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Scene Title Heartache
Synopsis They've had this conversation before, 'Let's be friends.' Previous practice doesn't improve on either form or outcome. There's a little deflection, a lot of humiliation, and no sex.
Date January 21, 2008

The Bronx — Siann Hall: Abby, Alexander and Teo's Former Apartment

It's not overly spacious, It's a New York area apartment. But it suits it's residents purposes. An open kitchen, crammed with all the accoutrements needed to cook, a dining table shoved against the far wall with chairs tucked in. A living room with a fairly new red suede couch shoved up against a window and TV set opposite on a stand makes up the rest of the communal living area. It looks fairly newly occupied and the personal touches not put to it yet. Five doors down a hall lead to three separate bedrooms, a bathroom and linen closet. What's behind the doors remains a mystery unless one of the residents leaves a door open, though if someone knows the residents, the simple gold cross above one door indicates where the woman in this place lives.

Late evening, there's a new piece of paper on the coffee table with Ian Costa's signature on it— the alias for the one of Al's roommates. To the right of it, there are lines for the other two to lay their names down, finalizing their lease break on what Teo at least saw as acceptable terms. He'll find them a new tenant, get their security deposits back. Shouldn't be a problem: between the Ferrymen and old Columbia schoolmates, he knows a lot of people who'd kill for a deal this good.

The Sicilian himself is squatting in his bedroom doorway, herding Scarlet out with long hands — or trying to. There's a suitcase unzipped, flipped open behind him, a pile of clothes in it, some of them speckled with cat hair. "Per favor, piccolino." He fails entirely to look exasperated. The feline is, he understands, merely scraping the bottom of the barrel for company: there's no one else here yet.

Man. Depressing. Al's wearing that cigar-store-Indian pokerface that means he's vastly unhappy about something and desperate not to show it. He comes slouching in, smelling of Lucrezia's expensive soap, which fits about as well as a rhinestone collar on a fighting pit bull, having stripped out of his parka and cap and gloves. He eyes Teo bleakly from the entrance to the hall, watching him mutely with pale eyes.

That is embarrassing, mostly because Teo wasn't trying to be dramatic. The temptation is there, of course, with the hard little fist of spite — if it's spite — that whitens in his chest when he hears and sees his friend come in. He doesn't give into it.

Doesn't throw anything, turn around, or slam the door. Despite his recent rather shitty record of self-restraint, he is still capable of it. "Buona sera." He smiles the same. Waves the same. The same politeness, Italian, warmth, give or take a few extra feet of distance that can be blamed on the cat that Teo's trying to block from his room. He manages to meet Al's eye, even; same, same. Physical testimony that nothing important has changed. "We should talk a little, I think. Do you have time?"

Alexander nods, still utterly pale save for the stain of wind-whipped flush on his cheeks. "Ah got time," he says, drawl more evident hand usual, even as he pulls his hands out of his jean pockets. "Meet you inna kitchen?" he suggests, with a jerk of his hea.d

"Sure." The light goes off with a slap of Teo's hand up the wall just inside the door, drenching him in darkness, and he pulls it shut behind him with unnecessary care. Realizing that Alexander is home, Scarlet is all too pleased to abandon the withholder and go sclittering across the floor toward the redhead's feet. Me, me, she says, out of eyes that glint enormous and amber. Me, me. Self-absorbed, me?

The heating is on: enough of it to allow Teo to travel bare-foot through the apartment. "Uhhh." It isn't the most eloquent start to a conversation Teo has ever come up with, but as he walks in Al's wake, the redolence of Lucia's hygiene products jarrs the syllable out of him. He has to say something. "So you're sleeping with my aunt, and we're still okay," he informs Alexander's back, awkwardly.

That was brief. Maybe it's over now.

"At the moment, yes, I am your aunt's piece of rough trade," Al confirms, with neither shame or anger, but a sort of inevitable sorrow. As if vanishing into Lucrezia's perfumed seraglio were something inexorable like death, tide, or taxes. "We're okay? Define okay. I still count you my friend. I still want you. I even love you. I just….it seems like it'd be insulting to the both of you for me to come from her bed and make another pass at you. I'm not that much of a dog," Al says, stooping to pick up Scarlet and cuddle her, tucking her head beneath his chin.

Teo's expression doesn't change, which indicates that something else significant just did but he's trying to be polite about it. Incredulity isn't becoming when you're trying to define a friendship. "We go out for beers sometimes. Professionally, I tell you if there's a job you need to do, and you do it or refuse for reasons that aren't bullshit.

"You know more about me than anybody except for my family, and I like it that way but I can't live too close to it. I'll punch you in the face if you say something I hate. And if you fucking hurt her— I couldn't bring myself to kill you, so I'd prefer it if you didn't.

"She'll treat you well. She promised. So you have to. Take your time, eh?" A lean shoulder oscillates; a half a shrug. "I'm the one who needs to hurry." Teo knows a little about tides. He's survived the undertow to more than one of them, much to the horror of companions who had watched from the shore. Drowned a few times. It probably wasn't very good for his brain, admittedly.

Alexander's expression is suddenly older than his years - not the thousand yard stare, but an odd world-weariness. Something from his time as a cop. "I can't hurt her, Teo. Listen," he says, cupping a palm around his ear, as if using the signals soldiers do when they can't speak aloud. "I don't matter to her. I'm an evening's amusement, if that. I won't cheat on her. Whatever I feel, I ain't so stupid I can't see which way the wind blows here. What's your hurry, other than the general Sword of Damocles we have goin' on?"

"Don't tell me what you can't do. Tell me you won't. She isn't as strong as you think. She isn't as strong as she wants me to think." It's an odd voice that says this, all honesty and no warmth. Teo's eyes blink quartz in the fluorescent light from the ceiling strip lights, the angles of his face holding, oblique, stark from shadows as he considers his answer because the question deserves an adequate one.

"I don't like feeling like this. It's— I mean, even before you and her, I didn't like it." It. "I'm going to get past it." That. "The Sword of Damocles doesn't impress me as much as it probably should," he admits. Rue softens his features. He's only a little more reckless now than he'd been before.

Al lifts his hands, perplexed. "Well, I surely don't intend her no harm," he says, bluntly. "Feeling like what? You're too terse sometimes, you lose me," he admits.

Always the paragon of maturity, Teo makes a face, as if he's three years old. He puts his thumb up on his eyelid and rubs a red mark into his skin. "Being in love with you." The words don't come easily. They would have come easier if some bizarre mutant, retarded version of reciprocation hadn't been mentioned minutes ago. "It was this screaming that wouldn't shut the fuck up, even when I couldn't figure out what the Hell it was.

"Ship has sailed. You'd better not." The sentences are a little temporally confused, probably. It happens when Teo's tired and spent too much time with Deckard. He means: You'd better not intend her no harm.

There's a distant sound, a rushing of wind. No doubt through the space between Al's ears. "I won't," he says, simply. "Ever. I mean, well, shit. I'm sorry." He scratches under Scarlet's chin. "I don't know what to say. What to tell you. Or what to do? How do I treat the both of you with some semblance of honor?" It's a weirdly archaic question, considering. "I…still want you. But I guess love and want aren't the same thing. You still with that cop?"

"If you say that one more time, I'm probably going to shoot you," Teo says, after a moment spent seriously considering the validity of the remark. If he tried any harder to hold back his temper, he would probably break something. He'd have to die to stay stiller than he is now. The apostrophes and slang drain out of his verbiage like water out of an unplugged bathtub, leaving the too-perfect geometry of academic English, all straight edges and dry. "Al.

"Either you care more about emptying your nuts than you care to avoid humiliating me, or you were angry enough that you couldn't tell the difference. Either way, I probably deserved it. Have some fun. Keep her company. Be around the next time some asshole breaks my arm backward, and don't expect me to answer stupid questions. For starters." He looks down at Scarlet, who ignores him in favor of wrapping her tail around Al's ankle.

Alexander blushes, stung. Nice to have a complexion that betrays any of the baser or more visceral thoughts. "I….don't understand. But okay," he says, quietly. And clearly, he doesn't comprehend, though there's a faint and slowly increasing vertiginous sense of loss.

Ordinarily, Teo's complexion is similar. Less pale, equally — if not moreso — mobile. On the other hand, some things lie so close to the fundamental nature of him that he doesn't color, twitch, even really have words to express the intelligence staring out at Al now, foregoing a sneer, not entirely devoid of sympathy.

"You look like I just killed your pet gerbil with a fucking phonebook," he says suddenly, hanging his head over his collarbone in order to scratch at the back of his neck. Alexander can probably hear it before it's said, those two words — ones that Teo seems to live by. "I'm sorry. I don't know how to explain better. Did Abby tell you— we're going to try and a have a dinner thing here over the weekend or next week. Lucia's coming, Hel, Brian— anybody who can make it. I'm going to show her off. Be here, okay? It won't be the hardest thing you've ever done."

"I'm sorry, too," Al ventures, lamely. Like that might help. He's left looking everywhere but Teo, as that sense of vertigo increases. The cartoon coyote sensation, dizzying and helpless.

Teo's brow furrows before the frown align the corners of his mouth, downward. "Dinner," he repeats, though his tone is gentler now, receding from sharp remonstrance, retreating past the gruff, wolfishly comradely boy-temper, and back to the near-mannered thing that Teodoro normally speaks with. One bare foot edges into the corner of Alexander's vision, a step nearer. "Hey."

A hand descends to the top of Al's still-bristly head, slow with caution, uncertain where the demarcations of personal contact fall now. Teo ducks his head slightly, catching the older man's eye with a quizzical blue orb of his own. He opens his mouth to repeat himself again; ends up saying, instead, thickly: "When I die, I'm going to Hell. I believe in Hell, so that isn't just me being dramatic. There might not be a lot of time. Please come?"

There are stupid flippant things on the tip of Al's tongue to say. But he doesn't. "Sure," he says, rather stupidly, bowing his head to the touch humbly.

"Grazie," the Sicilian says, sliding his palm down the bowl of Al's scalp, as if he could palm the soup of Al-thoughts and carry them to his pocket for examination later. It's always been unfortunate, he thinks, there's no way to touch skin and read minds. Not for the likes of them, anyway. "I hid your Christmas presents up there." He cocks his head at the cabinet in the corner of the kitchenette.

There's a moment where he turns his head, face into the palm, tipping his head back like it's water he's seeking, to brush his mouth lazily against Teo's hand.

Okay. As thoughts go, that's a tangible one. Teo freezes despite the warmth. Hand in the air, feet on the floor, and stares at the mid-point between Alexander's eyebrows as if a third eye had just opened there and winked. Inadvertently, his smallest finger folds, one right angle then a second, the bend of one slender knuckle fitting the notch of Al's upper lip with mesmerized precision.

Apparently the Christmas presents can wait. Al continues, with intense deliberation, like the story of his future is written in Braille on Teo's palm and fingers His own eyes are closed, lids shadowed, almost bruised.

It's probably fortunate Al can't see the storm of sentiment that mangles Teo's composure then. Acid boils, thunder chokes, and clarity is going to be a long time coming, should it be so kind as to return again, ever. He resents this more than he has swear words to say, which might be why he doesn't say anything, except his throat has locked up around a lump. If his knees give, he'll hit his head on something, break the bones and ruck the metal all over again and—

And Al moves on to his wrist, still with that studied casualness, like it's a matter of course he should be doing this. Until Teo begins to choke the hell out of him like this is a Simpsons episode.

"I'm seeing somebody else. Not the cop." One half-truth, an unequivocal lie; when Al's mouth meets the Lepidopteral beat inside his wrist, he jerks his arm back, grating his arm against his ribs as if to sand down the gooseflesh that had sprung all the way up the line of his arm to his neck. Exasperation colors his face, because exasperation is his safest bet; he twists on a bare foot, turns away, the sole of his foot squeaking immaculate tiles. "And you're an asshole."

It's an odd smile on Al's face - not his usual sheepish one or that feral grin. Something oddly puckish, as if he knew a secret. "Who, then? What was wrong with the cop?" he says, eyeing Teo, disbelief clear.

Teo doesn't eye back because his back is turned and he's making his way toward his room, swift and and brute shoulder jarring the door open in a noisy bang of misdirected temper. It's a familiar snap and flicker, the sound of him putting his outdoors clothes on. Less so, the abrupt, arching rattle of his kicking suitcase aside, the toppling crash of leaden canvas into the wall. "Nobody. Nothing." He's about as effective a liar as a particularly small cheesecloth. Snagging the strap of a green bag off the floor, he hauls it up over his shoulder.

"You're lying. Why?" Al says, filling the doorway. His power's woken, a presence behind him like a miniature stormfront. "What're you so afraid of, when it comes to me?" He spreads his hands, his arms.

There is a list. Unable to articulate it, Teo ends up swerved to face the man in his doorway, one eyebrow hoisted almost through the shadows of his hair, his lips a white line thin enough to pry apart the molecules of the air he's breathing. Which might be why he's rattling every time he breathes in. Despite his belligerent silence, his meaning is probably not confusing. Get the fuck out of my way.

Alexander eyes him. And Teo is held, firmly. Al can do this all night. "We keep having this conversation, you keep getting angry and running off in a huff. Time to stop, Teo. I'm not gonna scold you if you're still fucking that cop."

"You broke my fucking heart." Teo's admission barely sounds like one. Crashes out of his head in a voice like a trainwreck, grisly, pathetic, the wrong size and shape for the tunnel it came out of, and too easily mistaken for a broken toy from a distance. He manages to hold Alexander's gaze for all of three seconds. "What the fuck else could you possible fucking want?"

"No, you did, kid. I offered to do what you wanted, you ran off. You were fucking that cop before I ever laid eyes on your aunt," Al says, quietly. "Why'd you do that, if you loved me then?"

Obscurely, Teo can't believe he's being fucking telekinesised. Obscure, because the vast majority of his coherent thought is caught up in a raging war between the urge to tear Al a new one and stomp the ashen remains of their friendship into the toilet and, as ever, to refrain from doing worse than he's done already. Face raw and jaw monstrously tight, he stares at the wall between empty shelves. His room is turned over and inside out around them, Pila conspicuously absent. By default and custom, her cage must be hanging in the bathroom. "You had no fucking clue what I wanted," he answers, eventually. That sounds like the truth. Near enough.

"No, I didn't, really. You came on to me and got squirrely and weird when I acquiesced. Why? Did you think I was some pure hearted convent virgin? I made a pass at you, you act like I've spat on your dog. But you go barreling off to hop in bed with someone who's at best a random stranger, and at worst an enemy. How'm I the villain in this, Teo?" Al'svoice is patient, even as he catfoots towards Teo. Yes, it's horribly unfair, but Alex isn't above cheating. He puts a kiss at the corner of the other man's mouth, patiently, standing close enough that the pounding of his heart can be felt. For all the calm in his face, he's equally terrified.

Squirrely and weird. Not the most dignified adjectives Teo's ever warranted, though there have been others, skittish horse, blue bird, various and sundry embarrassing crap which his large yet hopelessly erratic ego manages to block, leaving only the unnumbered insults of personal failure to rot between the layers of his conscience.

"Go away." The phrasing is imperative enough to constitute an order, Teo is pretty sure, but his authority is nothing if not undercut— and cut to ribbons— by a flinch backward from Alexander's mouth; his own breath is barely there, wilting from the heat. Takes the volume out of his voice, as his eyes skip in saccadic, horrified fractions across the wall. "And let me go. Or I swear to God I'll fucking shoot you and leave the mess for Abby to clean up the second I'm out of this Goddamn cage."

"No," Al says, very quietly. "We both know what's coming, even if not the exact nature of it. I'm tired of you being afraid of whatever it is in you you're afraid of, and trying to paste my picture on it. You love me, do you? Well, I love you, too. I'm tired of you running away." The door, behind him, shuts and locks. He insinuates his arms around Teo, for just a moment, and puts his head down, face to his shoulder. And then he lets go, with his hands and with his power.

Twenty six years of spontaneous physical contact of varying intent and severity failed entirely to prepare Teo to be hugged at this particular moment by that particular man. He sways, unaccountably clumsy, heart drumming on the hollow half of Al's chest, his invisibly cuffed hands spasming on either side of Alexander's standing figure as if he were some gangly dead amphibian tacked out for examination, an electric current tapped through his limbs to check a biological system long since fallen into disuse.

Absurdly, he stops that when he finally finds himself released. Breathes out.

And speaks to the floor, with neither malice nor real uncertainty. "Not anymore." His first step catches on a knotted loop of discarded shirt; he trods across a pant leg, stumbles past a book, one hand turned sharp and bone-white on the strap of the bag, the other for the door.

Al goes red again. There's nothing to say. So he doesn't. Merely lets Teo go, with that faintly sick expression on his face - humiliation, grief, trying to grope for pride or whatever's left of it.

By the time Teo finishes the stairs, there might be something there to freeze into a crust on his face. He's wiping his nose, refusing to acknowledge it, thinking he needs deep snow to sit in for awhile. Until the fucking telephone starts ringing, ringing off again.

January 21st: Happy Birthday
January 21st: A Life To Get Back To
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