spiralling to join her. Bad guys are killing my kids again. I'll be sick when I have time.

"Maybe Lasik will do it. But I don't have time for that, either." Teo is making a hilarious joke, now. He pulls his head away, sniffs, and the sound comes through dry.

A similar motion to dry leaves curling under flame, Logan's hand retracts with fingers bending inwards to his palm, managing to come across as haughty in all his drabness and prison clothes. "Maybe you rely on weak people," he suggests, back straightening. "But I would just say you're one of them now. Sort've like the retarded Olympics — cripples, sociopaths and people who don't— fucking— move fast enough.

"And I often sound like a bitchy little sixteen-year-old." Younger, maybe, from Ghost's recollections as his hired thug. There are lines at his eyes, and they deepen just a little along with a smile turned down to the piano's wider, toothier grin. Logan puts his hands back down against it, and picks out a simple tune — not an immediately familiar one, scraping the barrel of Teo's subconscious for something to translate. It's loud enough that it just might summon other people down to see what the noise is

(if it were real)

and the shower's since stopped, up above their heads. "I'm not leaving 'til you say it," is adequate warning, practically fair play where Logan is concerned. "Unless you're convinced that losing your mind is better. It's certainly a lovely excuse. Exculpates you from plenty. I know."

"That would imply competition. I'm not out to beat anybody therein listed, or not by default, at least. I'm out to help. Save the fucking world," Teo elaborates, perhaps offended. Sure, he curses like a sailor, cheats like a whore, kills and tortures and steals, sometimes, but if anybody could offend him, it would be— himself. Or at least a lippy ex-(ex?)-con invented by his own mind. "You're holding me hostage in my own fucking hallucination?

"That's probably going to be effective." Which is the sound of Teodoro being obtuse and deliberately unimpressed, which is doubtless also the sound of Teodoro being uneasy and trying (counterintuitively) not to betray it. This is perhaps understandable: there's a fucking white fuckin' piano here, and the man in the hunter orange jumpsuit is blase enough to make the Sicilian wonder if this is just the tip of the 'berg. He does not notice that the shower squeaked to silent upstairs.

Teodoro glances up. Looks past cereal boxes, the loaf of brown bread perched on top of the toaster oven, and the spit-and-polish sparkle of the counter. "Don't call me names. It doesn't work that way. I think I'm stubborn, but I never think I'm stupid."

"Never that," is agreement, along with a companiable bump of his shoulder against Teo's, far too friendly from this particular incarnation of delusion to be anything but sarcastic. If not meanly so. One can imagine that Logan circa 2016 had a lot of mean coaxed out of him, for all that he is not, never will be, never wants to be Teo's friend. "But like I said— there's a point," and emphasis is helped along with a heavier plunk of a piano key, "where it doesn't matter. Stubbornness precedes stupidity."

Logan is watching his own hands, now, which make indefinite movements that approximate the music they're listening to — directing it, certainly, creating it, in a sense. But Teo doesn't know how to play piano and it's hard to tell what keys do what. "While we're here," he says, a change of subject in his voice, "I bet I could teach you how to play. If you'd like."

All right. Teo closes his eyes, squeezes them to stave off the sensation of burning, pops them open again. He flattens palms briefly on his cheek, then rolls his hands out in front of him, interlocked at the knuckles, flexing his shoulder muscles in exaggerated ceremony. The maestro seats himself. Well, the maestro was already seated, but he's warming up, now, setting his fingers down.

"Lu me sangu, signuri, รจ pupulanu
"E lu me cori nun ci n'avi patruni."

They always quoted Gori before launching into the folk songs about the fisherman and the woman he wanted. It was all terribly Bollywood, except, you know, with legitimate poetry to prologue it— which Teo is of a mind improves all experiences. He seals his mouth right up against the scar-snarled gap in his cheek, trying to remember how it goes. The melody pleats itself into the hum of his breath, solidifying the half-forgotten ghost-notes that Logan's fingers had last left off of. Glances up to assure himself that Logan knows which ditty he's trying to get through. He presses down a rough finger on one key. Gongs it out, an octave higher than it ought to be, but the right pitch, at least.

"E cu nuddu mi mettu a ginucchiuni," he says. His voice rings hollow in the quiet of the kitchen, the lack of orchestral accompaniment, the lukewarm temperature of a kitchen with a solitary occupant. The blunt tips of his fingers come down on the planed wood of a quiescent, four-legged dining table. He's looking at nothing in particular at all. "Means, 'I bow for no one.' Italian's prettier than French. I don't know why they teach the other one to all the little kiddies in school. Every other fuckin' syllabus. In England too, right?"

In some other world, something that resembles 2010 and a modicum of sanity, there are bare feet coming to stand, and the move swiftly over wooden floors. Heavy and deliberate piano does much to ensure that this is only a whisper at the edges of Teo's hearing.

Meanwhile, he has Logan's attention in a way that he hasn't had in real life — far from predatorial assessment of danger or even attraction, there is interest and watchfulness in the navigation of Sicilian fingers over white keys. His ashtray has gone, deleted as irrelevant, and the air smells less like pooling cigarette smoke, stale or fresh. Teo can feel the bench shift beneath him— vivid— when Logan goes to stand up, turning to hike his legs over to the other side to do so and wander behind him.

Piano music sings, stretches on like a horizon.

"Chinese. And French. Didn't retain a thing. Could've come in handy." On either side, Logan hands go out to rest upon Teo's wrists, and his arms aren't clad in hunter orange. Charcoal and silvery pinstripe, the white cuffs of his shirt peeking out looking like it has some satin in the fabric, and a clean silver ring looped around his thumb.

This might be how music teachers do it too. The ones that get filed for sexual harrassment, also, maybe. "This isn't the end, Ghost," he says, voice just above Teo's ear, on his bad side. Sounding more like himself, all viper viciousness. "None of us are done with you. Especially not— "

The world jars, suddenly, because Teo's hands are grabbed, and he can't see much more than Logan's hovering delicately above his, until abruptly he can. Logan is gone, and the piano is replaced by a cluttered dining room table, his hands dragged from where there'd been picking out ghost-piano keys where now they are none. Francois is here, as he has been for the last several seconds, green eyes frantically trying to find lucidity in blue, with some small measure of fear in his own. "Teo," he says, again. For the first time.

Hair damp enough to be black, clothes thrown on even after his skin hasn't taken the time yet to cool off or even completely dry from a thorough shower. Francois has dragged a chair close to sit, and holds firmly onto Teo's hands like maybe that pinching clasp will wake him up.

"Ciao, bello."

Teo's mouth is talking before his brain catches up, and it occurs to his brain in this belated interval of time that that was kind of an inappropriate thing to say. Reinforced calm in the face of psychopath threats!! shreds away like so much dandruff from an abused pelt. Guilt shocks through his features, absurd embarrassment, and the color goes up on his cheeks, practically fuchsia. "I'm— uhh. I was fucking daydreaming. Sorry: there's a song that everyone knows in my home country. I don't fuckin'—" know why he's even pretending, and when he swallows, the veins come out of his neck. He stands up.

Too fast. There's a song stuck in his ear, and a Frenchman snap-shackled onto his wrists, a freight train's cadence of overheated blood squeezing arrhythmic through his ears, and his equilibrium is thrown off. He almost implodes to land on a knee, but the pia— table is in the way, and he manages to ram his hipbone into its edge instead. Skids the furniture an inch sideways, tipping a loose sheaf of papers off into white confetti oblivion and rocking a few books precariously close to their own, more stolid capsizing.

He is very warm, all of a sudden. Not the good kind that usually accompanies maintained contact with Francois' damp hands. The bad kind, of bitter discomfort, symptomology and contagion, the crowding, clammy fear of never recovery. "I don't think I feel very well," he finishes, blinking erratically in the electric light.

If someone is collapsing, it's poor form to hold onto their hands, preventing any chance of them catching themselves. It's not very doctor-like, then, that Francois' hold around Teo's wrists only firms, before second instinct kicks in and he has steadying hands on the younger man's shoulders. "Non. You don't look very well.

"Sit down before you break something." Skulls, plates, or hearts, take your pick— "Sit," is added insistence when France can feel token resistance manifest as strength and tension in Sicily's shoulders, only pushing back, gently does it. Regardless, Francois is lifting a hand to press his palm to Teo's brow, and the heat there matches the flush of his skin.

Out the corner of Teo's eye, he'll see a long limbed if not particularly tall figure dart briefly into view. Logan is dressed to brave the world — maybe not this one, it's too cold to go out without an overcoat, but all the better to show off Armani lines and taste, a shimmer of silk in the form of affected ascot, a swoop of leather across his shirt that indicates a holster. A brief wave — have fun — and a wink of snake-green eyes. Then, he's gone, dancing a step into the hallway that leads to the front door. There is no sound of it opening and closing.

That would be excessive.

"…from a few weeks ago," Francois is muttering, almost to himself. "She had the same look you do. Don't pretend, s'il vous plait — this has happened before?"

"The first time was mid-March, I think." Probably not what the Frenchman wanted to hear, but he said not to pretend, so— so. So, it's partly Francois' fault; Teo's answers are suddenly without padding, just as he otherwise feels somehow deprived of his armor, along with his diguises. Leaves him blinking glassily under the tinted ceiling light, trying not to follow the other — more imaginary European man with discernibly turning his eyeballs in their pits.

Or scowling. You're not supposed to feel about hallucinations. Not feeling about hallucinations is almost as good as having them, maybe, except that Teo seriously doubts this is going to buy off the fact he's been seeing things off-and-on for a month— "I've felt fine, mostly.

"I was a fucking idiot. Figures I'd still have the gene markers. Didn't— I didn't think I could catch the mutant plague because my ability got suppressed and I figured it was just that acting up. My ragdoll seams showing, you know?"

Black button eye falling loose on the stringy cotton tether, stuffing puffing out under the gentle remonstrance of Francois' fingers. Under his chair, he's dragging his heels forward and backward on the floor, and the chair creaks its right angles and edges underneath the minute tilting of his weight, tempted to complain his knees are cramping, he's been sitting too long. That he wants to get up. He gathers himself. Steels himself, before realigns his gaze to look at Francois. "I haven't hurt anybody."

"You will." Also suddenly without padding: Francois' bedside manner. Perhaps reserved only for strangers, ones actually under his care. Not that Teo isn't, necessarily — just at a frustrating kind of distance where the man won't even sit down unless told twice and shoved. "You will hurt people, if only because of— because the five-ten is contagious, mon cher, and you will hurt yourself if you ignore it. And if you do that where I cannot help you, you will hurt me."

A month. It's been a month. Francois gives another shake of his head in disbelief — maybe longer if hallucinations weren't the first symptom, and he hasn't seen a case yet where that was so. "Delilah hears her dog talking to her. Daphne sees dying men who aren't there. Both of them are severe cases." His teeth come together, almost an audible click to bite back the—

The uselessly rhetorical, reprimanding questions that he falls back on. Why didn't you tell me? What did you think they were? And such. It's a struggle of patience that Teo can probably see.

Francois sighs, as if he could disperse unspoken words that easily. "Come, you should— get your fever back down. Do nothing today. Or nothing ever until this thing has run its course, oui?" Expectant, haughty silence for supplicating agreement. Because the world hasn't finished ending, Francois knows.

To Teo's ears and eyes, Francois is not as mad as he could be. Possibly this is a disease-induced hallucination also. He paws feebly at the nearest sleeve of Francois' person, his fingers making only the faintest furrows into the weave of his sweater. Ah. His mouth falls slightly open, uselessly, and gives him the look of someone dumber than he normally appears. He's relieved.

"I didn't have a fever before," is meant to be either reassurance or constructed defense, possibly both at once. The good corner of Teo's mouth quirks downward, before wending upward at a queasily meandering pace. It sharpens to self-consciousness in a moment, distinct from the flush of his face. When his acquiescence comes, it's without ceremony, tucked in in an uncharacteristic hush like the cars shifting gears through the West Village outside. "Okay. Nothing today.

"Nothing 'til the fucking fever breaks." This promise-like thing, Teodoro imparts with a smile small enough to be lucid, optimistic like the Sicilian often is. Pragmatically. His shoulders hike faintly, lets his head tip forward to fall on Francois' shoulder on a layer of his own ragged, off-blond hair folded up by the bop of contact. It is an olive-branch. His unmended head— is an olive-branch.

Yes? "Sorry," he adds, muffledly.

Nnn— yes. Oui. Francois supposes so. The first time Teo had touched him back in Ryazan on the Spektor stoop, there had started the tendency to fold, receive, give back. This is different in that his shoulder is unyielding under the weight of Teo's head, and his hands remain curled and closed off. The refridgerator hums blithely away, a silver monolith that Francois settles his gaze on until three seconds pass, and then— he pushes something of a nuzzle through off-blonde hair with a rusty sound at the back of his throat. A sigh of the long-suffering, eyes squeezed shut.

A hand plants against Teo's chest, gently eases him back, and the way Francois' glance merely skims over Teo's eyes probably indicates that he hasn't said everything he wants to, rhetorics forcibly shelved. If he plans to get around to it is a further mystery.

He hooks an arm beneath Teo's, curled up along his spine, before going to stand up, dragging the taller man along with him in a slow kind of easing that might mean there will be no fainting in a room filled with hard edges, sharp corners, wooden floors. "Tres bien. Let's go upstairs." The shift of pages fallen to the ground is something Francois can fix later on. Once he gets this other, lankier, fever hot piece of his world sorted out first.

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