From Here We All Float


sonny_icon.gif teo_icon.gif

Scene Title From Here We All Float
Synopsis They won't say they didn't try.
Date February 13, 2009

Ruins of Midtown

Standing in the ruins of Midtown, it's hard to believe New York is still a living city.

There's life enough around the fringes — the stubborn, who refused to rebuild somewhere else; the hopeful, who believe the radiation is gone, or that they somehow won't be affected. Businesses, apartment complexes, taxis and bicycles and subways going to and fro — life goes on. Perhaps more quietly than in other parts of the city, shadowed by the reminder that even a city can die, but it does go on.

Then there is the waste. The empty core for which the living city is only a distant memory. Though a few major thoroughfares wind through the ruins, arteries linking the surviving halves, and the forms of some truly desperate souls can occasionally be glimpsed skulking in the shadows, the loudest noise here is of the wind whistling through the mangled remnants of buildings. Twisted cords of rebar reach out from shattered concrete; piles of masonry and warped metal huddle on the ground, broken and forlorn. Short stretches of road peek out from under rubble and dust only to disappear again shortly afterwards, dotted with the mangled and contorted forms of rusting cars, their windows long since shattered into glittering dust.

There are no bodies — not even pieces, not anymore. Just the bits and pieces of destroyed lives: ragged streamers fluttering from the handlebar which juts out of a pile of debris; a flowerbox turned on its side, coated by brick dust, dry sticks still clinging to the packed dirt inside; a lawn chair, its aluminum frame twisted but still recognizable, leaning against a flight of stairs climbing to nowhere.

At the center of this broken wasteland lies nothing at all. A hollow scooped out of the earth, just over half a mile across, coated in a thick layer of dust and ash. Nothing lives here. Not a bird; not a plant. Nothing stands here. Not one concrete block atop another. There is only a scar in the earth, cauterized by atomic fire. This is Death's ground.

Are you all right? Teo had seen the news. Of course Teo had seen the news. He's a pro-Evolved terrorist; it's eighty percent of the reading he does, and the first thing he had asked when he rang in, the instant after he reassured — more out of habit than because Sonny was concerned — that the line was secure. Busted nose on page six. Prince Bianco pegs General Allerdyce with a gauntlet, gets his face shattered for his trouble. All the tabloids have that one photograph in common. So he'd asked, first, Are you all right? Second:

Will you meet me?

Teo's choice of venue is probably as odd as the man himself. The ruins of Midtown aren't generally privileged to host such auspicious visitors as the Mayor's son, even if the Mayor's son was requested to come on foot and under different guise. It's less than half an hour before sundown. Already the dusty and rusted urban carcass is empty, silent, abandoned by all but the skinny rats and withered weeds that cling to existence here for the sheer, unadulterated Hell of it.

There's a highway overpass here toward the Eastern extremity of the island. Four lanes rise out of street level upon a massive concrete arch, looking like the neck or spine of some primordial Leviathan petrified once and cut for human use. It smells a little different up here. A little, which is to say faintly. Something organic on the wind, neither repugnant nor particularly pleasant, an invisible reminder that they're harder to kill than that.

Teo is standing at the pinnacle of the bridge, cigarette in mouth, peering down at his shoes, features high-contrast from the solitary functioning lamp overhead. He's dressed, as usual, in clothes both clean and old. He's probably been alone awhile. Without anything to reciprocate, he has no weapon in sight nor particular expression on his face.

This is not exactly the type of venue that Sonny expected to be called to. Not by Teo, in any event. But there's not much he would refuse the young terrorist. The doc's entire face hurts, deep down through his skull and down to a throbbing at the top of his spine. His nose needed to be set, his lip stitched down to his chin. Those injuries remained even after melding them to those of Reg Cooper - his familiar 'Ferryman face,' though one he uses only as a disguise and not a separate identity.

He takes a cab for a few blocks, then bundles himself deep into a down jacket and trudges over the ruins. He stumbles in the darkness, steps on the end of a parking meter, chunks of cars, a half incinerated baby stroller.

His approach will likely be noticed from some distance given Teo's vantage point. Every now and then he squeezes his elbow to his chest to remind himself of the comforting weight of a pistol. This isn't exactly a friendly part of town, wearing his own face or no.

Oh, the different lives they lead. Teo feels safer here than he does most places. Would've had to, basing Terrorist Central out of the ruins for so many months before Staten Island — no less disreputable or prone to dangerous persons — became the shithole of choice. Areas like these, you don't have to worry about the cops flipping their shit when you yank out a gun and stare very hard at somebody approaching. Mostly because there aren't any cops.

"Sala." Reg Cooper's is a face that Teodoro recognizes, fortunately for everybody involved. Indeed, it was the one he expected. The moment the architecturally perfect angle of that nose and those arrogant cheekbones separate from the darkening shadows of pending twilight, notwithstanding the slight smudge and leak of haemorrhage, bruising, discoloration.

In spite of it, there's a grin, a step forward, a fragment of asphalt scattered, tumbling away from his shoe as he casts an arm up in salutation. They both look the worse for wear up close. Teo, because he's tired. Sonny because he got his face beat in.

Sonny has to remind himself that in this face, he isn't a target. But it's hard to get past that in-grown sense of fear of being recognized, kidnapped, coerced. He steps up towards Teo and attempts a smile, but his face hurts too much for it to spread too far for too long. "Hey, T. Glad you're okay." He looks out over the ruins, then back to the other. "Why're we here, man?" A beat, then his expression darkens and turns worried. "What's wrong?" He starts to scan the immediate area for signs of men with sniper rifles trained on them, or a cluster of a terrorist cell.

"It's okay. You don't have to worry— I just wasn't sure you were you." There's half a rough-skinned hand on Sonny's beleaguered face, checking the sensitivity of skin beyond the visibly edges of injury, a physical translation for the verbal reciprocation: he's glad Sonny's okay, too. Teo's other hand angles the semi-automatic away, harmlessly, into the void of darkness and the deserted street below.

There's no one. He's been here awhile. "I just wanted to show you something here. Soon." A pallid eye flits up, sidelong, sweeps the snaggletooth horizon where sunset has infused the sky with incendiary pink and orange. "Thought you'dve shifted that by now." He touches himself on his own slightly crooked nose, as if pointing out the spot in the mirror. "Somewhere people couldn't see."

Sonny winces underneath Teo's touch. Much of the skin is still swollen and tender. Shifting facial muscles and skin didn't help either. "It's me. Albeit one with his face mashed in." He chukcles, but stops and winces in pain. He didn't bother to shift his voice.

He glances the way Teo indicates, then looks back to the terrorist. As his nose is indicated, he grins as much as his face will let him. "I have to wait for it to heal a bit before I get rid of the crookedness. Morphing broken bone hurts like fuck. Doesn't hurt at all after it's mended."

The older man is subject to momentary speculation as Teo turns this over in his head a few times, the trajectories and mathematics of putting a salutationary kiss someplace. A few blinks in, he finally leans over, rests his mouth briefly on the other man's ear. Might have been weird, anyway. Swapping spit with some other guy's face. Weird not in the sense that it's an unusual happenstance, but because it isn't. And this conversation is about that. Sort of.

Supposed to be. "Best view is over here," he says, pulling back. Sticking his gun back in underneath his jacket, the Sicilian reaches up to grab the lamp post. Swings one long leg up, plants his foot on the wind-chapped steel of the overpass' railing, shucking his torso over it. His feet find the concrete ledge on the other side, surefooted as a billy goat, untroubled by the thirty foot drop below. "Come on. Sit up here." He slaps a hand down on the railing and peers over, expectant.

"I'm surprised you caught the article in the gossip mags. I didn't peg you as the type to care about Brangelina," says Sonny in a wry tone. He's discovered he can smile with the left half of his mouth without too much pain, so Teo gets the slice of a smile at the odd ear-kiss.

When the terrorist goes urban goat on him, he hesitates. "Why do I feel like I'm fourteen and my cousin Vincent is making me go cliff diving?" He casts a wary look at the drop below and then, with less grace than the other, finds his way down onto the ledge. "I've never been here," the doc admits. "Not since, you know." It was still part of the city.

Knuckles bare to the wind, Teo closes his hands on the doctor's hips, steering the center of his balance to rest against the tube steel of railing and bracing one of the other man's shoulders against the lamppost's pole. It's a precarious place to be, but between that much anchoring and foregoing a panic attack or something of the sort, they'll be okay. "I read 'em for Celestavore," he says, carefully watching the bump and shuffle of their interpolated feet on the narrow width of concrete. "Which sounds kind of like some fugly, chimerical carnivorous beast.

"Which is pretty consistent with my feelings." He glances up. Grins to take any sting out of his words, though there was little to find there. Teo would probably die if he fell backward right now, but he's okay with that, sandwiched against his companion, half-turned to watch. "Place has its merits, bello." Above and around them, the concave sky grows darker on one end, more vivid at the other.

The kind of sky to make a man feel small. Creatures in a Petri dish.

There's a flick of movement, then. Below. A small, dark shape breaking out and into open air from underneath the overpass, dainty, featherless wing spidering out into a riotous dance of flight. A second joins it, and suddenly there are ten. Twenty. Bats, funnelling out into the ruined skyline.

This place might be a natural habitat for the likes of Teodoro Laudani, but Salvatore Bianco is a man displaced. This might as well be the Savannah in Africa for all he feels at home. It takes him a moment to get Teo's reference, given the large vertical drop. He grabs hold of the young Italian's shoulders as much for his own security as to keep the other from falling. Then once the reference sinks in, he looks a little sheepish. "Yeah well. I doubt she'll be calling me for a little while. She always complained about guys she dated getting in to fistfights."

He starts to look down at the dark shapes that emerge, but looking down makes him dizzy. He closes his eyes and leans his head back against the support behind him. His adam's apple rises and falls with anxiety. "Why exactly are we out here again?" He softens that with one of those half-smiles.

"Because Bruce Wayne got one thing right: bats are fucking awesome," Teo responds, emphatically. A man is judged by how he treats lesser creatures. He's given to understand, it never hurts to simply sit back and admire them, far as that goes.

Be as it may that he isn't really sitting, and that leaning back would be extremely bad for his wellbeing, he enjoys the vantage point anyway. There are more hunting bats with every passing second, a massive column of delicate limbs and appetites both great and precise, soundtracked only to the occasional squeak here or there, straying into human hearing. He's grinning wide and bright. Enthralled. Can't help but be enthralled, even though Sonny's—

Turning a little pale, underneath the bruises. Oops. "And I did some thinking. Like we said. 'Bout you and me. I thought—

"I believed I sleep around to feel less. Distance makes things safe. There was a reason all your socialites couldn't hurt you, and there was a reason Al hurt me." He's turned away from the bats now. The lack of distance, now, gets in the way of eye-contact. He's a voice dislocated somewhere over Sonny's shoulders, close to his ear, uncomfortable because of the topic and other things besides. "That's not really it, though."

"They are, uh, very interesting, yes. I remember studying their behaviors in a biology class back when I was an undergrad. They make up something like twenty five per cent of all the mammals on earth." Now that Sonny's feeling less apt to fall, he lets himself watch the creatures and try to feel the wonder Teo is. If this was a zoo or a documentary on TV, that would be easy. But given their location, the doc finds it a bit difficult to relax.

After a moment, he stops watching the bats and starts to watch Teo's reaction to them. Despite the fact that it hurts to smile, he can't quite help himself. But then the subject is turning to something more serious - that big, hulking elephant that always lingers in the room, sometimes acknowledged, sometimes ignored. "Oh?" he asks. He decides not to prompt more than that. Instead he waits for Teo to say what he seems to have brought him here to say.

It's what Sacha had said. Didn't want to feel anything for awhile, except that wasn't it, because there was the other half, confessed, contradictory, crucial to the actual truth. Didn't want to be alone. "Nobody I know who does shit like that does it to feel less. No matter what they tell themselves. You were right. I think. There's just — nothing more. It's easier to get a lot of people to like you for a little while, than to make sure one person likes you enough, long enough to stay.

"I mean—" Teo isn't grinning anymore. Brows tilted downward, eyes scanning the departing flock, he looks serious. Terribly serious, the way the hero gets for his close-up at the beginning of the final battle, the camera enamored with his self-reprehension, all breathless, insistent that this is the part you're supposed to be paying attention to. "I don't have a lot to offer you, and you don't need me.

"Worse'n that, you don't need to wonder if I'm dead tomorrow or killing cops today, about to jeopardize your career. I'm not that good-looking or smart, and I'm not even as nice as I get most people to think I am. I'm okay for conversation, in both meanings of the phrase, but that's what all those other people are for. It makes me feel pretty inadequate.

"You're really cool. I want to be with you. Just you." He remembers to look at Sonny, finally. Even despite the oversaturated heat of sunset, his eyes show steady, blue as ice but none of that cold. He offers the ruin of a grin. "Are you sure you want to be with me, or am I just because there's no one else?"

"Teo…" Sonny exhales slowly and stares out at the landscape over his shoulder. "There are…very few people who I feel like I can relax around, I mean really relax. You know things about me that no one else does, and that means you know me better than anyone else. What you do? Yeah, it scares the shit out of me, but I'd be scared for you whether we were just friends or something more. I'd be worried about you. Us ending it wouldn't change that, it would just distance me from it. And I don't really want that either. I'm actually starting to feel connected to everything out there, to the truth of the mess we're in. I don't want to be blind to that anymore. To this," he motions out to the ruins of Midtown.

There's a moment where he goes silent, as he gathers his thoughts. When he speaks, his tone is thoughtful. "But there's something I've been thinking about. I can never fully know what you do. It's not safe for you. Unless I disappeared, abandoned my family entirely, faked my death and resolved to wear another face for the rest of my life, I couldn't fight with you. That closeness and honesty I get from you, you can't get from me in return. Because if you tell me what you're out there doing every night, I'm going to want to be out there too. Both of us know that's not where I'm most useful."

He reaches up and touches the side of Teo's face, then curls his fingers under. "This isn't about need, you and I. It's never been. It's never been about sex or convenience. It was supposed to be. I knew that's what you were proposing when you asked to be with me. And I was prepared for that. But something…happened." Despite the difficulty, he pulls back enough to look Teo in the eye. Unfamiliar face, familiar expression, even through the injuries. "We're not need, you and I. We're want. We don't have to need each other for this to mean something."

Doesn't it? Skepticism is no stranger to Teo's expression, believer though he is. Romero needed Gianina. He was so broken when he didn't have her anymore, and those two exist, forever, in a self-regenerating pocket of vicarious experience and untouchable ideal that he may well be incapable of. Not that they're about to get married or anything, of course. He knows Sonny isn't saying that. At the same time, few people would go into a relationship believing it's just going to be another waystation on the journey to their final destination.

And he isn't sure he could take that. Fuck. He's pretty sure he couldn't. That much is easy to read: hesitation, fear, which does not mask the painful simplicity of the honesty he had shown Sonny five hundred words earlier, but complicates it.

"It's different when I'm right here in front of you." And he is. Really. Right here, this time. Physically and otherwise. "When I'm away, you'll wonder. You already do. Who I'm with, when or if I'm coming back. You're right— I know— you could see the world and fight evil and all that shit without me. Maybe want is enough. I've never needed… Maybe. Maybe you're right about that. But—" How it embarrasses him to ask.

Not in a way that makes him blush or squirm or even evade Sonny's gaze, but he's all knots, suddenly, ashamed and too aware of the room for deceit or self-deception. "Are you sure you want me?"

"You're asking like I've been in a situation like this before," says Sonny, "Like I understand what I feel for you. I don't. And I don't know if that's normal or not." He exhales a held breath. "I know…I roll over in the morning and you're not there, and it hits me in the gut. Not because you might be with someone else, not because you're off fighting, but because you're not with me. Is that selfish?" That seems to be a real question rather than a rhetorical one. He looks a little ashamed.

"With you, I'm free from all the shit that piles on me with my other life. I don't think I could ever find who would give me what you give me. In a lot of ways, you're things I wish I could be. A fighter, for one. Someone who can get passionate about things. But I know you've got some deep down hurts. And I want to be there to help you." He grits his teeth and tries to think how to articulate a confusing mess of emotions. "But do you really want me, T? Do you want just me because I want just you? Because if it's for me, then you're going to be unhappy."

Like walking on thin ice. Ice isn't really Teo's element, as winter tends to reveal. He can swim. He can't skate.

Deep down hurts. He does color then, with a mumble, pulls away with a mumble of something apologetic, carefully dislodging stray hands and boots before he swivels back and out of their intimate configuration. His back hits the railing, and he winds up there, just an inch to Sonny's right, standing beside him, giving himself the space of a dead city and the stirred wind of hundreds of bat wings to breath in. The diminutive creatures comprise a speckly ribbon, tapering off into the horizon in search of gossamer things to eat.

A quarter of the world's mammalian population. That's pretty impressive. Teo hadn't known that. "I really want you," he answers, his voice distorted, slightly muted, as if coming from over a longer distance than there is. His cheeks go round, puffed around a sigh; he squints one eye shut, glances down at his feet. The bats flooding out three feet blow them. "Enough to ignore the fact that you aren't sure. I'd appreciate it if you stopped calling me 'T,' though. If that's okay. 'Tay,' maybe? No one calls me that."

"Pearls from the River Tay," murmurs Sonny, apropos of nothing. He draws his attention back to the young man now beside him. "I'm not sure of anything, man. I just know that as hard as it might be for you'n me to be together, it'd be harder if we weren't."

He goes silent now, and looks out across the landscape. It's beautiful, in its own twisted, dirty way. Blindly, his hand seeks Teo's. when he discovers the fingers, he entwines his own. The backs of his knuckles are scraped and bloody from where they connected with a cop's very hard head.

The fingers that Sonny's finds are slightly cold and slightly rough; probably more familiar to naked torso than a companionable handclasp, but there's time to practice this stuff. Or so Teo is telling himself, one more carefully self-induced belief among countless droves. "Yeah. I think so too," he answers after a protracted moment. About Midtown. Them. Both.

A quaver-beat's pause, he screws up his face slightly at the corners of his eyes, coughs low. "I probably should've tried this at a later time. I haven't really slept in awhile." His thumb curls against the subtle lines of metacarpi splayed under the back of Sonny's hand, gentle against the ridges of knuckles and texture aberrations of fresh scabs. He grunts. "Did it feel good 'least before he broke your face in half?"

"Fucking brilliant," murmurs Sonny without hesitation. He smiles, even though it makes him wince at the same time. "The asshole called me all the worst things I've ever been called, all at once. You have no idea how many pricks I've wanted to do that to over the years. He was just the lucky one who finally got it." A beat, then, "He still got me better than I got him though." There's a rough chuckle.

His fingers flex and squeeze. He inhales through his nostrils, then exhales slowly. "Can we go home now?"

A noise of confirmation troops up out of Teo's throat, indistinct but impossible to confuse for negatory. He tilts on his feet, swings a leg up over the railing, a canine scramble of rangy limbs, somehow without losing grip on the other man's hand. "C'mon, principessa. I know just the bus." Dropping on the other side, he braces his knees on the second rung of metal, his boots grating against the concrete. "Can't stay long, though. Shit to do.

"What you said." That he can't talk about, he doesn't add. Is unwilling to underline that, the invisible barricade of trials and practical difficulties that obstruct the way between them and a reasonable facsimile of normal happiness. He tugs, turns the good Doctor, offers an arm and a shoulder to steady against. "But I have at least 'til curfew's up for the morning, if you'll have me that long," he says, squinting upward.

February 13th: Hot N' Steamy
February 13th: New Neighbor
Unless otherwise stated, the content of this page is licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 License