I Like Cake, Cigarettes, Canadian Firearms, Good Work, And You


leonard_icon.gif teo_icon.gif

Scene Title I Like Cake, Cigarettes, Canadian Firearms, Good Work, And You
Synopsis Teo takes Leonard out on a date. It isn't the huge big limo kind, but it is one.
Date September 1, 2009

Brooklyn — @Laser Tag

It's a harder match than Leo might've expected, really. Teo has improved. It's a room full of blinky lights, pounding music, and he's stalking Teo around a carpeted protrusion that hides a speaker, absurd toy gun at the ready. Part of him is appreciative of the hilarity of all of it. Part of him is busy stuffing his PTSD away like a malign jack in the box.

The Xerampelinae was a grand old ship before the Baptist infestation came aboard, with their slime green vests and language like brutish, halting rusted clockwork, the bleak nepotism of their religion and unbroachably smelly food, their incomprehensible currency! For the Xerampelinae, but yet, more importantly still, for the preservation and dignity of the homeland, he must drive back this fell foe. Yet darkness and sporadic lighting come immense and incorrigible, and between residual low blood pressure and permeating sleep deprivation, frankly, leave the match harder than the ghost would have expected, either.

Mostly, he's just fuckin' around. Generating unnecessary mythology for an idiotic plastic and glow-in-the-dark situation, grinning so broad his teeth look like a blue moon wedged into the mottled dullness of his face under black light. It's almost challenging not to cheat, but he thinks the better of it, stooping low, moving crabwise past a keyboard whose brilliant orange buttons probably never made anything happen even before the enemy stormed the vessel and like, broke shit for, you know, wicked bad alien reasons. Anyway. he's trying to win.

There's blacklight paint on Leo. Transparent in ordinary light, blue-white under the UV. It's scribed in mad spirals along the throat and the side of his face, like a ghostly rendering of some ancient Celt's warpaint. He is not cheating, either. Not at all. He darts around a corner, peeking out like a truculent prairie dog….and exposing enough of his target for a fatal kil.

Patchy deranged anthropomorphic zebra man gophering upright at ten o' clock. Suddenly, Teo lunges out, his uniformed/armored/hilariously costumed frame making a rubbery tumble across the floor, slung low to avoid the skimming of fire. In his hands, his rifle pops up, skinny weapon muzzle swinging out at a deranged angle, his forefinger crossed over the trigger. He hauls back, and the light by — what would have been the slide of the weapon blinks on, a patriotic crimson, and light bleats out at the dark of Leo's canvasses. Of course, Teo had picked red.

"You got me, you got me," Leo concedes, laughing, as his own target winks, announcing his defeat. "Now I buy the drinks." Likely only soda, the way he's been acting these days. He shoulders the absurd laser toy as if it were a real weapon, old habits dying hard.

The younger— ol— other man doesn't bother putting the weapon up as if it's real. It swings from his hand instead, jumbling and bouncing slightly as he crawls back up onto his feet in an ungainly scratch of feet. Teo guffaws. "I already got the drinks," he responds with aplomb, taking responsibility the way that you — aren't exactly supposed to, when you're on casual date that's been some epic, temporally splintered decade plus one year in the making, but he had Plans or something.

Not big ones, but he has. "Do you actually drink?" Wiping sweat off his nose, he comes lumbering at the Exit, marked in the stilted geometry of a sci-fi font just short of illegible.

Zuleyka ponders that. "Not so much these days," he says, mildly, as he ducks back into the dim normal life, the UV paint fading into nearly invisible pearly lines. "I….don't seem to do so well with it when I do, you know? Not teetotal, but…mostly Coke, now." He strips off his target vest, hands it and the gun to the bored attendant. "You wanna go get pizza?" It's all so weirdly innocent. And nice.

"Nope." The vest scrubs off Teo's arms and thumps down into the waiting hands of the attendant, panel flipping over panel. The toy gun alights its climsy bulk in the man's hands, acknowledged with a nod, before he turns to snag the point of Alexander's arm with hooking, nipping fingers. "Okay. I'll drink the beer, you can have the Coke. I brought both." He draws Leonard onward, outward into the fanciful industrial makeup, glowy posters and all, of the reception area, shepherds him into nightfall over the parking lot, Brooklyn's building-block skyline above. "Okay.

"This is the part I'm not— completely sure about." Something like conspiracy makes the blued whites of his eyes narrow, makes boyish asymmetry out of the line of his mouth and clouds his voice with baby's breath rue. He blinks fringy eyelids too many times in the dark, turn downward at the striped tarmac. "There's this place, I think, 's like— the furthest thing from the fucking desert I could think of, so I crapped together a basket and I was going to take you there but you look kind of pale, so I mean, I guess I should check with you before you spit and slap me and walk out or something."

"I won't spit or slap you or walk out on you," Leo says, determinedly amiable. He's not going to be the one to spoil this evening. He's not, or so he has vowed. "Lead on, I'll follow." Which ….really sort of sums up their relationship, at this point.

Whenever Teo isn't wandering off by himself or Leonard committed to following other people, or stuff. It works, though. What they have seems to be working okay so far. Being pleasant is a pleasant, if inherently disconnected departure from real life, which is full of Elisabeth's corpse and Humanis First! and Helena's growing concern. "I will drive." He stole a car for tonight; he'd better drive. Leonard is pushed toward the vehicle, an innocuous Honda Bunny, the model favored ever since Conrad gave Teo the one, months ago.

Tonight, all dynamics specified between leading and following aside, they are breaking into an aquarium.

It isn't too hard, certainly not the most challenging illegal intrusion that Teo in either of his two incarnations has ever had to squeeze through, particularly after he took a few days out of the past week to check out security and send his supernatural eye-spy through for patrolmen. They only really come in every two hours, which is about enough time to get through A Picnic Basket, one of which he has bundled into a backpack, the small, bristling array of picking devices and tiny flashlight transferred between one hand and the pocket on his pant leg.

In ten, fifteen expedient moments, they're in, the floor carpeted and the camera system hacked at the one and only point where it was relevant. It's dark, but not impossibly so, low light gleaming out of small tanks and diamond-dented floors. There's canned Coke already coming out of the bag in Teo's hand, nudged cold against Leonard's arm. "Here," he says. "I hope you didn't turn. Like. Fuckin' vegetarian while I wasn't looking, too, because there's meatballs and ham the stuff in this bag."


Leo laughs softly. It's like two kids playing fort, hiding under an arrangement of couch cushions and sheets, shutting out the world. "No. I like meat just fine," he says, without a hint of entendre. "But thank you for asking." He ghosts up to a tank, and the leafy sea dragon within, an unlikely concoction of frills and ruffles and a pair of censorious eyes, regards him impatiently. How dare you, sir.

Careful, so as not to startle the fish or the vet standing outside of it, Teo angles the flashlight up slightly below the glass. The beam slices its way through the darkness, without jarring any of the creatures out of their quiescent evening rest. A few of the animals are, of course, cycling in and out of sleep anyway: a school of intricately tiny orange clown fish bob around a coral shaped like a brain, speculating at Leonard's unwonted harrassment of the extravagant sea dragon. "How's work lately, anyway?" Teo asks, distantly, stretching his shoulder underneath the weight of the bag's sling.

"Very peaceful. I'm braced for another attack by Humanis," Leo says, somberly. "They've got a new captive, or so I hear. This….he used to be a cop. Now he's a Fed. I knew him back when and he was a prick and a half, but I wouldn't wish that on anyone short of Verse." He pauses, as the fish in the tank come swarming over. In another tank, an octopus reigns in solitary splender, stuffed into a bottle that is apparently his den.

Footfalls trail after Leonard, and paler eyes speculate at the inscrutable soup of thoughts moving through the former Baptist's skull, unvoiced by Teo for the timebeing: he merely watches and talks about other things. After shrugging the bag off, anyway: arm was getting stiff. It'd probably been too early to be dodging and ninja-rolling and laser-tagging, after his last brush with deeeath at Humanis First!'s hands, the other week. He is hard-pressed to make himself actually regret it, though. "Felix nearly fed Deckard to Verse, once. He was seventeen hours from MPF before Phoenix stopped him.

"'Course he didn't know what he was doing, but that's kind of Ivanov's modus operandi, nine times out of ten. I heard he tackled one of the guys into the van they were getting away in." His tone is wry, his voice is tight. His reflection shows hgostly over the octopus, and he watches it breathe through the translucent membrane of its full body.

Leo just shakes his head, mutely. And then moves on to the main tank, the great cylinder of seawater in the center. Dim security lights filter down through the water, casting the shadow of the great whale shark, drifting and seining above, down on the sandy floor below. It paints his face in shimmering blue light.

"Thank you for bringing me here," he says, softly, turning to look for the bag. "You wanna sit and eat?" There are benches, here and there, to let people contemplate the expanse of water, all its little bustling inhabitants. In the floor, tiny garden eels poke their heads out, improbable and muppet-like, ducking back into their holes when a larger fish passes, like a mirror of football fans doing the Wave.

"I always want to eat. Sitting sounds good."

There are sandwiches in some variety, but also, Italian in a fair portion sealed up within plastic containers. Meatballs embedded in cheesy lasagna like dehydrated red planets in the mobius halo of some far-off galaxy. Not that anything manages to stay particularly red, underneath the light of the tank's cool ambience. Even half-lit, it's a ludicrously beautiful spectacle, strains the eyes to see the uppermost levels of crushing water. It does remind Teo of the sea. Inside his head, Ghost hates it in a way, and the younger one misses it: swimming, going somewhere on a boat, leaving.

He hands a fork over, crosses his legs on the furniture. "Do you think it's selfish, I keep trying to keep you 'nd Hel and everyone out of Humanis First!'s business?"
"I always want to eat. Sitting sounds good."

There are sandwiches in some variety, but also, Italian in a fair portion sealed up within plastic containers. Meatballs embedded in cheesy lasagna like dehydrated red planets in the mobius halo of some far-off galaxy. Not that anything manages to stay particularly red, underneath the light of the tank's cool ambience. Even half-lit, it's a ludicrously beautiful spectacle, strains the eyes to see the uppermost levels of crushing water. It does remind Teo of the sea. Inside his head, Ghost hates it in a way, and the younger one misses it: swimming, going somewhere on a boat, leaving.

He hands a fork over, crosses his legs on the furniture. "Do you think it's selfish, I keep trying to lock you 'nd Hel and everyone out of Humanis First!'s business?"

Ooh, Italian. Leo always loves to eat Italian. He serves himself some lasagan, deliberates his answer a little. None of his usual lowering anger. Perhaps he really has changed. "I do," he says, finally, keeping his calm. "I understand the impulse to protect us. And also to make sure we aren't flawed vessels now, who will fall apart under pressure. But it can't serve, Teo. You can't play the Lone Ranger forever. I'm a fighter, I've been to war, and whatever it's done to me, I've endured. Please, let me help you." His gaze traces the outline of a circling whale shark, as if trying to count the spots on its rough hide.

Teo loves Italian, too. Buona sera, signor. It is a good night. "No one lasts. Not doing this. Not even me, though I should've gone alone, the other night; bringing Elisabeth was fucking stupid." Remorse doesn't bite as deep now as it had last week, but it still draws a little blood. Teo is studying Leonard's face while Leonard studies the whale shark. "Nothing to help, anyway. I think I'm going to back out of this thing with Humanis First!, unless it comes looking for the Ferry or some shit, again. I just need to know if I should get out of your way. Phoenix's.

"You all seem like kids, to me. I can remember being alive for sixty two years."
He forgets, sometime. That coming back through the wardrobe hasn't made Teo forget. He still remembers what it was like to rule in Narnia. Leo turns that dark hound's stare on Teo for a moment, disconcerted. "Good," he says. "Leave off crusading for a little, and I will, too? We can retrench, help Phoenix and the Ferry."

"Yeah." The answer resonates neither of truth nor outright deception, mmmostly because it's both, between jail, and unfinished business with Danko. Even if it's unfinished business that Teo has no real appetite for. Teo's eyes shift against aquarium glass, the striated substance of his irises a paler, less saturated, more inert shade of blue than the tropical seas that the marine display seek to mimic. "Sounds like a good idea.

"The Ferry part for me, anyway. I feel fucking weird around Phoenix, sometimes. I don't want people to know that I'm not— the one they remember. Which works just as well, I guess: Phoenix isn't Phoenix if they aren't crusading." Sniffing canine through his nose, he squashes and slices a meatball apart with one plastic point of cutlery. "Speaking of the good fight. What's the Suresh Center like?"

"As it should be," Leo says, with a curious gentleness in his voice. "It's nice to feel like there's a sanctuary, for everyone. ANd not just for those willing to go to ground, hide like a rat in a whole, you know?" He takes a few mouthfuls of the lasagana, lazy appetite sparked, clearly. He sets to with more of his usual will.

But it's so much fun being a rat isn't it? Filth generates warmth as it decomposes, edibles are readily available for those with an ironclad digestive tract, and there's fucking. Except, you know. There isn't, and being a rat's just terror and bad smells most of the time, the latter occasionally the byproduct of the former. Teo smiles. Not the ha-ha kind of smile. "You feel safe there?" he asks, mock incredulity in his voice.

Leo's gaze is infinitely cynical. "No. It's far from what it needs to be. It'll always be a target for bigots. But someone has to stand up. Proclaim in earnest what must be said, rather than fighting from the shadows. Why….why should I be ashamed of what I am? What I can do?" He's clenched his hands around the edge of the bench, but for once, there is neither the hum of power nor that peculiar flatness that comes with him clamping down. "Monstrosity isn't written in the genes. It's in the heart."

"I think I am one of the less consistent and reliable sources of insight on genetic or emotional monstrosity," Teo remarks, quietly, leaning back on one arm. He rolls his head back to stare at the twinkle and shift of the tank's surface, some infinite texture of molecules away. "Seeing how Ghost's gift was artificial and sometimes I'm a mass-murdering psychopath with no friends, or a reasonably convincing fascimile thereof. That being said, you shouldn't be.

"I don't think you should be." The quiet in here could be deafening, without the ambient lounge music that's normally pumped in through the sound system to make the viewing experience easier to focus on than the breathing of the next audience member over, but Teo doesn't mind too much, hearing the minute scuffs and breaths of the man adjacent. "Are you taking lessons there, or just working?"

"I work. They haven't yet put up a lesson thing that appeals to me. Maybe I should take the cooking one. I don't cook very well, and Abby is so adamant about it. Honestly, it's like having a wonderful wife, except we don't fuck," Leo says, with that monkeyishly quizzical expression. "I wish my grandparents coulda met her. They'd've had me at the altar with her inside of three months," And then there's Coca cola, which he pops open, watching a little school of fish shimmer past, like students in a hurry. "Artificial. Man. And that day, when it comes…." he shudders.

There's a creak of cloth, closer, and though Teo doesn't blur into the peripheral of Leonard's vision there's a certain sense of peeking. "I was talking about their superpowers how-to lessons," he clarifies, quieter this time, and the quiet implies a true absence of insistence: "Your control's gotten better, lately. Or it seems like, a little. You should learn to cook. I need more food.

"All I ever do is eat, sleep, work out," kill people? "—and fix handyman shit, lately, so more food's always welcome. And Abigail could use the weight." It's beer that Teo cracks open with his teeth, a brief nightmare of dentistry rasped out with the noise of aluminium against enamel. Theres a laughing grunt of agreement. "I think Lucrezia was or would've thought I should have gone with her. Or tried." In a different life, he had.

"I don't know. They have him….but there's not a lot of formal training. How do you certify that? I'd offer to help. Maybe I should teach," Leo says, letting his head fall back against the wall, for a moment. "I…don't feel so much like I'm mad of broken glass. Not anymore. Maybe….I don't know. Things settle out. What…what hobbies would you like to have?" he says, leaning forward again, swigging from the coke.

The prospect of Leonard teaching is nnnothing you'd expect unless you were smoking, and Teo hasn't been baked in a… fffew days. It's not a particularly bad idea, he thinks, except that Leonard tends to prefer to keep to himself rather than exercise his social and peacekeeping skills, though those Teo's seen in excess to his own, before. A year ago, Alexander was the only one whose throat Benjamin Fletcher didn't want to tear out, after all. "You could," he acknowledges, finally, uncertain of whether to apply pressure through encouragement. Even if the glass is no longer broken, Leonard's fragility seems to be an unremittant background threat.

And then the question, and it is like Teo's English broke, suddenly. His eyes close and open in noncomprehension. "'Hobbies,'" he repeats, suspiciously and slow, as if searching the room for a light bright enough to hold that question up against, and dare it admit to its opacity.
Leo nods, expression guileless. "I mean, we don't have fun. We've been busy saving the world or tearing at each other," He slouches down, tipping hips off the edge of the bench. "I…and that's worthy, you know. But we're fighting to give all these other people normal lives, but when do we get to have one? Or something, anyway. Respite."

'Tearing at each other' doesn't sound worthy, Teo thinks, but he would only say that aloud if he were being difficult and the Sicilian has no particular need to be, right now. There's a mumbling sort of hummmm, thoughtful; he works his teeth into his lower lip, tastes tomato paste and garlic under his breath.

'Maybe after I get out of jail' seems like a response that would fail entirely to gain Leonard's approval, either, so he restrains that behind his teeth. "Teo had hobbies," he identifies, finally. "Reading. Bike and radio tinkering. Boats, he loved boats. I guess before Ghost became Ghost, he tried a few things too: swing dancing, Swahili, programming. I know how to do most of that, but I don't really miss any of it. Bike is to get from point A to B, computers are for work. I can't think of anything I really want to read. I don't think I'm answering this question very well." A beat's pause. "You?"

"What do you want? What do you like? Who are you going to be, now?" Leo says, swinging a leg up on to the bench, drawing the knee towards his chin. "Read. We can ride bikes together. I think you have to sort this stuff out. I like to read. I love to swim. I love to fish. I like to hunt and camp. I'm not really a city boy."

fsjlgksf Teo puts his hands up and waves them around as if to stave off the physical firehose blast of impossible questions. "Jeezus fuckin' Christ," he says. "Those are the kinds of questions that people never tell the answers to in casual conversation, you know," conveniently forgetting that he'd asked almost exactly these of Gabriel 'Sylar' Gray, twice in over the considerable course of their acquaintance. He adds, blustery, "I have excuses for not knowing, you know.

"Maybe not good excuses, but I have. Identity confusion. I mean, if I decided I wasn't Teodoro Laudani, none of the baggage or all, I wouldn't keep you around. I have a shrink who thinks I should turn Teo and Ghost into — fuckin'— buffet tables and pick and choose what I want to keep, but that doesn't… feel right, either. I d'no.

"I guess — I'll try being Teo, for awhile. Whatever that means.

"I like…" unsure of how he wound up embarking on answering these questions, he does so nevertheless. "Cake, cigarettes, Canadian firearms, doing good work, and you. What I want is— a do-over. But you don't get do-overs. No one gets do-overs. Who're you?"

"I'm Jesse, son of Matthew and Zipporah, grand child of Lucius and Ethel, James and Louise," he recites, calmly. "From Darien, Georgia. I served in the 3rd Infantry at Basrah, Tikrit, and Fallujah. I've only got a high school education, but more than one degree from the school of hard knocks. Time'll come you have to decide. Maybe not now, I won't press you. Remember the best of who you were. Ghost came from Teo, don't forget that."

There's a twitch in the hollow of Teo's cheek, an errant twitch of annoyance somewhere in his gut or the layered leaf clutter of his subconscious. He is, however, easily self-perceptive enough to catch that point of irritation, pin it down, recognize it for what it is: a spark of jealousy. Making a fist out of a hand, he nudges his food carton aside with a bump of scab-notched knuckles, crawls over to poke the former soldier in the chest. "I think, maybe, your regard for little baby Teodoro is too high," he points out. "He was crazy in a way that made Ghost look sane, in more'n one department of his life.

"He never did anything for himself. Every important decision, every significant sacrifice, every virtue he ever cultivated was for someone else. If he had any sense of entitlement or fucking self-worth whatsoever, you and him wouldn'tve had nearly so much bullshit to wade through. Maybe you wouldn'tve stayed friends, but that probably would've broken less, too. Who needs that?" It's probably disconcerting, looking at Teo in the face and hearing him spoken of in the third person, but he looks convinced of what he's saying, unequivocal in a way that the younger man he's describing never had been.

And that drives it home, more than anything has. How far gone his beloved is, away from his reach, even though his body is sitting right there, making sounds tha become words. "I know. I love him anyway. Maybe now he- you- can have something for yourself." Leo has that scared colt look, like he wants to avoid more of this by shutting up, or running away. He does neither. Just looks at Teo, with that stupidly expectant expression.

"Si, that's the plan. First thing I'm going to have for myself," Teo reaches up, wraps two fingers and thumb around the point of the soldierling's chin, with the gentled brusqueness with which you'd great a feral pup. Wag, wag, making a small, harmless joke out of the sobering pain of the joke. "The first thing I'm going to take, is you at your word." That you loved him. "That's refreshing, isn't it?" Past-tense, present tense, future tense, it's all the same to him.

He smiles at that, one of those little ones like the sun creeping out from behind a cloud. "Yeah?" he says, half-closing his eyes, looking pleased. Like it all has to get better now. Right?

Not to be maudlin or anything, but. Yeah. Sure. Emotional placeholder for their next high-stress phase of growth and development; for now, it is okay to hide and hibernate and make friends with the idea that love conquers or changes anything. On simpler terms: Teo likes the sun. "Yeah." He pinches his thumb in, once, and lets go.

Time was, he'd've followed that with a kiss, or at least an attempt. But Leo settles back, and then goes rooting in the basket for dessert. Gotta deal with the sweet-tooth.

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