Good News


joseph_icon.gif teo_icon.gif

Scene Title Good News
Synopsis …is a spoonful of sugar for the bad news. Teo gets both when he requests a vision from Joseph during a chance meeting at a humane society, where Joseph is failing to buy a cat.
Date April 21, 2009

A Humane Society

He's meant to be buying himself a cat. Seems like an appropriate pet, not interested in smaller mammals, birds, reptiles, and in some cases, arachnids that you trap behind panes of glass or wire cages. More of a companion than a pet, maybe, and while a dog would be ideal— Claira's sister is allergic. This seems absurdly relevant, even all the way in New York City, considering his Greenwich Village apartment that seems like no relative of his will ever step foot inside it.

But it's an instinct. Can't have a dog. Cats are okay.

So Joseph is standing nearby what appears to be a wall of cages. Kittens, cats, all different colours and sizes and varying degrees of healthiness wind around each other and seem to take less than zero interest in the mild-mannered pastor inspecting them like he might paintings in an art exhibit, his hands buried in his pockets and looking a little guarded for someone studying kittens. The humane society is near empty of people this Tuesday evening, and he's come alone, dressed casually, at least by his standards. Jeans and sneakers, a layer or two of shirts beneath a bulky brown jacket, and reading glasses on for the sake of the paper plaques of information every two doors.

He's meant to be buying himself a cat. That was the plan. And yyyet, Joseph finds himself turning on his heel and drifting towards the lively sounds of yipping and barking. Live the dream, Sumter. He's just gonna look, and wonder how much is that doggy in the window. Maybe the one with the waggily tail.

In through the other end of the hall, the broad bulk of a boy's shoulder slams the door inward, a squeak of hinges to go with the thump of feet and final snatches of conversation wobbling in on the Doppler effect of echoes that rebound off concrete both within and without. "—octor Yamamoto gives them a clean bill of health, that means a great deal. How many days until their bloodwork comes in?"

Teo's brow furrows thoughtfully, trying to remember. He is the one carrying the wire mesh cage of feline infants. They have a blanket on the bottom to hold their little gumdrop pink toe-pads and foot-pads from the bite of thin-drawn metal, and they have each other to keep warm. "Two more days," he says, after a moment, slowly.

"Excellent. We'll hold them at least until then. The paperwork takes longer than that to go through for adoption, anyway, so it shouldn't interfere with potential families."

Nodding his head obligingly, Teo watches as the tech extricates a key from one white coat pocket, selects an empty cage to put the children away into. They come out one by one, niiu, niu, squeaking palmfuls of fluff and baby-fat that view the world through ridiculous gemstone eyes, rattails hanging down behind them.

Teo doesn't look at them. By then, he's watching the pastor on shore leave from across the stretch of pens.

Puppies. Puppies and kittens, two things pretty much made of happiness, and do much to overwhelm the otherwise plain surroundings and the inherent sadness of cages. Separated mostly by a wall and a doorway, Joseph glances back at the sounds of inherent mewling, and doesn't seem to see Teo entirely, on his way around the corner and towards larger cages, two tiers worth.

Less dogs than there are cats. Less puppies than there are dogs, too, most of these ones are older. Signs of abuse, of abandonment seem plainer also, if not in actual physical scarring but in the way long-legged canines fold in on themselves, long snouts rest on paws and rolling eyes towards Joseph with vague interest.

He shouldn't have come into this room, knowing full well he's pretty sure he can't leave without one. Sigh. Running a hand through dark tousled hair, Joseph winces for himself and then adjusts his glasses, heading towards the nearest cage to peer in at the dog inside. Small, brown and of no recognisable breed, she doesn't get to her feet but does lift her head as the pastor mutters some form of greeting, voice pitching up in 'dog speak' as people are wont to do

Emptied, the kitten box— now reduced, pathetically, merely to 'box,' is transferred to the tech's hands after Teo spends a querulous moment asking if the tech is sure. Yes, the tech is sure, and the Italian probably ought to stop bothering him so…

Teodoro does that, after a moment, a slight stoop of his head for salutation and a glance at the kittens for same. A roughened forefinger taps the bars once, neither goading nor for comfort, before he steps back from the row of cages like steel teeth, lumbers off in the direction that the pastor had taken seconds before. He isn't a stealthy animal by default, despite hard-won experience and a certain amount of formalized training that came with still more — impact. His tread wears both asphalt and shoe behind Joseph in casual cadence.

"Flock too small?" Teo asks the slump of the pastor's spine. It is very peculiar to see men of the cloth in jeans. Even for him, and some of his oldest friends wound up in seminaries, changed, edified. "Could've fooled me with the turnout on Sunday."

The sound of footsteps doesn't stir Joseph, who ordinarily is used to listening out for people coming and going, at least when it comes to the church. No, right now he's busy ignoring the rules about poking fingers through bars, the black point of the mutt's wet nose twitching tentatively as if to discern whether or not she's about to be fed or something. Apparently not, as Joseph guiltily withdraws his hand from the cage as if burned when he's addressed directly, back straightening, in a way that suggests he was being rebuked rather than roundabout greeted.

Maybe because he's supposed to be buying a cat. Not that this young man has any way of knowing that, unfamiliarity on Joseph's face as he turns to settle a look on Teo— and then a flicker of the opposite in the form of a quick smile, words making sense.

"Not exactly. Most animals don't care to hear the good news," the pastor says. "Fortunate for them, they don't need to. I'm sorry, I don't remember seeing you on Sunday— it was a good turn out."

"My friend and I were near the back," Teodoro supplies in an effort to be helpful, turning up the corners of his mouth. His gaze slots around the man's shoulder to study the tiny lady beast which he had been fiddling with. He does not indeed have any way of knowing that the original goal of this exercise had been to appropriate a feline, or he might be volunteering one of the litter he had recently brought into the human society's loving sponsorship. "I don't— I'm not a regular.

"Catholic," he hastens to explain, drawing up alongside. He stoops slightly, slots his hand through the bars to brown bitch. It is true: the animals here look worse for wear than the feline end of things. Man does not treat his best friend well. Cat knows better than to place itself in such a precarious vulnerability in Man's hands. "But I'd heard about the sermon from my friend Abigail and I thought I'd try expanding my horizons."

Awkward beat.

"I have friends who are Evolved," Teo hazards, somewhat furtively, before the look of him turns furtive. Shifts between pastor and the receding cages. One explanation requests another.

Joseph's gaze shifts on over towards where Teo offers his fingers for the dog's inspection, just as uncertain and distant as she had been with the pastor, triangular ears angled away. Unimpressed, it seems, with both men's empty hands, pitch black eyes conveying that much at least, tail curled down and paws fretful against newspaper in maintaining some distance.

"I'll admit, I don't know many of 'em." His hands come up to pull his frameless set of glasses off his face, folding up the gold arms, taking the case out of his pocket and putting them away. "Meeting more'n more every day, though, it seems."

He takes a step away, but not to depart from the conversation, just moving past one empty cage and towards where a pitbull terrier is curled up asleep in his home on the bottom tier. Joseph crouches down to take a look, head tilted, before glancing back up at Teo and his own glance for the cages. "I was lookin' to buy a cat." A half-smile, quasi-shrug. "More of a dog person, I think. What's your name, by the way?"

"Teo." Tea Oh. Wrong way to say it, but the one Americans seem to favor by default of association to Theodore. He's exchanging fighting stares with the girl dog who seems determined to make him work for her love. He could! He's pretty good with dogs. Better with aggressive ones than indifferent ones, but the principle would've been the same. "Laudani," he adds, realizing that one ought not set oneself up as Prince or Madonna in polite society, even if that bit extra surname information would be construed most readily as extraneous.

Teo Laudani compresses his lips thoughtfully, straightening, retracting his grubby mitt from the dog's personal if not private space. His hover nears. "I was more of a dog person for awhile, and then I bought a bird a few years ago because my apartment was too small. Now I think she's the fucking sun." Orrr. If not the fucking sun, then the sun, and he takes the other phrase back, or so hopes the furtive left-right flick of his pale eyes. "Ah— sorry.

Teo does indeed get a slightly rebuking glance from the pastor, as rebuking as Joseph can get for such things, which is to say - not very. Just a lift of eyebrows over dark eyes and an amused smile to dismiss it, attention returning back to the dog in the cage, who isn't even open his eyes. Not dead, though, the rise and fall of its stomach and the slight wheeze of nose passing through its slightly squished snout flagging him as alive and well. A patch of shaven fur indicates some recent form of medical attention.

Hands come down onto denim clad knees, Joseph levering himself up. "Truth be told we've had a coupla break-ins at the church over the past few weeks, who knows why. Could do with another set of eyes, and I wouldn't mind the company so much."

Another step to inspect the contents of the next cage, but Teo gets more attention than the spaniel this time. "Nice to meet you, Teo. How'd you feel 'bout what you heard on Sunday?" There's genuine curiousity there, like an artist gently prodding for opinion on his work.

Maybe when he's thirty, Teo will finally grow out of peppering his remarks with swears as if they are any other adjective, adverb, or noun. Maybe! Pink hunts horizontally across the young man's cheeks, a mild flush of embarrassment. He studies the recovering creature lying below Joseph as if it still remained, in some part, dismantled.

Abigail would drive herself sick coming here to lay hands, he's sure. He'd thought about asking her if she wanted to. Probably wiser not. Discriminating among human lives to save is a painful enough task, between ailing orphans and desperately needed fathers; the whiteless eyes of their animal counterparts must be separately impossible, their suffering unarticulated and so often derived by human deeds.

Fucking humans, right? "Break-ins." Teo's eyebrows hike, his jaws splay, wobble to as top on the edge of another scatalogical flurry. Right. No. He drags blunt fingernails down his jaw, feels emerging stubble snag. "I believe it," he manages, eventually. "Most of it. My friend— he believes in the… science of the Evolved more. The blood test seems to be proof. The genetic links, inheritance patterns.

"Me," he exhales. "I think all that of the research inquest into the Evolved proves that science unassisted is— inadequate. One— or twenty mutations can't be accountable for the variability of abilities shown, and… so much of it in defiance to physics, the biology of organs, climate, diathesis-stress models. There has to be a design. Maybe no giant milk-skinned hand from Heaven picking out embryos in the womb, but something. Some thread. God must be here.

"Somewhere." Teo stops stabbing the post-operational pooch with his eyes long enough to squint up at the pastor, his face a picture of earnest sincerity the likes of which would probably make anybody else's teeth hurt not to snicker. Anybody else.

Anyone who can't match Teo's sincerity ounce for ounce, unlike the pastor he's currently appealing to. The man is rewarded with a kind smile, Joseph shrugging his shoulders. "There's a reason we can't explain everything. And maybe one day we'll be able to explain more, I'm sure. The day they figure out a scientific equation for predicting the future, however— "

Another shrug. He's not a man of science, that much is clear, not when you have God to believe in so earnestly. Also not one to argue, however, not about things he doesn't quite understand, like genetics, evolution, chemicals and blood and DNA. Joseph doesn't doubt that someone could come along and lay it all out for him, the theories behind why he is the way he is, his ancestry, what sets him apart genetically from everyone else. How that proves why he lets people see the future, however…

"Well I think they got a long way to go. Least we can all agree that whatever makes us us can't just be random chance. We're all lookin' for reasons. The Bible's my best bet."

Over the last few words, spoken in his usual gentle Tennessean cadence, there's the sound of footsteps, and four paws. Joseph glances over towards where a volunteer worker of the animal shelter is leading on in— a bear. The woman barely acknowledges the Southern Baptist and Catholic as she moves towards the allotted cage towards the end, far larger than the others, and with a creak of hinges, the bear is led inside. Not really a bear, but it's the size of perhaps two dogs instead of one, long black fur and huge head on a sturdy neck.

"And mine," Teo agrees. "That was a beautiful passage you cited. Corinthians. I'd forgotten about it. Anybody who says the Good Book isn't relevant isn't looking hard enough, or doesn't want to see."

His voice seems to be coming over greater distance than there is, however, blocked out in part by the barrier of the pastor's own head turned to refocus his attention on the new arrival, and slowed further by the Sicilian's own level of distraction, oscillating upward with curiosity at the gait of this sable-furred Leviathan. Ho-ly shit.

The creature's strides are nearly as long as a full-grown man's, and a child couldn't fit a hug all the way around its torso without choking giggles on that absurd luxury of fur. It seems physically illogical that the volunteer is actually doing the steering rather than the dog, their proportional mass being as such— a toy yacht would surely have more luck pulling along an imploded black star. Teo's head ends up craned uncomfortably all the way over, his eyebrows lifted.

"F— wow," he says. "If you touched him, he'd probably see a clip of Godzilla over Manhattan in first person."

Joseph only has time to make a sound that's both a thank you and a tone of agreement by the time he, too, is caught up staring at the giant dog, the animal's equally giant paws like black mops at the end of long legs. A tail swishes to and fro lazily, in bored contentment than genuine happiness, and in a subdued manner, the beast goes when ushered into the cage.

"She," the volunteer corrects, with a fleeting, distracted smile towards Teo as she crouches down to secure the lock of the door. The dog turns in as tight a circle as the Queen Mary, but makes it eventually to peer rolling eyes out from the cage, fat leaf of a pale-pink tongue lolling out in wheezey pants. "Her name's Alicia. Been with us for a while now," which probably translates as too long, if the flicker of a look that crosses the young woman's face is to be of any indication. Her clothing has black dog fur caught all over it, even on her back which she turns to move off into some other sector of the shelter, disappearing with a jaunty flick of a brunette pony tail.

Grinning at Teo's comment, Joseph finds his feet already stepping on over towards the Newfoundland dog. It's like if God tried to fit two dogs inside one frame, in a way, the sheer amount of canine-itude impossible to resist for a self-proclaimed dog person.

"Can't say if it works on animals." His ability, that is. It's hard to tell if he's answering seriously or not, tone dry. Joseph gets down on a knee, pressing a hand against the cage door, open palm getting a twitching sniff from the black canine. "Sure do hope these guys would see a good future if it did."

Too long. That's heartening to Teo, a little. And a little thrill of unhappiness to the contrary. He knows how these places work: there's only so much space, and so many animals who need it. Too long implies Alicia's been kept here for a generous amount of time, but also that that time might well be narrowing in toward an inevitable end. The Sicilian's expression is— middling. These places are always difficult to visit.

"Guess there's irony somewhere in the fact that we couldn't tell if it was working even if we couldn't see any kind of loud reaction." Teo scuffs up behind the pastor, peering around the older man's stooped shape to observe the Newfoundland making the beast of what very, very little she's been given. "'S like the D. H. Lawrence poem, yeah?

"'I never saw a wild thing feel sorry for itself.'"

'A wild thing' might be too much of a stretch to describe the placid black face watching them through the bars, but the words feel like they hold in Teo's mind, blond roof and all. There's dignity in the creature's dependency upon others, in that all she's known was the companionship of men. "How old is she?" he asks the volunteer, remembering to look up.

The volunteer's hand catches on the doorframe, turning to look at Teo over her shoulder, before facing him once more, absently wiping her palms together as if to clean them of the usual dog-related grime. "Previous owner said she was about six years," she responds, resting her shoulder against the doorframe. "She's not dangerous or anything, she's just a big one. It's never a guarantee how fast we can get these guys homes."

Wild thing probably is an exaggeration, but then again, who's to say the dog doesn't dream of running through snow-strewn forests, tracking blood in the air, iron and ice? Joseph is trying to feel less forlorn at the idea of what happens to dogs wearing out their welcome at shelters, fingers curling into the bars a little as that the dog's wet nose can snuffle against them easier, before he's standing up again, wiping the back of his hand clean of drool. Of which Alicia seems to have copious amounts. It may or may not be love at first sight.

This certainly isn't a cat, and the amount of dog fur being shed would likely make Alicia completely unwelcome in his wife's book. Conflict. "She does seem sweet," he agrees, then a glance to Teo. "Probably why an ability like mine wouldn't do 'em any good. Not sure how animal's handle free will, without the capacity for self-pity."

"That's an interesting notion," Teo says to the back of the pastors head. How to handle free will without the capacity for self-pity— "— makes self-pity sounds like it has some function other than to make a guy sound like a whiny pissant," he mutters. His eyes narrow slightly, squinty with the effort of repressing— self-pity, probably, or else a threatening wall of fatigue emerging from the further recesses of his mind.

Watching Joseph with Alicia makes him miss Pila, a lot. He forgets to do that much of the time.

He yanks his posture straight with a little more violence than is strictly necessary, a physical jolt, taut-pulled tension in his shoulders and back that implies some nervy effort at self-discipline. Speaking of that. Speaking of all that, and despite the translucent concern that keeps floating jellyfish in and out of his profoundly atheistic boyfriend's face, he had meant to ask. "Could I —" he tangles with his vocabulary on a hazardous incline. "apply for a reading from you, some time?

"When you aren't busy?" he's hasty to add, never one to interrupt serious business when it's glopping and smacking viscous love over a man's fingers through the bars of her cage.

Abruptly, Teo refastens his attention to Alicia's earnest face, as if to alleviate the otherwise unfair pressure of his regard. Either that, or to pad rejection. Sonny's concerns are of value to him, with its margins of suspicion and safeguards against religious brainwashing or whatever, but there's a whole other field of risks in allowing too much hope to ride on Joseph's gift. These days, there aren't a lot of things worse than disappointment.

"Self-pity has its place. Makes us want to change things," Joseph says, a little distantly, focused more on dog than man. "Traps us too, I guess, hence I guess why it makes people into whiny— well, what you said." Pissants is relatively mild, but the man knows he's a pastor. It's Joseph's job, 24/7, to give a good and wholesome impression, in or out of jeans. "It's not godly, but it's human."

Few things human are godly, which is the point. Joseph turns back to Teo, dark eyes expectant and free of judgment as the younger man haltingly pulls together words to make what must seem like an unusual request. All the while, Joseph cleans off his hand on the edge of his own shirt, and smiles around the time Teo is politely looking away. "Sure!"

Well that was easy. "Any time you like, I'm never too busy for that. Takes as long as you saw up on the pulpit that Sunday." The volunteer has gone, it seems, too busy in the matters of animals to listen for long about two men waxing philosophical with a dash of poetry. "Mind I ask what you're lookin' for?"

Ohhhh I dunno. Teo goes from cracking a ridiculously optimistic grin back to inspecting the dog's face for attitudes, before mirth sneaks up on the corner of his mouth again. His gaze darts back up to the older man, somewhat more tremulously guarded over a permeating sense of relief and a rather belated, slow-dawning icewater splash of nerves.

There's stuff he should be considering— stuff sometimes people consider after Joseph has acquiesced. He knows the look. A sudden turning-inward, a knit of consternation on their brow, thoughts squandered on neuroticism. People are wont to wonder if they've suddenly bitten off more than they can chew. Like what if he sees himself die in a pointless hotdog cart accident? What if Pila is eaten by Scarlet? Or he finds himself suddenly included in a massive-scaled socio-political disaster that he is powerless to thwart? What would he do? And—

"Oh, uhh." Teo wouldn't have said 'cunt' to a pastor. He isn't sure what to say now; there seems to be a right answer, whenever a man of the cloth is asking you a question. "G-guidance, I think. The sooner the better. I don't know what to do. Do people ever tell you you showed them that they're just going to do nothing?" he inquires, squinting through the hazed screen of an imagination gone overdrive.

That would be anticlimactic. Safe, but anticlimactic.

Eyebrows to rival that of even the most former of serial killers rise up a little at what reads to Joseph as a strange question. "Can't say that's ever happened." But Teo at least got the right answer, although Joseph has enough trust in people to believe it's genuine rather than assumed. Besides, what other purpose is there to light the way of a dark path with God's light other than to find guidance? So you know not to trip on your face, or at least, you'll see it coming.

"I can help you with that, certainly. For however small my part to play is." A prayer and an offered hand, largely. "Know that you'll see what's planned for you, and that it's your choice alone as to how you walk that path." And other philosophies he couldn't get away with if this were Flint Deckard standing before him.

It's probably presumptuous, that Joseph offers his hands, palms turned upwards. Work-roughened, in contrast to what might assumed to be the softer hands of an academic and a preacher, and a solitary wedding ring. "It doesn't take long," he reminds, as if to do away with any uncertainty as to the time and place of such a deed.

Uncertainty schmuncertinky. Teo is the co-leader of America's most wanted terrorist cell thing and, aside of the fact that they are not actually terrorists and ergo are wanted for all of the wrong things, that gives him a lot of hard-earned street cred. He may be fashionably tormented by uncertainty, but it ought not rule him. Which—

—is precisely what this is supposed to remedy, he thinks, staring down at the splay of Joseph's hand. If it were smoother, some pristine, porcelain canvas of unworked skin and muscle slack on the bone, he might have felt odder for this. Such a hand would not know what he's seen or what he needs to do. Teo's mouth finds a self-deprecating line; he reaches out, accepts the clasp.

His own hand is rough, too, and warm with the metabolism of a much larger man.

"Grazie, prete," he says, dipping his head an inch in gratitude. His eyes shift back to Alicia, his expression shifting faintly quizzical. Well, you like him.

Being liked is easy enough. Usually. There are special cases. Joseph's grasp is dry, firm and professional, like a handshake that lingers and involves two rather than one. It's also strong, as if anticipating that holding on, or at least offering a steely grip, is a good idea.

"You're welcome," is offered back with that same warm smile. "It helps if you shut your eyes, I'm told."

It's not darkness that greets Teo when his eyelids fall shut, but light. And the sound of grinding metal. Inking into reality is an outdoor train station of grey, and he'll see but not feel the rush of wind as an electrical train of shining metal goes rocketing past several feel from him with a rattle of railway lines.

Going too fast for reality, it hurdles on into forever, towards a silver city of skyscrapers… and then reverses. He may have to squint to see the now worm-like silver of the train in the distance, across a desert of similar grey. Everything in black and white, or perhaps too bleached out by the sun above to have true colour.

He's alone for a time as the train rolls back from where it came, Teo standing upon concrete. He'll feel Joseph's hands and the stagnant air of the animal shelter, detect the scent of dog, but visually, audibly, he stands beside a vein of railway tracks of iron, in a featureless plain that could well be the moon for all he knows, save for the silhouette of some glistening metropolis the train retreats from.

Eventually, it pulls to a stop, two doors cracking open before him.

He'll know their faces. There's nothing subtle about it. Helena wears a dress of white, her hair nearly the same colour in this spectrum. She doesn't see him, just steps down as if she were, holding, apparently, a scepter loosely in her hand. A moth flutters out just above her, spiralling, and in the next blink, it's a large wasp zipping more definitely towards Teo, where it rests on his shoulder, translucent wings glistening. More faces, people, train passengers he may recognise or he may not, but a young man with ginger hair, the only splash of colour, is what catches Teo's fixed gaze, swiveling around to follow—

A hand comes up, large, masculine, from somewhere behind him. Slow motion, almost, he sees familiar fingers stretch, and then come down to cover his face, nothing to feel and yet in a way, he does, because it's suffocating, yanking, pulling him back away from the passengers, back into the train and helpless to watch the doors in front of him come to shut, enclosing him in blackness.

Joseph's hands grip tighter, and when Teo blinks again, he's back where he started, meeting the pastor's concerned and earnest dark-eyed gaze. Any darker he'd nearly look cross eyed, a line drawing in his brow as he waits patiently

By the time Teo's eyes sliver open again, there's a real hand on his real face, too, blunt fingers recurved into his brow and sinking into the softer skin stretched over the hollow where his eyesocket caves inward. Long before his nails begin to score any real damage into his skin, his knuckles are tight into a curled tuck, scrubbing at his face like the blunt feet of a dog.

It brings little relief, but it does make him get his eye the rest of the way open, which subsequently reminds him that possibly he should not be trying to burst the preacher's hand into bloody ribbons between his fingers.

Blinking, he relaxes his grip, withdraws it, mumbling apologetically. The smell and scratching of dogs in cages is comforting. He tries to fill his whole head with it, breathing, listening to that outside the drumming beat of his heart. That works fairly well. Teodoro has always been quite a dog person. He blinks rapidly, summons up the parts of a smile in order to present them to Joseph, as if he were a snowman whose mirth and solace could be arranged as easily as a row of stones.

For the most part, it's good news. "I saw a train," he says, obligingly. "I— fu— !" It isn't too difficult to assemble meaning out of that unbelievable locomotive, Manhattan's comfortingly hideous skyline, and his friends jarred images, but the culmination of that film reel was, to say the least, unsettling. Flint Deckard's warned him about betrayal before: that his rainbows and kittens perspective on the world is only going to last until he's copped the first few knives in his back. The sudden grip of that silhouette had reeked of that.

"I— think I have friends coming back to town," Teo concludes, lamely.

Ow. Joseph is polite enough not to say anything about Teo's hand crushing his, just rubs his knuckles once it's freed with the slightest of dismissing nods, and then polite attention as Teo starts to relate his vision, and then offer his interpretation. Lines in Joseph's face deepen as he smiles, offers Teo a pat on the arm above the elbow, resting there.

"Catholics do it differently," he says, a little whimsically off-topic. "From what I understand. Confessions to God go through men of God first. Messages from God go through them, too. According to my faith, we kinda cut out middle management. Basically what you saw today, you don't have to tell me unless you're hopin' for an opinion 'bout what it means."

His hand comes up off Teo's arm to offer a final pat before both return to his own pockets, the pastor's weight rocking back onto his heels with a brighter smile. "Glad you got some good news, either way. It helps sometimes to have somethin' to look forward to."

The Sicilian's eyelid shudders down halfway into a blink that never clicks home, leaving his retinas with a certain sensation of burning, distinctly uncomfortable but not otherwise explicable in any way. He exhales. Nods his head to indicate that he's listening, though he's only about half, honestly, the rest of him still disoriented by the departure of illusion and further clumsied by the fading embarrassment of having tried to manually, physically wring more fate out of Joseph's hand. Not even the ammonia of canine urine and noise of panting can quite—

Opinion. Clarification. Retraction, maybe. "I think I die at the end," Teo trickles out queasily. "Or— I um. There was a hand over my face. I couldn't…" his throat works against an inadequacy of words. Hilariously, he winds up scratching the back of his head like a kid picked out of a classroom full of others to answer a quiz question he can't. "J'st— darkness."

Joseph's easy smile fades into something more rueful, face changing with expression. Sympathetic, pity, but also evaluation. He's quiet for a moment after Teo delivers the climax of his vision, dark eyes going down as he thinks that over. A hand over a face, then final darkness.

"Maybe it's death," the pastor says. "It could be a ton've other things, though. The symbols can be clear, as obvious to you as the nose on your face. Sometimes it'll take people ages to work 'em out. Only makes sense when it happens. It could be anything, Teo. An attack, betrayal. Maybe even protection, of a— forceful nature."

Not that Joseph is aware of exactly what went on, but he wouldn't be him if he didn't try to offer something optimistic, with all the sincerity in the world. He shakes his head. "And sometimes gut instincts are right, but— think about it. I dunno if God would want us to see our own deaths." His mouth twists into a slightly more cynical smile. "We already know that's gonna happen one day."

Yeah, just like God to say: death would be too easy. Not the first time this thought has occurred to Teo, which is probably why it resonates with him instead of collapsing neatly into easily available panic. Final darkness seems to be in no particularly rush to meet him, despite the opportunities granted with gunshots to the head and the occasional drowning. "I doubt the last thing," Teo mutters. "It was taking me away from something good. Otherwise, I think… you're right."

He squeezes his eyes shut so hard that the lids go crinkled like foil scrunched together between merciless hands, before he straightens his face and his shoulders all at once, forcibly, determinedly smoothing himself out in all parts. "Thank you," he says, after a moment spent assuring himself that he'll mean it when he says it. "It's better to know. Both of those things." Even if the net effect was to accumulate more unknowns and unanswered questions. After Abigail's story, he'dve had to be dumber than even he is to expect something in bullet points and crystal clarity.

And how much else might he have lost to ham-handed symbolic interpretation? Teo doesn't think about it. He's surprisingly good at not thinking about things sometimes. His smile is watery, but ultimately holds. He clears his throat, shifts his gaze between pastor and Alicia, his body weight penduluming subtly between feet. "Is there anything I can help you with before I shove off out of here?"

Sympathy, yet again, replaces the cynicism, as it does almost by default these days. Joseph doesn't answer for a moment, just watching Teo with concern before the taller man will find himself unstoppably drawn into a ~*~hug~*~. It's just how it happens in Tennessee. Maybe. The fringe towns. Okay, it's how Joseph does things, when they're not vibing with contact issues like Abby or with such caustic auras like Flint.

Squeeeeze. It's a brief hug, at least, followed by a manly clap on the back and a bright smile. "You're welcome. Revelation is usually a scary thing - you wouldn't be the first to be spooked." Joseph is moving back towards the cage, Alicia lifting her big black head in vague interest, a final considering look before Teo is sharply turned to. "Now how about you help me get this girl to the car, God willing they let me?"

Truth and beauty bombs never folded their concussive waves so gently around Teo's shoulders. There's barely a split second and inch's worth of backward leaning before his chin is clamped against the side of Joseph's head, tall frame contracted around an curl of uncertainty, halfway between a fetal blob and a reciprocal embrace that he's evidently not had enough practice exercising before, otherwise he would have realized he should be using his arms.

Frozen in mid-shrug, he taps the older man's right scapula uncertainty, his eyes roving side to side until the clap of Joseph's hand pops them straight.

It's not that Teo doesn't do hugs. Only not with priests, or ones he hadn't spent a boyhood beating up English football hooligans with, anyway.

It probably does not look nearly so awkward to anybody except Alicia, who is probably above caring. Such ladies tend to be far too polite society to dignify those sorts of shenanigans with their acknowledgment. She has better things to do, anyway. Like get adopted. "Yes," Teo says, nodding his bristly head. He could sooner defy gravity, and that's somebody else's trick. "Yes, of course.

"Uhh." His head whips around on its axis, checking the doorway for that volunteer lady who'd originally dropped Alicia off, though no doubt that whole fortune-telling weirdness had chased her into a polite, hasty retreat or else pretend interest in something else. "There are papers and things, some kind of probatory period I think. Do you already have dog stuff? I hope you didn't spend a fuckton— ton of money on cat stuff."

Oh right. Paperwork. Money. Dog stuff. Luckily no cat stuff bought yet, no, which Joseph confirms with a quick shake of his head. He even misses the repeated f-word this time, thoughtfulness taking over his expression before a pointed glance can. Joseph isn't a bad planner except in the face of good intentions, as past incidences up until this point have suggested, but let this not thwart him now, optimism blinking back into visibility once more. Perhaps it would do Joseph more good if he could use his ability on himself, but we make do.

"Good point. I guess I could stand to plan ahead." A quick turn back to the cage, a crouch down as if to maybe reassure Alicia he will be right back, before he's moving again for the doorway. "Here, let's go find that nice lady instead."

He was supposed to buy a cat, but a dog is fine too. Maybe he will also remember to buy curtains for his apartment sometime soon. Priorities.

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