Good As New


leonard_icon.gif teo_icon.gif

Scene Title Good As New
Synopsis Leonard's hand is, but most of the rest of the two boys' relationship is a bloody state of healing.
Date August 6, 2009

Village Renaissance Building Roof

This is a flat roof, the surface grey concrete, which covers a building with enough space for sixteen apartment units on each floor along with elevators, stairwells, and maintenance areas at the center. It can be reached by an elevator and/or staircase near the right edge, a large freight elevator just back of the center, and stairwells centered on front and back of the building. The back left corner holds the large machinery needed for climate control of the interior. Discreet cameras placed all around the edge monitor the roof.

Near the elevator and stairs from the penthouse below is a pair of picnic tables and a sophisticated grill for cooking outdoors and eating when the weather permits. It's covered by an open air tent of sorts for shelter when rain and snow come.

The right front corner, overlooking 4th Street, has a sturdy wooden structure ten feet back from the edge. Here there are outlets for plugging in amplifiers and other electrical devices should Cat choose to come up here and make music. It has a set of glass doors which can be folded aside to allow approaching the edge and closed to protect against weather.

The front left corner features four each of small apple and cherry trees with garden chairs here and there around them, a number of sunflowers, tomato plants, potatoes, carrots, onions, peas, and various other plants chosen for their appearance in pots or planters large enough to hold them. Someone with access to the roof likes to garden, and has been doing so at any chance.

Leo's up on the rooftop. He's lounging in the shade of the little pavilion, having set a glass ashtray on one of the picnic tables, and is lazily smoking a Camel. Even though he knows it's bad for him. He looks weary, but his expression is neutral, even a little dreamy.

"Leo." Footfalls behind, rubber scratching concrete, and then the bulk of an arm bouncing companionably off the small of the man's back, a half a hug, that shifts up, the next moment. Teo hangs off Leonard's neck like a particularly well-behaved orangutang, shoulder up, his head craned down over the dull bright of the city in afternoon. "—Hey." His eye cuts to the right. There's a scab healing on the back of his middle knuckle, left hand, shows when he reaches over to pick at Leonard's recently refurbished piggies, courtesy of Hadley and Deckard, both. "Good as new?"

With the lazy elan of a thoroughbred flicking away flies with its tail, Leo grinds out the cigarette, kisses Teo on the cheek before disentangling himself, and then shucks off his shirt in one motion. He stands hipshot for a moment, motions at the remarkable lack of scars, and then turns to expose the now-smooth lines of his back. Like the whole thing in Iraq never happened.

There's a pang clinched in Teo's stomach, translated into a casual grimace pinching his nose when he's kissed on the cheek. Nothing particularly violent— which is refreshing lately. Obligingly he puts hands in his pockets, droops his head to study the section of skin indicated by the point of Leonard's hand. "Hey," he says. "That's fucking great." He cranes his head to peer around the incline of the other man's hip, closes and opens his eyes. "I wonder which one of them pulled that off."

"That was Mrs….Mrs. Hadley, I think," Leo says, as he tugs the shirt back on. He's clipped his hair back nearly to the scalp again. "I understand she got the pins out of my ankle, too. And the shrapnel." He beams at Teo. "How's trick, paisan?" he teases, as he settles back on the bench, legs asprawl.

Their heads are buzzed, the both of them, making for a funny sort of symmetry when Teo plops down on the bench too. He has to bite back on a secondhand habit when it catches him off-guard, stops himself from asking for a cigarette. That shit will kill you. "It was fuckin' weird hearing that stuff raining out of you while you were on the cot. Like Christmas chimes or something. I put them on the endtable, if you didn't see. I'm okay. Some people look at me like they think I'm gonna flip out with psycho gymnastics and put the maim on them any second.

"For everybody else it's like nothing changed at all. Training with Hana, keeping Liz and Cat off each others' throats, Deckard calling when people point guns at his friends. And the second floor sinks in the Garden keep breaking so Mage is calling about that. I d'no." The latter is preferable merely because the former is unpleasant. Teo hasn't flipped psycho gymnastics on anybody in weeks. He scrubs his jaw with blunt fingers. "You?"

"Quiet. Been gardenin'. Sort of out of it," Leo confesses. He doesn't light up another cig, though there's the plasticky rustle of the pack in his pocket. He's in a black t-shirt, army shorts, nearly worn out Converse. "Which you are you, now?" he says, eyeing Teo from under his brows, inquisitive expression and head-tilt oddly reminiscent of Pila wondering if that bird in the mirror is friend or foe.

Innn a sssense, Teo kind of preferred when his friend was missing a hand and doped up on painkillers and incapable of asking sensible questions like this one. He exhales through his teeth and switches from scratching at his stubble to rubbing his nose, studying some interchangeable point on Leonard's pant leg.

This tactic might work with somebody as normally loquacious as he himself is, but with Leonard, as with Pila, he finds himself compelled by the gravitational crush of social obligation to hold up his end of the conversation. They just don't say much unless he's doing something. "Neither," he says, first, because this is what he believes. Wind rattles the intervening beat's silence. Then, grudgingly, heavy with disclaimer: "Both."

Okay, this does need a cigarette. There's the comforting ritual of Leo tugging out the smashed pack of Camels, tugging one out, remembering which of many pockets holds the Zippo, and flicking it open. But that can only delay thge follow-up question for so long, and he wonders, "You gonna explain that further, or am I gonna have to poke you? What happened?"

"I d'no." These grating vicissitudes of silence are a habit Deckard rubbed off on him, and there's enough objective distance in Teo's ability to look at himself that he knows it, and it makes him scowl slightly. Self-perception seems to be a side-effect of psychic merging. Hopefully one that wears off. "Arthur Petrelli nearly fucking killed me, but Gabriel saved me by charging in the style of Kazimir Volken. Seemed to've…

"Fuckin'…" a metaphor seems to be appropriate here, but Teo's creativity is inadequate to the task. He raises both shoulders, drops them, hopelessly, "blendered my brain on his way out. When Deckard got me up, I was alone in here."

Leo merely sits, considers this, letting the smoke wreath around him, as if he were some latter day Delphic oracle. The pronouncement he finally delivers isn't prophecy, though. Just a very impressed sounding, "Damn. So, you got the memories from the future, as well as your past self. Well, I owe Gabriel Gray, then. Maybe I -won't- wring his neck like a rooster I intend to cook," His tone on that last one is a very magisterial condescension. He flicks ash away with a quick motion of a fingertip. "Which of….who won out when it came to me?" he says. In other words… do you feel?"

Tamara doesn't smoke. This peevish thought floats irrelevantly to the forefront of Teo's brain before dissipating like the smoke that hangs clingfilm in the air around them. He turns his eyes to watch the feather-edged eddies snatch and twist in the air. There isn't enough wind out here. He already knows the answer, of course, but it takes him a long time to say; it's one of those questions.

Makes his voice rough and his hands nervous, despite that he keeps both still for a few seconds, stretched out over the awkward magnitude of Leonard's question. Abruptly, he wrinkles his nose— the big Finnish one he's always complained about, despite it being simultaneously and hypocritically and sometimes amusingly, his best feature. "I love you too," he says, appropos of something that he had not particularly required Leonard to assign words to, again. The words make him awkward. Suddenly so much more the self-conscious teenager, lashes cast idiotically downward, scar-notched fingers scuffing up behind his ear.

Disjointedly, he says, "I never got around to apologizing for Felix. By which I mean: I'm doing that now." He squints a pale eye up at the darker one set in Leonard's strangely unfamiliar features. "'Ve only ever wanted you to make you feel better. And younger, I guess— I know a little about feeling older than I am," he notes, and then he laughs because it's the sort of thing you laugh about; yes, he knows about feeling older than you are, but that spins in an entirely different universe. He rubs his nose. "Anyway, I'm sorry about things. I wish I could give you what you need but I don't think I can. Ever have."

Leo….Leo withers. That's the only word for it. Like a turtle suddenly bereft of his shell, he sort of deflates. He looks down at the paving of the roof, shoulders hunched against a blow, hands clenching sporadically, unthinkingly. "I'm sorry, too. I done you a lotta wrong, in a lotta ways. Slept with people I shouldn't, been mean or violent," He goes to scratching at his scalp, like he does when nervous….or ashamed. "I want to be better. I want to be someone who ain't your burden." The gestures and mannerisms remain so painfully the same, even with Sal's work as a veneer. "I want to go back when it was sweet, before I kept fucking everything up." There are little dustdevils whorling around him, smoke and grit captured, as if his distress stirred up little attendant djinn.

Given that Teo had been being entirely sincere when he said about what he wanted his friend to feel better about things, the presence of preternaturally produced djinns is reason for concern. His head twitches on its stem, lancing the eddies of dust and particulate matter with his squint. He doesn't take out his gun and try to shoot them or anything, though. He whips his head down, few degrees around to study Leonard, arm bent up behind his head, the jig of scratching fingers recognizable even if his scalp is no longer all over russet.

Though he misses that— the red, that is, there are worse things. "Gra— thank you," he says, finally. In English, to make sure that it is understood. Teo grins a little; shows teeth. "Means a lot. I know you have enough regrets to deal with, without adding some little Catholic kid's injured sensibilities to them."

He takes it as an oblique reference to that incident in Iraq. The one he's never mentioned but knows Teo knows of, nonetheless. Red blossoms on his face, turning his ears nearly as bright as his hair once was. "Can we start over?" he asks, in a hoarse whisper, still not looking up.

"What do you mean?" Teo's left hand curls into a fist. He bounces it off the front of Leonard's shoulder without really thinking about it, distracting himself from a certain melodramatic choking fear of disappointment, and someone else's heartache, and pragmatic pessimism, and the permeating distraction of his recent lack of equilibrium by messing around as if he were still twelve years old, instead of sixty-two years or two weeks old, as if punching still solves everything. "Like throw everything we were away, and you'll magically start having dreams about ponies and cartoon cantaloupes that smile?"

"Well, throw away the bad shit. Pretend it's still October and I just kissed you in the middle of Central Park," Leo says, looking up, and shoving him back - open-palmed and without his power, at last for now. "I ….well, I don't know how to get rid of the bad dreams."

There's an outgoing breath, a brief show of teeth: rue. Teo glances down at the handprint Leonard dents into his sweater. Weird to think, a couple weeks ago, he didn't have anything attached to his wrist stump to leave one with. "I don't know. You aren't wearing a glowstick, and you wouldn't have bad dreams if there wasn't bad shit."

The shove turns into a touch, a gesture of tenderness unwonted outside the bedroom. Leo lays his hand along Teo's jaw, uncertainly. "Glowstick?"

A flinch tugs the sinew in Teo's neck, as physically involuntary, neutrally automatic as a horse's muscular twitch underneath a biting fly, except. You know. Teo isn't an equine lazing in the shade, and Leonard's fingers don't constitute the mindless irritation of a fly, and sentience gives weight to both gestures and implies damage behind the reaction, though there's no more than that, no further recoil or retreat. "Yeah, you were wearing one on Halloween," he answers. His voice is steady. "It isn't Halloween anymore."

Leonard removes his hand, as subtly as he can. The flush is there, still. "Yeah," he agrees, and sets his hand in his lap, as if it were still something fragile and shattered.

"And I'm not Teo," Teo continues, after a marked silence, as if he is trying to explain. Embarrassment bleeds sanguine up his own cheeks, like some belated suffusion of color following a physical slap across his face, though there isn't one, just color patching in, the discomfort of admitting to deformation. "My face looks wrong in the mirror somehow, like— if I'd been in a disfiguring accident, and a surgeon tried to put everything back the way the photographs show it, but everything's— off a few degrees.

"Sex creeps me out, when I think about it. And they've— Teo— he's always been emotionally useless, and distracted by saving the world with guns and kung-fu. Very intriguing, the whole billowy cape, tortured poet thing, but I'm not sure I do that stuff anymore." There is an unfinished quality to his pause, like there are other items that should probably go on this damage report, but he doesn't add them. Instead, Teo reaches out with forefinger and thumb scissored to snag the cigarette. He doesn't smoke anymore, of course, but.

He could really use a cigarette right now. "I understand if you need someone," Teo finishes, finally, a little thickly.

"You're both. Neither," Leo says, obediently handing him the cigarette, air companionable. "You gonna quit Phoenix, take a rest?" He sounds oddly matter of fact about that, even as he savors the smoke. "I don't need someone in the way you say. At least, not the way I think you mean it. You don't want me like that, you don't. No point in taking offense, but I'll know to leave you be," Leo's really struggling for magnanimity.

It sounds worse when somebody else is saying it. Would've sounded bad if Eve had, but that hadn't been what she'd wanted, novelly enough. Teo feels like somebody opened a pinhole supernova in his lung or something, he can't seem to breathe properly. Not enough air going in, what's there — burns. Probably makes smoking counterintuitive, but he accepts the cancer stick when given, takes a drag. "I sound like a douche," he observes, finally, in the tone of complaint. "Some stupid— fucking… arrogant, self-absorbed— crazy— yeast alien—

"Do you want to punch me or anything?" Teo lifts an eyebrow. Fixes Leonard with a gaze of frank inquiry, a moment before he glances away, somewhere between confused, embarrassed, and backwardly proud, at least, of being able to offer that.

"It's been nothing but crazy for months now. Andit's not like I even knew what normal was like beyond that," Leo says, with another of those shrugs. "I half wonder if I shouldn't stop, go somewhere. I haven….well, I wasn't all that right even before Moab, and I still ain't now." He rubs at his scalp, making the nap of his hair stand up a little straighter. "I still feel like a shattered pot that wasn't glued back together right. It still hurts. I wish I'd gotten a chance to kill that man," He sounds mournful about not having been able to turn Verse into unidentifiable pulp.

D'aww. Poor baby, didn't get to maul the nasty illusionist man to chunky red pulp. There's something wrong somewhere in this progression of thought, but nothing that Teo is wont to look at too closely. There's a hand on top of Leonard's head, abruptly, fingers curling a bracket around the textured convex of his buzzcut, tugging the telekinetic over for a hug. It should be this easy. One arm around Leo's neck, the other locked around his shoulder. "Like where?"

Leonard sighs, even as hea leans into the hug, settles his head on Teo's shoulder for a moment. "I don't know. I don't have much money. Could take off onna Grayhound, work for a while. Maybe go up to Canada, help the Ferry. I mean, I don't have anything but this fight anyhow. And I couldn't rest easy anywhere else, knowing I might do some good. But some days I feel like my head is full of static."

The bulk of Teo's bicep shifts up under the older? younger the other man's head, steeling up in conformation to the incline of Leo's jaw. Squeeze. Forgiving's easy, when you have that many sociopaths to account for the trouble one's tender heart has seen; trust remains proportionally as difficult, but there are a lot of things you can do dawdling along the progression of that continuum.

The dispensation of hugs, for instance. "Ferry's part of this fight, 's true. You don't have to leave New York to shift over to helping out on the boat, though. There's always people who need hiding, supplies to move, safehouses to fix, even here. Something about this place?"

"Mostly that I don't know what to do, what I feel," Leo confesses. Even despite their argument, their griefs, he's utterly limp against Teo, eyes closed. "I still wanna help Phoenix. I just feel….ground down. Like they took something out in Moab I don't know how to replace."

The role of protector's never really fit around the size of Teodoro Laudani's tattooed shoulders, a truth illustrated first by Gianina's death and second by his baby brother's estrangement, later by a trainwreck of personal relationships, and his perpetually distant and unstable relationship with Phoenix, Deckard, everyone else he's ever peculiarly wound up rescuing from the brink of extinction. Survival is life at its most rudimentary. Living, now; the more existentially fulfilling things than that, like— honesty, humility, and kittens, he's always sucked at.

Still, he's lived two lives, had his share of epic romances, fathered a son, saved the world, and if all that rubble and ruin and bullshit isn't fertilizer enough for new growth, really, Teo might as well shoot himself in the head now. "Abby's coming back, soon. We'll watch TV and go outside and stuff. Maybe that'll help." Then: stiffer, a little stodgily, his English formalizing the way it's wont to when he's trying to get around feelings too big to fit words to: "I would prefer it if you didn't go to Canada just yet."

"I'm not in a hurry," Leo murmurs, quietly, shifting to sit upright again. "I won't. I'll ask Helena what she wants of me, for one. I just….want to feel useful. And sane."

An empty palm claps the back of Leo's neck, snagging nape in a brutish moment's comraderie. Teo lets him go. "Don't think hiding's very good for you, no," he admits. The cigarette shifts between his teeth with the last syllable, dropping ash onto the bench. He swats it off with his fingers.

Leonard agrees, "And I don't haveto hide, now. Not with this new face."

"Helena doesn't always know what to want from you," Teo says, presently. The cigarette's spent. He stubs it out on the concrete underfoot, momentarily forgetting that that's a little bit of an ugly thing. He squints sidelong, street light limning his profile in oblique lines of chiaroscuro. "Sometimes you have to want shit for yourself."

Leonard takes in a slow breath. "I don't know what I want. Other than to not be judged for what I can't help. Which is a goddamn irony for the descendant of slave owners. Karma, maybe."

There's a slant to Teo's smile that could well be approval. "Fuck karma. You've paid back everything any of your goofy forefathers have ever fucking owed thrice over." He rocks his shoes back, his feet inside them, angles his toes up at the sky. Thump when he flattens them down again, fidgeting without knowing particularly why. "Start with stuff," he suggests, finally. "Things you can eat or wear or drive."

"To the contrary, mio amico, I think you need as many anchors as possible right now." Teo wiggles his shoes where they are, heels still pinned down sharper than the balls of his feet. He shifts forward, stands up without any concrete idea about where he was going, or if he is. Turning around, he regards the raccoon with his shiny stone. "Then we get you a shitty car."

"I got a little money saved. I should go back to cabbing. I liked it," Leo says, quietly, "And it gave me a reason to be in various places, you know?"

Annnd abruptly, Teo's standing on the bench. This happens periodically, as all of Teo's closer acquaintances know; something about having been at sea, or living in under-furnished hovels for so long, he's hopeless at using furniture properly. Several stories and another seven feet above street level, he stomps around a bit, his shoes scuffing, brow knit with thought. "Sounds doable," he decides, at length. Lifts an officious sort of finger, and swats it at Leonard's nose. "New face, new ID. Old MO, yeah, but it's New York City and there are hundreds of cab drivers to get lost in, huh?"

Leo's smile is a wan little thing, a sprout struggling for sunlight. "Exactly. I go with a new company, new area, maybe out at LaGuardia, no one will ever know."

"'S a start." A small, wilted, stumpy, hopeless little start that makes Teo's stomach clutch in on itself with the imploding magnitude of his desire to see Al fixed again, and faster than this thing straining around in the dirt. He shuffles sidelong a few inches, wedges a brief line of pacing into the hypotenus of the bench's surface, his features quiescent, his own fatigue balancing out the urge to salve Leonard's. He's too old for this shit. He can't even pace properly, anymore. "And then," he says.

"And then I save some money, do what I can. I will be happy to have steady work again, and I like being Phoenix's steady workhorse more than I like being the enforcer," Leo says, rubbing his scalp absentmindedly.

"'S a start." A small, wilted, stumpy, hopeless little start that makes Teo's stomach clutch in on itself with the imploding magnitude of his desire to see Al fixed again, and faster than this thing straining around in the dirt. He shuffles sidelong a few inches, wedges a brief line of pacing into the hypotenus of the bench's surface, his features quiescent, his own fatigue balancing out the urge to salve Leonard's. He's too old for this shit. He can't even pace properly, anymore. "And then," he says.

"And then I save some money, do what I can. I will be happy to have steady work again, and I like being Phoenix's steady workhorse more than I like being the enforcer," Leo says, rubbing his scalp absentmindedly.

There's a figment of skepticism on Teo's features. Fleeting. He glances away with a slight shake of his own shaven head, some internal dismissal not to be mistaken for disagreement. He suspects there are things that Leonard would prefer better to either of those things, but neither come to mind, either because he's tired or because he's never met them before, despite the surfeit of memory locked up in his stubbly skull. "Sounds like a better fucking plan than the one I have," he offers, finally. Offers the other man a palm up, with only the briefest explanation, tucked in between subjects: "I'm hungry. Have you met Pastor Sumter yet?"

Leo puts his hand in Teo's, lets himself be drawn to his feet. "I'd like something to eat, myself. And no, I haven't. I've heard of him. He one of us, or an ally?" he wonders, brows like ink brushstrokes lifting towards the black stubble that serves him for hair.

"Ferryman. Baptist pastor— Abby's church, right now." Heeeave up. Upright, they're roughly the same height, Leo's shoulder providing as comfortable an armrest as ever before. Pressure eases in from Teo's elbow, steering for the doorway. "Evolved. He shows people visions of their own futures, in fashionably stylized symbolism. He's really nice, too. Owns the biggest dog I've ever seen. You should make friends. He's new to the boat, you just got back."

"Damn," says Leo, wonderingly. "That does sound like a man I'd like to meet." He steps away, neatly, lest there be unnecessary contact.

Deprived of his armrest, Teo lets his arm fall after a moment spent bent up forlornly in the air, a wry smile small on his face. "She'll introduce you when she's back."

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