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Scene Title Haunting
Synopsis Teo learns that it isn't easy living with a haunted man. Both of him. Here is invoked a pang of sympathy for all his exes, ever, while they fight.
Date June 1, 2009

Greenwich VillageGuiding Light Baptist Church

The weather sounds murderously musical outside. Rain slamming down on rafters and cement mix, raking garbage down the gutters, clatter and hiss. You can hear it from down here, but the lights are on, and brightly yellow, and lend the facile illusion of warmth. Despite that he has been cooped up in here for a whole fucking day, he is feeling all right. Likely, something about being dead, having haunts. Y'know.

Currently, Ghost is busy adoring himself in the bathroom mirror. This body is too thin, by his estimation, if not nearly unhealthily so. Sporadic smoking has shortened his lung capacity down uncomfortably, if not to any specific reason for alarm, and left his fingers in healthy color. He's hot as fuck, too, despite that blood loss and fatigue have worn bruise-colored circles in under his eyes and bleached his skin out to match the bone. Excepting the stark barbs, blocks and laddering of tattoos and miscellaneous other, uninked scar tissue, assisted healing has faded to ridgey, rough-rope brown reliefs despite their relative newness. He decides that he is going to buzz his hair off again.

For Teo— the younger one, the dislocated mind cramping up in the binds and locks inside his own head, deprived of use of his hands, guns, and knives, was well as the companionship of his friends and lover— the experience of studying himself in the second person is disconcerting and a little bit despairing. It pisses him off instead of comforting him, this once, that he retains his surface beauty.

If he had turned into a sallow, crab-boned and sweating, slavering, wrong thing with his eyes rolled off in different directions and a gimp lip— maybe if he was ugly, maybe then that little girl— Angharad?— would have known to throw the door shut, and Sal would have put out his eyes and felled him with a clever inversion of muscle. Maybe Gibbs would have fucking clued in. Recollection of his doppelganger's sins have returned to him piecemeal, like figmentary triggers of lucid dreaming, and he hates thinking about what else is to come; even more to think he might slip off during, as he has so many times so far.

Don't get him wrong. It hasn't escaped even the baby terrorist that all of these people have been assholes who have done shit to his people, in history or predestination, but he could sooner coax a lion through a hole in a Swiss cheese square than convince himself any of that was fucking right.

It feels like being chained an asteroid. Traveling in the ghost's slipstream is easy, but one burns; is helpless.

Screams a lot.

Ghost observes that, at twenty six years of age, Teodoro Laudani has a stupendously ugly and underdeveloped mental voice, shouty and blustery and featurelessly flat, which probably has something to do with a shortage of cereberal tendency. For comparison: the urchin who used to eat mandarins in tiny cloves outside the street corner safehouse in Tel Aviv had a scratchy mewl like a kitten with a cold, Wireless sounds kind of like Cortana from that old [brand name] franchise, H— oh God, they still play Halo in this decade. She's like that, though, female, organic, intelligent, but designed that way, machined to the sharp distinction of a honed edge. More human than human.

Teo hasn't shut up for the past three hours, which Ghost would hold against him except that he permits his younger self the generous allowance that he doesn't exactly have tons else to do. Whether because of psychic practice and superiority of force of will or because the ghost's gift is especially weird this way, he hasn't been having trouble keeping the wheel. Astral projection is probably not designed to be used this way, generally a bag of passive perceptions and [subtle] tricks at the subconscious. Still, it's hard to tell how this will play out; God knows, he's already had to pay for the distraction once.

Maybe, that is why Ghost finally deigns to listen to him. This is the conversation they have while they are awake.


It takes him a few seconds to figure out how to turn down the volume.

You don't have the right to play God with people's lives. You're ruining everything. People were happy—

Really? he asks. Who?

Sonny, Teo answers, after entirely too long. Sonny and I, we were happy.

There is a swerve of pallid eyes that implies Ghost is giving him an odd look though, because they are inhabiting the same body, the net effect is that he's merely exchanging quizzical glances with himself. After a moment, he lifts a long-fingered hand and splays it across his chest. His own. Theirs? Whatever. There is a tattoo there: the regal arch of a horse's head. Does he still think this is a self-congratulatory wank off on your personal mythology of heroism, or has he figured out that that's Jesse Alexander Knight needled in over your heart every time he drags his little fingernails at it.

Teo bristles. That was to remind me, as his friend, while he was in jail, not to give up or let stupid shit come between us.

That's a really mean thing to call Sonny, Ghost contradicts, brightly. He is plenty smart. Not exactly— wise, but he's catching up on his whole puberty right now so you can maybe cut the guy some slack; he's way out of your league anyway, and you know what they say about gift horses. Especially ones that can do their own orthodontistry.

That's not what I mea—

Actually, I think they'd make a good couple. Don't you think they'd make a good couple? Jesse needs someone to keep his soul and his smile from atrophying, Sal needs a humbly heroic brute to take care of. And they both love keeping house; way more than we do. It's perfect.

FUCK. FUCK, FUCK. SHUT UP. Suddenly, Teo is screaming again. SHUT UP. SHUT UP.

You shut the fuck up, Ghost rounds on his younger counterpart, finally, snapping the trajectory of his eyes up at the ceiling. Everything was and still is shit, and you know it. Also, you're so fucking predictable it's embarrassing. You meet your future incarnation, who has thus been knocking people off at a monthly rate no more impressive than you have since January, and your first reaction is to hate him as a function of your masturbatory Catholic self-loathing? BIG FUCKING SURPRISE. You might as well get over it now rather than later, because you're going to. You make friends with serial killers and self-righteous lawmen and other glorified butchers all the fucking time, and you can't hold a grudge to save your life. Never mind against a man who's obviously trying to save your friends from martyrs' deaths in self-generated confetti.

Even if I did fuck your boyfriend, Ghost adds. Admittedly, a little mean-spirited. I may not make the pink cake icing iconograph of the good Samaritan, Cupid with his fucking bow, or a particularly convincing unicorn, penis metaphors notwithstanding, but at least I'm fucking competent.

You got us hit by a car.

Ghost rubs his face. Admittedly, that's true. His fingers are so cold and dry they feel as chalky smooth as the unslaked floor of the bathtub beside him. He sighs.

I never get hit by a car, Teo flares again, acidly. Also, I would rather be incompetent than a motherfucker who kills children and plays these twisted fucko games. Jesse doesn't want you to do this. No one would want you to do this.

Hana would, he answers, a little blankly. Albeit maybe with a less elliptical approach. And Lucrezia would understand. Ghost grabs a towel and tosses it over his head, wobbles out of the bathroom pleasantly curtained, feeling his course through the door with his foot and hands. The snick-snack of bare tread on tile gives way to his percussive stride across wood. More out of habit than design, he starts to roll his stride, and then his steps don't make any noise at all.

Bullshit. Then, apparently seized by inspiration, Teo says, Prove it. You know how to find them.

Later, Ghost waves a hand dismissively and bangs cheerily into the dingy little chamber he's been given. Besides, I would've thought the last thing you'd want is me anywhere near your precious little family.

Finally— finally, Teo finally blurts it out: Why did you tell them that?

He raises an eyebrow without bothering to look at the mirror. Teo can feel the tactile kinesthesis of skin tractioning over muscle and bone anyway. After a few seconds' worth of bluster and muttering, he remembers that, at that age, he had still been weird about saying the l-word, or discussing his loved ones on those terms, or dead and gone. Embarrassing. It really is like talking to a child.

Because they deserve to hear it, he says. Because it's true. Because you fucking should have.

They won't know what to believe.

Your friends are, in vast majority, much brighter than you are. Don't worry: they will.

It was sadistic and cruel. And then revealing yourself to them— you could've been me for as long as you wanted. Let Salvatore down, have Jesse if you wanted. Or you could have stolen all the shit you needed for this retarded camping trip and disappeared— you could have just left. You didn't have to do that. You didn't have to tell Deckard what I did. This isn't honesty, this is a sick, fucked up farce. These aren't principles that you can ape without doing them injustice. Those were my words to say to my friends.

Yeah. I know. Ghost hesitates, playing clumsily with the unwieldy, unfamiliar shape of this token mercy. The truth is—

What? What the fuck?

I did it because you're probably not going to have time to.

Silence. Ghost is aware he probably should be… apologizing, for this and more generally, but he knows that his younger incarnation isn't about to ask him to, and it's not like he is tacked up on the wall like a butterfly for preservation with a telekinetic chainsaw held reprimanding to his head, so he doesn't bother. He studies his fingernails. Somehow missed during the healing, his middle one is half ripped away and sore, but has stopped oozing blood since he had cleaned the gravel and grime out of it and clogged it up with antibiotic cream.

Then, in a completely predictable exercise of conceit, Teo says, I don't want to die.

Not today, Ghost reassures. He raises his foot up onto the bed and strips the towel from his head. Probably not even tomorrow. First, I want to eat a lot of cake. Growing old isn't fun; I almost never eat cake by thirty-six. Dad started worrying about his heart around then, you know? And his gut. And a doctor told me I will have to start worrying about WEARING GLASSES. You may call me vain and paranoid and maybe I am, but the situation remains: I take after my father more than my mother, and I must have chocolate. We will share it with Joseph, and also stop smoking. I promised Deckard, so I will do my best: everything will be okay.

You shouldn't have promised. When you try, people die. When you don't bother— he means Richard Myron. One of the last to phase into their shared memory. People die.

Everyone will get what they want. Experimentally, Ghost holds his hands up, tries to hover his fingers apart by a fixed fragile margin of a quarter of an inch. He shakes. Badly.

Yes? What about what I want?

Since you've met him, all you've ever wanted to do was save Jesse. Here, we have First Class ticketing and impeccable service. This month will be for you.

Blah blah, Alexander. Actually, Teo is unsatisfied with this answer, but he doesn't say anything else about it. There is no point. He thinks hard for a few minutes, a thin, hitchy, effortfullly asthmatic sort of process, given how few physical resources he's been left to work with. Neurons gutter, gun, fire. He says, instead, Things have changed since the last time you were in 2009. I'm different to how you were. You should be proud of me. I said it once and it wasn't desperate, it was true. I did; I told Eileen I love her.

Maybe if he could blink, he would have missed it. Barely, Teo notices the outline shimmer of a quelled movement down the edge of his face, the snag of skin tension sculpted close against aquiline bone, slight and superficial, memorably strange. Ghost had flinched.

Neither Here Nor There

In this dream, Ghost is standing on a long, taper of shore. The surf is rusting up the sand in an easy ebb and rhythm of color. He feels something behind him and turns around—

Just in time for Teo to crash him into the water, shoulder thwacking into his chest, an ecastatic shout battering through the buzzing wind, an arm around his throat and knee grinding in, up the concave of his ribs, shoving his head into blinding submersion in the sussurrating froth of sea. He cracks a fist against the ghost's strangely solid forehead and digs the blunt of his fingers into the apple of his throat. Against backlit blank of the sky, his face is black and purple, a clotted contortion of simplified rage.

Frowning, Ghost kicks him off. When he gets up, his shirt is soaked slack and seawater steams out from his teeth. He flips Teo over with an arching jerk of his foot, sits on him and splashes gray water in his face. His grip on Teo's scruff is deliberately flippant; altogether more chastising by itself than calculated violence ever could be. "Don't be stupid," the ghost says. "You can't fight with me. If you try again, I'll tear you out of this body. I'll shut you out, and leave you alone to spin blind and dumb for all of time. No one will fucking hear you go mad. No matter how long it takes. Get it?"

Teo lets out a cough, closes his hands, a brief, sulky silence over the brine. He nods his head.

Afterward, when he wakes up, the older man pretends he doesn't remember. Later still, when Teo wakes up, he doesn't seem to.

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