In For A Nickel


delilah_icon.gif teo3_icon.gif

Scene Title In For A Nickel
Synopsis Conversation between jetlagged insomniacs.
Date February 9, 2010

Palermo, Sicily — The Laudani Home

Teodoro's bedroom has all the evidence of being a football hooligan's nest. There are no books, no birds, no college-lettered clothing paraphernelia and there are no prints of black and white photography, unlike the sage's hovels that characterize his makeshift living spaces in New York. Other Laudanis housed the books in this home. Other Laudanis kept the bird-feeder full, and other Laudanis had fostered dream colleges and taste of art.

In Teino's room, there are flags instead: Italy and Sicily's triangled and criss-crossed. The golden eagle swooping down for the kill, same as the tattoo on his back. Posters of football men in pink and black shirts, a not inconsiderable number of girls.

Photographs mosaic the wall beside the window, out of range of the sun's bleaching touch, keepsakes of various Unione Sportiva Città di Palermo games and mob fanatics. Stadium lights, sieging armies of revellers. Men with their faces painted, fists upraised, beer fizzing, girls with what one imagines were probably exposed breasts lettered in patriotic epithets before third parties had forced baby-Teo to cut off the offending parts of the photographs. Well, they'd probably demanded he got rid of them entirely, but he just took scissors to them instead and made jokes about where the little segments of titties all ended up.

However angry his father might have been with him, there had been no dust, nothing out of place to imply the room had been appropriated for other use in the intervening years. The linens were crisp, navy blue, freshly laundered, the pillows fat.

The bed is technically large enough for two, twin as it is, but not comfortably. After he dragged their luggage in from the car, he let her have it, and spent the majority of the intervening hours in blank contemplation of the possibility of sleeping in Romero's room. He couldn't. Didn't; wound up laying on the floor, listening to water drub on the windows outside, his belly full of real Italian food.

The girls having no chests is perhaps the most entertaining thing on Teo's walls; even Delilah has to wonder where the pile went, but she just laughed to herself and didn't bother asking. For a while she did investigate the house itself. There was probably a bit of awkwardness when Delilah shouted 'I didn't know you had a brother!' loud enough that the neighbors probably heard her. Teo never has told her much about this place, and though he has his reasons, it saddens her to know he had this whole part of his world that she didn't really know about at all.

After finding food, investigating things, dragging in the things they flew over, chittering at Teo about various subjects- Delilah is still sort of worked up; he can probably hear her rustling around like a kitten in a plastic bag, up there under the covers. She may be one of the few teenage girls left that actually wear nightgowns to bed; though in her case it isn't so much a granny gown. When Delilah pokes her head over the side of the bed, the strap of satiny light blue material on her shoulder catches the light of the window on the wall, while her features steep in the shadow of her hair drooping with gravity.

"Are you sure you don't want another pillow?" Even though they are obviously the only ones in the room, Dee, for some reason, uses her library/sleepover/whisper voice.

"Si, I'm sure," Teo answers the ceiling. After a moment, vague from ambient fatigue and jetlagged wakefulness, he decides that it is rude for him to be addressing his friend verbally but staring off into nowhere. With a breathy syllable that means nnnothing at all, he rolls onto his side, his arm under his great shaggy head, his ruined cheek hidden in the bulk of his bicep. He blinks up at her in the dark.

Not a perfect darkness, fortunately. Viewing the forecast with immense distaste, he resolved to leave the curtains open, and his room with all of its stupid juvenile paraphernelia is instead rich with a low, storm-colored light, blue in the corners and faintly purple everywhere else. The sporadic wink and flicker of lightning flows translucent scars of silver across now and then. Teo's too low to see the fork-tongued electricity in the sky through the window, but Dee can, above his head.

She fits in here, somehow. Maybe just because she likes to wear blue. His next question floats out on a wry accent, gently parodying hers: "Penny for your thoughts?"

Delilah's hands cup her face, the peaks of her elbows intending on the very edge of the mattress underneath. She watches Teo as he answers the ceiling, then seems to decide that he should pay some sort of mind. She pauses to rub at her fingers, the tips of which have chilled with the air outside becoming the same. His parroting earns a smile from the girl, the rustling around her legs sounding gently between the pitter patter of rain on the house.

"Gonna be a nickel's worth." Delilah lifts a finger to wag it once, the same hand lifting up to brush hair from her face. "M'just thinking about how much I don't know." That is a lot to be thinking about all at once. "And I bit into a peppercorn earlier- and even though I brushed my teeth there's still a bit of a taste back there, and it might be as distracting as I make it sound…"

The limitations of human brain capacity and experience are known to Teo as well. He has two minds, technically, maybe three. Ten years more experience than his body remembers. It gives him headaches, but not as much as when he realizes the glaring multitude of things that he's nevertheless never learned how to do.

Like stop getting people killed!!! Or to stop having his heart fractured by friends he was supposed to be just casually sleeping with until they absorbed megalomaniac terrorist tyrants' superpowered abilities. Or how to sift flour. Or why one sifts flour. One day he's just going to have to ask Abby. Teo is also not very good at gardening, which is a particular pity because he loves fresh basil.

"I don't have any nickels." This is a lie. But his day pants are all the way over there, his wallet in it, and his track pants aren't the sort he keeps change in. "Maybe we can make do with some kind of trade," Teo offers instead, a muddy mumble.

Delilah isn't so sure what Teo thinks she wanted, much less what he'd expect to trade. She'll go with something safe and assume that he is talking about what she has yet to learn. When she fidgets again and lies on the edge of the bed, her hand goes down to fiddle at the plush of his carpeting. "So why didn't you ever tell me about your family?

"I was sure you had one, but- you've never said anything, really. I can understand some of it-" Like his not bothering to mention his dad. "-but why would you hide something like a whole brother?" The question sounds innocent enough, but Lilah's voice is littered with something vaguely sorrowful, in the way that one might be disappointed after learning something that is not particularly what you expected- not that you were expecting something in the first place.

"…I don't know as much about you as I'd like to."

That is such a relevant, obvious question that Teo is left momentarily wondering in the dark how he hadn't figured that one out himself. Information he probably should have supplied several hours ago. When she said. Y'know. 'I didn't know you had a brother!' loud enough that the Verdis next door probably suffered slobbering jolts in their bed. Ah, says Teo's expression. That. "I got the love of my brother's life killed when I was sixteen years old, and have not been able to make friends with him since.

"I taunted a man into shooting me because I knew Rommy's ability would protect me. It did: the bullet went through me and hit her. It wasn't instantly fatal, but she wasn't a big girl so there were only a few very fucking long minutes." His pinkie curls where it's sandwiched underneath his pillow, plows a chubby dent intot he case and dumpling-plump stuffing. "He is younger than me by a year. Darker, smarter— 'prodigy,' or prodigio as they say— was the word thrown around often. He is the handsome brother. Still is, even after he lost his mind."

She asked. She asked, and she got the tragedy explained simply by asking about it. It brings a small, sad, and somewhat nervous frown to her lips, even in the dim light. Meanwhile, she will only guess into the brother's god given trick, obviously some sort of spatial exercise. And that's some trick, if a bullet can completely pass through. What she also knows very well are teenagers. Though Dee isn't certain if the mistake weighs as heavily as it did when it happened- she supposes it does- but she also knows that things one does as a teenager do not define people. Youth is full of mistakes. Even dire ones.

The fingers knitting at the carpet below spider-treks nearer to where Teo is lying on the floor, a weak, yet quite willed attempt to offer the little sort of reassurance that she is able to.

What Teo did as a teenager defined him for a really long time, though. Years and years. Two decades. He does not elaborate that it destroyed his family, but that probably isn't hard to pick up; Romero lost his way, and it's been too long since his parents have seen either of them. He sidewinders his arm out of his bunchy comforter, grasps her fingers and squeezes them. His hand is a metabolic beast of heat, callused inside the knuckles of his palm as well as bridged over the knuckles. His thumb is square and all of his nails trimmed short. They both have fingers.

"Anyway," he clears his throat. "So. My turn. Si? Ottimo. Primo. You'll have to forgive me, I think it's better to get all the dramatic ones out of the way first: how do you manage to — " fuck, fornicate with, have the intercour— "Share your bed with the boys in your life without experiencing a hormonal personal apocalypse every damn time?"

That's what he calls a dramatic one? Delilah was ready for something she'd have never thought of in a million years. It gets a small laugh out of her, despite Teo's seriousness. Her fingers against his paw and twined between knuckles are as soft as the pillows, and as firm as the floor. She works with those hands, he knows this; just that somehow whatever strength she carries in them has not manifested like Teodoro's.

"On my end? I know that being in romantic love and wanting a shag're kinda different, that's all. There's still love, it's just different too. So far they've all just …been the same." Dee's way of wording this almost makes it sound like there have been many. Not that many, in reality. "I dunno what would happen if something didn't jive. Soooo- um. I don't manage anything. I've just lucked out." Haha. Dumb luck. Yeah, yeah. She does go a little red around the ears, not that he'd be able to tell. However, the split second of a bashful look towards the mattress could tell it too.

It is good that they're past the part where either of them are worried that Teodoro is going to say something horribly vicious and awful and sexist about her past sexual experiences. He doesn't this time. Turns up a small smile of sympathy, or vague curiosity; no disapproval this time, and it's too late in the night to be exhibiting the bold colors and distended feathers of male territorial displays.

She's doing all the bold colors this time. Teo has pretty decent night vision, you know. He doesn't read much these days. He straightens his back slightly, where it's laid out prone on the floor, scrunching cloth and stuffing around inside of it. Relaxes again with a good-natured sigh huddled deep in the bones of his chest. "You swept the pool on guts and luck and I'm having a hard time resenting you for it. Your turn."

No doubt it is because of the charm with which Delilah sucker punches at life. She's got some right hook.

Bold colors in the contrast of red hair and paler skin light up by the stormy blue coming in the window, colors in the stripe of blue wiggling over the shoulder attached to the arm attached to the fingers intertwined with his. There is a crash in the clouds outside, and for a moment of fluttering light, the room is filled with a wash of white and blue. Dee smiles a little when he gives her his next admission, her head tilting in either question or out of modesty. Both, perhaps, but mostly the latter.

"Are we still on penny thoughts? Because I only had one floating around up here."

"What? Uhhh. I am now accepting nickel questions as well," Teo answers, quizzically: a little puzzled. He bends his head closer, and ends up dropping it against the floor with a thunk because he ran out of pillow. Squints unhappily at this discovery, and rolls his eyes up at his own forehead, then down again, then sideways at the carpeting with faint accusation to the knit of his brow. Well, that didn't go right at all. "But while we're still on the topic: you and Liz.

"It isn't all luck. I'd tell you what old, mean, monster-me knew, but that would be spoilers." He uses the corner of his shoulder and the side of his head to 'walk' or sidewinder his prone frame a few inches closer to the dangling knot of their hands, a half-smile on his face.

She actually meant the question she already asked- the question about Teo not-quite-hiding his family from her. After she says it though, she isn't sure if he has understood or not. It looks like he did! Hmmmm.

"Not all luck? How's that? I don't hawk for the ones that don't sucker-fish to my walls." They sort of just find Delilah by themselves! Even way back to her very first relationship. She's still friends with him too. "Oh? Spoilers? I like those." Delilah likes spoilers…! Well, unless she ends up not liking them after she finds out what they are. Her hand sways when Teo wriggles closer on the floor under her gaze, finding his chin with her fingertips.

"Compartmentalization takes skill," Teo answers, lifting his shoulders. Well, not technically upward, given he's laid out horizontal, but the gesture makes its sentiment clear and his chin is easily grasped at this proximity. He looks at her wrist a moment, closes his eyes, squeezes them, reopening them again before lifting his gaze to study her in the dark. "Separating the wheat from the chaff, teaching the wheat to not— stalk or lose their fucking minds when they're compartmentalized.

"I'm pushing this metaphor too far, but. Spelunking in Staten Island and getting arrested aside, you're very sensible."

If Teo weren't mumbling sleepily in the dark, and eventually levering himself off his side and onto his elbows, this might seem like a rather droll sequence of compliments. "I know you for another ten years." He stilts himself a few inches upward and finally hoists upright to sit, all the grace of a ninja— walrus, maybe, manifest in the noisome clunk of his shoulder against her bedframe. His hair is lopsidedly spiked up and tousled and his beard sounds like sandpaper scrunched by his finger, though it hadn't been as coarse in the tug of Delilah's.

The grace of a ninja walrus(?) doesn't betray the endearments he makes. Compliments poorly put, perhaps, but they were compliments. Then again, he makes her sound like some sort of madame farmer. Through Teo's various stages of sitting up, Dee does keep her fingers in league with his, and resists the temptation to tug at him to come closer. Instead, she props up on her elbows again, her other hand finding the mess of his hair to try and flatten it back. "Thanks."

"Makes sense. I don't think I'd just …leave you alone." She'd probably have to get her legs blown off. But then she'd have wheels so it still counts. It wouldn't be a terribly inaccurate thing to say that she considers him one of- if not as the primary- her best friends. "I get attached like that. Like a bad rash. Or a buttful of burrs." Redheaded, florally painted burrs.

It requires a reasonable amount of talent to take such discombobulation of fortune-telling, stories of future history, one blithely discarded by the sociopathic time-traveling assassin terrorist lunatic man, all in stride. Granted, it's talent that most of Teo's friends have by now necessarily learned to hone on various exercises, conversations, and 'bigger problems.' Teo almost mentions Walter but thinks the better of it.

There are enough things to be sad about without the complications of overwritten futures and mistakes that one might regret never making. The texture of Teodoro's hair is on the coarse side of fine. It's thick. Ghost didn't have to start worrying about thinning for years and years. Teo blinks fuzzily at the carpet.

"What's your family like?"

"Worm food. Mostly." Delilah is content to brush back his hair for a few seconds, yet, offering up a half-answer that isn't so much defensive as it is leading into something else. "My aunt's nice, but I don't think you've subjected yourself to meeting her yet. She's a busy lady anyway. My two cousins are little men, and the one we disowned is a complete arsehole. He's a year older than me." This might be the first time of purposefully berating JJ outside of her aunt's vicinity. Huh. Guess it finally sank in that he is unsalvageable.

"Was the question for everyone, or just the ones that aren't six feet under or in big ceramic jars? Because my aunt is all that's left. I'd be sad about the family name, but I almost don't care." Dee laughs a little, the sound kind of dry.

She slips 'almost' in there like she expects him to not notice. He twists his shoulders slightly and there is a twingey creak and pop of bones and cartlidge in his neck, but not the faintest wrinkle of discomfort manifest at it otherwise. "There's time for that kind of thing yet," he says. "But I think my parents are the same way. Zia Lucrezia was married for years but not one for children. I don't know what Romero and I are doing with ourselves.

"I guess my extended family is still huge out there, though," he decides, after a moment, reassured of his people's empire, even if it does not come with a capitalized 'E' as the British trends to. "Italians.

"We are embarrassing stereotypes." He rubs his thumb at one closed eye while his hair is tended to, then stoops the side of his hand in a customary to check he hasn't been drooling out of the broken segment of his mouth. And then it is a throwaway line, measured with deliberate casualness: "I bet you'd be a good mother."

It makes her smile, bright even in the dark. "My mum was. I'm hoping it stays the course." Delilah seems like she wants to flop over, but the knot of fingers and the hand in Teo's hair is preventing that. She does not mind it terribly, though. His hair gets raked softly again, and her fingertips trace a soft pattern over his forehead.

"My mum was like me, but obviously more experienced with anything, ever. Kind of like if I was more …calculating. My dad coulda been a cop if he wasn't an engineer. I had three grandparents for one set, you know. Two grandpas, but one married so nobody would think twice." Delilah, having already started the story, decides to continue on finishing a quick little summary of her family, as Teo has gone as far as to bring her here to see parts of his. "She was Italian too, her name was Vittoria. She married my grandpa Walter, but they were always just friends. He loved Jonathan. Jon's blood was actually pure glitter. That's just how he was."

"And grandpa Walter was the one I had to work for. I had to earn that love. It was hard, too." But worth it.

"God forbid you learn to calculate," Teo answers, wryly, the corner of his mouth opposite the raggedly-scarred slit twisting up so high the ear on the corresponding side of his skull inches up on his scalp with it. "I don't know what we'd do then."

Maybe he is making fun of her math skills, or too out of it to mean anything at all. Outside, dense walls away, nocturnal rain plinks and scatters hard-nosed pellets of water down against flat glass and planed metal. "You have a good family, it sounds like.

"Zia Lucrezia's probably the most liberal out of the lot, and she told me to go to confessional before I went to the Invernio last winter." It feels like a long time ago. For both of him, it was. "In case I died with sins of sodomy on me." It would be harder to admit to it, or talk about it, except that it's very late, and she is Delilah. Teo's head crashes backward onto the bed's edge. "Was the set of three your mother's side or your father's?"

"Wow. She's the most liberal?" Delilah sounds vaguely terrified of the idea that someone actually enforces things like that. Too bad the entire country that she is in currently thinks like that. "Did you go? To confession? ….Did you want to?" Does he even go anymore at all? Hmm. Delilah shifts forward on the bed, her face poking sideways, further off the edge, with her shoulder on the mattress. The position bares more of her shoulders and neck to the blue light of stormy Mediterranean weather stomping about on the other side of glass.

"The set was on my father's side. My mom's parents died when I wasn't old enough to remember."

Not for awhile. Not for a long time. Teo is hard-pressed to remember what he said last time. He started admitting to murder awhile ago, though, which seemed like a step in the right direction; some things, a man should be able to own up to.

"I went," Teodoro answers, a little awkwardly. "Sometimes I still go. Not all Italians are like that," he's quick to put that concern to rest. "I mean, in a knee-jerk cultural way, I guess, but there are many who're just Catholic the way the vast majority of Englishmen are Protestant. As neutral and common as being white or wearing pants.

"You're going to fall off the bed," he adds, craning his head upright again. He sinks an elbow into her mattress to nudge her up with the flat of one broad hand.

"You wouldn't let me fall off." Delilah sounds very sure of herself, even going so far as to wiggle another inch that way. The bundle of blanket she had been nursing before is still mostly covering her legs, but it sticks there when she moves again. Teo's hand does help in nudging her up, but then she only leans in from the side to graze skulls with him. Her hair meshes with his just as easily as the fingers before, and the gesture itself is the second kitten-like thing she's taken up. First the restless rustling, now the butting.

"If you sleep on the floor you're going to wake up with a bad back, you know." Her voice practically brushes past his ear this time.

These are true assessments, these assessments that Delilah gives him. The first one more true than the second, he thinks: Teo is a big strapping Italian lad, he can take a couple nights on a bed of reasonably poor substance. The corners of his mouth wriggle slightly, unsure of himself in a way that he should be far too handsome for. Her face is so close! He remembers suddenly that his is all ripped up on one side, gross, and she's probably got his teeth in her clothes right now.

In a bad way, he means. You know. He—

Covers up his face in the curl of his hand, surreptitiously, glances at the wall over the smooth exposure of her shoulder. The door is over there, and beside it the ghostly outline of the window, storm-light, rosetted and slashed through by silhouetted water. "How's it," he says, perhaps trying to change the subject, "that you manage to keep your humility without thinking you're a bad person, and your pride without being a huge cock?"

If Delilah was repulsed by the cut along his face, she would probably never dare get close enough to act the kitten. In fact she would probably avoid looking at him at all. But she doesn't, hasn't, never will. The arm that had been mussing with his hair is along the edge of the bed until her hand moves again to first scratch the hair at the back of his head, and then land down at the other side of his neck. Dee isn't afraid to pet people like she does, Teodoro included.

"I'm not sure. Honest." If he has a guess, she'll be glad to hear it. "If I knew the right answer, I'd tell you."

"Well, if you ever figure it out," Teo says, and kisses her.

He may well be convinced for all of about three seconds that it really is going to be this easy, and that good, except the curve of her cheek touches the ragged seam running through his own and he feels it and it is extraordinarily disgusting, because the wall of his mouth is slightly curled outward and he wouldn't want that touching him if he was her, and all red hair and sanguine virtue.

His face goes abruptly and tangibly red and he pulls back, clearing his throat like a preadolescent at a piano recital, his fingers curling in front of his nose as if the sniffles were going to provide him his good excuse. He isn't feeling well. He's coming down with something. He just forgot to mention anything about it aloud, and is somehow at a loss for words now.

She had been deliberately affectionate with him thusfar, for compounding reasons that she probably could not name if she were asked to do so. Still, despite the affection she shows, the closeness, the dark mixing with flickers of light, the measure of flirtation that she has always felt- Teo is the one to budge, and that catches the side of her brain that had been working at him for nearly a year, to pause when his lips venture over to meet hers.

Contrary to what the man feels after a few seconds, all Delilah suddenly wants is that touching her. The idiosyncrasies in the flesh of his mouth are not especially pressing matters. When Teo pulls away from her, a breath hitches in her throat and there is a shift of her chin where she looks about to try and follow him. A subtle haze over her eyes lifts, but her eyelids stay uncertain on closing or blinking back open, wavering halfway. No? A twinge of a frown is on her lips, before it inverts and she gives him her best Mona Lisa smile, voice soft.

"…What is it?" What's wrong with kissing me?

The moment it's over, Teo is trying to remember how it had gone. What warmth or tender skin he had found when sought, if the impressions were too fleeting or merely inundated under the treasure trove of future-historical memories he has kept preserved in a chamber that outlasted even the physical corporeality of his skull. He had skirted Francois' edges this way, too. He squirms his nose once, the way you do when you are itchy but don't want to bother with a finger. Exhales over his knuckles.

The look on her face, understated, prickling with the awareness of her bare arms and the points where her red hair meet and curl tenderly against the pale exposure of nape, the choral lilt of collarbones and the continuous curvature down to her— blankets. Also a number of luminous metaphors that just mean basically that there is a very pretty woman who he's liked since, it felt, she was a girl looking at him with big brown eyes. He rasps, "My face."

It's really a pity that he didn't speak in such metaphors- he might have countless bodies tossing themselves over his feet. Plus, he would be far easier to understand, if he did not restrict his words to very few. She tilts her head, and a curl of red perched precariously on her shoulder sways down to tease at the bottom of her collarbone. If it had a mind of its own, that might fit; but right now it simply appears as incidental preening. Delilah's eyebrows have met over her nose, the smallest of bumps where the muscles contract. Her smile stays there, quite knowing.

"Your face what?" Lilah finally asks of him, the question intentionally disregarding of the scar. He probably won't notice her fingertips until they graze around the lines of his neck, brushing along over the lower side of his jaw, on the side he worries so much over. "It's handsome as can be- just lovely, really."

Flattery will get you everywhere with Teo. Well, granted, so will pity, baked goods, guns, a little bit of liquor, and the rest of an embarrassingly large and variable catalogue of things, though anybody would be hard-pressed to say that he doesn't coincidentally have an extraordinarily high caliber of friends in general. World-savers, righteous soldiers, principled activists, and startlingly beautiful members of a whole other league, all of them.

UNLIKE HIIIM. 8( But Delilah seems to have, for the moment, deluded herself otherwise.

And who is he to argue? On its own, geographically limited, the ruined portion of his face is incapable of cringing away and the knotted stack of his neck is, for the moment, disinclined to turn his eyes away. His leg twangs a reminder to him that he has been in this half-crouch for an uncomfortable number of minutes by now.

He stilts himself higher up. Presses in to meet the feathery inquiry of Delilah's hands, perhaps to reassure himself that they are being gentle neither because they are tentative nor because they are timid, onto his knees proper.

St. Michael's chain winks out of the minute slippage of his T-shirt's collar. He tries to stop thinking about his own face by considering hers instead. His nose against it, for a moment, nudging a moonskin well into her cheek like a moment's warning before he ropes an arm around her waist. St. Michael himself weighs gently against her breastbone.

Teodoro's ego is a bizarre thing; Delilah might be confused by his inner monologues if she heard them and whatever reasoning they make to him- but she can't, so she has to rely almost entirely on the hints he doesn't intend to make, and the hints he does. Delilah's hands come one at a time to embrace whatever part of him comes nearer first, arms winding warmly onto him, as welcoming as she always is. The edges of her fingers are somewhat cold when they brush over his neck, finding some shelter under the neck of his cotton shirt.

Teo's face is close, and she meets the moment of pressure at her cheek with a small nudge of her forehead, coming before she puts her lips quietly at his. The pendant resting on the center of her chest almost elicits a ticklish sound- because it tickles, of course, when it first sways past. Perhaps that makes it easier for her to arch her lower back, allowing Teo's arm to go where it wants. One of the hands finding shelter on his shoulders ventures down to that same arm, Delilah's palm finding the broadside of his bicep.

The glint of wanting to say something floats past her features, but whatever it was does not make it past the first few thought processes. It still stays on her mind, though, that much is clear.

Crystal, in fact. Maybe they should talk about this. Teodoro actually entertains this notion for a whole second before opting out; averting his eyes, irises blacked out near to the same liquid flatness of his pupils like ice spread thin enough over old asphalt, hiding for a beat, as if terribly concerned that the windows into his soul were going to accidentally divulge that his house had been inadvertently ejected into the inky black vacuum of space. The next, he looks up again.

Remembers himself, or his manners, or maybe he remembers her. Delilah Trafford is pretty antithetical to avoidance, really. She wasn't wrong. She gets attached, and you'd have to be very fastidious as well as an idiot to drive her away. Suddenly, Teo smiles. A little grudgingly. Looks up at her. The cyanotic glow of the night emphasizes her palette: gown, skin, lurid hair all. She may not think much of most of his religious tendencies, but he is of a kinder opinion, too, that there was an unsubtle genius to whomever put her together.

The fingers he slid in below her body cinch up a handful of slippery fabric, mapping the two divots at its base between middle finger and thumb, briefly, reminding himself of the precise match of Delilah's musculature and his handspan, here as it was in the other future. Then he pulls her up. Onto her lap. Releases his brief mouthful of fabric and parks kiss number two about half an inch from her mouth to humbly request, first, in her accent again, "Give us a smile, love?"

She does. It's a wide smile, but showing no teeth. It's one of those smiles that hides beneath it a tidal wave of mirth and generally bubbly feelings. Bubbly feelings which are so obviously threatening to boil over the rim. Perhaps Lilah is afraid that if she opens her mouth, she will start laughing and it will come off as an insult. All she can do to keep from letting it go is wrap her arms around Teo again, nuzzling her face and a sprout of red hair into his prickly cheek. If she had something to say, or something to ask, it has passed.

After a moment she does open her mouth again, and somehow preempts the cascade of tittering with an inhale and a hum of melodic words vibrating at Teo's neck. "Samson came to my bed, told me that my hair was red… Told me I was beautiful, and came into my bed…" But she doesn't bother with the rest of the song, instead seeing fit to put their faces forehead-to-forehead, nose-to-nose, one breath to another. Delilah smiles, all bright teeth and curled lips- it's an easy feat to manage.

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